Back to the Future

Futurism.  A word that could bring many different images to mind.  Futurism was an artistic movement based on anarchy that started in the early 20th century in Italy.  This campaign affected many aspects of society.  The Salone del Gusto workshop focused on its influence on the food and beverage industry.  The mainstream thinking in that era was that meals and drinks could not simply be a means to an end; they should be an experience.  To quote our host Fulvio Piccinino, the goal of futurism was to “restore to man the wealth of sensations and enjoyment of the dish in all its completeness”.

Things that seem to be trendy in recent years such as dining in the dark or eating without silverware, find their roots in Futurism.  The term polibibite was coined.  A nationalistic attempt to keep from adopting the English word: cocktail.  An entire colloquial language was created.

  • Shaker = Agitator
  • Barman = Mixer
  • Cocktail = Polibibita
  • Bar = Quisibeve
  • Menu = Catalog List or Food
  • Maître D’ = Guidapalato
  • Brandy = Arzente
  • Whiskey = Spirit of Oats

Beverages became more than just a tasty liquid.  Mixology in this period embraced free pours instead of jigger measurements.  Food garnishes or compliments were introduced.  Polibibite began featuring olives, citrus peels, chocolate, fruits, etc.  Drinking became an experience; every detail was important.  Glassware included large short glasses, tumblers and absinthe flutes.  An ambiance was created with carefully selected noises and/or music.  Polibibite were divided into categories:

  • Permangiare (for eating) = apertifs
  • Peralzarsi (dessert and after dinner)
  • Guerrainletto (war in bed) = high calorie cocktails to provide energy for bedroom activity
  • Paceinletto (peace in bed) = to stimulate sleep, generally served war
  • Prestoinletto (fast to bed) = strongly alcoholic nightcaps made to help you fall asleep faster
  • Snebbianti (fog dissipater)= designed to eliminate narrow-mindedness and help with strategic decision-making
  • Inventine (inventive) = strong drinks designed to stimulate creative thinking and problem solving

Allow me to provide a few guidelines for those that would like to experiment.  Polibibite sat on the drier side of things because sugar was expensive.  Popular flavor profiles accented anise, juniper, walnuts and vermouths.  Strainers and shakers were avoided unless completely necessary.  Common food garnishes incorporated prosciutto, dates and hot peppers.

During the class an Avanvera was served and we were sprayed with an incredibly floral perfume as a demonstration of comprofumo and disprofumo; a futurism technique to enhance a beverage by either harmonizing or clashing its taste and ingredients with a certain scent.  Other libations were served with tactile stimulants including cork, sandpaper and fabric.

As always when you bring Italians and alcohol together under one roof, fun is sure to follow.  Just remember that the surefire way to anger an Italian is to insult his mother, accuse him of bad love-making or talk poorly of the country’s cuisine.  The students were all smiles.  Fulvio Piccinino and his colleagues laughed among clinking glass and double entendres.

The only drawback that I can see to Futurism is that art always came first regardless of whether it made sense or not.  I do love that the movement was designed to provoke.  I do hope that those of my readers that have an interest in mixology, not only try some of the recipes provided in this post but also come up with one of their own as a tribute and share it with me!

Until next time…


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