On a recent episode of Parks and Recreation, we got to watch Tom Haverford inhale gin mist from an “aromasphere” martini, in a scene designed to satirize the molecular gastronomy craze. The funniest part of the clip, of course, is how little it exaggerates reality: You can now order the exact same drink at a bar in Chicago.
Meanwhile, in England, the Brits have moved from gin fog to whiskey weather events. As part of King’s College recent show, Feed Your Mind: The King’s Festival of Food and Ideas, the “food architects” Bompas & Parr unveiled Whiskey Tornado, a vortex of inhalable booze that visitors could suck through straws. The gastronomical artists (architects? foodies? fooditects?) describe the installation as a meditation on “the impact the Scottish weather has on flavour formation in whisky.”
The duo worked with a team of engineers and scientists to develop the installation, which uses a set of industrial humidifiers to create the vortex swirling inside a souped-up bell jar. Customers sidle up to the box and stick a straw into the wind column to get a quick hit of whiskey, which can be changed according to the whims of the artists. It’d all be a bit gimmicky, were it not for this interesting explanation of why the designers chose Whiskey over, say, SoCo. “There are many things which go into making the flavours of a whisky, and we thought it would be interesting to look at the meteorological elements,” they explain. Or, as a Scottish social historian who worked with Bompas & Parr on the project told The Scotsman:
The weather affects the type of barley that can be grown, the amount and quality of water for making whisky and the environment in which whisky barrels spend their many years of maturation. Some writers argue that whiskies in the casks take flavour from the atmosphere around them, and it is easy to believe this when watching the windswept seas battering the islands on which many single malts are distilled and matured. Battling the elements is part of the romance of the whisky-making story.
Bompas & Parr are actually the originators of the inhalable alcohol trend. Back in 2009, the duo devised a way to create gin mist, and ended up filling a room with the stuff–anyone could stop in for a breath, for roughly $10 an hour. They called their bar Alcoholic Architecture. Since then we’ve seen other entrepreneurs jump on the bandwagon. Philippe Starck even designed an inhalable vodka called Wahh last year. The technology is not without detractors: Besides the sheer novelty, what makes breathable booze so enticing (and dangerous) is that it bypasses your liver and goes straight to your bloodstream.
Inhalable alcohol may end up going the way of other dated alcohol trends, like Four Loko and Zima. Still, Whiskey Tornado asks an interesting question: would you still enjoy drinking if there wasn’t a cold glass involved, if you couldn’t really see the liquor, and if you weren’t sitting with friends complaining about your day while doing so?
[H/t Design Week]