Food & Drink

Vocktails Are Virtual Cocktails Made of Nothing But Water

Nimesha Ranasinghe/YouTube

Has your problem with cocktails always been the back-breaking work of lifting the bottles and pouring the ingredients? Then it’s possible you are at the wrong website, but scientists are working on something just for you: the Vocktail. The creators of the Vocktail, or virtual cocktail, claim they can transform flavorless liquids (they used water) into drinks that look, smell and taste like more complex tipples through the use of some high-tech hardware.

According to the report produced by Nimesha Ranasinghe’s team at the University of Singapore, which developed the Vocktail, that hardware “consists of a cocktail glass that is seamlessly fused into a 3D printed structure, which holds the electronic control module, three scent cartridges, and three micro air-pumps.” Users have an app to control the apparatus, which releases scent molecules onto the surface of the liquid and uses LED lights to alter the look of the drink. But it’s the way that the Vocktail alters its taste that is the most interesting part. It releases electronic pulses onto the tip of the user’s tongue, causing her to perceive salty, bitter and sour flavors.

Ranasinghe’s team mixed and matched different flavor profiles with scent molecules and colors to see how people experienced combinations they were used to (green, sour, lime-scented, for example) and combinations they weren’t (salty, blue, vanilla). The results, perhaps to be expected, were that people had an easier time processing and enjoying the flavor combinations they were used to. But the ability to conjure different drinking experiences with light, artificially pumped scent and electricity is still an impressive feat.  

And while we’re not quite at a point where we can turn water into wine (or Whiskey Sours) just yet, the Vocktail is more progress towards an increasingly virtual future. Who needs human touch and interaction when soon you’ll be telecommuting until five, at which point you’ll roll your chair across the living room to start mixing Vocktails with a touchscreen and exchanging friendly bar banter with Alexa?