Episode 211 – The Science of “Switched” Cocktails with Iain McPherson

What’s shakin’ cocktail fans?

Welcome to episode 211 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast! This time around, we’re joined from across the pond by Iain McPherson (@thecocktailpanda). He’s the owner of the Edinburgh cocktail joint Panda & Sons, which was honored as a 2020 member of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

A lot of bars get recognized on this list for their exquisite service, lavish ingredients, whimsical concepts, and intoxicating atmospheres. But aside from checking all those boxes, Iain and his team are raising the stakes by exploring a high-tech rendition of an age-old booze modification technique. This “freeze-thaw” spirit jacking method, which is the focal point of our conversation, is called “switching” or “switch finishing,” and many of the world’s top mixologists are obsessing over this process the same way they did with milk clarification and fat washing a decade ago or more.

In this fascinating deep dive with bartender and ice cream fanatic Iain McPherson, some of the topics we discuss include:

  • How a childhood love of frozen treats, a fascination with lucid dreaming, and a stint at Italy’s most hallowed gelato university led Iain to explore the largely untapped universe of freeze concentration.

  • Why this process – first pioneered by German “Eisbock” makers – has affectionately and efficiently come to be known as “switching.”

  • Then, we break down the process, including how to use switching to modify both ferments and distillates, what tools you’ll need, and some of the experiments that have yielded the most interesting results at Iain’s bars.

  • We also cover why switching produces more pure flavors than heat- and pressure-intensive techniques that employ traditional stills or rotovaps, a few important precautions to keep you and your guests safe when making and enjoying switch-finished products, what the future holds for freeze-thaw mixology, and much, much more.

As we discuss in the interview, you can literally be the first person IN THE WORLD to pioneer a “switched” rendition of your favorite cocktail. Freeze concentration is still in its infancy, and the barriers to entry are extremely low when compared to other techniques in the molecular mixology space, which is exactly why our great, great, great grandparents were using it to make boozy winter beers and concentrated ciders.

Featured Cocktail: Princess Mary’s Pride

But before we explain why switching is the next exciting frontier in the professional and home bar world, let’s take a moment so that you can make yourself a drink.


Smoked Mozzarella Bread Pudding

Pinecone Cookies