'Culinary cocktail" has become one of those dubious catchphrases, often bandied about despite shaky proof that a "bar chef" actually did much cooking. Squeezing their own limes or paddling ice cubes with a thyme sprig doesn't count. Bradford Lawrence of Avance, though, is a notable exception, romping through the kitchen to pressure-infuse gunpowder tea tincture with a sous-vide vacuum, clarify his lime juice cordial with agar-agar, or blend a chile trio for the sneaky heat of his Johnny Utah.
The brilliant Panda at the Disco, though, is the ultimate proof that his flash is at the service of cocktail art. Once ordered, liquid nitro fumes across the bar, quick-freezing the color and flavor into mint leaves which then get pulverized into emerald stardust. Blended with a sweet dash of almond syrup into Buddha's-hand citrus vodka, the drink is so cold that once you near the bottom of the nitro-frozen glass, the cocktail becomes a slushy, anchoring an elegant lemon-peel rose. Cue the disco lights, and slurp.
- Craig LaBan
Panda at the Disco, $14, Avance, 1523 Walnut St., 215-405-0700