The business card lists his job title as "atmospheric manipulator." That's how Alejandro Gonzalez describes what he does as the owner and founder of Kryogenifex, which creates special effects using liquid nitrogen.
Unless you've been to one of the many Miami-area clubs that cools partiers using puffy white clouds of this stuff, you might have the same reaction as many others who meet Gonzalez: Huh?
"Most people don't know what the hell I'm talking about," he admits. "The question is usually 'You can make a living doing that?'"
The answer is yes, at least when you pioneered the idea and then patented your own system. That's what Gonzalez did. The Kendall native graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in economics and then spent several years in Colorado and San Francisco. He apprenticed as a glassblower and sculptor before returning home to Miami to work in the family business: distributing and delivering industrial gases.
In his spare time, he began messing around with liquid nitrogen and quickly realized it could be used for special effects. He asked some club owners to try it. His big break came when Twilo, the now-defunct New York City nightclub, got onboard.
In 2000, Kryogenifex was officially born. Since then, Gonzalez has worked with just about every major Miami club — including LIV, Space, Amnesia, Marquee, and Story — as well as musical artists such as Swedish House Mafia and Skrillex. His client list also includes bar and restaurant owners, who use liquid nitrogen to make frosty cocktails and shots that give off chilled white smoke — thanks to the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere — when they're placed on the bar.
Gonzalez's Wynwood warehouse resembles a mad scientist's garage: glass-fronted display cabinets full of beakers, bookshelves stacked with manuals, industrial-size blenders, and giant tanks labeled "nitrogen" scattered around the room. "I'm kind of always tinkering about," he says.
One of his latest innovations? Alcoholic popsicles, flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen. Going forward, he wants to work with more artists to do custom installations, and see if liquid nitrogen has applications as an eco-friendly, renewable resource.
Meanwhile, in the ever-evolving world of nightlife, cryogenic special effects seem to be one trend that's sticking around. Sixteen years after Gonzalez started his company, liquid nitrogen is hotter — if not in a literal sense — than ever.
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