These High-Tech Cocktail Garnishes Take a Hint From Plants And Animals

In the coming years, biomimicry could be the newest upscale dining fad, much as molecular gastronomy was in the late 1990s and locavorism is today

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A group of MIT scientists are bringing the wonders of the natural world to cocktail parties. Biology often serves as inspiration for obots, but this time, the scientists have teamed up with celebrity chef José Andrés to create a couple clever drink accessories that take a hint from plants and animals.

The first are edible water bug look-alikes. Like beetles on the surface of a pond, the tiny contraptions erratically zip across the surface of a cocktail, taking advantage of the Marangoni effect, Wired explains:

It occurs when two liquids with different surface tensions come into contact with one another and a floating object is pulled towards the liquid with a higher surface tension.

The boats are created from 3D-printed moulds which are filled with gelatine or melted sweets and then topped up with alcohol. The liquid then leaks from a small notch in the rear, serving as fuel and sending the boats skimming across the surface of the drink for up to two minutes.

After enjoying that alcoholic dance, drinkers may want to make sure the water bugs’ contents are adequately mixed into the drink. For this purpose, the researchers created a pipette that opens and closes like a water lily. More than just a mixer, it also sips from the cocktail. “When the pipette is drawn out of the liquid, hydrostatic suction prompts the closure of the flower, causing it to form a cherry-like ball of liquid,” Wired explains. “Placing it against the lips then causes the liquid to release.”

Chefs are clearly looking for new ways to control and play with their food. Maybe we should put biomimicry on the list of up-and-coming fads in upscale dining.

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