Your Cocktail Is Only As Good As It Smells

Drink Features Cocktails
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Your Cocktail Is Only As Good As It Smells

Everyone knows “the nose” is an important aspect of the cocktail. If a drink smells good, it’s more likely to taste good. And bartenders are starting to take matters into their own hands by using aromatics to augment the sensory experience of a cocktail. “I know that bartenders have been smoking their cocktails for at least a decade, but a new trend I’m seeing is the use of perfumes to enhance the ingredients of the cocktail,” says Estanislado Orona, bartender at Raven & Rose in Portland, Oregon. “Perfuming appeals to our sense of smell, which is imperative in the culinary arts. But appealing to that sense is often an oversight in the cocktail world.”

A vast majority of what we taste, is what we smell. If you were to plug your nose and take a sip of a cocktail, you may experience some of the basic flavors such as acidity or sweetness, but you would be missing the finer details. “If you were to then unplug your nose, you would experience the botanicals in a gin, the floral components in a cordial or aromatics of a bitter,” Orona says. “I would say that scent is integral to a balanced cocktail.”

At Raven & Rose, Orona teaches bartenders to take whatever spirit that may be intriguing to them at the time, taste it and analyze it. “We learn to break down the profile of the spirit to discernible flavors and understand what ingredients would pair well with what we’re experiencing.”

For his winning cocktail at Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, he had Eva-Marie Lind of E.M.Arome Studios, a Master Perfumer, design an organic fragrance around the components of his cocktail. “She utilized wild harvested frankincense, orris root, dried bergamot, orange flower extract, and Bombay Sapphire Gin as the base alcohol for the perfume,” he says. “The fragrance was absolutely beautiful -a profound experience that took my creation to another dimension, entirely.”

If you’re considering designing or building your own fragrances, read up on perfuming 101. There are some great websites that will provide crash courses on the subject. “You can easily throw a bit of Lavender into some high proof alcohol, quick infuse it with an iSi (a rapid infuser) and call it a day, but if you want to create something more involved, read about base, mid & high tones in perfuming and how to achieve those.”

Additionally, a wise graphics instructor once told Orona, “Crap in, crap out.” Which means if you start with low quality ingredients, you will end up with a low quality product. And with cocktails, the fresher the ingredient, the better. “For example, a fresh cilantro infusion into high proof alcohol, will always beat out any coriander oil,” Orona says, adding that it’s always best to create your own perfumes for an authentic fragrance, when you have the ability to, rather than purchasing oils. And you don’t even have to infuse the base spirit if you’re short on time. Think fresh herbs and flowers. Basil, rosemary, mint, even hops can add a fragrant element to your favorite cocktail, especially if you want to experiment with charring the herbs. “Look up your local Herbarium, and go have some fun,” Orona says. “Just be sure to do your homework and make certain that you’re not going to poison anyone.”

Also in Drink