Monday, August 22, 2016

Charleston's Hottest Cocktail Chillingly Lives Up To The Hype--Served At The Market Pavilion Hotel

Teased by the salty scent of the bay and stroked by its balmy breezes, it is indisputably a cornerstone of the ever popular French Quarter. Built on land formerly below sea level, the 19th century European grand hotel style building rises to a height of four stories on the district's busiest crossroads, the Old City Market and East Bay Street. Many of the Revolutionary War-era bottles and historic artwork that adorn its public areas and guest rooms were pulled from the seabed of the very same waters that once held it in its pluff mud embrace.

Additionally, more than 300 pieces of original art, including oil paintings of former U.S. leaders, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, are displayed throughout. Gas lanterns, mahogany foyers, crown moldings, French-style chaises, marble baths, and chandeliers hung from high ceilings recall the charm of early Charleston. While teeming with this impressive collection of historical artifacts, contemporary works have been gracefully intermingled for a successful marriage of what Charleston was once upon a time and what it is today, the number one destination in the world. This is the Market Pavilion Hotel.

On this August day, I was not at the Market Pavilion Hotel to experience its luxury accommodations. I was not there to dine at its prestigious Grill 225, famed for its steaks that are "hand-selected and wet-aged 42-50 days to ensure tender texture and unsurpassed flavor." I was not there to experience its rooftop oasis called the Pavilion Bar, complete with views of historic Charleston, a cascading pool, signature cocktails, eclectic cuisine offerings, and the city's most spectacular sunsets. I was there to revel in its "dramatic, sexy and delicious" Nitrotini--Charleston's only cocktail infused with liquid nitrogen. It is Charleston's coldest cocktail at 320 degrees below zero.

There are 33 different Nitrotinis on the menu. Jessica, the expert on duty, specially trained in the art, science and safety of the Nitrotini, helped me narrow the long list down to a couple selections by pointing out what were her personal favorites. It came down to a choice between the Champagne Nitrotini and the Pomegranate Nitrotini.

The Champagne Nitrotini is a blend of Louis Perdrier Champagne, Pomegranate schnapps and Cointreau orange liqueur, garnished with an orange slice at $18 and the Pomegranate Nitrotini is a blend of Pomegranate flavored vodka and schnapps with a splash of Pomegranate juice at $17. I tend to favor vodka as a personal choice in liquors and am fond of anything containing pomegranate. So, I went with the Pomegranate Nitrotini. Jessica artfully prepared the ingredients and carefully topped it off with the colorless, odorless, tasteless and inert liquid nitrogen cooling the concoction to a frosty -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Immediately, the ghostly cloud of condensed water vapor reacting with the warmer air of the bar area steadily ascended above the glass and flooded over its edges onto the bar top as she set it in front of me with early jazz music playing in the background. The temptation, to immediately raise the drink to my lips, was almost irresistible, but that would have resulted in a stiff upper lip in the form of a horrific frost bite followed by the zenith of brain freezes. A warning tag on the glass instructed to simply wait 1-2 minutes for the cloud and invisible liquid nitrogen to evaporate entirely, and then enjoy responsibly, and I did just that.

Dramatic--it was absorbingly entertaining to watch the cool wisps of water vapor spill out into the air and across the bar top. Sexy--there was an alluring and titillating feel to the 'affair', pun intended. Delicious--I would say, absolutely. It is a cocktail that irrefutably lives up to the hype. In the final analysis, the Nitrotini is "Charleston's hottest cocktail minus 320 degrees" and is quite refreshing.

The Market Pavilion Hotel front bar at the East Bay Street entrance is the only place it is served (not available at the Pavilion bar on the rooftop). The spacious atmosphere of the bar area with busy East Bay Street and the majestic United States Custom House for a backdrop adds to the experience.

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