Why you should care
Because four drops is all it takes to get you hammered.
Imagine a future where your favorite tipple floats in front of your face, condensed into raindrops that you gulp from the air. And just four tiny droplets will get you drunk. The floating, super-concentrated alcohol is courtesy of the Levitron, a machine that uses ultrasonic sound waves to create a field that lets booze float.
It’s the brainchild of British entrepreneur Charlie Harry Francis, a modern-day Willy Wonka for science foodies. But Wonka was a cook, and Francis sees himself more as a tinkerer. “I’m not a chef,” he tells OZY. At home, instead of cooking he melts things. “I’m more of an experimentalist.” Francis founded and runs Lick Me I’m Delicious, a company focused on creating unusual products, and he regularly showcases them at events. He bubbles over with effervescent energy, talking a mile a minute, his brain jumping from the idea of food in space to how food innovation could help the elderly. His innovations boggle the mind: glow-in-the-dark ice cream using proteins synthesized from jellyfish, edible mist so you can slurp bacon and coffee through a straw and lamb-and-mint-flavored ice cream … for the adventurous epicurean.
I wanted a way of making floating food. It’s the idea of contactless cutlery, removing that from the eating experience.
Charlie Harry Francis, founder of Lick Me I’m Delicious
The Levitron, his latest project, resembles an oversize Bunsen burner. Supersonic sound waves create an area where anything will levitate, and when Francis places drops of 70-proof gin there — next to tonic droplets — you have a floating G&T. He’s made bloody marys too. The cocktail machine can create anything that requires liquid ingredients.
Francis doesn’t have a science background, but he’s found professionals very receptive to collaboration. For the Levitron he teamed up with professor Bruce Drinkwater (yes, his real name), who specializes in ultrasonic engineering. “The way the machine works is by creating sound waves that reflect back to create a helix,” Francis said. Sound waves are really powerful, so the duo used the ultrasonic spectrum to make this safe and viable.
How did he come up with the idea? “I wanted a way of making floating food,” Francis said. “It’s the idea of contactless cutlery, removing that from the eating experience.” With a background in ice cream (his parents produce it) and advertising (a stint after university, where he studied business), he’s challenging the foodie status quo. He’s constantly thinking about how innovation can have a real-world application. For instance, the Levitron could potentially offer a new way for the elderly to eat, as levitating food doesn’t require the same motor skills.
But not everyone is convinced that Francis’ creations qualify as science. “I’d say it’s engineering a novel device for food presentation,” Harold McGee, contributor to the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science and author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, tells OZY. “It’s more like stagecraft in theater, making the dining experience more theatrical.”
At the moment the Levitron costs around $50,000 to create, so it’s definitely not an everyday device yet. Till then, we’ll have to settle for downing our drinks the old-fashioned way: in a glass.