You've read enough of these intros from the rest of the gang, so let's just get to my list of five favorite drinks, shall we?
5. The “That's What She Said” at CUCINA enoteca
There are drinks you order because it's your usual. There are drinks you order to get drunk in as few sips as possible. But then there are those drinks you order because the name made you laugh, and also, made everyone else at the table laugh. The “That's What She Said” is that kind of drink. The drink itself is no joke. Even Lulu De Rouen, the restaurant's chef, counts it as her favorite. And yes, it is a stiff drink, concocted from Dewar's Scotch, Carpano Antica Formula and Cynar, which is an artichoke-based bitter usually sipped as a digestif. Here, it's in the background, a cleansing presence on the palate while the vermouth-sweetness laces the mouth and the Scotch burns the inner cheek. Let the ice melt a bit more and the drink softens into a doppelgänger of herbal iced tea that you can chug easily. At this rate, you can go all night. That's what she said.
4. Bistro Champagne Lemonade at Paul Martin's
Paul Martin's closest peer is Houston's–a corporate eatery whose restraint means a classy, no-nonsense way of operating a restaurant. This is reflected most in Paul Martin's specialty cocktails. There are exactly seven priced at $9 each ranging from a very legitimate mojito which would've pleased even the mojito-loving Ernest Hemingway, to a drink actually named after the author with vanila rum, marachino cherry and ruby red juice. The best drink, though, has to be the bistro champagne lemonade, which seems the only house libation that the restaurant takes two lines to describe. It starts with a house-infused meyer lemon vodka, which is mixed with lemon juice, fresh basil and then topped off with a pour of Gloria Ferrer champagne. In the sipping, it tastes and fizzes very much like other hard lemonades you've had at backyard barbecues, though not as cloyingly sweet. And then there's the refreshing herbal notes of the basil, which makes it a nice chaser to that rich and bloody steak you should've also ordered.
3. The Miablo at Three Seventy Common
Three Seventy Common is where you'd want your friends to go drinking, even when they're not with you. The restaurant has set up this drink board, you see, where anyone can buy anyone else a drink on a future-based rolling credit system. If you're going there and want to put my name on the board, set me up with The Miablo, wherein Karma tequila is infused with ghost chili, the hottest pepper in the world, and made into an apéritif that burns on two counts. At first, the harsh alcohol spreads throughout your mouth, cauterizing any open wounds or sores. Then the capsaicin hits, numbing all that it touches, but leaving a warm, tingling sensation that thankfully subsides after about a minute. There are pieces of grilled pineapple and springs of cilantro in there, too, but they, like you, will cower in the presence and power of the rest. Think you got a friend who can handle The Miablo? Buy 'em one and have them put it on the drink board…again, next to my name.
2. Orange County Sour at Brü Grill & Market
Never mind that the only citrus fruits involved are grapefruit and lime. It employs an orange slice simply as garnish. But with a few drops of bitters and thanks to that grapefruit, the drink is one of those palate-cleansers, biting enough to cut through all the rich food you'll eat here. The liquor that powers the acerbity is blanco tequila and the froth that floats above the liquid like some bizarre cloud is actually meringue built from foamed egg whites. It won't remind you of OC as much as it will recall memories of Orange Julius before they stopped using raw eggs.
1. Strawberry Basil Lemonade at Mick's Karma Bar
What? You got a problem with a non-alcoholic drink being number one on my list? Well, that's because you haven't tasted it. It deserves to be on this list as much as the rest. If you've been to Mick's Karma Bar and had the burger and not this drink, you've been doing it all wrong. This beverage, which is now probably the best thing at Mick's after the burger, is drinkable gold. To not order it with the combo is tantamount to throwing away money. Here's why. The burger by itself is $5.50. The lemonade by itself is $3.25. The fries by itself is $3.95. But the burger combo with all of the above? $8.75. What you need to know about the drink is, of course, already in the name: mulled strawberries, crushed basil leaves, topped off with lemonade and ice. While the sweetness of the strawberries softens the tartness of the lemon, the basil leaves tames them both. It is absolutely the perfect thing to sip after a bite of burger and a mouthful of fries. There's something about this ambrosia that resets your mouth, much like what a swirl of good red wine does to a rich steak.