Sensory Cocktail Masterclass

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On Sat 20th Oct Condiment Junkie hosted a sonic cocktail masterclass at world renowned watering hole 69 Colebrook Row. The focus was on exploring sound as an important element in taste experiences - one that should be as thought through as the glass the drink is served in.

We began by testing our guests' ability to decipher information purely by hearing. A preview of Condiment Junkie & Oxford Uni's current research into hot and cold sounds showed promising results, proving that pretty much everyone can tell the difference between two temperatures of liquid being poured.

Prof. Charles Spence helped conduct the event, introducing the science behind our work, and collecting some new research data through questionnaires.

Four cocktails were served from the bar - a Champagne Rose Garden, Woodland Martini, Red Wine reduction, and a Barbershop fizz. Each drink was accompanied by cross-modally designed soundscapes, either played through a surround sound system we installed, or delivered through three-channel wireless headphones, courtesy of Silent Disco.

The Rose Garden was paired with, unsurprisingly, the sound of a rose garden. The cocktail contains a perfume infused sugar cube that efervesces and dissolves as you drink. The soundscape increased in intensity as the guests imbibed. Within the soundscape a crescendo of wind chimes cross modally intensified the taste of the drink.

The Woodland Martini, designed to re-create a walk through autumnal woods, was the first cocktail to feature the wireless headphones. Guests could choose between three soundscapes and experience the difference in taste perception - a bitter sound and a sweet sound, and a close recording of crunching through wet, rotten leaves and bark. The sound recording of leaves had an incredibly strong effect, bringing out the damp, woody notes in the drink.

The Red Wine reduction was a question of colour. What colour does the drink taste of? Guests we're handed the glass and asked to sip without looking at the colour. They were then asked to identify its colour-taste. Four soundscapes were then played that evoke bold colours - a roaring fire, a jungle, ocean waves and an arctic wind. We were trying to identify how much the sound could sway colour and taste perception.

The final cocktail - the barbershop fizz - was accompanied by a 'sonic haircut' - a recording made while visiting Murdoch barbers in Shoreditch, using in-ear binaural microphones. The stereo imaging is amazing. Listening through headphones you can actually feel the clippers buzzing, and sense the barber as he moves around you.

Put your headphones on and have a listen to the barbershop recording