Not long ago, the American Museum of Natural History was a place to learn about the lives of dinosaurs and Neanderthals, with a possible tidbit gleaned here and there about what these creatures ate. Yet the museum has increasingly been offering food and drink events as part of its after-hours programming, through its Adventures in the Global Kitchen event series.
“There’s been so much interest from our audience in the world of food,” says public programs director Ellen Silberman, who helped organize a recent lecture and tasting on Persian cuisine, and one about ancient wines, in conjunction with the “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibit. Now it seems Silberman and her staff have caught on to the cocktail-geek movement: On June 8, the museum will bring in mixologist Don Lee of Momofuku Ssam Bar and cocktail historian David Wondrich to talk about “polar cocktails.” The topic relates to the “Race to the End of the Earth” exhibit on artic exploration, and is inspired by the recent discovery of a bottle of century-old whiskey buried in Arctic ice — the drink of choice for explorer Ernest Shackleton. Among the topics these imbibing authorities will discuss is, fittingly, the importance of ice in creating the perfect cocktail.
Silberman says that the food and drink events are the most popular ones the museum offers. “It brings in a younger audience than a lot of our traditional programming,” she says. “It’s fun and informative in a different way — learning about places and cultures and connections we can all make.” In July, stay tuned for a lecture and tasting on barbecue from around the world from Primal Grill host Steven Raichlen. If you’re still wrapping your head around getting gourmet at a place where you once threw illicit spitballs as a fourth-grader, consider this: If you take away the schoolchildren, and squint a bit, the museum’s Victorian environs bear more than a passing resemblance to the Ace Hotel.