Bubble Charlotte aims to open to the public Friday at the EpiCentre uptown, defining itself as social sophistication in nightlife and serving what it calls the most unique cocktail launched in the Queen City: The N-Tini.
Thats a drink ranging from the Creamsicle to the Pineapple Upside Down which has half an ounce of liquid nitrogen ladled over it, says Bubble operating partner and general manager Bourke Floyd.
Liquid nitrogen, which exists at 321 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit when contained in a flask called a dewar, creates thick condensation around the drink when it hits warmer air: This, Bubble calls a seductive cloud.
The customer must wait until the cloud has dissipated and any bubbling has ended meaning the liquid nitrogen is gone before drinking. If he or she doesnt, says clinical toxicologist Anna Rouse Dulaney, it can cause anything from minor pain to a cryogenic burn (caused by cold, not chemical reaction) to a perforation.
And therein lies concern.
Theres the wow factor. Then theres the burn-the-lining-of-your-esophagus factor, said Paul Malcolm, who teaches at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and recently helped teach a course in Modernist cooking, which is known for using nontraditional tools such as liquid nitrogen. How could you monitor (the drinker) at a bar thats busy on a Saturday night? I would not feel safe with that.
Last October, a British 18-year-old had her stomach removed after drinking two cocktails in which liquid nitrogen was used, a case many bartenders are familiar with. (A recent episode of Greys Anatomy featured a similar plotline, ending with the same surgery.)
Using liquid nitrogen like this doesnt change the (taste of the) drink in any way, said national bartending expert Ray Foley, and its not that hot anymore. Its too dangerous.
Bubbles Floyd disagrees: Ive been working with dry ice and liquid nitrogen for 15 years. Im very experienced with it, he said, and cited Las Vegas establishments use of the stuff.
At Bubble, he said, At times there will be liquid nitrogen in the drink. What the drink will require is that the customer let us pace them. Im going to deliver the drink when its safe to consume.
He plans not to serve it when the place is busy, though he declined to define that, and added: Its really simple. If we cant make them sufficiently aware, were not going to serve it.
Restaurant manager Scott Seales of star chef Hubert Kellers Fleur in Las Vegas (which lists liquid nitrogen cocktails prominently on its menu), said this week he would absolutely not prepare a cocktail this way. There are way too many causes for concern.
Instead, Fleur bartenders mix the drink, then pour it along with liquid nitrogen into a large bowl and whisk, freezing it into a sorbet-like consistency, which is then spooned into a glass and served no cloud, no remaining liquid nitrogen.
No North Carolina regulations prohibit Bubbles plan, according to the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissions Raleigh office.
But the ABC must approve recipes for drinks that involve transitional steps such as infused spirits, or frozen-margarita machines said Tony Chesser, senior officer of Mecklenburg ABC Law Enforcement.
Seeing the hazards associated with this type of chemical, he said, paired with the fact when people start drinking their ability to make rational decisions, no matter how intelligent they think they are, is not always the case I dont see where the commission will allow something like that.
Bubble served the cocktail at a media party Wednesday though its cloud was much less dramatic than those seen in studio photos.
Dave Arnold, known nationally for using Modernist techniques and partner in the hot-right-now Booker and Dax bar at Momofuku in New York, uses liquid nitrogen but not in the way Bubble plans to.
Cocktails at Booker and Dax no longer have liquid nitrogen in them, said a publicist. There, its used to freeze herb leaves, so they can be crushed into powder and to chill stemware, for example.
If there is liquid nitrogen in the drink, said associate chemistry professor Brian Cooper of UNC Charlotte, its really hard to know when it is completely gone. Your view of the liquid would be obscured by the cloud . After (the cloud) stops forming, then you can see the surface of the liquid.
Said toxicologist Dulaney, who works at the statewide poison control office: Weve had no (calls on liquid nitrogen drinks) in North Carolina. Im sure we will get cases if this starts up. Staff Writer Theoden Janes contributed.
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