Molecular gastronomy might have to make way for the latest trend to emerge – tobacco in food.
Tobacco as an ingredient started becoming a “thing” in the early naughts – in 2003, in an attempt to defy the smoking ban, a group of Floridian bartenders started creating tobacco-spiked cocktails, such as the “Nicotini”, which uses vodka infused with tobacco leaves. The purpose of these cocktails was to recreate the effects of a cigarette. That same year in New York bartenders were trying to do the same thing, coming up with delights like the “Smokeless Manhattan” (port, Laphroaig whisky, and orange bitters), which apparently tasted like a Marlboro Red. In 2010 a hotel bartender in Mexico City invented a cocktail called the “D.F.Irreverente” using rum, pineapple juice, and the contents of a cigarette mixed together and then straining it into a glass. There are also non-alcoholic options, such as the “Passion Project”, a chai-based soda with turbinado syrup, cream, lactic acid, and a dusting of Hemingway pipe tobacco tincture.
There is even a tobacco liqueur called “Perique”, which is made in France using distilled Louisiana Perique – one of the rarest and strongest tobaccos in the world. The process of making Perique is similar to that of gin, but uses tobacco instead of juniper berries. Perique has gained popularity around the world, especially in the UK and Japan.
Now, the trend has taken a turn with tobacco leaves becoming an ingredient in food. The possibilities are many –in a chicken wing sauce, made into flour to dredge onions in, infused into sugar as Naomi Gallego; or even as whole leaves added to chocolate bars.
Chefs using tobacco in their cooking are looking to take advantage of the ‘liquid smoke flavor’, likening it to using tea leaves or wood chips. The key in using tobacco as an ingredient is to remember that a small amount goes a long way, as being too liberal with this ingredient would not only effect taste but could also be toxic. Some chefs use tobacco leaves in a smoker to flavor meat, some use the smoke for a tobacco essence in desserts. Some chefs simply soak the tobacco leaves overnight and let the water draw out all the nicotine and toxins, then throw out the water, dry the leaves, and use that as an ingredient.