24 August 2011
Professor Charles Spence is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory based at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University. He is interested in how people perceive the world around them. In particular, how our brains manage to process the information from each of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) to form the extraordinarily rich multisensory experiences that fill our daily lives.
1.What was it that first peaked an interest for you in how our senses work?
A colleague who was living in a small flat where the sound on the TV was broken. He would use hifi to listen to his favourite programs. However, when sitting on the bed in the small flat, at the start of the movie, everything would sound fine once the theme tune had come on, but as soon as anyone started speaking there would be a sudden disconnect, the voices were coming from the loudspeakers on the side of the bed. The person could be seen from straight ahead (i,e a different direction). However, after a few seconds a very strange thing happened, the voice and lips would fuse again and it would seem like the person on screen really was making the speech sounds they were uttering.
It turns out that this broken bit of kit was actually giving rise to the ventriloquists dummy illusion. This goes on all the time at the cinema, and it provides and example of how our brains continuously try to bind the informations from the various senses.
I started my research on the senses 20 years ago looking at precisely this interaction between our eyes and ears. Over the intervening years I have slowly added extra senses to the list of ones we investigate. In a way it is only natural that someone interested in the senses ends up studying food and drink, as they constitute perhaps our most multisensory of experiences
2.What do you think has the most profound effect on taste?
I think that what we see has a far more profound effect on what we "taste" than any of us realize. Many studies now show that you can completely change a person's perception of the taste/flavour of a food or drink simply by changing its colour.
In many ways we really do taste with our eyes Sound too is very important if understood. In the case of drinks, we have conducted some fun research showing that people's perception of the carbonation in a drink comes as much from the ears as from what is going on in-mouth.
3.Is there a simple trick you can share with us to show how you can manipulate taste?
One of the one's i like is getting two glasses of tonic water. You then add half a teaspoon of salt to one of the two and ask people to predict which glass should now taste sweeter. The one without the salt right? Wrong. The addition of the salt actually interacts with the bitterness and hence you get a release of sweetness. Very counterintuitive, but a good example to illustrate how complex and interesting taste is.
Another example which helps to illustrate the notion of super additivity - our brain adding together two weakly effective stimuli in order to give rise to a more intense multi-sensory precept - comes from what happens when you chew a piece of mint gum until the mint flavour had just disappeared. Now roll it in some icing sugar and stick it back in your mouth. Miraculously the mint flavour should have returned, even though all you added was some odourless sugar!
4.How important can things like service and ambience be, on flavour perception?
I think this is hugely important, and once again often people don't realize and/or think about it enough. Everything from the brightness and colour of the lighting can influence how much people drink, how sweet they think it tastes and how much they are willing to pay for it. As soon as you start playing specific kinds of music, French vs German vs Italian say that can influence everything which kind of wine they order / purchase through to how ethnic the food or drink tastes.
We have just completed an experiment together with the fat duck development kitchen and a sonic design company in London, Condiment Junkie in which we gave people a bittersweet toffee and demonstrated that the strength of the bitter / sweet taste could be altered by the particular soundscape that people were hearing. We would love to try something similar in the cocktail sector.
5.Are there any simple everyday things that people can do in bars and restaurants to improve a customers experience?
Yes but where to begin. I am sure that there is a lot of interesting research to be done in terms of the glasses used to serve particular drinks in. We have, for example, just shown that people rate yoghurt as tasting better when it is served from a heavier rather than a lighter bowl. Could the same be true for cocktails.
10ml triple sec
drop of peychaud bitters
Rinse glass with absinthe
Shake and strain into rinsed glass
Garrnish with a wink to the customer. ;)
The Wink is a drink that was first made back in 2003. It is a sazerac style of drink with gin as the base, a subtle hint of anise from the absinthe rinse, an orange hint from both the dash of triple sec and the orange twist (which is discarded). The last ingredient is a drop of peychaud bitters. The garnish is a Wink...;)
Also known as Passiflora, and often cultivated for their deliciously tasty fruits, or for the flower itself, Passiflora is also home to several very fragrant flowers.
It is thought that they originate from South or Central America, with many, nowdays, being cultivated in more tropical countries.
Some would argue that a true Passionflower Absolute for use in perfumes has not yet been achieved, however based on the sheer number of species it is defintetly possisble.
Flavour / Scent - Mild, sweet, light fragrant.
