Camper English is a frequent speaker on the history of alcohol and medicine, the science of cocktails, and clear ice. Most recently, he has given talks at Tales of the Cocktail, American Ancestors, University of Washington Health Sciences Library, Lafayette Public Library, Campari Headquarters, the Mutter Museum, the Mechanics Institute Library, the United States Bartenders' Guild Hawaii Chapter, and the Bourbon Women Book Club.
Camper is the author of Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails (2022) and The Ice Book (2023). The New York Times recently wrote of Camper, "(he) has a flair for digging up fun facts," and the Washington Post described Doctors and Distillers as "a rollicking, quirky story." Camper educates and entertains audiences with wit, humor, and delightfully detailed scientific and historical expertise.
Camper is currently scheduling talks for the 2023-24 season. Send an email to alcademics @ gmail to schedule a talk for a consumer or cocktail industry seminar, book club, library activity, corporate happy hour, or other group event.
A Selection of Available Talks
Short Talks (30 minutes)
*Corpse Reviver! The History of Medicine in a Cocktail
Nearly every ingredient in every cocktail has a history as medicine. In this talk we'll deconstruct the Corpse Reviver No 2 (gin, aromatized wine, lemon, orange liqueur, absinthe) - a cocktail designed to treat hangovers - and look at how its ingredients juniper (plague), citrus (scurvy), wormwood (intestinal parasites), and even the sugar (lung problems) and distilled alcohol (baldness, gout, kidney stones) were used to combat disease and postpone death.
*The Medicinal History of [your choice of cocktail or spirit]
Gin, vodka, brandy, whiskey, aquavit, rum: It was all used as medicine. In a short talk on your spirit of choice we'll look at how spirits were used as medicine in general and how your favorite spirit was used to treat specific conditions - whether it was effective or (usually) not.
*Super Cubes! The Basics of Perfect Clear Ice (available with book purchases)
The Ice Book contains all the information you need to know in order to make perfectly clear cubes, spheres, and other ice objects. This short talk optimized for corporate parties/gifting is to get people excited about everything they will soon be able to do. We can design a gift pack around the book with some tools to get people started.
Talks (60 minutes including time for questions)
*Corpse Reviver! The History of Medicine in a Cocktail
A similar talk to the above, but with more time and lots of illustrations!
* Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails
This talk is a summary of the overlapping history of alcohol and medicine in roughly chronological order and more closely follows the structure of the book.
*Weird and Wild History of the Gin & Tonic
Of all the modern mixed drinks today, none have had the epic history of the Gin & Tonic. The tree bark used to make tonic water was discovered in Peru, proven useful in Italy, validated in France, monopolized by the Dutch, and mixed with British gin in India to give us the antimalarial cocktail we still drink and love in modern times.
*Turning Lead into Goldschlager: How Alchemy Gave Us Distilled Spirits
Alchemists were distilling metals, minerals, and medicines for nearly 1000 years before they figured out how to concentrate alcohol. We'll look at the philosophy and practice of alchemy to see how it lead to the creation of spirits, and why they thought that "aqua vitae" was the purest form of quintessence that would grant universal life.
*Women and Distillation, 1500-1700
In Europe in this era, women operated stills in their households, laboratories, and workshops in the practice of aristocratic alchemy and the trade of "secrets," and in the production of beneficial medicines for their local communities. Through books penned by women authors in Italy, Germany, France, and England we learn about what they were producing and for whom.
*Holy Spirits: The Middle Age Monastic Medicine that Gave Us Chartreuse, Benedictine, Buckfast, and More
In Europe's Middle Ages, religious orders produced medicines to donate to their communities or sell to fund their orders. We'll look at the history and legacy of the practice and at a few specific examples of spirits that came out of this era that are still produced today.
*Sipping Science: How Fermentation and Fizzy Mineral Springs Lead to Germ Theory and Anesthetics
Scientists experimenting with naturally fizzy mineral waters creating artificial carbonation came to understand that air was made up of a mix of elemental gases, eventually leading to anesthetics. Others including Louis Pasteur studied the fizzy liquids produced by beer and wine fermentation and came to create the germ theory of disease and develop antiseptics. Our favorite drinks have inspired some of the most important medical discoveries.
*The Not-So-Wholesome History of the Soda Fountain
The soda water used in soda fountains was once medicine dispensed by the pharmacist, and many flavored sodas we know today (Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up) once contained medicinal ingredients like cocaine, gentian, and lithium.
*Alcohol, Food, and Medicine in America's Progressive Era
Upton Sinclair remarked on his book The Jungle, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The progressive era in America saw the passing of the first labor rights and food and drug safety laws in response to the working conditions of meat packing facilities and unsafe and unregulated food and medicine being falsely labelled and advertised. This lead to the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 and in a way, to Prohibition in America.
*Drinkable Mummies and Distilled Blood: The Weird Wild History of Corpse Medicine
This gory and gross seminar might be a fit for your Halloween programming. We'll look at some of the ways body parts and bodily fluids ended up in medicine, from gladiator blood in ancient Rome to brain and mummy-based spirits in the books of distilled medicines of the 1600s to the powdered skull wine favored by King Charles II. Along the way we'll attempt to learn why physicians thought that this stuff would work.
