The art of libation has elevated the human condition for millennia. Alcohol is part of our history, our cultures, our collective existence. “I think; therefore, I drink,” a wise man once said. And yet, the technology of enjoying a nip has remained relatively unchanged since the invention of the cup. That is, until now. Enter the Vaportini, an elegant rig that transforms any spirt from simple swill into an intoxicating cloud.
Really – the entire point of the Vaportini is to turn your drink of choice into a small, contained cloud of nearly-pure alcohol, which you suck out of a glass globe with a straw. Why on Earth would anyone want to do this, you ask? Good question. And after giving Vaportini the ol’ college try, I am proud to say that I still don’t have a good answer – but I do have a bad one.
Vaportini has six components: A glass globe, a globe holder, a pint glass, a candle, a glass straw, and a funnel. Oh, and booze – but you have to buy that separately.
To set up your Vaportini, simply place the candle in the bottom of the pint glass, position the metal globe holder on top of the glass, and put the Vaportini globe on top of that. Simple, right? A four-year-old could do it (not recommended). Only … it’s a bit more complicated in practice.
First, you need to fill the Vaportini globe with about 1oz of liquor – a single shot – using the provided funnel before you place the globe over a lit candle. Loading the globe takes a bit of practice, and you’ll probably waste a bit of precious booze before getting your pour just right – it’s quite easy to overflow the funnel, sending a cascade of spirits dribbling down your globe.
Another charming discovery I found at the start: Pushing the funnel into the globe will instantly break it. Fortunately, my test unit only suffered a hairline crack, which didn’t spread during use. But it could have easily shattered before taking a single puff. It’s a rookie mistake, one that I imagine a good many Vaportini buyers – if such people actually exist – have made. The correct way to do it is to place the tip of the funnel in the Vaportini hole, but don’t push it in any further.
Also, because the globe is perfectly round, you’ll want to place it on the globe stand during the filling process. Otherwise, it’ll just roll off the table and smash. You’ll cut yourself on the shards, get rushed to the hospital where you’ll have to explain that you cut yourself setting up an apparatus to help you inhale, rather than drink, booze. They will think you’re crazy. It’ll ruin the night. Avoid all that by using the stand during fill-up.
Next, you need to light the candle. For this, you’re going to need one of those long-neck grill lighters or extra-long matches because it’s virtually impossible to keep the candle alight any other way. Every time I tried to light it with a regular lighter, then drop it into the glass already lit, the flame went out. So don’t bother.
Once your globe is loaded with the hard stuff and your candle is lit, just set the globe and holder on top of the glass, and let the magic of evaporation begin.
Picking your poison
The Vaportini instructions specify that you should only use alcohol that is above 80 proof. In other words, don’t mess with wine or beer because it’ll just be a waste of time and good hooch. For this test, I swung by my local liquor store, which conveniently sells mini bottles of inexpensive booze for $1. So I picked up the full gamut: Scotch, Tennessee whiskey, gin, vodka, brandy, coconut rum, and some limoncillo and Bailey’s because why the hell not?
In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter which type of liquor you choose. Just pick something you like, and give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?
The problem with the Vaportini is figuring out when to start sucking out the alcoholic cloud. The instructions only say that a “clear vapor” will begin to form inside the globe, which is about as helpful as a DMV employee. So, on my first try, I waited a good seven minutes, just staring at the thing like a dumbass, waiting for some premonition. Eventually, I lost patience, jammed the glass straw inside, and took a pull.
Scotch tastes like Scotch. Gin tastes like gin. Limoncillo tastes like crap.
The first thing you’ll notice when inhaling straight alcohol fumes is a stinging sensation in your throat. If you like the feeling of smoking, this will probably come as a pleasant surprise. But if you have a virgin throat, expect to cough a bit – not much, but just enough to make you look like a 15-year-old taking his first hit of pot.
The next thing you’ll notice is that the vapor tastes exactly like whatever alcohol you’ve picked. Scotch tastes like Scotch. Gin tastes like Gin. Limoncillo tastes like crap. Etcetera, etcetera. The only difference is the taste is much lighter, less intense – a bit like the aftertaste of a big gulp of straight booze. If you like the flavor of alcohol, it’s really not half-bad.
In the loopy
After a bit of practice, I noticed dimples of condensation forming inside the globe. That’s pure alcohol, and your best and only indication that the vapor is ready be consumed. But in reality, you don’t have to wait that long – after a minute or so, vapor already starts to form. The longer you wait, the more vapor there is. And because it doesn’t all evaporate at once – I never actually noticed that the level of liquid in the globe had diminished – you can just keep puffing away, presumably for hours.
It only took about five minutes and 10 to 20 puffs before I started feeling a bit light-headed and loopy. Because you are inhaling the alcohol, rather than processing it through your digestive system, the effects take much less time to make themselves known. And once a half hour had gone by, I felt downright tipsy.
It’s getting hot in here
Okay, so now we know this Vaportini thing works. In fact, the experience is quite pleasant. Too bad it’s also the dumbest way to consume alcohol this side of a keg stand.
The Vaportini is, as I see it, probably the best way to catch yourself on fire while drinking ever invented. It just seems all too easy to crack the globe, which could immediately result in the candle igniting the extremely flammable alcohol vapor, which would then blow up in your face, catch your hair on fire, and send you running around the room like a wild banshee. Oh, and you’d probably also be drunk, which is always helpful in an emergency.
Now, I will say that I found no evidence of this actually happening to anyone. And it didn’t happen to me, despite the cracked globe. So perhaps I’m just being paranoid. But it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine things going wildly wrong when there’s booze, fire, and drunk people all in close proximity.
The Vaportini, which runs $30 or $42 with the pint glass included, is the perfect gimmick for bars looking to maximize their booze profits – the amount of alcohol used is much less than you would drink in the same amount of time. It looks cool, like some type of glass sculpture. And because you’re left waiting for the alcohol to evaporate gradually, giving you time to chat with fellow imbibers, I can see how this could be appealing to a couple on a first date, or sorority girls who want to look classy.
That said, the act of sucking vaporized alcohol out of a glass globe makes you feel and look like a crack addict. The potential for catching your face on fire is far too high for my liking. And besides, there’s a reason booze consumption technology has remained the same for thousands of years: Drinking is already perfect.