Why sip your cocktail when you can toke it?
The Vaportini, "is a totally different way to experience alcohol. It lets the subtleties of the spirit come through," says its creator Julie Palmer.
It works like this: An ounce of liquor is poured into a delicate glass orb, which perches on a pint glass. A tea light in the bottom of the glass gently heats up the booze, and after five minutes, the vapours are ready for inhaling through a thin glass straw.
Palmer, who began selling the Vaportini apparatus online last year, suggests using spirits between 60 to 100 proof, such as gin, flavoured vodkas, bourbon or scotch, and pairing puffs with different courses. "I use it like a wine pairing. Lemongrass and tarragon-infused vodka served with a scallop course … and I once tried cherry-infused bourbon with a chocolate dessert course."
Palmer launched the Vaportini at her own bar Red Kiva, in Chicago's hip West Loop neighbourhood, but this alcohol delivery system is turning up in New York, Los Angeles and, most recently, at the exclusive new cigar lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Avon, Colo. It's where the continent's wealthiest skiers come for après, but not everyone wants to suck on a stogie. For those folk, there's a chance to smoke Hendrick's gin with lavender bitters or Grand Marnier and chocolate liquor. "The alcohol bypasses your liver and goes right into your bloodstream," J.R. Royall, our bartender, explains.
Palmer was on vacation in Helsinki when she discovered the local custom of pouring vodka on hot sauna rocks and breathing in the vapour for a head-rush high. Back home she worked with her father, an engineer, to come up with a contraption so she could relive the experience in her living room. "One inhale is like one small sip of a drink," she says, "it metabolizes right away."
In the Ritz lounge – where a Vaportini sets you back $35 (U.S.) – Mary Mitchell of Dallas inhaled alcohol while her husband enjoyed a rather large cigar. "I won't lie," she laughed, "it definitely gave me a bit of a head rush."