There is a big difference between a trendsetter and an innovator.
Trends, for the most part, take little imagination, effort or guts. Accepting the task of being an innovator requires you to believe, wholeheartedly, that you can have an impact.
I originally set out to write this edition of Lush Life as a showcase of cocktail innovators in Myrtle Beach. Then, I reconnected with Larry Bond, owner of Art Burger Sushi Bar (706 N. Ocean Blvd.). He is on a different level of commitment, quality and hospitality. A level that is world class.
When I stopped by, I wanted to get a peek, first hand, at his liquid nitrogen cocktails. I must admit, it seemed a little gimmicky when I heard about them. Despite my hidden doubt, Bond took a generous amount of time from his schedule to run me through the paces of his efforts. I can unquestionably say that he has innovated the way we will drink in 2015.
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My research can not find anyone else on this planet doing what the Art team does. Other places are putting liquid nitrogen into drinks, but Bond has developed a signature method for blending it into the cocktail. The result is something special.
I had to address my primary concern before we tasted anything. Is a liquid nitrogen cocktail safe? Bond explained how he and his wife and business partner, Fabiana Bond, set up shop in their own kitchen with medical grade liquid nitrogen for some research and development before Art opened its doors. It is not something that he recommends, but a process that was necessary to see if his vision could come to fruition. After six months of testing, Bond had invented a new appliance, a method and recipes for his now-signature drinks.
For Art, he made the switch to culinary grade liquid nitrogen, earned the approval from the DHEC in Columbia and had a new machine fabricated that would bring these drinks to the public. This is 100 percent safe to consume. Bond developed the way to blend and evaporate the nitrogen in the drink. It changes only the texture and the temperature, not the flavor or ingredients. This is brilliant on a number of levels for our cocktail culture.
Feeling I was in good hands at this point, I tasted some of the drinks. It blew my mind that the flavor, texture, temperature and presentation were all working in sync to create a cocktail experience like I have never seen. Mind you, my cocktail resume is extensive. I have even had some recognition for a few mixes of my own. After traveling and tasting cocktails nationwide over the span of 15 years, never have I had more fun talking and tasting cocktails than at Art with Bond.
A guest walked up to the bar during our demonstration and requested a few flavors that he wanted frozen. Bond was quick to oblige. Art encourages this out of the ordinary approach to having a cocktail.
General Manager Phillip Evans says, “we work together with the guests to create something new.” Everything can be customized and the flavors can be made exactly to your tastes.
I suggest starting with some of the tried and true cocktails like The Beach Portrait. It is summer in a glass that you eat with a spoon. The Chai Latte is a gentle, spiced mix that warms and cools at the same time. It was pretty amazing.
As far as practical use for this technology, Bond has proven a way to keep a beer ice cold for more than an hour. Using liquid nitrogen to freeze a portion of the beer, while maintaining the integrity of the beer, and using that to continue to chill the rest of the beer is a major breakthrough for a beach-front bar. It is never watered down or flat. Undoubtedly, the coldest beer on the beach, but, also, one that stays cold for the duration of an ocean-side meal.
As Bond continued his development of the liquid nitrogen technique, he thought about some non-alcohol options as well. A blend of cranberry and pineapple juice with a delicate drizzle of sweet grenadine is a perfect afternoon sweet treat. There is no added sugar, or any other ingredients for that matter, but the finished product is as smooth and delicate as a finely made gelato. His intentions are kid-friendly and gives health conscience parents a great way to appease the heat, a sweet tooth and maintain the low sugar diet.
If you are a traditionalist, Art has great cocktails. The bar simply offers the liquid nitrogen version as an option to any drink. However, the hospitality and the food are the show stoppers at this beach front gem. I have three favorite burgers in America and Art has one of them. Get the “Munch Burger”. Do not ask questions, just order it. The liquid nitrogen cocktails are there to compliment the basic purpose of the restaurant and accentuate the talent that is in the kitchen.
It is not every day that you meet someone that takes the time to innovate a timeless tradition like cocktails.