Woman served 'toxic cocktail' at Miami Beach fundraiser

Barbara Kaufman hospitalized after ingesting liquid nitrogen

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Liquid nitrogen is being used more and more in drinks at bars and parties, creating a smoke effect as it turns from a liquid to a gas.

But one South Florida woman claims it almost killed her.

"My head felt like it was exploding," Barbara Kaufman told Local 10 of the moment after she took a sip. "I doubled over. From what I was told, smoke was coming out of my nose and my mouth."

Kaufman was rushed to the emergency room and then the operating room, where she said two teams of surgeons were assembled. She remembers the doctor telling her she was "gravely ill."

"We know that she definitely ingested liquid nitrogen because in looking at her CAT scans and X-ray reports, there is gas and fluid in her cavity," attorney Marc Brumer told Local 10.

Kaufman's insides were burned. Her esophagus, stomach and lower bowels had small tears or holes. Her lungs filled with fluid and the liquid nitrogen turned from a liquid to gas in her body. It had nowhere to go, except to expand.

Doctors had to relieve the gas pressure in her stomach.

"All her life organs were in jeopardy," Brumer said.

Kaufman spent five days in the intensive care unit.

"I'm just blessed to be here," she said.

Kaufman said drinks like the one she ingested were being served at an event at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, where she was a guest at a fundraiser. She claims a bartender from Haven on Lincoln Road handed her that toxic cocktail without instructions.

"So one would assume if you are handed a drink that you could at that time drink it," Kaufman said.

Haven confirms two employees were at the event, but the owners refused to say anything else.

Dr. Lesley Clark, a dermatologist, told Local 10 she uses liquid nitrogen in her practice to kill tissue.

"You are looking at a temperature range between negative 350 to negative 320 degrees F," Clark said. "That is about 100 times colder than an ice cube."

Jason Savino, owner of Potions in Motion, has used liquid nitrogen in his catering business for years. He told Local 10 only a small amount is necessary for the smoke effect and it should evaporate before being served.

"This is definitely not for anyone to mess with unless they are very experienced with the chemical," Savino said.

Dr. Randy Katz told Local 10 the ingestion of liquid nitrogen could be hazardous.

"I think in the hands of the wrong people who are not experienced with using this type of liquid, a lot of bad things can happen to patients," Katz said.

Kaufman remains under a doctor's care. It isn't known if there will be any permanent damage.