The Perfuming Cocktail Scientist

Cocktail Theory reveals the relationship between perfume and cocktails.

What do cocktails and fragrances have in common? Quite a lot according to Dr. Kevin Peterson, perfume retailer and cocktail expert.

Cocktail Theory: A Sensory Approach To Transcendent Cocktails may just be the most fascinating scent-themed book of the year. Dr. Kevin Peterson makes a convincing case that cocktails and fragrances share many commonalities. The book is a detailed look at the theory and philosophy behind the Detroit cocktail bar he co-founded, Castalia, that operates as a perfumery by day, but at night transforms to serve scent-paired drinks. 

The revolutionary concept is perfectly in step with Gen Z’s newfound passion for fragrance experiences – bringing to life an eau de parfum through an event with fellow scent enthusiasts. The world’s top department stores, responding to customer requests, have started to offer top clients master classes, tastings and perfumer appearances. Niche and unique brands have become particularly popular with a younger customer who during the pandemic started researching and exploring the world of perfumery.

Using comprehensive experiments and ground-breaking data visualization, Kevin makes a case for breaking cocktails into their individual sensory components, optimizing each aspect, then putting the pieces back together for an ideal drink. He approaches the topic as a physicist, an engineer, a perfumer and a bar owner.

This approach isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. Spirit companies, food manufacturers and fragrance houses all use the services of global flavour firms when looking for new fragrances, tastes and ingredients. Food flavouring is a multi-billion dollar business so these companies spend a fortune on research and development. Often the results will be adapted for perfumery. It was no coincidence when we saw coconut-themed condiments, prepared foods and beverages in our grocery stores as well as prestige fragrances with coconut water notes. You can often find specialty vodkas and gins with similar themes as fragrances we wear.

Dr Kevin Peterson
Dr Kevin Peterson

Peterson clearly understands this and offers an in-depth look at what makes scented cocktails work and how to pair them with fragrances. Flavour principles are accompanies by recipes that have graced Castalia’s menus, along with practical tips for executing elevated drinks at home. Cocktails are placed in the context of a larger experience, and supported by exercises to improve your palate, allowing you to transcend recipes and understand why certain drinks work, or not.

Visit Kevin’s bar and you’ll watch as fragrance and drinks are presented together by spraying the scent onto the garnish, creating a multi-layered flavour and aroma experience. It’s no wonder he’s often described as a perfuming cocktail scientist. We give him full marks for creativity and passion.

Cocktail Theory is available on

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  • Liz Howard
    April 3, 2024 at 8:51 pm

    Very interesting!

  • Linda L
    April 2, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    I always smell a cocktail before I ingest it. It’s gets my palate ready for a pleasurable experience. Love Dr.Peterson’s clever idea of pairing cocktails with fragrances..

  • @tserings
    April 1, 2024 at 11:52 pm

    What an amazing concept–that would be an unforgettable experience to being scent and cocktail confections together so masterfully!!