Category: drinking
Bartenders, drinking, Glassware, Rule 2, science

Space Cocktails

The Zero-Gravity Cocktail Project from the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation I have written before that mankind cannot successfully make it all the way to Mars without taking along Gaz Regan. It's Science. It's Settled™. Forget it at the peril to the mission. Astronauts need a good drink, but once you establish that, the details get pretty intense. NASA keeps doing study after study (of the Well, No Duh results variety) that show that astronauts would benefit greatly from a small belt or two from time to time because Space is boring, and stressful, and if you eat the food for so much as three days in a row you will find that you have "lost the will to live." Most ordinary adults know that the solution to all these things is booze in rational amounts. Ordinary adults, that is. When NASA was readying the first space station mission, they determined that sherry was an excellent choice to fulfill this basic human need, since it is stable in difficult conditions like zero-gravity. But then they caved to pressure from people who screamed about astronauts being role-models, and as such should not be seen drinking like Niles Crane. You will note that the Russians, in addition to such crazy expedients as retaining actual manned space travel capability, do allow their cosmonauts to have a drink for mental health reasons. There is no way that you are going to get a crew of the alphaest of alpha males (and females) all the way to Mars, though, without sending along either some booze or dueling pistols. When the prohibitionists come back at NASA again, I suggest that they lock said protesters together in a metal can for five hundred days. They might go in Baptists, but they are a comin' out Episcopalians. But the therapeutic nature of a good drink is about more than just the ethanol intake. (Note that even the Russians don't take up vodka, they bring along cognac.) It is also the joy of the aesthetic experience of a good drink that will help people make it to far destinations. Thus, to my way of thinking, the keys to the aesthetic drinking experience are variety and presentation. If you want variety, that means your ethanol vehicle of choice is the mixed drink. Mass restrictions would restrict taking beer, and they would certainly prevent laying in any kind of broad-appeal cellar. But a relatively small number of low-mass ingredients can create a dazzling variety of cocktails. Thus my call to have Gaz sent to Houston for training, stat. But, like everything else, the tools needed to prepare and consume a good cocktail, like everything else from pens to toilets, need to be updated or even reinvented for use in zero-gravity. An essential tool, the shaker, appears to not have an elegant solution for zero gravity yet. The following video from Stoli should show any reasonably educated drink mixer the multifarious problems that surround trying to whip up a Pegu in outer space. Clearly, there a significant effects from zero-gravity on most any beverage container/dispenser, as the following video reveals... In all seriousness, terrestrial tools for mixing a cocktail are totally unsuited for space. Newton is going to bang the bartender all over the walls when he goes to shake. A strainer will do nothing but break up the drink blob and spray it all throughout the atmosphere. And gin does not mix well with integrated circuits. Still, I think that re-engineering the mixing component will be fairly easy. I envision a flexible rubber box which you can fill with ice, then inject ingredients into. Attach it to an agitation platform affixed to the wall to mix and chill, then use a tube to dispense. Eject the ice into the recycler, and it is time for the next round. Astronauts will miss the Flair and Hard Shake experiences, but you can't have everything. The final piece is actually getting the maximum enjoyment out of your Space Martini™. To do that, it needs to look and feel like a Martini. You need a stemmed cocktail glass. To see why this presents problems, look at the video above. (The first one, not the one with the nice stems). But man is ingenious. Behold the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project, from the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation.
zerogravity-cocktailglass-web-7Source: Make
Stem, check. Click-in base so you can set it down, check. Proper shape, check. Open top, so your beverage will float out and ruin all the electronics on the space station, leading to the plot of Gravity 2, not so fast. Look at all those ridges. Astronauts have discovered that when you have a crease in a container, the angle of which is less than 90 minus two times the contact wetting angle, surface tension will keep the liquid inside. More importantly, it will wick that fluid along the crease and you can suck it out, i.e. have a sip. The technology is based on the way liquid fuel tanks can restart a rocket in space. It has already been proven as a beverage drinking technology (in primitive form) with coffee cups. Look at the cocktail glass. Its entire surface is a series of channels, each of which I'm sure is contact wetting angle-appropriate, which cover most of the inner surface of the glass. These all eventually come together at a single spot on the rim, which is, I'm assuming, the point from where you must drink. The only question I have is what material is the vessel made from? It obviously isn't glass, as you can tell by looking, and I'm sure this is for prototype fabrication reasons. But if you are going to make a number of these, I'm assuming the final product can't be glass either, for safety reasons. What can you make it of, so the rim is properly thin and cold to get the sipping experience just right? I'll wrap by noting that this technology is important for more that distant exploration. It's going to make a difference in commercial space tourism as well. Over the long run, how many rich as Croesus tourists are going to any hotel, even one in orbit or on the Moon, where they can't enjoy a quality Manhattan?
playboy-club-space-station-exteriorSorry, still not going unless I can get a decent Sidecar...
drinking, Funny

