New frontiers: drinks for space are all the rage.
Space – humankind's final frontier. And as we well know from Western flicks, no frontier is complete without a well stocked saloon. Lucky for you budding astronauts and intergalactic businessmen out there a few forward thinking folks are giving this serious thought.
Ardbeg Scotch whisky, for example, have joined forces with NanoRacks – a space research company based in Houston, Texas – to create a world first experiment to study Ardbeg crafted molecules in space.
Head of Ardbeg's distillation and whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, sent vials containing a class of compounds known as "terpenes" into space last October to study how these molecules will react with wood in near zero gravity. The molecules on-board the Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from Earth at 25,000 mph, and will remain on the International Space Station for at least two years.
"This experiment will throw new light on the effect of gravity on the maturation process," explains Dr Lumsden. "We are all tremendously excited by this experiment: who knows where it will lead?"
Dr Lumsden isn't alone in considering how alcoholic beverages may be affected by zero gravity. As you may have read earlier this year space engineer Jason Held has joined forces with a Sydney-based brewer, 4 Pines, to develop Vostok the world's first beer suitable for a space-based booze-up. Developed from the 4 Pines Stout recipe, Vostok has a modified carbonation that is more suitable for zero-g and other conditions experienced during space travel.
Zero-gravity aged Scotch and space stout huh? It might be a while before anyone – Richard Branson excluded – will be able to afford to drink exclusively space-aged whisky but it is reassuring to know that by the time we're sent to colonise a terraformed Mars we'll be able to enjoy a Boilermaker or two along the way.
Beer and whisky are a great start, but the true mark of an advanced civilisation is surely a cocktail.
Would you want to be responsible for an extra-terrestrial political gaff by not being able to offer a decent mixed drink on your first encounter with another life form? What would you do if a bug-eyed life form handed you a Douglas Adams-esque Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and all you could offer in return is a pint of brown liquid? Fortunately, brewers and distillers aren't the only ones considering the co-existence of space and booze.
Bartenders, always keen to stay abreast of current affairs, have long been pushing astronautically inspired drinks. To celebrate the success of Sputnik - the first man-made satellite to be launched into space by the Russians in 1957 – American bars served up a vodka-based, Fernet Branca laced potion of the same name.
It was a time a time when the space race was heated and the Cold War was getting, well... colder. The drink allayed American fears of the Soviet Union launching nuclear weapons from their platform in space with characteristic humour. It was joked that the American Sputnik cocktail should be "one part vodka and three parts sour grapes".
At 93 Joe Gilmore, arguably the world's oldest bartender to still be mixing cocktails (he doesn't work behind the bar, but came out of retirement to mix a drink at London's Savoy Hotel earlier this year), is also the creator of one of the most famous space inspired cocktails of all time – The Moonwalk.
Created in 1969, when Gilmore was the head bartender at the Savoy Hotel's American Bar, the drink marked the first landing on the moon. The preface to 1999 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book says that this cocktail was sent to Houston after the successful mission for the returning astronauts to enjoy. A letter of thanks was reportedly sent from Neil Armstrong to Gilmore.
30ml fresh grapefruit juice
30ml Grand Marnier
2 dashes rose water
Remove spacesuit. Combine the first three ingredients in an airtight iced shaker. Briskly shake in an elliptical orbit. Strain into a large champagne flute or up-ended space helmet. Top with champagne.
London based mixologists and masters of gelatine food art Sam Bompas and Harry Parr in their book Cocktails with Bompas & Parr took a space travel inspired cocktail to the next level. Not being content with simply creating an astronautically infused beverage that can only be consumed on Earth, the pair decided redevelop the Moonshot cocktail first created in 1969.
Bompas's and Parr's inspiration came from Russian cosmonauts who have been permitted small amounts of gelled vodka in toothpaste tubes on their missions. Similarly, this duo's take on the Moonshot is suitable for zero-g boozing.
3 parts dry white wine
3 parts orange juice
2 parts cognac
1 empty steel paint tube
Mix the wine, juice and cognac then gradually add the methylcellulose powder until you get a satisfactory gelled consistency. Fill your paint tube. You are now prepared to toast your escape from Earth's gravitational field.
What would be your ultimate zero-g tipple?