Tag Archive for bourbon

Sidebar

Sidebar_01

Sidebar is an upscale, Nouveau American joint along the Grand Avenue side of Lake Merritt. Its website boasts Mediterranean, seasonal, local, and comfort foods among its qualifications, so think dressed up French fries, with smoked paprika in Sidebar’s case, and quality meats served with fresh pickled veggies and relishes. I went at lunch. The menu was a shorter version of the dinner one with fewer options not in salad or sandwich form. As it was lunch, that suited me and my companions just fine. Especially because the cocktail list wasn’t shortened at all.

The staff was lax on seating—we had to wave down the barman and a busser to get a table though the restaurant was not busy. But our server was attentive and the food and drinks came out with no delays. The décor was pleasant with whimsical lighting and mostly small tables with one large round booth in back. A central bar divides the space; the other side hosts a communal picnic table. Cherry-red wood abounds.

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Did I mention the cocktails? That is most definitely where Sidebar excels. I believe this beauty is the Locavore ($10) with Crusoe organic spiced rum, Fruitlab organic orange liqueur, house-made ginger syrup, lime juice, seltzer, and mint.

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I say I believe it’s that drink because we didn’t ask particulars—my companions just wanted a cocktail with ginger and that’s what our server brought. Whatever it was, the drink hit all the right marks for a refresher on a warm weekday: light, vivacious from the mint and ginger presences, and enough rum flavor that you don’t forget what you’re drinking. Plus, I’m a sucker for tin cups. Yes, yes, I passionately hate the mason jar drinkware craze for its affected rustic imagery, but I’m all over those cups. I accept my hypocrisy.

My own drink was the Caged Heat ($10) made with B & E bourbon, tamarind, ghost pepper, cardamom, and lemon juice.

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If you don’t like spice, this is not the drink for you. It is absolutely the drink for me. The ghost pepper rose up at the end of every sip, coating my throat with a sensational fire that stopped just short of scorching. Cardamom is also a favorite cocktail ingredient of mine, and it provided the complex sweetness needed to play with that pepper heat. Tamarind grounded it in earthiness, the end result being a well-mixed and memorable drink.
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Alley 26

Alley 26
320 East Chapel Hill St.
Downtown Durham
Website
$9 to $12 per drink
4 pm to 2 am
(May I take this moment to say
I love a bar that posts a closing time?)

alley 26 01

To my disappointment, Alley 26, Durham’s newest upscale bar, is not located in an alley. It takes up actual streetfront property, though I’m sure the alley beside it will be used in nicer weather than we had when I tried it in February. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bar had more than a handful of patrons at 8 pm, mostly young professionals. That’s a good sign for me because I like mid-evening drinking but I hate feeling like the only person in a joint.

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The bartenders dress in today’s snazzy bar wear, namely nice vests over black pants and button-up shirts. Jazz plays over the stereo system, but none of that elevator music. Instead, a beautiful jazz lyricist sang loud and clear on the recordings. The vibe is somewhere between an antique saloon and a speakeasy with tables built of medium-colored wood and a row of benches covered by peach cushions that aren’t very comfortable but are somehow perfect because they make you feel like you’re at your cool, alcoholic great-aunt’s house. You know, Aunt Maude’s place.

(Insert standard apology for bad low-lighting pictures here. If anyone wants to be my 2.8 f/s or wider lens fairy godmother, you knock yourself out, okay?)

(Insert standard apology for bad low-lighting pictures here. If anyone wants to be my 2.8 f/s or wider lens fairy godmother, you knock yourself out, okay?)

The Corpse Reviver No. Twenty Six, the bar’s take on the standard concoction, is made with a North Carolinian apple brandy, Lillet rosé, Aperol, lemon, and a brut rosé. It’s a distinctly fruity corpse reviver with a gorgeous color. The citrus elements of the drink are delightful, and the mild bitterness of the Aperol counteracts the nearly peach flavor of the brandy. With light fizz tickling my tongue, I found it an exquisite, vibrant drink.

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Little Fŭk’ər at the Borough

Little Fŭk’ər
The Borough
Downtown Raleigh
$6.50

borough lil fcker

I’ve been to the Borough twice now, and I love it as a casual night spot to relax with slightly trussed up comfort food and a good drink list. This is my second time drinking the Little Fŭk’ər as well. It’s made with bourbon, red apple Schnapps, butterscotch Schnapps, and ginger ale. The presence of ginger ale or club soda in a cocktail’s ingredient list is usually a sign I’ll think it’s watered down, but that’s not the case with the Little Fŭk’ər. Instead, the soda makes the sweeter Schnapps participants less cloying. I swear I can taste cinnamon, but that may be the red apple flavor playing games with my mind. Regardless, it entices me from one sip to the next. There’s no unpleasant alcohol burn from the bourbon, and the butterscotch serves as an invisible unifier of the other elements.

This is a nicely blended drink; all the ingredients melt into each other beautifully.

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Reviewed 26 Jan 13.

The Borough on Urbanspoon

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