The Basics Bar Tools

This Simple Barista Tool Can Work Miracles for Your Cocktail Program

Using a whipped cream dispenser as a bartending tool

Kitchens are repositories of paraphernalia, equipped with an endless array of gadgets and gizmos that often have frustratingly specific jobs. It’s time to free those lonely kitchen tools and put them to work somewhere a lot more fun: your bar.

Your neighborhood barista wields one to add a creamy topper to your double-shot coconut milk mochaccino, and the scooper at the local ice cream parlor wouldn’t think of setting a banana split on the counter without a few decorative squirts from the chilled metal canister. Of course, we’re talking about the whipped cream dispenser, made by such brands as iSi, AmazeChef and EurKitchen. Filled with heavy cream and fueled by nitrous oxide canisters, these gadgets dole out pure whipped joy, one dollop at a time. And bartenders are discovering their applications go well beyond garnishing an Irish Coffee.

Cocktail Uses

“Pressure forces NO2 into the solution and presses the flavors into the liquid, so you can also use a whipped cream canister in a number of ways,” says Benjamin Harris, the lead bartender at Pennyroyal and Shaker + Spear in Seattle, including to make a cream or egg white foam, or in some cases, even an entire cocktail.

Bartenders bemoan making the labor-intensive Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires upwards of 10 minutes of dry shaking to attain its signature frothiness and silky mouthfeel. A whipped cream charger can really speed up the process. “Rather than doing all of that shaking, you can mix the ingredients (gin, cream, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, orange blossom water and egg white) right in the canister,” says Harris. “Charge it up and you’ve got a no-fuss Ramos Gin Fizz.”

In a pinch, a whipped cream canister can also stand in for a soda siphon, says Harris. Just be sure to substitute a CO2 cartridge for nitrous oxide and be careful when pouring out the liquid as it tends to spill easily from the dispenser.

Stardust made with an iSi charger at Play Kitchen & Cocktails in Chicago. Play Kitchen & Cocktails

Mike Finnegan, the beverage director of Play Kitchen & Cocktails in Chicago, likes garnishing his cocktails with foams, which he believes “can be wonderful, not only for their potential of beautiful presentation but also their ability to introduce an element of textural modification.” He uses an iSi charger to whip Nannoz True-Spectrum CBD syrup infused with coconut and orange into an espuma for the Stardust, which mixes Absolut Elyx vodka with Combier Liqueur de Rose, lime and peach. (Finnegan founded and created that CBD syrup.)

The charger creates a rich spume with a slick and velvety mouthfeel that contrasts with the texture of the citrus-driven cocktail. “Plus, the iSi canister allows for speedy near-instant infusions, which won’t spoil outside of proper storage,” says Finnegan. The foam remains stable, so it can be stored and used anytime, even after service has stopped—a must for the bar’s high-volume beverage program.

Endless Options, with Caution

Just like that kitchen gadget of the moment, the Instant Pot, contents in a whipped cream canister are under extreme pressure, so there are a few important tips to keep in mind. “Always charge with the iSi upside down so the gas has to travel through all of the liquid,” says Harris. “And remember to take the gas canister out after you have charged your iSi, otherwise the pin that pierces the canister will wear out faster.”

Finnegan encourages bartenders that when it comes to a whipped cream charger, nothing is off-limits. He recalls substituting a mustard foam for sauce for pulled pork when he first purchased iSi Gourmet Whip. “The difference, side-by-side, changes my perspective of everything I thought I already knew,” he says. “This now-essential tool has improved my skill set, and I can’t wait to see what my industry peers have to offer next.”