The Scientific Impulse: Explorations in Food and Drink, Part I

“The Scientific Impulse” series explores the wonderings of more or less science-ignorant liberal arts graduates in order to get at the process of hypothesis. There is much fun to be had in resisting the temptation to know, resisting the temptation to settle bar disputes immediately, resisting the temptation to Google. Consequently, this series has the alternate effect of mudding the Google waters with completely inaccurate explanations for things, even though we do our best to put a plausible patina on it all. Sort of like in White Noise and the familial distortions of truth.

In this installment of “Explorations in Food and Drink”, friendly bloggers Sarah and I contemplate gin fizz, orange blossom water, and the weird osmosis-like process that happens when you infuse things (see, here I am reaching with my limited scientific knowledge and being wildly inaccurate).

Leave your best and worst guestimates in the comments.

Sarah: mmm
i tried a new drink in nola
called a gin fizz
that’s like a chemical wonderdrink

Jared: whats in it?

Sarah: like gin and fizz and froth and whip
i will check the real ingredients
but it’s kind of like a foamy milkshake

Jared: 1 part gin, 2 parts fizz, dash of froth and whip?

Sarah: gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water, and soda water
haha–that’s more accurate, yours

Jared: whoa
gin is really cheap here ill have to try to make it
although getting my hands on orange flower water……?!?

Sarah: haha that one could be tricky
but i feel like our bartender may have just done a twist of orange
so i bet that would be a good sub

Jared: how do people make orange flower water anyway?
or rose water?

Sarah: what a fine question!

Jared: i love the smell of orange flowers, id like to get into this orange flower water

Sarah: yeah totes
maybe you just steep the flowers in water for a certain amount of time?

Jared: i mean that must be it, right?
think the water has to be hot?

Sarah: i don’t know, does that make it more porous or something?
i guess it must
these are the questions that baffled me on seventh grade science quizzes

Jared: porous? the water?

Sarah: like, more open to suggestion
of other elements

Jared: hrmmm is that what happens with tea, then?

Sarah: must be!
yeah so maybe you should pick some orange blossoms
stick them in some hot water
and wait a couple…nights?
i have no idea how long it would take to infuse

Jared: well it would probably be trial and error
i wonder what the property is that makes some things infuse quickly and others more slowly
i mean, tea takes a minute or two

Sarah: but not sun tea!

Jared: sun tea!?

Sarah: sun tea is when you put water and tea out in the sun
it tastes the same as regular tea, but takes longer. but you can make more of it

Jared: if water becomes more porous and open to suggestion and other elements when hot, maybe some elements are more likely to give themselves up to water than other things. i dont really think its a solubility issue… is it?

Sarah: yes you have such a good point there jared
clearly some elements are more hesitant than others

Jared: also, i have not seen any sort of fruit bearing plant anywhere in metro manila, so that presents a problem for my orange blossom tea. plus, id want to be very sure that there were no pesticides on my blossom

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2 responses to “The Scientific Impulse: Explorations in Food and Drink, Part I

  1. the water being hot doesn’t make it more open to taking on flavor, i think that hot water just helps break things down more than cold water… so more of the scent or flavor of the thing goes into the water….because it’s probably little bits of tea that make the water green. maybe little molecules of tea! i also think alcohol helps break things down too and there is a flower-infused liqueur called St. Germaine that i thought was made with orange blossoms but it actually uses elderflowers. there is actually an orange blossom tea that’s popular in switzerland for anxiety and insomnia and to help digestion…maybe the orange blossom water is just a cold version of that tea because it was just little flowers in a tea bag.

  2. A friend who attended a southern university writes me with actual information on this: “FYI- her drink wasn’t a “gin fizz.” Its either a Ramos Gin Fizz or New Orleans Gin Fizz, depending upon who you ask. Small in name, but this variation is a sizeable difference from a regular “gin fizz”. However, neither is new- both date back to the 1800’s! A little piece of history in every glass.” Yum.

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