As much as we are enjoying the novelty of virtual happy hours, there are certain show-stopping tricks brandished by professionals that cannot be pulled out of a home bar cart.
To wit: smoke bubbles. A step up from the standard dry-ice-cube smoke effects that have been billowing from modernist bars everywhere, these next-level cocktail ornaments are pumped from coil-heated pistols that work somewhat like a cocked e-cigarette tank. E-cocktails don’t sound awfully sexy. But if you could see these wobbly spheres of vapour balanced on wet-rimmed coupes looking very much like Marie Antoinette’s breasts set free, you would understand their squeal-worthy appeal. We experienced the ephemeral thrill on one of our last nights out before the COVID-19 closures. It was at Keefer Bar in Vancouver, where the bartender was making citrus-scented bubbles (the taste is negligible) for Anshu, an herbaceous elixir comprised of Lot 40, Lillet rosé, baijiu, eucalyptus syrup, mint and ba xian guo (mandarin-peel pulp). Again, not the type of smoke-bubble vessel one would likely whip up at home. It was mesmerizing to watch the bartender dip the nozzle of his gun into a cup of oily solution, blow up a cloudy bubble and then gingerly position it over the cocktail (there were several premature pops). Everyone on our corner of the bar held their breath as the drink was delivered with slightly shaky hands. Everyone screamed as the bubble was burst in a fleeting plume of brume. Everyone kept chatting with strangers and ordering more of these crazy smoke bubbles long after the fog had dissipated. And that connection, from a single puff of smoke, is the magic we miss most.