Telluriders are a philanthropic bunch. They also most definitely appreciate a well-made cocktail.
On Saturday, these two qualities combine beautifully with science at the ninth annual Science of Cocktails, the Pinhead Institute’s summer fundraiser. The event will take place from 6-9 p.m. at the Transfer Warehouse at South Fir Street and Pacific Avenue.
While proceeds from the evening support the work of the Pinhead Institute, Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke pointed out that there is another important positive to the Science of Cocktails.
“The great benefit of this event is getting the Pinhead story out there,” Holbrooke said. “People come for a party and they leave with information.”
Providing that information and telling the Pinhead story are current and former Pinterns (as Pinhead interns are called) who volunteer to work the event.
“They wander the party and chat to the patrons and let them know about their internships,” Holbrooke said. “It’s a really impactful way to spread information on the program. People are there, they are having a good time, and then there are these enthusiastic young people coming by to tell their personal stories.
“We also provide a lot of information about the rest of what Pinhead does, all of the different programs, classes and camps that we run.”
Holbrooke said that attendees seem to find that the Pinterns’ stories stick with them long after the event ends.
“I ran into a guy at the ski lockers last winter who had heard about our internships at last summer’s party,” she recalled. “This was December and he ended up sponsoring an internship because of what he learned last summer.”
The shindig will feature six local mixologists who each create a cocktail using — unsurprisingly, this is a Pinhead event after all — science. Attendees then get to vote for their favorite drink.
“We ask the mixologists to come up with an idea,” Holbrooke said, adding that Pinhead helps them with ingredients. “They can make it ahead of time and then just pour it out on the night and tell the science story, or they can be doing the science right in front of you. Different mixologists will do their cocktails their own way, and each drink has a lot of science in it.”
The drinks are then served in 50-milliliter beakers, giving attendees a shot-sized portion of each cocktail.
The evening also serves up private demonstrations, heavy appetizers and gourmet desserts. The eateries catering the event are a Telluride “who’s who” of delish and include Caravan, Cosmo, La Cocina, the New Sheridan Chop House, Oak, Rustico, The Butcher and The Baker, There and Thorneycroft Kitchen and Bakery.
“And, this year, we have two opportunities to bid on terrific vacation packages,” Holbrooke said. “Two nights for two at Dunton, and a week in the Bahamas at a gorgeous vacation home at Rock Hill. We’re also sponsored this year by Osprey, so each vacation comes with a rolling bag.”
The mixologists this year are Ashley Story, owner of Telluride Sleighs and Wagons; Elena Levin, owner of Ghost Town; Patrick Laguens, of the WineGeekFoodFreak blog, whose cooking programs appear on Telluride TV; Josh Layton from the Sheridan Opera House’s SHOW Bar; Ali Koppel from 221 South Oak; and Wood Ear owner Matt Arnold.
This year’s event will mark the first time Ghost Town’s Levin has taken part as a mixologist.
“I’m so excited to be participating,” she said. “I’m not a bartender, so it will be interesting. I’m out of my comfort zone.”
Levin said she has in mind a cocktail that will evoke Ghost Town.
“I want to do something with [Telluride-based] Steeping Leaf Tea, like a take on a London Fog,” she said. “There will be a cool science aspect to it, but I am still dialing in that part.”
Story is a past winner of the event, most recently taking last year’s top prize for a gin-based cocktail that changed color with the addition of lemonade, which contained pH-changing citric acid.
And this year?
“This year, we’re going to do a two-part cocktail,” Story said. “Our science is going to be about viruses and anti-viral vaccinations, a play on that. For our ‘virus’ we’re doing a zombie cocktail, which is the zombie virus, but before you take that, we’ll have an anti-virus shot that you take to ‘vaccinate’ you.”
Both Story and Levin said they were motivated to take part in the Science of Cocktails and support the Pinhead Institute in part because of their own love for STEM subjects.
Story studied metallurgical and materials engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and remarked that science is both “really important and really cool, so I support Pinhead. I think it’s a great organization and [the Science of Cocktails] is a really fun event.”
Levin said that she loved science as a child, adding, “It’s how my brain is wired, but science, or working in science, wasn’t necessarily encouraged. I didn’t have a lot of windows into the sciences. It’s so cool that Pinhead creates these opportunities for kids.”
For her part, Holbrooke said that the willingness of busy bartenders and other worker bees to offer up a summer-season Saturday night for the sake of Pinhead is part of what makes the Science of Cocktails a fun, but also meaningful, event.
“All these people, the mixologists, are coming together to give their time and expertise to Pinhead,” she said. “They could just be doing their jobs and making a living that night. Instead, they are giving a lot of time and attention and energy to us, to this nonprofit that they have chosen to support. So, it starts with these people who donate their time and expertise — to make these delicious, wonderful cocktails — and it extends to the supporters and the patrons who show up, and the parents of the interns who come. The night is educational and fun, and a little unexpected.”
The Pinhead Institute’s Science of Cocktails event takes place Saturday, 6-9 p.m. at the Transfer Warehouse. Tickets are available at pinheadinstitute.org. General admission is $50 and the Top Shelf package, which includes entry into a raffle for a two-hour private design session in the Pinhead STEM lab, is $100 per person. For more information, contact the Pinhead Institute at email@example.com.