Molecular gastronomists beware: UK teenager has stomach removed after drinking liquid nitrogen cocktail

We used to play with liquid nitrogen as genetics grad students in the mid-1980s, primarily to extract proteins and enzymes from plant tissue. I respected it; a lot (worse was the phenol used for DNA extraction which permanently left my left little finger smaller than the right; or maybe it was the creosote I painted on to solid oak fence posts as part of summer employment with the Danish carpenters, when we would spend a few weeks making fancy fence for fancy racehorses in Brantford).

The Guardian reports a teenager has had an emergency operation to remove her stomach after becoming ill while celebrating her 18th birthday with friends in a wine bar and drinking a cocktail laced with liquid nitrogen.

Gaby Scanlon, from Heysham, Lancashire, was celebrating her birthday at Oscar’s wine bar in Lancaster city centre when she began to feel ill, becoming breathless and developing severe stomach pain.

She was taken to hospital at 11pm on Thursday, where she was diagnosed with a perforated stomach. Surgeons operated immediately to save her life. Lancashire police said: “Medical opinion is that this would have proved fatal had the operation not been carried out urgently.” She is now in a serious but stable condition in the Lancaster Royal Infirmary.

An investigation is taking place into the circumstances of how she was given the drink. Once added to alcohol, liquid nitrogen makes the drink appear surrounded by a cloud of white or grey vapour.

Doctors at Lancaster Royal Infirmary said their only option was to operate immediately and remove her stomach.

In a statement, Oscar’s wine bar said it was “tremendously concerned” about Gaby and sent its best wishes to her family.

Last month, the bar posted a photograph on its Facebook page of a cocktail which contained liquid nitrogen. It was sold for £8.95, containing champagne.

Police said the bar had ceased selling all liquid nitrogen cocktails following the incident and had co-operated with all the agencies.