*Modern Cocktail Techniques
Beyond shakers, muddlers, and infusions, what are the coolest new tools and techniques that bartenders use to make cocktails today? We'll look into equipment like centrifuges, anti-griddles, superbags, liquid nitrogen, isolated acids; and techniques including rapid infusion, sous vide, milk clarification, nitro muddling, fat washing, switching, and smoking; to make foams and airs, spheres, clear cocktails and ice, "super juice," and more!
Workshops (90 minutes, interactive)
In this class we'll break down a block of ice into cubes and spheres, learn to cut ice diamonds, and press patterns upon ice. It's an introduction to all the arts and crafts projects you can do with ice at home!
*Water and Dilution in Spirits
We review how and where water is used in the creation of distilled spirits and why the very "special" waters you see on the distillery tour are barely in the bottle. Then we do tasting exercises with dilution and minerality with water and spirits.
*Mineral Water and Water Blending
In this workshop we look at sparkling mineral waters available on the shelf and make-able at home: how we categorize them by their physical properties and how we might like to consume them solo or mixed with different spirits. This seminar is great for the workplace/team building as it can be done without alcohol.
*Bitter Flavors Tasting and Training
Wormwood, gentian, quinine, rhubarb root: We'll taste the "big four" bitters along with liqueurs in which they're employed, plus learn about the science of bitterness, "supertasters," and more! This has been a very popular training in the past. Can be done online or in person.
A Selection of Camper's Previous Talks
- Tech, Tools, and Topics in Modern Mixology, Guest Lecture, UC Berkeley Science and Engineering of Cooking course, October 2022
- Secrets of the Earliest Distillation Books, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans 2022
- Water & Whisky, Amsterdam November 2019
- Color in Spirits and Cocktails, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, July 2019
- Allergies, Diets, and Cocktail Menu Warnings, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, July 2019
- CocktailSafe, USBG regional conference San Diego (March 2019), Charlotte (April 2019), Invasion Cocktail Montreal (June 2019), Toronto Cocktail Week (August 2019), Bar Convent Berlin (October 2019), San Francisco (October 2019)
- Become a Liqueur Connoisseur, Bar Convent Berlin, October 2018
- Bitter Flavors, Taste the Rainbow!, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, July 2018
- Yeast and Fermentation, SF USBG, San Francisco, February 2018
- Beetlejuice! When Bugs Meet Booze, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, July 2017
- Water: A Super Sciency Geek-Out, Chicago Cocktail Summit, Chicago 2016
- San Francisco Booze and Books Tour, Bacardi Legacy San Francisco 2016
- The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, National Archives, Washington, DC 2015
- Prehistoric Cocktail Technology, Tales of the Cocktail 2015
- Sherry, It's Complicated!, Toronto Cocktail Week, 2013
- The Barrel Around the World, Manhattan Cocktail Classic 2013
- 50 Bars in 60 Minutes, Manhattan Cocktail Classic 2013
- Palomapalooza!, Manhattan Cocktail Classic 2013
- Advanced Sherry: Secrets, Lies, and Solera, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans 2013
- The Column Still: Pretty on the Inside, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans 2013
- Filtration in Spirits, Manhattan Cocktail Classic 2012
- Sugar: How Sweet It Is!, Tales of the Cocktail 2012
- The Great Vodka Debate, US Bartenders Guild Meeting, 2010
- Future Trends in Global Mixology, Bar Convent Berlin, Germany, 2010
Comments from attendees of Camper's talks:
- "In a super-nerdy awesome seminar, moderator Camper English (the Alton Brown of booze and cocktail techniques) enlightened me on beet powder, dragonfruit powder and blue spirulina." - Melissa Townsend, Milk Punch
- "I was so excited to hear Camper English give his talk on dangerous ingredients. Could have listened to him for at least another hour."
- So amazing! We were so impressed not only with the style of the presentation but the content. The format. Everything. Amazing."
- "The subject matter was excellent and the level of expertise of the speaker was very apparent."
- "This seminar could not have been better unless it was 3 hours long. Camper’s personality & teaching style is an honor to be around. More bitters & more Camper!!"
- "I’ve watched 2 or 3 of his other seminars. Funny, engaging. He did a lot of pre-work and clearrrrrly knows the in and out. Some of these presenters have 10+ years of only doing one thing, it seems he has actually done so much. Excited to see his presentation next year(s)!"
- "Awesome job covering a difficult and complex subject."
- "“We were beyond excited to secure Camper English’s 'Dangerous Drinks and Risky Techniques' seminar in our 2019 Western Regional Conference programming, especially following his feature in the New York Times. Our attendees appreciated Camper’s engaging presentation style and found his seminar to be packed with imperative information that all bartenders should be equipped with as they are creating and serving cocktails. The positive feedback our attendees immediately shared with us, made it clear that we needed to book him for our 2019 Southern Regional Conference too!” - Aaron Gregory Smith, Executive Director, United States Bartenders’ Guild
Learn More About
- Camper English and Alcademics.com
- Camper's speaking at trade and consumer cocktail events.
- Camper's consulting services and cocktail competition judging
- Camper and Alcademics' cocktail events and tastings
Contact Camper English here: