Insight: How aviation and auto design inspired a cocktail maker

Aviation and aircraft design inform the cylindrical shape. The main body, or ‘combustion chamber’, is machined from food-grade stainless steel encasing a borosilicate glass vessel resistant to thermal shock for the ultimate iced cocktail. On top sits the control unit, the ‘turbine’, and inside, a motor and rechargeable lithium-ion battery powers a hollow stainless steel mixing paddle. Meanwhile adhering to the precise martini stirring science, the mixing paddle rotates at the optimum revolutions per minute, between 120-160 rpm, to deliver a perfect blend and cooled martini in under 15 seconds.

A magnetic start/stop function automatically activates the stirring action when the turbine is tightened and locked into place. It illuminates interior LEDs, for a glimpse of the spirits in mixing action through a viewing window. A sealed turbine houses a rechargeable battery with a run time of 120 minutes — enough to stir up 500 cocktails. The final touch is an accompanying machined stainless-steel strainer that continues the turbine graphic, featuring multiple apertures for a smooth pour. Meet the Martini Mixer, a highly technical cocktail maker designed to stir rather than shake up a classic martini. The stirring isn’t optional, but the choice of gin or vodka, twist or dirty, is entirely yours.

Commissioned originally by British Airways for use in the Concord business lounge at London Heathrow but now available to order for home use, the Martini Mixer has been designed by Callum, the British design studio headed by Ian Callum, the former creative boss at car company Jaguar alongside the luxury watchmaker Bremont and with consultancy from the mixologist Mr Lyan (aka Ryan Chetiyawardana).

Intrigued, we spoke with Ian Callum to see how a former car designer approached a cocktail maker.

From designing cars to cocktails, what made you decide on this venture?

The project started with a chance meeting between Bremont’s Giles English and mastermind mixologist Mr Lyan on a flight to New York. Both are BA partners and wanted to propose creating the ultimate Martini for the airline, which required a martini mixer befitting the task. Callum has worked closely with Bremont, so we were asked to collaborate and contribute design and engineering expertise.

Why insist on the classic stirred martini, rather than a shaken one (sorry 007)?

Through our discussions with My Lyan, we learned about making a martini. It’s quite an art form in itself. Rather than shaking the ingredients, the aim is to get the ultimate combination of aeration, dilution and cooling during the mix for a smoother blend and taste. The best way to do this is through precise mixing, so we set about creating a modern, motorised mixer.

The design takes from aviation, and with a nod to performance cars, which isn’t surprising since you’ve designed your fair share at Jaguar and Aston Martin. What was your initial creative idea?

There is a crossover between aviation and automotive — both seeking sleek, clean, aerodynamic shapes, with form following their important function. We sought this elegant design and worked with the Callum engineering team so that it could be operated without switches that would disturb those clean lines. We were inspired by the turbofan engines on BA’s aircraft. Their beautiful precision is replicated in the decorative turbofan we have within the Martini Mixer’s head unit, complete with a nose cone.

What from your automotive background proved valuable in designing and constructing the mixer?

Cars and cocktail mixers are quite a world apart, but taking on this new challenge was a joy. Our first foray into the spirits business was a bespoke whisky bottle for our Callum 529 by Annandale, which we created last year. We’ve learned a lot about the drinks industry during these two projects, particularly around materials.

But ultimately, good design is good design, and engineering principles remain — it’s just tuning yourself into the product’s specific requirements. For example, the striking diagonal indents around the mixer turbine were included to help give extra purchase when tightening and releasing the control unit, which can get cold and have condensation when making a chilled martini.

How do you see the shape impacting on the cocktails?

The shape of the paddle was important. It needed to be hollow to allow it to move freely through the liquid with minimal resistance and strong enough for use with large ice cubes. The speed at which the paddle rotates impacts the taste of the cocktail. Following guidance from Mr Lyan, the paddle was engineered to move at between 120-160rpm, depending on the size of the ice cubes. The aim is to stir the ice cubes through the drink to blend, chill and adequately dilute the cocktail. At this speed, in less than 15 seconds, the ultimate martini has been stirred to perfection rather than shaken.

Images: The Martini Mixer ©Callum

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