In his latest Atlantic piece, Wayne Curtis explores a new-agey question: can the vibrations of a tuning fork improve a cocktail?
No matter how inventive a bartender may be when it comes to choosing ingredients, she still has a limited number of ways to mix them. There’s shaking and stirring, of course. You can build a drink in the glass (like a gin and tonic) or whip it up in a blender (like a piña colada). A few minor sub-variations exist: muddled drinks, for which you crush an ingredient such as mint or fruit with a pestle; and rolled drinks, for which you pour the liquid from one vessel to another—a method that contributes to an excellent Bloody Mary. But that’s about it for mixing.
Unless, that is, you happen to have a tuning fork.
To test this theory, we visited the Columbia Room -- a small bar in the back of D.C.'s celebrated cocktail spot, The Passenger. Matt Ficke, the head bartender, heard us out and gamely agreed to take a tuning fork for a spin. In the video above, he makes a gin martini ("the best martini in America" according to GQ) before dropping a humming tuning fork right into it. A before and after taste test proves disappointing -- surprise, surprise -- but Ficke had a better idea.
To really change a cocktail, he explained, you need more than subtle vibrations. He demonstrated by mixing up an iconic, labor-intensive cocktail that dates back to the 1800s: the Ramos gin fizz. After six solid minutes of shaking crushed ice together with gin, egg whites, and a few other not-so-secret ingredients, the resulting cocktail became a cool, almost merengue-like foam -- more like a Creamiscle than a drink. "When people ask us 'What's the hardest cocktail to make?' we say the Ramos gin fizz," Ficke laughs, "but we always make it for them."
Shaken, Not Tuned was produced by Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, with production assistance from Alessandra Ram. Thanks to The Passenger, Matt Ficke, Wayne Curtis, and Sommer Mathis. Watch the video for the recipe and read the rest of Curtis's piece here.