Fragrance Pairing: the union of perfumery and mixology

Author: Redazione Date: 24 March '23 Category: Perfume World

For centuries, we have been fascinated by the interaction between taste and smell, both of which play a crucial role in the experience of food and drink. In recent years, there has been a growing trend in the world of mixology to incorporate perfumery into the preparation of cocktails in order to create unique and innovative flavour profiles that tantalise the senses.

Indeed, mixology, the art of creating cocktails, has many affinities with the world of perfumery. Both require a deep understanding of the various elements that make up a complex sensory experience and both rely on a delicate balance of ingredients to create a cohesive and harmonious end product. By combining these two disciplines, perfumers and mixologists (bartenders specialising in finding the perfect alchemy between the components of a cocktail, ed.) are able to create new and exciting combinations of flavours and smells that elevate the drinking experience to a whole new level.
One of the key aspects of flavour combinations in mixology is the use of essential oils, floral waters and botanicals, which are commonly found in both perfumes and drinks. By carefully selecting and mixing these ingredients, mixologists are increasingly devising cocktails inspired by fragrances, giving rise to a trend known today as “fragrance mixology”.

A notable example comes from the famous Bombay Sapphire gin brand. In collaboration with renowned perfumer Lizzie Ostrom, sensory specialist at Odette Toilette, a series of cocktails were created inspired by the brand’s signature botanicals, which include juniper, lemon peel, coriander and iris root. By incorporating these botanicals in entirely new ways, Bombay Sapphire was able to create a drinking experience that highlighted the intricate flavour profiles of its gin. Ostrom also contributed to the Olfactor-y Gin range, which aims to evoke different sensations through scents and flavours.
Another example of combining fragrances in mixology comes from the world of molecular gastronomy, where chefs and mixologists use scientific techniques to create innovative culinary experiences. One of these is the use of a sphere of steam, created with a smoker, into which small quantities of essential oils or fragrances are atomised. When this ‘scent cloud’ is burst, molecules flavour the drink, enhancing its taste and causing a more engaging sensation in the drinker. In addition, chefs use their knowledge of perfume chemistry to compose dishes that are not only visually appealing, but also have a distinctive flavour profile, using fragrances to add depth and complexity to their dishes. A magic touch, as Italian chef Giancarlo Perbelini says, to create a truly multi-sensory experience.

Even perfumers themselves are beginning to explore the world of mixology, using their expertise in creating fragrances to bring innovation to the taste level as well.

One example is Detroit-based cocktail bar Castalia, where owners Kevin Peterson and Jane Larson use their background in perfumery as a unique lens with which to develop their signature cocktails. After launching the Sfumato Fragrances perfume line, each of the drinks and soft drinks on the bar’s menu has been carefully paired with one of eight fragrances designed to showcase the harmony between flavour and fragrance. In this case, the fragrance is sprayed directly onto the drink, or onto the surfaces of the glass, before serving or before completing the preparation of the cocktail.

In this way, bartenders are able to give the drink flavours that stimulate both the taste buds and the olfactory sense, making it memorable.

“When I pair a cocktail with a perfume, I want the sensory impression of the drink and the fragrance to overlap,” Peterson explains. “Customers are often surprised by how much pairing with the fragrance changes the cocktail experience. – I tell people to try a sip of the drink without the fragrance, then have another after adding it. When sipped in this way, the cocktail is perceived in a totally different way, changing the experience of the entire tasting. The fragrance pushes the drink into a new taste realm, highlighting different flavour notes and bringing out nuances that are not otherwise apparent without the fragrance”.

In Rome, on the other hand, Lisa Bertoni, fragrance trainer of Campomarzio70, a point of reference for lovers of artistic and research perfumery, in collaboration with the Bar Manager of Hotel Eden, Gabriele Rizzi, created an original sensory experience with taste and smell as protagonists, through a stimulating path based on cocktails inspired by a selection of exclusive fragrances of the Roman company.
There are also those who, on the contrary, use mixology to capture the essence of a particular cocktail from which to develop an entirely innovative fragrance. This is the case of perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, who has created an exclusive line of fragrances inspired precisely by certain classic drinks, such as Old Fashioned and Martini.

The key to these techniques lies in the influence that the sense of smell has on taste. Alone, the tongue can in fact only perceive five flavours: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. But when combined with the sense of smell, the brain is able to decipher the more hidden and more differentiated flavours of food and drink. Ingredients are appreciated by both the olfactory senses and the taste buds, and it is therefore smell that amplifies flavour.

To conclude, as the fragrance mixology trend continues to grow, we can expect to see more and more creative and innovative combinations of fragrances and cocktails in the future. In fact, perfumery will continue to play an important role in other sectors, such as wine, food and cosmetics, increasingly enhancing the overall consumer experience.

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