Pump it Up with Spirit Sprays

The traditional way for a bartender wishing to add just a whiff of flavor or aroma to a cocktail is with a rinse. Adding a small amount of a spirit, liqueur or other potent ingredient to a glass, swirling it around, and then pouring it out renders a subtle hint of the ingredient’s profile—an absinthe rinse for a Sazerac is a classic example. But mixologists wishing to ramp up a drink’s aromatics and taste are increasingly turning to another method of delivery, one that gets its origins from the fragrance industry.

Minday TrafmanMindy Trafman, general manager at the two locations of Lush wine bars in Chicago, has been using a sprayer or atomizer to add aromas to elixirs. “It is quick and coats evenly,” she explains. “You can use the sprayer to put a coating of a Vermouth or bitters on top of a Martini, which creates a very aromatic sensation.” (An olive juice or lemon oil spritz also works well.) And her version of the Sazerac tops Whistle Pig Rye, Peychaud’s bitters and simple syrup with a spritz (or more, to taste) of Kübler Absinthe.

Though either a spray bottle or an atomizer does the same job, Trafman is partial to the latter, which often comes with a handy funnel for filling. She does point out, though, that neither rinsing nor spraying is inherently better than the other—just different approaches.  Her Elderflower Champers, a heady libation for the warmer weather, tops Prosecco or Cava with a spritz of Belvoir Elderflower Cordial. “It has fresh flowers and lemons—something light and a little different.” It’s also a refreshing substitution for the Mimosa for spring and summer imbibing.

Inquisitive guests like watching the cocktails get their airy garnish, and are curious about the process. They also get a front row seat that shows the detail that goes into each cocktail, says Trafman.

Also planned for Lush’s spring and summer menu  is a cocktail finished with a spritz of Imbue’s Bittersweet Vermouth, which has hints of tangerine and baking spice, and another with Imbue Petal & Thorn, which boasts notes of chamomile and orange peel, and an Amaro-like finish. “The intriguing aromatics will just dance on top of the cocktail.” For a simple aperitif, she recommends serving a high quality Vermouth on the rocks, with a spray of Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters.

Stefan Trummer, owner and mixologist at the American restaurant and bar Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, Virginia, is using a spray for his new Margarita concept, in lieu of the typical rimmer. The cocktail is presented tableside, along with a small spray bottle of a pink-tinged sea salt-based liquid, which guests can add themselves, to taste. “That way you get a really nice salt flavor without getting a lot of salt in your mouth from the salt rim,” he explains. He’s also working on other flavored sea salt sprays for cocktails, including rosemary and smoked.

Trummer also views rinses and sprays as two completely separate applications for drinks—with different results. “Rinsing the glass with another spirit changes how the drink tastes; using the spray enables you to add another layer of flavor without changing the drink, but enhancing it.” He compares the latter to a spray of perfume—the aromas hit the guest with every sip, stimulating the senses and providing a more intense cocktail experience.

Margarita with Salt Spray

Strongly flavored ingredients like whiskey, rum, Tequila, citrus, vinegar, salt and rosemary will yield a better result for springs than ingredients with milder flavors, according to Trummer. But he cautions operators not to try to be too extreme. “These sprays should enhance the drink, not completely overtake it.” Trafman agrees, adding that sprays work best with cocktails that only have a few ingredients. In other words, just a little spritz will do ya.


Elderflower Champers
Recipe courtesy of Mindy Trafman, Lush, Chicago, IL
6 oz. Castellar Cava
Several sprays/pumps of Belvoir Elderflower Cordial

Spray a chilled Champagne flute with the elderflower cordial. Fill the glass with chilled Cava. Mist the elderflower cordial on top right before serving.

Smoky Negroni
Recipe courtesy of Mindy Trafman, Lush, Chicago, IL
1 oz. Sombra Mezcal
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
Fee Brothers Gin Barrel-Aged Orange Bitters
Orange peel, for garnish

Add the Mezcal, Aperol and sweet Vermouth to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and stir until chilled. Spray the inside of a chilled cocktail glass with several spritzes of the orange bitters. Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

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