SOUTHINGTON — Liquid nitrogen hissed and bubbled from a can as Ryan Tunnacliffe poured it into a cocktail glass. The edges of the glass frosted instantly from the extreme cold and the remaining gas crawled over the wooden bar like a thick fog.
From there, Tunnacliffe poured more liquid nitrogen into a bowl with an alcoholic mixture and began to mix it with a whisk. Tunnacliffe soon revealed a delicate ball of sorbet, which he then served in the chilled glass.
He calls the alcoholic drink the “Nitro Mule,” a twist on the “Moscow Mule.” Patrons actually eat their cocktail with a spoon. It’s one of his signature cocktails.
Tunnacliffe is the mad scientist of cocktails at Ideal Tavern, a restaurant and pub offering comfort food and craft cocktails with a twist on Center Street in Southington. The restaurant opened last month.
“It’s so clean,” Tunnacliffe said of the taste of the sorbet. “It refreshes your palate.”
Tunnacliffe has worked around the world including South America, Australia, Asia and England, where he is from. His background is in cooking, which helps inspire his cocktails. He’s been dabbling in both bartending and cooking for 12 years.
His travels also inspire drinks.
“I love that we stay ahead of the game because of (Tunnacliffe’s) passion,” said Rachel Markoja, the assistant manager at Ideal Tavern. “He loves using seasonal ingredients. It’s something you may not see in cocktails.”
If you plan on ordering a drink from the cocktail menu at Ideal Tavern chances are you will get a show with your order, especially if you are sitting at the bar.
Tunnacliffe said it’s all about the experience for customers. Freezing cocktails isn’t all they do at Ideal Tavern. They also set them on fire.
“Bramble On” is another drink on the menu, which changes often with the seasons and will be adjusted Sept. 19 to reflect fall. The drink is made with gin, blackberry and rosemary syrup, fresh lemon juice, and garnished with rosemary soaked in absinthe.
After making the cocktail, Tunnacliffe set the rosemary garnish on fire with a torch and the smell of rosemary wafted through the bar.
“This is like an aromatic cocktail,” said Tunnacliffe, also the general manager of Ideal Tavern. “You get the smell in it.”
Another signature drink of Tunnacliffe’s is the “Ideal Old Fashion,” which he pours over a giant, hand-carved square ice cube which takes up the entire glass.
The drink is made with bourbon, house bitters, coriander seeds and saffron threads.
“Thai Daiquiri” is another unique drink at Ideal Tavern with a hint of spice. The drink features Thai chili, fresh squeezed lime juice, Thai basil and rum. He uses the liquid nitrogen with this drink to muddle the basil and ingredients.
Tunnacliff said he hopes to impress people with the cocktails and food at Ideal Tavern and bring something different to the area.
“I don’t want anything to be like this in Connecticut,” Tunnacliffe said. “We still want to be approachable. We want to be a good restaurant.”
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