Grill 225 is Charleston's only cocktail super-chilled to -320 degrees Fahrenheit with liquid nitrogen. Pucker your lips around the Nitro Mallow-a blend of vanilla vodka with equal parts hazelnut liqueur and butterscotch liqueur, topped off with a tall pour of Baily’s. The martini glass is rimmed with graham cracker crumbs, decorated with chocolate syrup and garnished with freeze-dried marshmallows. Lastly, 2 ounces of liquid nitrogen are carefully infused and, "Please do not stick your tongue to the glass."
Equally sophisticated are the mechanical methodologies the countries top mixologists are incorporating to infuse the ingredients of their growing repertoires. Hand shakers and muddlers are giving way to antique paint-can shakers, coffee siphon brewers, cold-drip coffee makers, red hot pokers, and centrifuges. Move over blender, make room for these crossovers from paint stores and coffee shops.
Aviary, a Chicago state-of-the-art cocktail lounge, uses the double-chamber siphon pot to create one of their famous cocktails right at the customer's table. Gin is poured into the bottom chamber and Rooibos tea, grapefruit, lemon zest, crushed almonds, herbs, and spices are put in the upper chamber. Heat is applied to the gin until a vacuum is created and it gets pulled into the upper chamber where it mixes with the drinks more delicate ingredients. The heat is removed and the mixture seeps back down into the bottom chamber. Voila, the Rooibos Cocktail is ready to sip and savor. Reminds me of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, famous here in Charleston, only because of the use of tea in the drink. Trivia: Rooibos tea is produced from a bush of the same name found in the mountains and valleys of the Cedarberg region of South Africa near Cape Town. It is also known as red tea.
Citizen R+D in Phoenix incorporates two of the aforementioned mechanical methodologies. Established in 2011, Citizen R+D has some engaging policies. Reservations will only be taken on one condition; you must order one of the group-size cold-drip margaritas, which must be pre-ordered because they take three hours to make. On arrival, you must first read the house rules and if you agree to adhere to them, you call the posted phone number and then wait to be escorted up the staircase to the bar. Once you are in, a loud, vigorous shaking noise from the bar inquisitively draws your attention to an old-fashioned paint-can shaker. It is used to create their ice-cold rum-based Paint Can Punch. The second oddity you will see is a tall, glass contraption that resembles a three tiered hour glass. It is a cold-drip coffee brewer doubling as the three hour margarita maker. Description not needed, just picture tequila dripping over kaffir limes and other flavorings. There are drinks made with cotton candy and drinks made with fire. They cost $12 to $18. The bar is a definite must-see.
Booker and Dax is located at Momofuku in New York City. Like Grill 225, this popular bar uses liquid nitrogen in its drinks, but the goal is not the show. It is used primarily to make drinks more delicious and serve them more efficiently. Its version of Gin and Juice is not your typical pour the necessary ingredients into a glass over ice and serve. The freshly squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with clarifying agents used in the wine industry and given a fast ride in a centrifuge to produce a pale liquid, which is then mixed with gin, sugar, and crushed ice. It is put in liter bottles and carbonated. When a customer orders the Gin and Juice, the bartender takes a champagne flute and swirls a splash of liquid nitrogen into it, the glass is cooled to subzero temperatures, and after the vapor boils off the bottled, carbonated cocktail is poured into the glass. The Fire-Breathing Dragon is another signature drink of the bar, a concoction of centrifuge-clarified orange juice, tea, and rum superheated by a high-temperature industrial heating rod called a red hot poker reminiscent of an old practice from the 1700's using a loggerhead that over time fell out of fashion, but now made new by today's technology. There is well-founded science behind the madness. If you would like to see a video demonstration click drink video.
I have not seen any of these methodologies being employed at lounges and bars in Charleston other than the liquid nitrogen. That been said, who knows what Charleston's top mixologists are conjuring up to mystify and satisfy Charleston's sophisticated nightlife patrons. None-the-less, the city has a versatile collection of lounges and bars to kick up one's heels and modestly get one's swerve on.
The Squeeze, to name one, is also nicknamed "Charleston’s Tightest Bar." If you stand directly across the street from the Squeeze, never in you wildest imaginations would you visualize an old Charleston home having stood on this block of East Bay Street, but in fact the lounge was originally a front porch. It has the longest bar top in town, boasts having the friendliest bartenders, and serves up Charleston's finest cocktails. Drink prices range from $6-$9 on average.
Stay for an extended weekend at the Pavilion Hotel and enjoy this package deal now through March 31, 2013. Or choose from one of these package deals offered at the Vendue Inn. The Squeeze is a short walk from both hotels.