Like many warm-blooded humans, I like to drink. It's a fun activity that just never seems to lose its appeal. But if you are finding that drinking booze has last its appeal for you, there is a (somewhat dangerous) solution: Don't drink your alcohol. Inhale it!
The Vapshot Mini turns alcohol into vapor so that you can inhale it and feel silly. It's an unusual but intriguing proposition. Inhaling vaporized booze means that the alcohol goes straight to your bloodstream through your lungs instead of your stomach, which means you feel the drunken rush of a BAC spike almost immediately. And since you're not actually imbibing anything, you don't have to worry about downing a bunch of calories or feeling full, though you do have to worry extra hard about getting too drunk without noticing. Yes, it's more dangerous than just drinking, but the Vapshot is a mercifully inefficient vaporizer, so it's safer than it sounds.
In short, it's a small, white, $700 box that makes booze clouds for you to breathe in.
It's fun! I mean, it is a device that enables you to inhale alcohol.
Rest-assured you will be the life of the party if you show up with an alcohol vaporizer. When our review unit arrived at the office and I invited my colleagues to try it, like half of Gawker media showed up on the roof ready to party. We had a great time! This thing could mean the difference between cobbling together an inevitably forgettable beer pong tournament and a night of wonderment and light-headed guests.
From the outside, the Vapshot Mini is pretty if somewhat unremarkable white box with a hose sticking out of it. The sleek white model that we tested out evokes that clean, classic aesthetic of Apple products circa 2003. It won't look bad on your counter or home bar. At a distance anyway; the industrial design is simple, but it's also very basic. The case is marred by exposed screws, and the cheap-feeling plastic panels feel, well, cheap.
The blue light that illuminates the logo adds a nice little accent of color and looks great in the dark. There's also a handy window that shows you how your booze supply is doing. Handy!
When you use the Vapshot Mini, you start by pouring the alcohol of your choice into a receptacle inside the microwave-sized box that's equipped with a hose and nozzle. The nozzle has a needle on the end, and you insert that needle into special plastic bottles through a sealed hole in the top of the cap. Pushing a button on the nozzle fires up an air compressor and sort of farts booze (and air) into the bottle, pressurizing it. Then when you open the bottle, the change in pressure creates vapor inside that you gleefully suck up with a straw. Then you feel silly.
It sounds simple but things get dicey pretty much immediately. For starters, the receptacle bottle inside of the machine is in a super awkward position and it's got a narrow nozzle at the top. This wouldn't be a problem if you could take it out of the machine, but it's stuck in there pretty good. It's also several inches below the opening on top of the machine through which you're supposed to pour your booze. The end result? Lots of spillage. Big mess. A funnel helps, but really for $700 you shouldn't have to go through that kind of trouble. (Update: After this review, Vapshot says they'll now be including a funnel with all units.)
We didn't have a funnel at the office so I built one by punching a hole in the bottom of a plastic salad bowl. It worked okay, but some booze was still spilled. And spilled booze is always a sad thing.
From that point on, everything was pretty easy. You have to prime the machine a little bit when you first turn it on, and the sound of the air compressor can be a little bit grating. But once the alcohol starts to flow, it's very straight-forward. Sticking the needle through the seal cap feels sort of surgical procedure, and the nozzle itself can only be described as dentist office chic. After a count to 15, you withdraw the needle, pop the bottle, and suck your little heart out.
You don't get much vapor out of a single serving. I'd say our brave Gawker Media testers got two or three inhales per bottle on average. Some overzealous Deadspin writers gulped down every last drop and then drank the extra booze at the bottom of the bottle. (Full disclosure: So did this Gizmodo writer.)
The vapor in a single bottle only amounts to about 1/60th of a shot according to Vapshot, and that seemed about right to us. Thats still an appreciable amount when it's going straight into your bloodstream, but we found that drinking the non-vaporized alcohol at the bottom of the bottle was mostly safe and almost necessary.
