“Put this fresh mint sprig in the shaker then pour some liquid nitrogen on it…hear that crackle? That’s it freezing below -321°F says Andrew Aoun, main barman at TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Irvine. The shaker sounds like a campfire crackling, complete with chilled smoke billowing down the sides like dry ice in a Halloween party punch cauldron. He adds simple syrup, rum, and lime juice, then strains it into a glass. “Frozen Mojito!” he says, popping the glass my direction.
The mint is so vibrant, it’s like a fresh nugget of Orbit Wintermint gum. “What the French toast!?!” I yell to the various lint lickers at my table, here for this month’s O.C. Bartenders Cabinet meeting and to learn about the addition of liquid nitrogen into their bar programs.
The technique of using liquid nitrogen is fairly safe with proper training, which boils down to this: Do not allow guests to ingest anything that is giving off the smokey gas, as that indicates frozen liquid is still present. Accidentally drinking it can cause adverse effects such as rupturing internally and frostbite.
Using liquid nitrogen can not only chill things quickly without adding flavor, it adds quite a show. The shimmy and shake of your server creating the chilly concoction table side is sort of like one part chemistry class, one part Penn & Teller, and one part Flaming Moe. It’s a feast for the eyes.
TAPS’ “Frozen” Margarita can be had for $24 and comes with your choice of flavors: classic, strawberry, or pineapple-serrano. After the table-side show, the drink in the glass is quite enjoyable. The ultra cold margie is creamy and quaffable with fruity flavors seemingly popping out of the glass.
Will we see more of this at other bars? Time will tell. Installing a liquid nitrogen brink on site is quite the dedication. The unit that holds the liquid loses 4% per day, not to mention what is lost during transport to tables. For now, head to TAPS Irvine and get your -321°F cocktail fix.
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, The Market Place, 13390 Jamboree Road, Irvine // tapsfishhouse.com