The Potential Dangers Of The Forgotten Vaportini

Cocktails tend to come in and out of fashion over time. And while some trends will always hold a place in our hearts or on bar menus even after they aren't the hottest new thing (like the Tiki drinks of the 1960s or the "Sex and the City" Cosmo craze) some trends are better off forgotten. Trends like the Vaportini.

Introduced in Chicago in December 2012, the Vaportini was the name for both a (loosely defined) "drink" and the device it was consumed with. According to Cosmopolitan (the magazine, not the drink), the gimmick was irresistible: get buzzed fast with no calories, no carbs, and no chemical impurities. Simply inhale your alcohol right into your bloodstream. Yes, that's right — the Vaportini was a cocktail you essentially vaped.

The drink first appeared at a cocktail lounge in Chicago's West Loop after the co-owner of the bar, Julie Palmer, was inspired to make an inhalable cocktail on a trip to Helsinki (via NPR). Palmer said that she had gone into a sauna with a friend who poured vodka over the hot coals, vaporizing the liquor and causing them both to feel its effects. To recreate that experience on a small scale, Palmer and her father invented the Vaportini glass. It was a blown glass orb with a glass straw protruding from it, which was filled with a shot or two of alcohol and placed over a lit candle in a pint glass. "Drinkers" then could inhale the boozy vapor.

A concerning cocktail

The Vaportini quickly picked up steam, with Palmer telling NPR that by late January 2013 she was taking orders for the devices from bars around the country. All the buzz, though, was certainly not positive. Almost immediately, food writers and doctors began to question if the hot new trend was safe, with most reaching the same conclusion: probably not.

Although there are no accounts of anyone actually dying or sustaining permanent injury from the Vaportini, there were legitimate fears. Forbes debunked the claim that vaporized drinks were calorie-free, noting that feeling the alcohol meant you were still absorbing the calories associated with it, just without added mixers. Furthermore, doctors expressed concerns that since the inhaled alcohol went straight to the bloodstream instead of passing through the digestive system, it would get people drunk too quickly. This could lead to a heightened risk of alcohol poisoning, since excess alcohol could not be expelled from the body, among other health concerns.

Articles like this continued steadily for two years. A Google search of "Vaportini" today results in a string of cautionary news reports from 2013 – 2015, including a piece from Daily Mail naming the Vaportini one of the world's most dangerous cocktails. Today, the drink's bar of origin is closed and the cocktail does not seem to appear on many bar menus — though there is still a website selling the devices for home use.