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Alcohol is the Answer

Alcohol is the real mother of invention.

Just before we took off for the Chinese New Year holidays, The Peak team faced a crisis: We had a sudden, very serious hankering for sangria. The problem? The only ingredient we had were two bottles of red wine lying around.

What transpired after that sad realisation was the greatest display of resourcefulness this office has ever seen. We dug out an empty vase and fishbowl from the props room to serve as pitchers. We gathered all the mandarin oranges that we had received courtesy of our partners, handy because our pantry is typically devoid of anything fresh. The soda was Pokka Sparklin’ Fuji Apple from a vending machine nearby. The bottle of cognac I maintain on my desk for bad days (read: Mondays) was gladly volunteered.

Additional sweetness came via a simple syrup made out of Starbucks sugar packets and hot water from the coffee machine. And finally, because one of the corks had disintegrated into the bottle (offers of a wine fridge are welcome), we had to strain the wine using our deputy editor’s tiny tea strainer.

The finished product was thrillingly sweet, refreshingly fruity and borderline potent. It would have made (a slightly alcoholic Spanish) MacGyver proud. Don’t scoff, because I’m describing the majority of mixologists in this modern age of tippling. Gone are the days when bartenders were satisfied to simply shake, stir and strain their way to good drinks. Smoke guns, once used exclusively by chefs to smoke everything from salmon to spinach, are now used to add a cloud of aromas to the top of your drink. Eyedroppers can be employed to add homemade extracts or tinctures. And let’s not forget the entire smorgasbord of zany things you can achieve, once you throw molecular techniques into the mix.

Even the recipes are being stepped up a notch. Wanting to create the ultimate hangover cure, Chapel Tavern in Nevada purveys a cocktail that is basically a Bloody Mary jacked up with hot sauce and Irish stout, and topped with a slightly ridiculous but presumably tasty garnish of pickled vegetables, quail eggs, bacon and a grilled-cheese sandwich. Dresden’s first molecular cocktail bar, Onlyone, is also famous for edible cocktails like caipirinha with candyfloss, probably for people who cannot be
bothered to line their stomach before drinks.

Those are, of course, products by trained professionals bearing years of experience. We wouldn’t advocate experimenting with liquid nitrogen just because you want to turn your pina colada into ice cream. But the good news is that there are plenty of little tricks you can easily pull off in your kitchen. Infusing leftover herbs in your simple syrup (which, after reading this column, you should know how to make in a pinch) will add a new dimension of flavour to cocktails. A little olive oil will reanimate your beer foam. Boil your water first before freezing it to get professional grade-looking, crystal-clear ice cubes.

You see, my anecdote wasn’t just an attempt to try and convince you our jobs are more interesting than yours. I merely wanted to prove that anything is possible, if you’re just thirsty enough.