17 August 2011
"The gin fizz is one of my all time favourite cocktails. In this version it has a a scoop of lemon sorbet in it which gives the drink a lovely smoothness, but also a sherbety fizziness which was exactly what I was looking for! I worked with an ice cream maker to get a sorbet with the right balance of flavour and egg white in it to use in the drink."
25ml Lemon Juice
1 scoop lemon sorbet
Strain over ice and top with a dash of soda
Cassia oil, sometimes referred to as Chinese cinnamon is generally steam distiller from the leaves of Cinnamomum Cassia which are large slender trees that grow in Southeastern China and to a lesser extent Vietnan. Not to be confused with Ceylon Cinnamon Bark which is derived from a different species.
In the same was that the Ceylon Cinnamon is known for its Bark so the Cinnamomum Cassia is also home to aromatic and flavoursome bark.
Although similar in flavour to cinnamon it is much stronger and more concentrated meaning we need use much less of the product and still get a similar flavour.
Flavour - cinnamon, aromatic, spiced, eartthy
We would just like to say a great big thanks to everyone who attended the masterclass on Monday. We hope you have as much fun as we did! If there are any burning questions about anything we covered or anything we didn't cover and you'd like to know more about, please do not hesitate to send us an email and we will get back to you.
Email - email@example.com with any questions.
Cheers and hopefully see you all again soon!
03 August 2011
We are very excited about our first official Lab Masterclass / Open Day coming up on August 15th. Thanks to everyone who has booked in so far, we look forward to seeing all of you!
2. What are your 3 favorite drinks plus recipes; old, new and your own?
Old- I still love a Dry Martini- am currently drinking mine 5:1 with Lillet, no garnish.
New- The Flintlock at the Zetter Town House tastes like an Enid Blyton novel and I love it
Own- Almond Iced Tea- a really simple long drink that I just keep going back to- Beefeater 24, chilled green tea, orgeat syrup and a small dash of lemon juice
3.Tell us about a new flavor you have discovered recently?
4. If you could pass just one thing, on to an apprentice bartender what would it be?
5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in the future in the industry?
6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working behind the bar?
7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail, (and presuming it could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which cocktail would it be and why?
I'd want to chat with the ORIGINAL cocktail as discovered by Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown in a 1798 article. It was made with gin, orange liqueur, ginger syrup and bitters. I'd ask it where its been all these years?
8. What influences your drinks from outside the industry (i.e. art, fashion)?
9. If you where to break a bartending golden rule what would it be?
10. Outside of flavor and the craft of the cocktail what in your opinion effects the appreciation of cocktails the most?
11. If you where to champion a cocktail which would it be?
I think the Southside has some legs as an amazing vehicle for gin. It's a drink I serve to those folk that think they don't like gin. Without fail they love it and more often than not we discover that actually it's the tonic they don't like, not the gin!
I serve mine according to a recipe I was turned on to by friend and colleague Erick Castro from San Francisco; long, over ice and with the below recipe:
50ml Beefeater Gin
10ml lime juice
10ml lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
5 mint leaves
Shake all ingredients except soda. Strain over ice. Top with soda. Garnish with a large mint sprig
"For we had not only the country drink called toddee, which is made of the juice of several trees, and punch, which is made of rack-lime, or lime-water, sugar, spices, and sometimes the addition of amber-grease, but we likewise drank great quantities of Persian wine, which is much like claret, and brought from that country in bottles."
SOURCE : Richard Head/Francis Kirkman, The English Rogue, Continued, in the Life of Meriton Latroon and Other Extravagants. Comprehending the Most Eminent Cheats of Most Trades and Professions. The Second Part, 1668
"In a mortar or small bowl, muddle a piece of ambergris the size of a grain of barley with an ounce of Indonesian gula jawa or other dark, funky sugar until it has been incorporated. Add 2 ounces Batavia arrack and muddle again until sugar has dissolved. Break up 5 ounces of gula jawa, put it in a two-quart jug with 6 ounces lime juice and muddle together until sugar has dissolved. Add the ambergris-sugar-arrack mixture and stir. Add the remains of the 750-milliliter bottle of Batavia arrack from which you have removed the 2 ounces to mix with the ambergris, stir again, and fi nish with 3 to 4 cups water, according to taste. Grate nutmeg over the top."
See Dave Wondrich's above receipe for use of Ambergris....... from his brilliant Punch book...