Half knowledge is always harmful

Molecular Mixology has created tremendous revolution in the way bartenders of India work. Although following these modern trends, many of us fail to gain appropriate product knowledge and a recent case of accident caused by consumption of a cocktail with Liquid Nitrogen is the best example of following trends blindly. Question is who is to be blamed the bartender or the victim.

Being beverage trainer and consultant teaching bartending course at one of the renowned bartending schools in India, we always believe and propagate to our students to work on the product knowledge and awareness about the products by educating our clients too. Bartending in India has to be more inclined towards educating clients on these modern trends. Indians nowadays travel around the globe more often and they want to experience modern food and beverage trends on their own land, which encourages many restaurant owners and hotel bars to have these trends at their outlet to attract more guests. 

But failure to these trends lies in poor product awareness and unskilled staff. Bartending Schools should have dedicated mixology classes conducted by experts to educate the bartenders to be more responsible while using such products. Having said this; it’s good to know more about the product before even discarding or banning its usage.

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Let’s now try to understand what is liquid nitrogen? In layman terms it is nitrogen gas in liquid form. It has cryogenic properties which mean it can freeze living substances rapidly. Usage of cryogens like liquid nitrogen and dry ice are an alternate option for instant freezing. They are usually used to chill the cocktail glassware, ice-cream and add little fancy touch to the appearance of the cocktail by placing it around the cocktail glass. The boiling point of liquid nitrogen is -196⁰C. Professor Peter Barham, from the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, says liquid nitrogen is “simply the harmless gas nitrogen, which has been cooled to such a low temperature that it becomes a liquid”. But he says the liquefied gas, which is intensely cold, can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns if it is not used, and handled, properly.

Renowned Bartender Dave Arnold in his book Liquid Intelligence mentions that, “Don’t use these materials unless you know what you are doing, which means you should be trained by someone with practical experience and you feel very comfortable with the materials. Never, ever serve a cryogenic agent such as LN or dry ice to a person. When you serve a drink prepared with a cryogen, the cryogen itself must no longer be present—just the chilling effect”.

So, what exactly happens when you add liquid nitrogen to a cocktail, it floats and boils off to nitrogen gas to form a cloud of vapours. Liquid Nitrogen is best used for chilling glass in which you can serve cocktail. It can be used to muddle herbs like mint and basil by nitro freezing them to retain the fresh green colour of these herbs in a drink. Care has to be taken while handling liquid nitrogen with bar equipment, glassware and liquids. Gripping a mixing tin which has liquid nitrogen can cause frost bite.

Experts say that allow the liquid nitrogen to evaporate completely for the food or drink they have used it for, as its ingestion can lead to frostbite and in extreme cases it could be fatal. And hence due to its high evaporation rate it is sealed in vacuum jacketed containers. Never pour liquid nitrogen over cocktail as it will boil instantly and float on the drink. When LN is mixed with other liquids it needs to be agitated vigorously to obtain creamy smooth texture and this is to be done with proper service gears and precautions with proper training.

Bartending schools and beverage experts should take to writing or come up with modern mixology classes to educate bartenders and help them to educate our guests. Guests should also ask questions to bartenders. Many event companies promise fancy things to guest and the execution is done by unskilled bartenders. The only option remains according to me is to get trained.

Consequently I ponder over, who is to be blamed!

Priyanka Kandalkar Devsariya

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