Cocktail Accelerator (2019)

A project performed over three nights at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2019, and in brief videoconference form at the Field Trip Symposium, hosted in Australia, 2020. It was a collaboration with input from Matt Bellis, Mira Ederer, Rae Cooper, and Virginia McVeigh.

Cocktails and stories have a complex and tangled relationship with many interesting parts to it.

In many ways, drinking a cocktail is drinking a story. In fact, a lot of people persist in drinking cocktails they don’t really like by taste because of the connotations and culture of the drink. This is a big clue that cocktails create a holistic experience that people will engage with at different levels.

The menu for drinkers at the Swiss event. The last (Nuclear Fusion) is an in-joke for scientists referring to the seemingly always future completion of the ITER nuclear fusion project.

This project created an experience for cocktail drinkers, run as a working bar in a social venue as part of a large international conference of science journalists.

The cocktail menu was designed specifically for the event in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the following aims. The cocktails should

  • capture the essence of a science phenomenon, usually metaphorically,
  • include some aspect of science in their mixing and presentation,
  • have some kind of visual effect connected to the phenomenon,
  • taste good enough that people were prepared to pay for them.

I also wanted to connect with the place I was making the cocktails and that came through in the Wormhole cocktail with the history of absinthe in Switzerland and the connections to particle physics related to the presence of the Large Hadron Collider in nearby Geneva.

The Milky Way cocktail is a variation of an espresso martini with the addition of Baileys Irish Liqueur. The proportions of the drink include 85% dark matter, represented by a Kahlua, coffee, vodka combination, and 15% visible matter, from the Baileys. The glittering effect in the cocktail are the stars among the visible matter, created by use of an appropriate edible glitter mixed in the Baileys.

The Newton’s Apple recipe contains whiskey, apple juice, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and orange bitters, with the addition of a single drop of a special ingredient. Newton’s Apple tree is an actual tree identified on Newton’s Woolsthorpe Manor estate outside Cambridge, England. That tree features in the (probably apocryphal) story of an apple landing on Newton’s head leading him to his theory of gravity. That tree has been cloned and the clones grow in a few dozen locations around the world, primarily in universities and herbaria. The recipe of the Newton’s Apple calls for a single drop of juice from an apple grown on one of the clones of Newton’s tree in Cambridge.

The swirling effect in the Dark Energy comes from a suspension of a type of bronze edible glitter chosen for this particular circumstance.

The cocktail accelerator is the evolution of a project that began in 2012 as The Standard Model of Cocktail Physics.