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How to Make Computer-Created Ivorian Bourbon Punch

There's a decent chance you're familiar with Watson, IBM's artificial intelligence computing project. Its most noteworthy public appearance was a few years ago on the classic quiz show Jeopardy!, where it beat the tar out of the game's two best human players.

More recently, the team of people in charge of Watson have turned to culinary pursuits. At SXSW in Austin, IBM ran a food truck with Watson as the executive chef.

To get Watson to come up with a dish, Watson's handlers enter three things in something of a game of culinary Mad Libs. They give Watson a region of the world, a feature ingredient, and a type of dish.

From that, Watson spits out a list of ingredients to make a dish that fits all of the categories, and has ingredients that taste good together. Some of the more noteworthy creations include an Austrian Chocolate Burrito, and Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche.

More recently, the Watson people have included drinks in Watson's repertoire. At a Cognitive Cooking dinner hosted by IBM, there was a Watson-created cocktail, Ivorian Bourbon Punch.

Watson's first foray into cocktailian pursuits starts out simple enough. It's close to a classic Whiskey Sour, using honey as the sweetener, and adding triple sec. Then, it brings in the Côte d'Ivoire influence by adding bananas, vanilla, and turmeric. The turmeric is an especially genius addition I never would have thought to use behind the bar; its flavor is subtle, but it makes the drink an especially dazzling golden hue.

See Also: Celebrate National Whisky Sour Day. You Know How.

Watson's cooking abilities are still limited; it knows what ingredients go well with each other, but is still learning good proportions to use. So, armed with the ingredient list, I got to work figuring out good proportions. What I've ended up with is (at least to my palate) quite a nice drink, with everything coming together in quite a harmonious fashion. Especially considering the drink was conceived by a computer.

About the only adjustment I would make to the recipe is to use crème de banane (probably 1/4 ounce) in place of mashing up a chunk of banana and adding it to the drink. The real banana flavor is good, but the drink starts to separate as you drink it, and the mashed up banana pulp gums up your strainers like you wouldn't believe.

I'd also bet that if I were to use actual bananas, the recipe would be even better if I sautéed the bananas with the turmeric before mashing them, but that's closer to cooking than I prefer when I'm making cocktails.

As with other drinks that include honey, it's wise to make a honey syrup (or, as I like to call it, Runny Honey). If you try to add straight honey to the drink, it will solidify and remain stuck to the bottom of your mixing glass instead of incorporating into the drink as it does when you make honey syrup.

Ivorian Bourbon Punch 1/4 of a large banana 1/4 teaspoon turmeric 3/4 ounce lemon juice 1/2 ounce Runny Honey (recipe follows) 1-1/2 ounces bourbon 1/2 ounce triple sec 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mash banana until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Shake well with ice cubes. Strain over ice into a tall glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, squeezing the twist over the drink before dropping it in.

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JK Grence
Contact: JK Grence