I learned a lot at yesterday's panel on proof and spirits — among the lesssons learned: it's hard being a panelist and a note taker at the same time.
I've mostly been interested in the history of proof (especially naval proof and methods of testing proof), but found myself scribbling notes when Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club talked about how high-proof spirits are essential in many classic cocktails. Higher proofs were more common fifty or seventy years ago, and trying to recreate, say, a Manhattan based on the original proportions doesn't work nearly as well with an 80 proof whiskey as a 100 proof. That can explain the "flabby" quality of many classic cocktails made with exacting proportions cribbed from the sacred texts.
I also learned that you can light gunpowder and liquor in a hotel ballroom without attracting the notice of homeland security or setting off sprinklers. Of the three samples — Lemon Hart 151, Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, (114 proof) and Pama liquuer (54 proof) — only the Lemon Hart flashed. I was surprised the Plymouth didn't go — more tests needed, I guess.
(Thanks to Rob Burr for posting the video.)