Citrus & Sugars At The Funkin Innovation Lab

Ally Kelsey and Nurdin Topham headlined this years Funkin Innovation Lab as it recently toured the UK, BarLifeUK went up to Manchester to try and learn something.

Mr Kendall was an excellent cricket coach, he led our school team to two championship finals and produced three players who went on to represent Somerset CC at various levels. I thoroughly enjoyed playing cricket for Mr Kendall. Mr Kendall was also my science teacher, he was a dick when in a lab coat.

Scot points aggressively at screen
Scot points aggressively at screen

Maths, languages and sciences have to be the most despised lessons in school. History’s okay as occasionally someone dies horribly, art is just an extended free period and english is one of those lessons where ‘there is no wrong answer’ (although ‘Shakespeare was shit’ is apparently the exception to this rule).

I never gelled with science lessons, burning stuff was cool but that was about it, it never seemed fun or genuinely interesting. In retrospect it was probably a case of the teachers not being able to teach the interesting stuff, being handcuffed to the curriculum instead.

Ally & Nurdin however, plus cocktails and food, can teach me science-y stuff any day of the week. A look around, the aptly named, Science & Industry in Manchester’s Northern Quarter at the captivated faces and furious note taking, told me I wasn’t the only one enjoying a science lesson for the first time since the first day you were allowed to light a bunsen burner.

The thing is you can’t just be entertaining you need to know your stuff as well, and these boys certainly tick that box.

Ally has a science background with a degree in chemistry and biology from Glasgow Uni plus a CV which includes working at White Lyan and now the industries favourite lab, Crucible. Alongside him was Nurdin, a Michelin star chef who has worked and lived around the world and started his career training under Raymond Blanc. The Funkin team couldn’t have picked two better people to led this years Innovation Lab with its focus on acids and sugars in drinks.

Brix-It Seems Is Not Always Bad

We started the talk with two daiquiris (how all talks should start) to show the difference between 12:1 and 14:1 Brix:Acid Ratio (basically the ratio of sugar to acid) in the same drink. Whilst both were very drinkable there was a distinct difference between the two serves proving the importance of understanding how sugars and acids work, with the added bonus of waking everyone up.

Chef concentrates on no garnish very hard
Chef concentrates on no garnish very hard

A look at the different types of sugars – sucrose, fructose, maltose and glucose – and how they work on the palate was accompanied by a Banana Smoke Old Fashioned using Funkin Banana Puree, tequila and mezcal. Nurdin matched this with his supreme banana and peanut butter on toast with dehydrated Funkin Banana Puree.

We all know about the way our palate works with sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami however what I was unaware of was the different ways sugars work. For example Fructose has a more upfront hit whilst Maltose has a longer finish. Suddenly the use of different types of sugars in different drinks became a lot more interesting.

After all that learning it was time for a banana coffee milk punch before we moved onto all things citrus.

We all know about citrus. We all use citrus. We all understand citrus. Well as it turns out, not so much.

Ally and Nurdin told me things about citrus I had never even considered (kind of like finding out your parents like S&M……. but more useful and less weird….. okay it’s not much like that at all). We went through all the different types of citrus, how they work with the palate, with other flavours. We learnt that citrus, like salt, opens up the pallet to increase flavour from other ingredients. There were slides, long words and as always an Ally tangent or three.

It was a fascinating talk and I can only implore you to join Crucible and ask Ally all about it or hassle your Funkin rep to get your name on the list for next years Innovation Lab.

Just to prove the world is sometimes a wonderful place we ended up with an apricot, gin, honey, basil, ginger ale and soda water drink with one of the most ridiculously tasty grilled cheese sandwiches (including pine shoots and a Funkin Apricot Puree leather) that has ever passed these lips.

Bartender pipettes
Bartender pipettes

The talk was partly to provide inspiration for this years Funkin Innovation Champion competition so it was great to have last years champion Aiste Valiukaite on hand. Aiste not only knocked out some fantastic drinks using ingredients and inspiration from her travels over the last year with Funkin, but also shared stories about her Funkin adventure.

So in conclusion (that sounds science-y) it was a great talk, it is a great competition, get involved.

All the entry details can be found here