Gaby Scanlon’s birthday was supposed to be a fun celebration — a night out with friends enjoying a few cocktails. But after drinking a fancy new designer shot, her fun night turned into a living nightmare.
Scanlon and friends visited Oscar’s Wine Bar and Bistro in Lancaster, in North West England, for her 18th birthday. (It’s legal for 18-year-olds to consume alcoholic beverages in the U.K.) She was given a Nitro-Jagermeister shot, but upon drinking it she described feeling “agonizing pain.” She loosened her clothing as smoke billowed from her mouth and nose.
“I turned to the man and asked if it was okay to drink, he said ‘yes,'” she said in court proceedings. “Smoke was coming from my nose and mouth. Straight away I knew something was not right. My stomach expanded. The manager said nothing about waiting for it to die down.”
However, she was soon taken to the hospital where doctors realized that the liquid nitrogen in the cocktail “killed” some of her internal tissue and the lining of her stomach was perforated. Doctors performed an emergency surgery to remove her stomach and small bowel connected with her esophagus to save her life.
Molecular mixology has become popular at fancier bars because it adds theatricality to the overall experience. Originally bartenders would simply use dry ice for the desired effect, but with liquid nitrogen being used in restaurants it’s become more readily available. Still, there are some dangers — even for the bartenders and chefs using it — and some establishments have stopped stocking the liquid.
The court ended up fining the bar approximately $155,778 (100,000£). As prosecutor Barry Berlin stated, “The Crown say the company is culpable for the injuries. They failed to ensure the safety of its customers. They served liquid nitrogen shots in cocktails without considering any suitable risk assessment. The serious injuries suffered show a failure by the company to ensure her safety.
“They knew it was dangerous and they didn’t properly police it.”
Indeed, Kevin McLoughlin, who is one of the owners of this family-run business, said they were “mortified” by what happened and apologized to Scanlon — who is now 20 — and her family for the “errors and misjudgments that were made.”
“The company and the family are truly sorry,” he added. “At no time did they see anything warning them of the risks of ingestion. The essence of this calamity was the ignorance on the part of the company.”