Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Cocktails are a fundamentally bad idea

I wish only the best for Gaby Scanlon, the 18-year-old who has had to have her stomach removed following a misadventure with a birthday cocktail containing liquid nitrogen. I mean that seriously. That's the word the Royal Lancaster Infirmary uses to describe her condition. Mind you, she was tweeting at the same time, which is classic.

Once recovered, Gaby will be able to say that her ill-judged experiment with cocktail drinking went worse than most people's - but then she went further than most people. Everybody has a cocktail incident, usually when they're young. Feeling that they ought to drink alcohol but put off by how nasty it tastes, young people are instead drawn to drinks that looks more like the garish libations they had on birthdays as a child. For a 17-year-old anything that looks like a cross between Lucozade and Knickerbocker Glory is acceptable.

It always goes wrong. I have a slogan to lend to the next Drinkaware campaign. "If you don't like alcohol, don't drink it." To which I could add, if you're going to drink it, don't stir in another ingredient in the hope that it will make it more palatable or exciting. It won't.

This applies to all mixing. I've never had a "cocktail" that I would want to have again. Gin and tonic is acceptable. Every other "combo" is a taste abomination, a waste of good liquor and an excuse to part you from your money. I always thought James Bond's dry martini was a bum note. Imagine if you took him to the pub and he asked for one of those. The whole place would be thinking "what a tool". They'd be right.


  1. I'm amazed at the number of pieces about this story which seem not to understand what's dangerous about liquid nitrogen. The Guardian has an article which describes it as a "chemical" for instance. It's not harmful because it's a chemical, it's harmful because it has a temperature of -196 degrees C. Sticking anything that cold down your throat, chemical or not, is going to be a really really bad idea...

  2. What nobody is saying is what happens next when you have your stomach they fit you a new one, or what?

    I would certainly agree about the sort of cocktail abominations with idiotic names that are designed solely to make kids drunk, but in the right place at the right time your more traditional cocktail can be a fine thing...a margherita, say, or a mojito.

  3. Yes, a margharita is a wonderful thing.

    A martini is essentially cold neat gin (the vermouth is little more than a condiment). Bond's vodka martini is little more than cold neat vodka (although, since he has it shaken, not stirred, it will be watered down a bit with ice shards). Bond would already be a laughing stock in the pub, because he'd be wearing a tux.

    I'm sure it's possible to make a safe, fun, comestible using liquid Nitrogen -- after all, presumably hundreds of punters drank at this place without injury. It needs to mix with warmer ingredients, make its pretty smoke, and all reach a safe temperature before drinking. But one small mistake is lethal, and a busy bar with rushed staff who presumably aren't highly trained, is the wrong place to do it.

  4. From endless hours behind bars I can tell you that more damage is done in that age bracket by the endless consumption of shit lager and sambuca than any sort of cocktail. In general, cocktail sales are low to those guys purely because of the additional cost.

    As with other skills, bartending requires training, and whether you're eating a chef's shellfish that could make you sick, or driving your car from the garage with newly fixed brakes, you often place your health in the hands of others. Unfortunately some people err gravely.

    Furthermore, you've clearly not had any nicely made cocktails. If a man or woman enjoys their Louis XIII cognac with apple juice, that is their prerogative. Tea with sugar, though disgusting, is not a waste of good tea.

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  8. 17??? I was well into my beer drinking by then. My "fruity cocktail" phase happened when I was about 15 and asked my Grandad to make me a Snowball at a family Xmas party.

  9. This is of course another reason to mourn the loss of Tomorow's World. By that age I had seen so many roses dipped into liquid nitrogen and then smashed on a table that I would never have contemplated swallowing the stuff no matter how it was disguised.

  10. Sometimes, cocktails are the only fitting drink. The Beachcomber was still going, if a little faded, in the late 70s, and its happy hour was a great way to start an evening...