Is it Worth It? The Exploratorium’s Science of Cocktails

Welcome back to Is it Worth It?, a series covering Bay Area cocktail events and opportunities!

The Science of Cocktails fundraiser for the Exploratorium

We’re coming up on the Exploratorium’s annual Science of Cocktails fundraiser, a glittering social affair whose ticket price may well inspire the average drinker to ponder “Is it worth it?”

Wonder no more, for I, your average drinker, have opinions.

My general rule of thumb is that for $100 and northwards, value is essential.  Facile as that sounds, think about what’s on offer around here. Most one-time classes run well under $100 (with the exception of Future Bars’ Beverage Academy, whose class descriptions don’t reveal much about the price/value ratio). It’s far easier to drop a Benjamin on actual drinks or bottles than an event.

Right away the Science of Cocktails price point sticks out. At $150 per general admission ticket or $250 VIP, it’s not your average date night.

Peanut gallery, I hear you: “It’s the premiere fundraiser for the Exploratorium Labs, you cheap grump.” Yeah, yeah. Well, when non-profits and cocktails collide, my judgment is relevant, and I am banging my gavel on the Science of Cocktails.

What do you get?

First, you gain the warm inner glow of helping a non-profit. Right! Onto the real gains.

The Exploratorium is pure delight. As a venue, there aren’t many more joyful places to drink. But if $150+ is a stretch for you, like me, you might end up going alone, which makes some of the youth-oriented games and science education less enjoyable. With friends, it’s “Lets play this ridiculous game! Whee!” Alone, it’s “Go take your drink and play with science experiments, loser.” And I already survived elementary school once.

Drinkwise, it’s CUESA cocktails on a blockbuster budget. A scientific emphasis means floods of dry ice fog, rainbows of color-changing liquid, and clarification techniques at brand-sponsored stations. It’s a good snapshot of contemporary mixology: the Exploratorium is the first place I saw the now-ubiquitous butterfly pea flower in action.

Booths are often manned by local luminaries (Camper EnglishKeli Rivers, and other great local people in 2017) — not that you’ll have a chance to learn from their wisdom. Unlimited drinking enjoys a natural deterrent in the form of long-ass lines. By the time I got to Keli’s Improved Gin Cocktail she was focused on keeping up with the constant demand.

Optional workshops take a scientific approach to cocktail questions like whether slapping the mint makes a better garnish.

So the space and drinks are interesting, and it’s a chance to put on some nice clothes and socialize for a good cause. But…

Is it worth it?

It depends. You rich?

Given the crowds that prevent active cocktail learning and the $150 per person price point, pure cocktail enthusiasts won’t get much bang for their buck (especially when even an early bird ticket buys you two regular-priced tickets to any CUESA cocktail event).

Me, I can barely afford one ticket, and the fun-driven nature of the Exploratorium made my solo sipping so much sadder. I have only so much money to spare. The space, cause, and drinks are very cool, but this one’s for tech money only. My $100 rule holds firm by experience as well as necessity.

That said… donating to your humble local cocktail enthusiast is also a noble cause, you know. I’m not tax-deductible but I’ll share some Exploratorium science experiments with you!

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