Cold Hard Science

One of the aspects I adore about my field is how seductive it is.  Each ingredient is something you create a bond with, much like courting someone that has drawn your attention or peaked your curiosity.  On the surface and to most onlookers that person is just a person.  But something about them has registered on your radar and their little mannerisms interest you.  So you pay attention and learn how quickly something simple can become complicated when looking at details.  Although I relish complexity, I savor it, when it is born from simplicity.

Water.  One of the single most overlooked ingredients in a kitchen.  If water was a woman, she would be a tease.  Water can be hard or soft.  It can dance between wafting through air, running across a surface or standing still in the cold.  It can change its flavor the way a girl on Pinterest can change her make-up.  Water can dissolve substances or extract them.  It adapts to pressure and can conduct enough energy to create a spark.  Water is a part of daily life.  We bathe in it, listen to it while we sleep and it even decorates our cheeks with salty memories from time to time.  Generally viewed as tasteless, colorless and odorless…something so simple yet beautifully complex.

Simone Maci and Andrea Attanasio from Fresco Cocktail Shop contributed to the Salone del Gusto 2014 edition with a workshop on Ice.  You might find it hard to believe that an entire class could be devoted to solid water; however I would go as far as to say a seminar could be based on the topic.  In the ever changing world of mixology, ice is an essential yet constantly overlooked ingredient.  Prohibition style bars have begun to reintroduce the trend of giving ice the attention it needs.  Perhaps you have had a cocktail in the past year with a giant ice ball or hand crushed ice…  There is a reason for this and it has less to do with showmanship and much more to do with cocktail integrity.  The wrong ice choice can over or under dilute a beverage, alter a temperature too quickly or not fast enough or even enhance a flavor profile or leave it completely unaffected.

To demonstrate these points, Simone and Andrea skillfully walked us through cocktail comparisons involving a Martini, a Knickerbocker and a Mint Julep.  We were served concoctions based on room temperature alcohols that were added to ice alongside drinks crafted with chilled alcohol and carefully selected ice styles.  It is unfortunately extremely hard to explain the difference in words; the class was one of those things your palate just had to be there for.  However dear readers, if you would like to have a basic notion on a very rudimentary level of how vast the effect of ice can be, try the following experiment (please share your comments if you do):
It may be hard for you to believe that the reason you might not like a martini is not because it is too alcohol forward, but because your barman does not have a good grasp on how to use ice properly.  A few words of advice for home mixologists: always use fresh ice, when possible have a freezer just for ice as other items sharing space with it will affect its flavor, invest in a few ice molds to play with and find a water that you really like, don’t settle for tap water.

I do hope the next time I am in Italy I can explore Como and visit Fresco Cocktail Shop.

Keep chilled! Until next time…

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