Panda and Sons owner creates 'switching' technique for unique new cocktails

Capital bar owner pushes the boundaries of bringing flavour to his creations with the invention of 'switching'.

Published 22nd Apr 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

The owner of Edinburgh bar trilogy Panda & Sons, Hoot the Redeemer and Nauticus, Iain McPherson, has invented a new ‘switching’ technique, which allows the water content of alcohol to be replaced with other distinguishing flavours.

Known for exciting his customers with experiential bar concepts that stir the senses, Iain wanted to push the boundaries of the industry, having become frustrated with their limitations.

Fascinated by sub-zero temperatures, an interest amplified by his training at the Gelato University in Bologna, Iain installed an operational lab beneath Nauticus; a creative space called the ‘Brain Melting Society’ where he could experiment and dissect the freezing process.

The science behind 'switching'

switching techniques
Technique creator Iain McPherson worked on experiments in his own special lab under one of his bars

He discovered the method of fractional concentration – replacing water in spirits with another nonalcoholic liquid – coining the technique, ’switching’.

This involves a complex process of freezing the spirit to a specific, differing temperature to split its water content.

Iain said: “Switching allows you to be creative with flavour and texture, giving the bartender more freedom to be creative, and control over the end result.

“For example, with a Scotch that had been aged in IPA casks, we switch the water with a non-alcoholic IPA, and thus called it a ‘Switched
Double IPA’. The results were pretty special.”

Other examples that Iain and the bar teams have perfected are adding coconut milk to white rum for a smooth coconut daiquiri as well as a clarified blend of pineapple and lime juice for a punchier ‘Jungle Bird’ tiki drink.

This boozier version is more synonymous with a tropical rum negroni.

Iain added:“We’re mostly following kitchen trends so I decided to lock myself away and push some boundaries. I knew I could bring the
ideas if I could find the tools to keep up.”

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Where to try 'switched' drinks

A secretive menu operates in Panda & Sons, allowing the keen cocktail enthusiast to experience a wide range of switched cocktails and learn more about the technique.

The result is a shorter, sophisticated cocktail with the juices and flavours spirits are usually mixed with, instead being introduced into the spirit itself.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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