Friday, July 20, 2007

Champagne No. 5

There was a surprisingly large crowd in attendance for the "Aromatics" seminar led by Pegu Club founder Audrey Saunders and London expert bartender Tony Conigliaro. People kept trickling in until the crowd stood at about 80 to 100 people. Sanders was clearly surprised and some folks had to share drinks with "loved ones."

The talk was of essences, tinctures and hydrosols and how they're used to enhance a drinker's cocktail experience. As Conigliaro put it, bartenders are currently trying to engage us on all five senses, and the nose is not to be neglected. His brainstorm was to study the world's most famous perfume, Chanel No. 5, and then try to duplicate its many fragrance notes through the use of food grade essences in a Champagne Cocktail. He found his formula in a combination of five different essences, of which the ones I remember are rose, jasmine, and sandalwood. A drop of the potion is places on the sugar cube at the bottom of the glass. Then, as the champagne begins to break down the sugar, the essences are carrying upward in bubbles to the surface and burst, releasing a perfume-like bouquet into your olfactories.

At least, that's how I understood it; an understanding of chemistry was helpful in this class. Anyway, the effect was quite remarkable and very pleasurable. I was at a disadvantage, having never caught a whiff of Chanel No. 5 (I know, it's incredible, but it's true), but the lady next to me told me that the cocktail's odor pretty much matched the perfume's.

We then were served a Ramos Gin Fizz (Thank God! I've been trying to get one of these all week!), which were prepared with a little help from Audrey's friends in the audience (and Audrey has a lot of friends). She explained that egg whites are a great carrier of frangrances, and this fizz had been topped with a drop of a tincture of cardomom. Again, a delightful result.

Other ways to aromatize your drinks are to scent your swizzle sticks or garnishes.

Does any of this make a difference with people? Well, yes, according to Tony and Audrey, who shared a few telling stories. He told of how one day, the bar staff at a place he had recently opened was moping about, dragging their feet. This state of affairs wasn't good for business, so he surreptitiously sprayed each one with an atomizer containing lemon. Within minutes, they were buzzing about, happy as clams, and not knowing why.

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