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Pour Play: What's Shakin' in Cocktail Couture

"A Cocktail is Really Liquid Sex." - Larrian Gillespie, MD

By Maren Swanson • February 26th, 2015
"A Cocktail is Really Liquid Sex." - Larrian Gillespie, MD

I attended the Golden State of Cocktails in January and let me tell you, I came back with so much information on mixology, cocktails, beer, botany, prohibition and more, that my head needed a vacation for a couple of days. During those few days, I also tasted and tasted and tasted - not a bad way to spend my week. I was able to make make way into pretty much any class I wanted with the exception of The Pharmacology Behind Creating Flavor-Addicting Cocktails. I was told in advance that this class was completely booked, however on the day of the class, I patiently awaited outside and ended up grabbing a seat because there were a few no-shows.

The room was packed and the class was led by Larrian Gillespie, MD (CEO of Culinary Science Investigations, Addiction Mixology). I didn't know what I'd get out of the class, but according to neighboring attendees, her class sold out the previous year too. Before we got too deep into the seminar, Gillespie explained that the plastic vials in front of us would be used to test our abilities on taste and scent; each were numbered and accompanied by a sheet where we could list our guesses. Below are some of the memorable key points and knowledge she bestowed upon us.

Basil is composed of 18 chemical components. Say what? Certain individuals, known as supertasters can identify many of these components. A supertaster has papillae (pore openings in the mouth) that are super sensitive (more than the average taster) and according to Gillespie, more likely to be women and more specifically, Asian or African American.

Gillespie mentioned that our olfactory senses are definitely linked to taste. Smell drives our behavior, smell never sleeps and smell connects us to memories. Aromas can bring back memories as far back as the age of five, according to the "Proust Effect."
Then we tasted and smelled the various vials. One vial in particular boasted 16 different flavors components. I remember writing down I thought it was soy sauce, but I knew I was off somehow - turns out is was Worcestershire. Can you believe Worcestershire sauce was supposed to elicit 16 flavors? Yeah, me neither.

Golden State of Cocktails (Los Angeles) 2015

How it all of this information tied to mixology and the art of the cocktail? "Cocktails are a culinary emotion," remarks Gillespie. How we experience eating or drinking or decide what we want to eat or drink is based on many factors, but especially what we see and smell is particularly important to these processes. "All glassware is subliminally sexual," says Gillespie. This theory dates all the way back to Marie Antoinette, which legend says that the original Champagne coupe glass was modelled after her left breast and a smaller one, centuries later, was modeled after Kate Moss'. Gillespie says a customer is more likely to spend 30% more on a artfully designed drink. And smell? Now it might make more sense to you as to why a bartender will express the oils of fresh citrus peels on the lip of your drink; it's more than just a garnish.

One of her quotes that stuck out to me the most was, "A cocktail is really liquid sex," so make your booze a sexy and sensory experience - even down to the glassware you choose. The way a drink looks and smells in its complete presentation is very important for the potential consumer or guest. Turn on the cocktail charm and not only will you "up" your check average, but you will most likely entice your patron to order another round and pay a little bit more. Makes perfect sense to me.

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