Yesterday I was given a brief introduction to what might be my dream job (if only I could afford the pay cut). I went to a masterclass at The Drinks Factory. As anyone who has read any of this blog will know, I am a Tony Conigliaro fan boy. A chance to spend some time in his lab was not something I was going to pass up!
The tour was conducted by Zoe, who is head of research. She started off by giving us an introduction to their core piece of kit – the rotary evaporator. It’s what they use to get the flavour out of things. You put the thing you want to get the flavour out of, plus some spirit into a flask and vacuum all the air out leaving it at a very low pressure. The low pressure means the boiling point drops. You can thus boil the flavours out without actually cooking them leaving them much fresher. We got to try their horseradish vodka, which does indeed taste like raw horseradish. This doesn’t work with some larger molecules, most notably capsaicin – the molecule that gives chilli its heat. This is one of the reasons I want a rotary evaporator (of course I really want a rotary evaporator). I’d like to take all the aromatics from a scotch bonnet chilli, without the insane blow your head off heat! [my other ideas all seem to involve trying to get the smell of my grandpas greenhouse into a Bloody Mary].
Next a sous-vide, which they use to ‘age’ negronis faster – and trying the ‘aged’ negroni – we all know my feelings on them. A centrifuge and a freeze-drier later we reached their ingredients collection. This is where it got even more interesting. Zoe took us through some of their more interesting ingredients.
She talked us through some of the stranger ones. Then we discussed how they the equipment we’d seen they make drinks that taste like earth and snow. Flint, clay and mushrooms, in case you were wondering. We got to try said drink as well, and it does indeed taste like snow. It invokes a very strong memory of it at least.
While we had several drinks (including one at their new bar – Untitled) and several more tasters, this was less boozy and more nerdy than any other cocktail course I’ve done. This is not a bad thing. I loved it. I am very nerdy about booze though. If you’re after a masterclass about how to make cocktails, this is not for you. If you are a massive nerd who is fascinated by flavour, taste and how to extract them and use them to evoke experience. This is for you! They do week long internships at the lab. I may have to investigate as it very much seems like a good use of a week of my annual leave.