Science of Cocktails

Pinhead Institute Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke, center, and the organization’s Pinterns at 2018’s Science of Cocktails. The event returns in person Saturday at the Transfer Warehouse from 6-8 p.m. (Planet file photo)

It’s like “The Great American Baking Show,” but local, vibrant and for a good cause. Get your beakers out, lab coats ready and chemistry minds engaged because Pinhead is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the annual Science of Cocktails event this weekend.

On Saturday evening, six of the area’s best mixologists will each have one shot to devise the most inviting, cleverly crafted and scientific libation for attendees to taste. All mixologists will vie for two titles –– the People’s Choice Award and Best Science Story Award.

The People’s Choice Award will be granted to the mixologist with the most votes from attendees, whom will all vote after sampling the drinks. The Best Science Story award will be “judged by a hardworking panel of real scientists,” including members of the Telluride Science Research Center and local scientist Max Holmes, according to Pinhead Institute Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke.

This year’s mixologist lineup includes “Diamond” Dave from the National, Kent Barrow from Wood Ear Whiskey Lounge, Trang Pham from Trang's Latte Art, Rachel Cook from ANB Bank, Courtney Austin from Camp V and Patrick Laguens from Wine Geek Food Freak. Holbrooke added that Laguens has had “the longest running stint as a mixologist for (Pinhead) –– over seven years.”

“This year is Pinhead's 20th anniversary, so we're celebrating it in style,” Holbrooke said. “Last year's party was remote, where we handed out bags of ingredients and terrific recipes to try at home, so we're super psyched to have a chance to gather again.

“I'm going to be so happy to see all our supporters and colleagues in person and toast to them. (We’ll also) have our (past and current) Pinterns there to help serve and chat about their experiences and spread the good word –– that's just the best feeling in the world,” she added.

Current Pintern Francesca Schillaci, who is studying public health equity at the Rodham Institute in D.C., attended the last pre-COVID Science of Cocktails in-person event in 2019 and explained how she was inspired by the portion of the evening where previous Pinhead interns, who are affectionately called Pinterns, “talked about what they did and what they’re doing now.”

“(This portion of the evening) helps show that doing a pinternship can help you figure out what you want to do later in life, which is something that a lot of high school students struggle with,” Schillaci said.

Pinhead's Science of Cocktails event is largely about celebrating this year’s Pinterns, as well as recognizing Pinhead’s generous supporters that allow these life-changing professional and personal developments to occur. Since Pinhead’s inaugural class of three students, the nonprofit’s capacity has grown enough to place 33 students in internships this summer and a total of 278 interns over the last 20 years.

At the end of Saturday evening's gathering, a report composed of survey replies from 100 previous Pinterns will be shared. The survey was initially designed by Pinhead founder Nana Naisbitt and recently implemented by 2021 Pintern John Johnson. The survey includes quotes from previous Pinterns exemplifying how their pinternship shaped their life, as well as specifics about their internships. 

According to the survey, 81 percent of Pinterns have majored in STEM fields in college, and 83 percent that have entered the workforce are in STEM careers. Many Pinterns have attended or have attended impressive universities such as Stanford, Cornell, Yale or California-Berkeley. The survey additionally concluded that interns have partaken in 118 different internship areas, including astrophysics, marine biology and artificial intelligence, and been placed in at least 129 distinct institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Stanford Linear Accelerator and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“I'm very proud of our Pinterns. I'm grateful to the mixologists who give their time to us. The folks who are providing food are awesome, and we would be nothing without our supporters,” Holbrooke said. “Most of our programs, including our life-changing pinternships, are free, so we rely extensively on our supporters, and we appreciate every single one.”

The Pinhead Institute’s Science of Cocktails event will take place Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at the Transfer Warehouse. General admission is $50 and the Top Shelf package, which includes entry into a raffle to win two hours at the Pinhead STEM Lab to work on a custom laser cut project, is $100 per person. All proceeds will go to Pinhead Institute programming. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit