There's nothing quite like sending out a cocktail with a delicate bubble balanced on top. It's certainly not a gimmick—er, garnish—drinkers often see, and it requires only a simple gun-like tool called the Flavour Blaster.
It all started with a Breville Smoking Gun and a child's bubble-blowing kit, and now, thanks to a social media campaign, more than 5,000 units have sold, and it's used by bartenders all around the world.
"We invent a number of hospitality products that are set up for theatrical bartending," says Colin Myers, who works for JetChill and is the inventor of the Flavour Blaster. "What we’re going for is something engaging and fun for the customer, and it's a little like Willy Wonka, I guess."
Based in the United Kingdom, JetChill is known for making a machine used for dry ice drinks, as well as the Ripple, which prints designs onto foam-topped beverages using a malt powder, and the GlassChill Machine, a device that perfectly chills glasses, complete with fog. The Flavour Blaster is the company's latest product, making delicate bubbles of flavored smoke to sit atop cocktails and other edible items. The effect looks stunning and also, depending on the flavor chosen, may add an aroma enhancing the cocktail under the dome. Each kit costs about $400 and comes with five flavors—enough, says Myers, to make about 1,000 drinks.
"Bartenders love that it gives the customer something extra, like mixology theater," says Myers. "I think you’ll find more and more people trying to push the envelope. A lot of cocktail folks say it's fun."
How It Works
The Flavour Blaster is essentially a lightweight bubble gun of sorts that's rechargeable via a USB cord and fits easily in the hand. On the gun is a magnetic tank to fill with an aroma of choice. The device heats the contents in the tank, producing a vapor. The bartender then dips the nozzle of the Flavour Blaster into a solution called Bubble X and pulls the trigger to form the vapor-filled bubble, laying it over the rim of the glass containing a prepared cocktail.
To help develop the Flavour Blaster, Myers commissioned the help of award-winning bartender Simone Caporale, formerly of Artesian in London. "He made sure we didn't go too crazy," says Myers. It took a while to get it right, and one of the biggest challenges was regulating the device’s temperature so it would create enough vapor but not run so hot as to burn off the aroma.
Flavored Smoke and Other Tricks
Each aroma generally takes one or two months to develop, says Myers, who works with a chemist in New York City to create them. Flavors currently available include apple, bacon, berry, bubblegum, citrus, lavender, mint, orange, pineapple, rosemary, smoke and “neutral” (which is used to produce only a visual effect rather than adding an aroma), with more scents on the way.
For Bob Peters, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, the smoke flavor is where it's at. Peters, who has worked at numerous places and been the featured bartender at many festivals, first heard of the Flavour Blaster when he was working an event in Las Vegas and wandered into a product booth. Later, he was reminded of the product, which he thought of as a "crazy bubble smoke gun,” when it popped up on social media. Peters' impression wasn't too far off, and what he saw was enough to make him seek it out. Once the product had gone through initial testing, JetChill sent him one to play with.
"I like it because it's not theatrics just for theatrics," says Peters. "It infuses your drinks with a mild amount of smoke and flavor, and you don’t have to practice a lot to get it to work."
When Peters brought it to the bar where he was working, it made quite a splash. To introduce it to his customers, he would ask if he could make them something "crazy and weird," and usually they would say yes.
"I would make them a drink, pour it in a nice glass and then whip out this gun and put this Merlin-like magic bubble on the drink," says Peters, adding that the bubble would last from 10 to 60 seconds. "They would just sit there, and then it would burst, and people would gasp."
Specific Applications and Limitations
One downfall to this magic gun is it doesn't work on everything. Eric Riberio, the bar manager at beverage company Diageo’s New York City headquarters, finds that drinks with ice or anything rimming the glass won’t hold a bubble. Also, he notes, the bubble is fragile, so the Flavour Blaster is a tool best used on drinks for guests seated at the bar rather than in ones delivered to a table by a server. Other than those limitations, however, he finds a lot of applications for the tool.
"There's a big theater part to it, and I think the visual is amazing," says Riberio, who likes to use the Flavour Blaster with classic cocktails and has been working with it during R&D sessions. "It's really good if you want to add a little taste, and the variety of flavors work well in cocktails."
Riberio uses it to make Julio Cabrera's Zacapa Old Fashioned, replacing the usual grapefruit garnish with a bubble of grapefruit smoke. Peters finds a Cynar Boulevardier to be a perfect drink for the bubble, since a smoky bubble adds another layer of flavor to the already boozy, bitter and herbaceous cocktail.
"At first, the customer thinks it will be a fluffy drink, and then you hit them in the face with something super boozy," says Peters. "If you can do something unexpected, fun, childlike and whimsical, all wrapped up into one, customers will tell their friends and take pictures to post on Instagram."
As for the future, Peters thinks the next big wave of Flavour Blaster use will hit chefs. "Typically, the chef world drives the cocktail world, but in this case, it's the reverse," he says. "For once, the bartenders are leading the way."