Spicy Cocktails: Anvil’s Ginger Beer [Big Bite Nite]

What makes a good scientist? Attention to detail.

habanero!
Click here for more behind-
the-scenes photos from our
video shoot at Anvil.

What makes a good cocktail? Attention to detail.

The fine folks at Anvil have attention to detail down. We went behind the scenes with Kevin, one of the co-owners, to capture those details, in the art and the chemistry that goes into making Anvil’s signature Ginger Beer, which they’ll be sharing with visitors at Big Bite Nite on April 29! (Tickets are going fast – get yours here.)

Despite its more familiar, sweet incarnations in ginger bread or gingerbread men – ginger itself is actually quite spicy. And the process of getting juice from a ginger root was both strange (when was the last time you juiced a root?) and fascinating.

Kevin kicked it up a notch by adding habanero peppers (which, you might remember from an earlier video, can just about burn your lips off if you’re not careful) just before final splash (or fizz) of CO2.

Even just a quarter of one habanero pepper was enough to make this quite a spicy spirit. It was a tad too much for me – but that’s just me. You can test your tastebuds on April 29, when Anvil samples it’s Ginger Beer-based cocktail at Big Bite Nite!

Check out the other videos in our Big Bite Nite series!
Spicy Science: The Evolution of Plants

Our resident botanist explores just what makes some plants so spicy!
Fire & Ice: Rev. Butter Turns Up the Heat

Preview Rev. Butter’s hot ice sculpting style – and check it out live before the doors open at Big Bite Nite on April 29!

Spicy Science: Plant Evolution [Big Bite Nite]

This year, Big Bite Nite is turning up the heat! Many of our participating restaurants are spicing things up with dishes served diablo, and so we’ve been thinking a lot about spice.

Like – where does spice come from?

Radishes are spicy?
You may be surprised at the range
of plants that have spice in them!

Essentially – it comes from plants. Spice is all natural! And Smithsonian Magazine recently published a fascinating article about the evolution of spice in plant populations. To quote the article:

“The heat-generating compound in chilies, capsaicin, has long been known to affect taste buds, nerve cells and nasal membranes (it puts the sting in pepper spray). But its function in wild chili plants has been mysterious.”

In other words, despite the fact that humans enjoy  super-spicy salsa, fiery Indian vindaloo or eye-watering wasabi – and that we’ve been “spicing up…food with chilies for at least 8,000 years” – there doesn’t seem to be an immediately obvious reason for plants to develop this characteristic.

So, as often happens when science meets an unanswered question, studies were undertaken. And as it turns out: “the more capsaicin, the less fungal infection.” And since fungus thrives in humid environments,  “the moister the climate, the spicier the chilies.” This is why hot chilies typically come from hot regions of the world.

Fascinating! And – we wanted to know more. So, we met up with Nancy, a botanist in addition to being our curator of entomology, Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and blogger for BEYONDbones to explore the science behind the spice. Check it out in the video below!

Can’t see the movie? Click here to view it.

In the meantime, here are some other fascinating tidbits from the article:

  • Chilies aren’t really hot – capsaicin stimulates neural receptors in your tongue and skin that detect rising temperatures.
  • We really like spice – and chilies spread around the world with great speed. “Within 50 years of Columbus’ voyages, Pernambuco chilies were being cultivated in India, Japan and China. Chilies made it to the American Colonies with the English in 1621.”
  • Traces of chilies have been found “on ancient milling stones and cooking pots from the Bahamas to southern Peru.”

Check out the full Smithsonian article here. And, check out what’s happening for Big Bite Nite on April 29 – and enter to win tickets to the event, as well as check out the other videos in our spicy video series – at the event web site.