Beer Wisdom Equally Applicable to Cocktail Lovers

From I Can Haz Cheezburger's Fail Blog last month: Note the Subtle Difference There is a wealth of wisdom in this cartoon... even if it does feature two men so limited in wisdom that they care about beer. What would be your recaptioning for the cocktail world? Here's mine:
Cocktail Enthusiast: I bought a six pack of really nice tonic water made by a friend in Portland... Plus a bottle of good rum, because the host makes a metric ton of daiquiris.
Cocktail Snob: I bought a large bottle of Fernet Branca. I'm going to force everybody, even the ladies drinking white zinfandel, to do shots of it and then corner you for the rest of this night to explain why drinking vodka is a betrayal of all that is intoxicating.
So, my fellow readers who often, like me, teeter on the edge of being the second guy, what are your own cautionary quotes?abc
Rule 2, Tiki Month 2012, Vacations

The Big Tiki Fetes

I don't want Tiki Month to end without a quick listing of what appear to me to be the big three Tiki events of each year. None, alas, are held during Tiki Month, but each seems to sell out, so now is probably a good time to make your plans to get your pagan on. For all my fellow classic cocktail nerds, if you don't get enough of Jeff Berry at Tales of the Cocktail, where he is treated like a rock star, visit one of these events, where I'm pretty sure the Bum is considered the Messiah.... For West Coast Americans, there is Tiki Oasis in San Diego. The 2012 event will be held August 16-19. There aren't a lot of details at the website for this year's event yet, but it seems that this year's sub-theme will be spy genre fun. Having a sub-theme at a Tiki event is an interesting idea, and ought to help broaden the appeal and perhaps bring in a few new folks to the movement, though I think that spy fun is a better fit with Tiki than last year's South of the Border idea. You can see, and hear, the way Tiki and spy stuff overlap and compliment each other in this audio podcast episode of The Quiet Village, which I profiled earlier this month. [powerpress url=""] Next up is Ohana, Luau at the Lake. Alas for me, even though Ohana is a production of the Fraternal Order of Moai, whose origins are right here in Ohio, Ohana is held at Lake George, NY. This year's dates are June 21-24, 2012. Lake George appears to be a perfect place for a retro event like a Tiki convention, as it is one of those time-capsules of the pre-Disney, honky-tonk vacation era like Niagara Falls, ON or Ober Gatlinburg, TN. The headquarters for Ohana is the The Tiki Resort (autoplay video at that link). Tickets went on sale for Ohana just a month ago, and rooms at the Tiki are already sold out. Tickets for the event, and other rooms in Lake George are still available. In Fort Lauderdale, FL, you can attend the Hukilau. The Hukilau will be April 19-22, 2012, and while it is headquartered at the Best Western Oceanside, it is spiritually centered on the legendary Tiki palace, the Mai Kai. I've been to the Mai Kai, and it rocked at 6:30 on a normal Thursday. I can only imagine what it will be like during Hukilau. The Hukilau is the first of these big fetes and if you want to go, I'd get on the stick. South Florida in April is frankly awesome, and if you go to Hukilau, you should add on a day or two so you can go to the beach. You'll have no time to do so during the event, I'm sure. I've never been to any of these, and I'd dearly love to. But I know for a fact I can't make it to any of them this year, drat it. If any of you do go, and write about it, drop me an email. I want to read the story, and I'll throw some Tiki supplemental linkage your way!abc

Familiarity Breeds… Capacity For Drink?

Here's an interesting new study about our capacity to handle the effects of drink: You apparently can handle your liquor better in settings where you are used to drinking, than in unfamiliar settings, or even places where you don't usually drink, says LiveScience in a profile of new research at the University of Birmingham and published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism (via The Daily Mail, via HotAir). First off, I want to stress that the tolerance for alcohol the researchers were measuring was not related to motor skills or reaction times. I.e. drinking in a familiar bar does not mean that you can drink more and still drive safely home. The "tolerance" they cite is the ability to resist doing inappropriate things when drunk.
Like either one of these two....
Fortunately, the researchers did not expose their test subjects to contact with Snooki or He Who Is Paid NOT To Wear Abercrombie and Fitch. That would be creepy. The actual tests were pretty benign. They measured whether subjects could resist selecting inappropriate responses in a battery of questions when drunk. If the subjects had not previously drunk alcohol in a place (even if they had drunk mocktails there), they were twice as likely to let certain inhibitions slip than in a place where they were used to drinking booze. First off, kudos to Drs. Birak, Higgs, and Terry for coming up with the brilliant excuse for using University funds to take a bunch of undergrads on a series of pub crawls and see where they do the most stupid and embarrassing things.... Of course, they actually did no such thing, but it would have been awesome had they done so, yes? It also would have probably yielded more practical results, though less reproducible, alas. I just wrote the previous paragraph because it makes good copy. The results were actually quite limited, and not all the inhibition tests they performed produced results that support the effect. That ends my reportage of the actual science, and let us begin the broad, sweeping generalizations of what we can take away from this if we accept the study's conclusions in a general sense right off the bat.
Scientists hate it when the public just goes ahead and accepts a study right off and starts taking action on it because:
  1. The results are initial, unsupported by other studies, and incompletely understood.
  2. If everyone goes ahead and acts, there will be no need to fund additional studies on the subject.

"See that girl over there? I'll bet the three of us could...."
The tragic effects of drinking too much in an unfamiliar bar.
First off, what might be the mechanism that accounts for this? I have read only the abstract, not the entire paper, but they seem to be leaning toward some sort of Pavlovian, behavioralist mechanism. My drinking instincts and experience aren't really buying that. I have two, not necessarily competing theories. The first is motivation. We tend to like places where we drink regularly. Sure, in this case, the drinkers didn't choose to drink in a certain location repeatedly, but so what? I happen to really like the lobby bar of the Atlanta Airport Westin Hotel. Why on Earth? Because I've had a lot of drinks there over the years with family, friends, business rivals, and enemies. (In my family, the Venn diagram of those sets would be pretty much a single circle.) Many times, they were good times. But the location was chosen for me and the only reason I like it is because of the familiarity. Nevertheless, if I were to do something, um, uninhibited there, I might not be able to go back, either due to embarrassment or due to being barred. I wouldn't like that, so I have added motivation in a familiar setting to behave myself. It could be as simple that a certain amount of booze disinhibits a drinker by, say, 30%. But if the familiarity of the setting increases his natural inhibitions by 30% to begin with.... I'll employ a kind of techie metaphor for the second, even better idea I have. Let's say that the brain has a certain (if prodigious) amount of bandwidth. We use that bandwidth all the time for lots of functions, such as look for threats, scan for hot members of the opposite (or indeed, our own) sex, figure what and how to eat, talk, keep in mind how to get to the toilet, talk to hot members of the opposite (or indeed, our own) sex, argue with the bartender about why he felt impelled to shake our damn Manhattan, figure out how to get our hands on the body of some selected hot member of the opposite (or indeed, our own) sex, and above all, for the purposes of this discussion, resist the temptation to actually just place our grubby mitts on said HMotO(oIOO)S, or even just blurt our intention or desire to do same. Drinking narrows your bandwidth, full stop. Size, experience, etc. may reduce the narrowing, but all booze narrows everyone's bandwidth. However, in a familiar location, you know where the can is. You know who is likely to be a threat, or know there is likely to be none at all. You know that the bartender knows he better not shake your damn Manhattan. You might think that you also would be comfortable being yourself and thus be less inhibited. But see Theory One above. Instead, in most situations, I suggest that the brain saves on bandwidth by not worrying about such threats as bad guys, unknown bathrooms, and shaken Manhattans. It uses the bandwidth saved to try to maintain full function in its remaining tasks, such as keeping you from making an ass of yourself with that blonde paralegal.
Or... successfully making an ass of yourself with her!
Unless you are married. In which case you'd best be using all the inhibitions you got, Mister!
Gulp. Of course, dear!

"I fail to see how any of this explains Cliff Clavin."
It doesn't, Norm. Science has no explanation for Cliffy. It does, however, pretty much explain you. abc