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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Bars, Clubs & Coffee Houses 2001: Libation Nation

From Red Bull blends to mortar-mashed specialties, trendy drinks range from classic to creative

By Mary Spicuzza

WE WATCHED with fascination as the youngest, bravest bar-hopper of the bunch received both of the ingredients for her drink. Grasping her pint glass half-full of Red Bull in one hand, she promptly dropped a shot of Jagermeister into the center and guzzled the whole thing.

Even though I cowered in fear, clutching my frou-frou berry martini, tons of trendy drinkers are dabbling in energy-drink cocktails and can't stop raving about the rush.

Booze has been a staple for thousands of years, but it is not immune to the pressures of fashionistas who demand the latest look in their alcoholic accompaniment.

From Pink Ladys and Grasshoppers of the '60s (think milkshake), to Golden Cadillacs of the '80s (Galliano and cream), to Jell-o shots of five minutes ago, the cocktail lounge provides a perfect arena for trendsetting.

Clearly, the eight-ball wallop of adrenalizing caffeine and sugar blended with a shot of 70-proof downer is one of this year's top draws.

Several spots around town have started whipping up a blend of Red Bull and vodka, sometimes called a Raging Bull, but other adventurous spots have started experimenting with various liquors combined with the latest brands of energy beverages.

The "Bull" theme has also spread to more established drinks like the White Russian--the Kahlua, cream and vodka cocktail made famous in The Big Lebowski--which, when blended with Coke, takes on a new identity as the Colorado Bulldog.

For the more conservative trendy-types, classic cocktails continue to hold their own amid the confusing world of swirling concoctions. Retro drinks like the Cosmopolitan, a tasty blend of vodka (usually Citron), Triple Sec, cranberry juice and lime served in a martini glass, have managed to keep their cool. Some swanky spots are even expanding their offerings with new variations, like the East Coast Cosmo.

Martini parties aren't exactly a new idea anymore, but dozens of flavor-tinis--like Appletinis and espresso martinis--are still pouring into the sipping scene.

The ongoing Cuban music craze has brought with it a rum-infused revolution, meaning that Mojito lovers are no longer met with blank stares when ordering their favorite drink. It may be high-maintenance as far as cocktails go--a bartender must mortar-grind mint leaves, usually with a simple syrup or sugar, before adding ice, rum, soda and a sprig of mint. And hey, if it's good enough to become a notorious staple in Ernest Hemingway's impressive drinking repertoire, it must be inspiring.

Even devoted beer establishments are getting into some creative mix-mastering, especially when combining Guinness with just about everything, including hard cider, Bass, and a blend of cider and Chambord, the French raspberry liqueur of Sex on the Beach fame.

One of the most exciting drink menu trends that continues to fuel the fantasies of tiki torch lovers is the re-emergence of retro summer drinks like the Singapore Sling, a combination of rum, grenadine, sour mix, soda and cherry brandy.

Of course, the popularity of any trendy drink depends on the crowd sipping it--while frat boys and college students rave about the Surfer on Acid (a blend of Jagermeister, Malibu Coconut Rum and pineapple juice), bachelorette parties still tend toward predictable girls' night out drinks, such as the Blow Job: a Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream and vodka shooter topped with whipped cream--consumed without using the hands or teeth.

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From the October 24-31, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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