Dangerous cocktails: Maltese barmen would
not use liquid nitrogen in drinks
Original Article: http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=151856
“Liquid nitrogen is a dangerous substance and local barmen do not use it in cocktails”, a spokesperson
for the Malta Bartenders Group told this newspaper.
The Malta Independent spoke to the Bartenders Group after an incident last weekend in which an 18
year-old in the UK had to have her stomach removed after ingesting the ‘smoky cocktail’ after a night
out to celebrate.
Gaby Scanlon was out with friends in Lancaster, England celebrating her birthday when she drank a
cocktail containing liquid nitrogen. She was hospitalised after falling ill and subsequently had her
BBC reported that the young woman was diagnosed with a perforated or pierced stomach, and would
have died if the surgery had not been performed.
Discussing the substance, the spokesperson explained he has seen liquid nitrogen being used by a top
barman at a convention in Berlin however, this was only used as part of the cocktail’s d isplay, because
it creates the effect of smoke. Liquid nitrogen is sometimes used in bar displays, he pointed out, but is
not generally used as part of the cocktail. Sometimes, as seems to have been the case in England, it is
used and allowed to evaporate after the cocktail is poured.
Speaking to The Malta Independent, Dr Charmaine Gauci, Head of the Health Promotion, Disease
Prevention Department said:
“Despite the fact that there is no legislation which specifically prohibits the use of liquid nitrogen with
food and beverages, according to the Food Safety Act, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure
that he does not sell or offer for sale food which is unfit or unsafe for human consumption. Bar owners
are to ensure that proper risk assessment is conducted for the products they offer for sale”.
She also pointed out liquid nitrogen is a chemical that is sometimes used to chill and freeze food. The
Food Standards Agency in the UK has issued a warning stating that “Although it is not a toxic
substance, the extreme cold temperature of liquid nitrogen makes it unsafe for people to drink and eat
because the human body is unable to cope with such a cold internal temperature”.
Nitrogen is a colourless gas which turns into liquid at temperatures of – 196 Celsius and below. The
‘smoke’ is created as tiny water droplets form when the liquid nitrogen cools and condenses water in
the surronding air. If this gets in contact with the skin, it causes it to freeze and results in burns.
If swallowed, liquid nitrogen can cause cold burns to the mouth, throat and stomach, killing the tissue.
As the frozen vapour hits the stomach it rapidly warms, releasing large volumes of air which can burst
Liquid nitrogen is used by doctors to freeze eggs during IVF trea tment
Doctor John Ashton, director of public health for Cumbria, said: “This girl is the victim of an
irresponsible alcohol industry that’s now competing on gimmicks.
“Alcohol itself is a very dangerous thing if improperly handled and liquid nitrogen is a toxic chemical. It
destroys human tissue.”
Doctors performed emergency surgery to remove Gaby Scanlon’s stomach, an operation known as a
During the operation the stomach is cut out and the remaining two tubes to and from the stomach,
the oesophagus and the small bowel, are connected.
People who have had a gastrectomy will still be able to lead a normal life and eat and drink regular
food but they will need to eat smaller amounts and take vitamin supplements to make sure they get
The Discovery Channel website How Staff Works points out liquid nitrogen is used in molecular
gastronomy because it will flash freeze any food it touches. As it boils away, it gives off a dense
nitrogen fog that can add atmosphere and drama to food preparation. Even in transportation, liquid
nitrogen must be placed in specially made flasks and can be dangerous if it touches skin.
The liquid form of the gas can be used to flash–freeze substances, and some bars use it to chill
glasses or freeze ingredients, producing a dramatic–looking grey vapour.
A safer alternative is the anti-griddle, a product of polyscience, that looks like a traditional cooktop but
it does not heat up food. Its -34 degrees Celsius surface instantly freezes sauces and purées o r
freezes just the outer surfaces of a dish while maintaining a creamy center.
British Chef Heston Blumenthal, a pioneer of molecular gastronomy who is famed for his culinary
wizardry - playing with the boundaries of physics and flavour to create unique ea ting experiences, has
made liquid nitrogen popular with his liquid nitrogen ice cream recipe.
Since opening in 1995, Heston’s restaurant The Fat Duck has come to be regarded by many as the
UK’s best restaurant – one of only four in the country to hold three Michelin stars.
Hospital admissions alcohol abuse
Up till May this year, a total of 106 people were admitted to hospital suffering from alcohol withdrawal
symptoms, intoxication or liver disease attributed to alcohol.
In 2011, a total of 306 people were admitted to hospital over a 12-month period. The vast majority of
cases, 178, were a result of acute intoxication. Another 71 patients were admitted to hospital suffering
from alcohol withdrawal syndrome, alcohol dependence syndrome or harmful use of alcohol causing
physical and mental damage.
Meanwhile, 70 people were diagnosed with alcohol liver disease last year and 15 people were
diagnosed up till May. A total of 22 people were diagnosed with withdrawal symptoms in the first five
months of the year.
This article was re-published by Alcohol King.