Best way to chill a glass? With liquid nitrogen.

Posted by Mindy Lvoff

Remember that “wish list” we talked about in our centrifuge post? One of our “dreams come true” was getting our liquid nitrogen dewar. People questioned whether or not we’d be able to find enough uses to justify a 160-liter dewar… Well, we have. In fact, we order refills from TW Smith every 2-3 weeks.

liquid nitrogen glass chilling

FCI Liquid Nitrogen Use #58 is chilling glasses. When you order a chilled cocktail (vs. red-hot cocktail), your bartender usually fills your glass with ice and water to chill it while he/she prepares your beverage. Your bartender then needs to dump out the ice water and, hopefully, dry out your glass before pouring in your cocktail. I would call that glass “cool,” but not “chilled.” Why dump a cold cocktail into a glass that will immediately start to raise your drink’s temperature?

The first glasses that we ever chilled with liquid nitrogen were shot glasses. Dave was doing an event at Tailor where he served 100 proof Gin & Tonic shots at negative-20°C. You can’t serve a masterpiece like that in a warm, or even cool, glass. Luckily, our friend Sam Mason stocks his kitchen with a little liquid nitrogen dewar of his own. So we lined up shot glasses in a hotel pan and poured liquid nitrogen in and over them. The glasses were frosty cold, but also needed a moment to temper back down to a tolerable lip temperature, i.e., a temp where the inside of your bottom lip wouldn’t stick to the glass when you sipped. We tried dipping champagne glasses into pots of liquid nitrogen, but that also resulted in the same stuck-lip problem. Someone (me) came up with the idea to instead pour the liquid nitrogen directly into the glasses, only chilling the parts of the glass that come into contact with the drink. Of course, Dave had to one-up me and swirl the liquid nitrogen in the glass, thereby using less and chilling the glass quicker. Here’s a very important tip: make sure that you only chill a BONE-DRY glass with liquid nitrogen, as a damp glass will crack and shatter… every time.

Then Dave came up with yet another great idea (the man has potentially deadly ideas or brilliant sparks of genius, but most are some combination of the two). He ran around the school stealing borrowing airpots, those insulated containers that you can pump coffee or free milk for cereal out of at Starbucks. It turns out that dry airpots can carry and dispense liquid nitrogen perfectly. The airpot revelation has made liquid nitrogen glass-chilling a staple of any cocktail demonstration that we now do, whether it’s here at The FCI or away at an off-site demo. It’s the fastest and most effective way to chill a glass—just don’t swirl any into your eyes. Oh, and make sure you’re always chilling two glasses at the same time, as one-handed chilling is just weak.

that's definitely NOT coffee in there
that's definitely NOT coffee in there

10 thoughts on “Best way to chill a glass? With liquid nitrogen.

  1. I don’t understand how people can live without a liquid nitrogen dewar .

    1. Yeah, they do. If the place thats supposed to vent gets iced over (which happened once when somebody thought they were helping by washing the pot with water), the nitrogen escapes by pumping through the output tube.

  2. PrincetonCryo provides several types of storage units for nitrogen:
    Liquid Nitrogen Storage and Cryogenic Dewars.
    Located at Whitehouse, New Jersey,
    PrincetonCryo offers the finest products, service, and customer support for liquid nitrogen storage systems.

  3. Just curious, how much liquid actually manages to come out of the airpot? I have to imagine the small amount of liquid dispensed evaporates relatively quickly.

    1. Hi David,
      Quite a lot of liquid comes out actually. A 2 liter airpot, properly used, can chill 100 glasses

  4. can you use the airport method to make a cocktail as well as chilling the glasses?

    1. It is really hard to chill just one or two cocktails with LN. Usually you get the drink too cold (plus you then need to add the dilution melting ice would have produced). It is a good way to chill large amounts of cocktail where you are less likely to undershoot your target temp.

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