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June 1, 2018

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Smoke and Potion

October 25, 2017

What do penicillin, the spacecraft Friendship 7, and this cocktail all have in common...?  PYREX!  That's right, the same folks behind Grandma's go-to casserole dish have made revolutionary advancements in cooking and chemistry over the last 100 years.  You may recall from my September feature, that Corning saw superb sales after launching their resilient borosilicate cookware line in 1915.  However, after World War I broke out, suddenly American scientists were cut off from their supply of high-quality German-made flasks and beakers, so Corning decided to add Pyrex laboratory glass to their résumé. 


pictured in background 2000 ml Pyrex Erlenmeyer Flask and 300 ml Pyrex Fleaker


Remember that "accident in a petri dish?" We all have the Pyrex Fernbach flask to thank for being the perfect mold growing vessel to produce penicillin throughout the 1940s.  When NASA's Project Mercury sent John Glen as the first American into outer space, his Friendship 7 spacecraft was equipped with Pyrex windows. Basically, Pyrex did the modern world a solid through their legacy of R & D. 



On a recent trip out scouting for goods, my Mama and I came across a giant Erlenmeyer flask that would make Walter White swoon. We knew we were sitting on a small discovery when next to it on the shelf sat two other small lab vessels and a fourth piece, a 32 liquid oz. apothecary style pitcher that looked to be the oldest of the group.  The second I saw them I started styling wild floral arrangements in my head!  However, it was my pal Brittany who came up with the spooky idea to experiment with a batch of dry-ice cocktails and create our very own mad-scientist laboratory.  



What do you get when you mix a flask and a beaker?  A FLEAKER!  This cocktail on fleeeeaker let me tell you!  It is so much fun to work with dry ice, but it will turn you a little batty if you're not careful.  Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (that stuff we all breath out when we exhale) Carbon dioxide is a gas at room temperature, and it freezes solid at a much lower point than water: -109 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why touching it with bare skin will cause an instant frostbite burn so it is essential to wear thick gloves and or tongs when handling it.  



You may have a hard time tracking down dry ice.  I checked two grocery stores and a pharmacy before finding it at Smart & Final in a 5lb block for around $9.00.  Although carbon dioxide gas isn't toxic, it changes the chemistry of the air so that there is a lower percentage of oxygen.  Without proper oxygen to breath there's a possibility of suffocation, so make sure you shake up this cocktail in a well-ventilated area and not an enclosed space.  Dry ice will sink to the bottom of a drink and usually stay there, but I suggest enjoying the bubble show fully before you sip your drink just to be safe.    



For this drink, I chose to pair the already hazy aesthetic of dry ice with a smoky small-batch Mezcal called Marca Negra distilled by hand in San Luis del Rio, Oaxaca.  



I started with muddled sage to give the drink a grounded earthy base, added fresh pomegranate juice for its bloody hue, orange and lime to cut through the smoke with a citrusy zing, and lastly a bit of agave to add sweetness that isn't cloying but appropriate.   



This would be an excellent cocktail to serve at your Halloween party this weekend!  Although mezcal doesn't contain any mescalin, consuming mass quantities will be enough to wake your inner Dr. Frankenstein.



Enjoy this smoke and potion with temperance! 



Resources for this feature: Corning, and Chemical & Engineering News

Smoke and Potion




2 oz mezcal

2 oz fresh pomegranate juice (bottled is ok too)

1 sprig of fresh sage  

1 oz lime juice

1 oz orange juice

½ oz agave nectar

smoked salt (regular coarse salt is ok too)  

dry ice

regular ice




- thick gloves

- tongs

- hammer (to break block of dry ice if needed) 

- cocktail muddler

- cocktail shaker




Rub a lime wedge around the edge of a glass to wet the rim.  Rim the glass with smoked salt and set aside. In a cocktail shaker muddle the sage leaf.  Add the ice, mezcal, lime juice, orange juice, pomegranate juice and agave and shake vigorously.   Strain into the salt-rimmed glass.  Carefully using tongs, add the dry ice to the drink. It will sink to the bottom; add regular ice cubes on top to keep the dry ice in place. 







American-made Pyrex laboratory glass in various sizes, shapes, and capacities 





Vintage hand blown glassware with one-of-a-kind purple hues







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