A lot of work has been done towards cocktail depiction in infographic format, and i’m starting to feel slightly like it has been ‘done’. My previous justification towards completing a project like this was that it would be excellent to automate these graphics, and while this is still an interesting concept, I have started to lean towards a different angle. This angle to me is more interesting and is still an enigma within science and the arts leading to a whole area of new exploration, this subject matter being flavour.

Why the sudden change of heart? It’s been creeping in, I have been working on a recipe book website for foam (Open Sauces), which basically builds recipes from its smallest unit (flavour) to the largest (cuisine), each layer in between (ingredient > method > recipe step > recipe > menu > cuisine) inherits the previous layer characteristics, with cuisine being a large illustration of everything within it. Developing the flavour level, we simply used words to describe the flavour. This below is a perfect example of why words alone are not enough:

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How to describe umami? ‘Umami-ish’. How else could we describe umami? Salty, meaty, but those are flavours too. What could we compare it to? Mushrooms, marmite, maybe the colour brown or turquoise. Each time we use words to describe something, we seem to be getting further away from the initial flavour sensation. This, to me, is fascinating.

My favourite quote, and it always seems to sneak its way into my work, is “The limits of my language are the limits of my world” by Wittgenstein. I remember years ago I was eating a meal with my french friend Pauline, and she expressed a french word that… I can’t remember, i’ll find it.. but basically, it meant that she was full eating the food that she was eating, yet not full. I’m struggling to describe it, but the feeling when eating a meal that you can’t possibly eat any more of the food you are eating, you are satisfied, but you could still eat something different. That absolutely blew my mind, because that was a sensation that I had felt but hadn’t recognised as a legitimate feeling, because I didn’t have a word to describe it. Or, the feeling felt so far away from a label I could categorise or adhere to with just one or two words. If there isn’t a word or phrase for it, it only exists as a feeling that we can not acknowledge or relate without going further down the chain of words and meaning thus getting further from the initial root of the deal. Our language limits us.

So using language to describe something as biologically complex as flavour may not be enough.
Previous to this, my data scrape has included flavour data, and this was more of a side thought for future exploration, or at least a nod to it. Now, I can see a whole realm of possibilities with moving this to the focus of my final project.

Also, the project was getting too huge. I still want to use gin cocktails as my basis, as the spirit is beautiful and botanical, with hundreds of flavours distilled into hundreds of cocktails. This leads in an interesting direction of using computer and interactive systems to visualise biological reactions, how we generate systems to imitate nature through the medium of something that we built ourselves entirely.

Now, my final project is looking like an experience of the flavours found in gin cocktails, avoiding words as much as possible. Cocktail measurements will be included, but just as a highlight.

I’m pumped.