You can put any kind of booze into the Vapshot Mini, except beer which will evidently just turn into a big foamy mess. We tried New Amsterdam Gin, Maker's Mark Whiskey, and Jaegermeister. We skipped the Absolut Vodka due to lack of interest in inhaling a flavorless substance. And I regret not trying wine—but I'll update this post if I do.
That buzz. I'm not going to lie. It feels good. And it's not necessarily the same buzz as you get from drinking alcohol, either. Since the alcohol doesn't have to travel down to your stomach and through your intestines before its absorbed into your bloodstream, there's an immediate lift that reminded some of us of a very toned down whippit high. There was something a bit more lucid about the drunk feeling, too. I can't help but compare the whole thing to vaporizing pot, except a weed high lasts three to four hours. A Vapshot drunk seems to last approximately 60 seconds. Chances are it's actually hanging around longer than that and it's just less noticable, but we didn't have a breathalyzer on hand so it was hard to tell.
While I expected to enjoy getting drunk from vaporized alcohol, I did not expect to enjoy the flavor so much. I tried a few different kinds of liquor:
- New Amsterdam gin: Gin and I do not get along. Vaporized gin, however, I could get to know. It tasted like bouquet of the many complex notes in gin, but perhaps because the flavors weren't drowned in numbing liquid, they seem somehow brighter, more vivid.
- Maker's Mark: I am a pretty enthusiastic whiskey drinker, but oh wow, this was a whole new kind of moonshine.
- Jaeger: Pretty much tasted like Dr. Pepper.
The machine needs to be redesigned to be waaay more functional. I mean, it's basically functional, but there's something amateurish about it that does not instill me with confidence, especially since we're dealing with pressurized air and flammable liquid. While we didn't have any big mishaps other than a major Jaeger spill due to the dumb bottle placement, it felt dangerous at times. When you go to refill the machine, for instance, the top more or less explodes off the bottle when the pressure equalizes. The loud POP! made several of my coworkers scream and would surely be disruptive at a party. (Update: After this review, Vapshot says they'll be adding a release valve to relieve the pressure in a more orderly fashion.)
It doesn't seem as dangerous as you might expect inhaling alcohol to be, but there's still plenty to be wary of. You can't puke up a thing you didn't swallow, so the risk of getting too drunk is way more serious than it is when you are just drinking. Fortunately the low amount of vapor produced and the time it takes to produce it makes it seem like it'd be difficult to get dangerously drunk just by vaping. But there's a reason we didn't try it: That's super duper risky. And those risks are only exaggerated if the people who are around are already drunk. Vaping alcohol is best done very occasionally, and with great moderation and care. Does that sound like any parties you have been to recently? Also it might be bad for your brain.
It didn't take long before people just started drinking the booze. The whole process is a bit of a nuisance if you're trying to serve lots of people—or at least it's more of a nuisance than pouring whiskey in a glass. The Vapshot Mini kit only comes with two bottles, though you can buy more for $8 each, and it takes almost 30 seconds to get each one ready to inhale. Imagine throwing a party for 100 people, all of whom want to try this funny alcho-gadget. You're gonna get pretty bored of popping bottles, which is insane because they make entire rap songs about how much fun popping bottles is.
Are you filthy rich? Do you enjoy throwing parties featuring novelty technology? Do you carelessly disregard the health and well-being of the people around you? If you said yes these questions, maybe you should consider it.
Do you not want to spend $700 on a whim? Do you enjoy drinking things like whiskey and gin and whatever kind of alcohol Jaegermeister just the way they are? If you said yes to either of these questions, you should probably pass.
Yes, the Vapshot Mini is fun, despite its many caveats. Even the Gawker kids that didn't know what to expect—which was most of the people that tried the Vapshot—ended up having a great time. But then we went to a bar to toast a new member of the Gizmodo staff the old fashioned way. It worked just as well, maybe even better.