The Palmer at Zinc

The Palmer at Zinc: as good as it gets.It’s that perfect time of year when the first warm weather brings scores of gleeful people out of hibernation to toast in the sun. So it was great timing this past Saturday to discover my new favorite seasonal drink at the always delightful Zinc.

The Palmer starts with an invention that, like the paper clip and sliced bread, is so simple and yet so brilliant that it’s a miracle it took this long to discover: Sweet Tea Vodka. That’s right, it’s the alcoholic cousin of the classic southern refresher. Zinc uses Firefly sweet tea vodka, made in South Carolina, and tops it with lemonade on the rocks to make an Arnie Palmer… Read More

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Cucumber Margarita at Ventana

Ventana's refreshing cucumber margaritaA margarita at Ventana is an entirely different and superior species than the frozen neon green concoctions in salt-crusted glasses you see in chains across America. The delicious and sophisticated flavors include tangerine, habanero, jalapeño, and seafoam, but I think the cucumber margarita is the cream of the tequila crop.

It’s the rare tequila drink that makes you feel refreshed, but this Ventana concoction is the alcoholic equivalent of a cucumber eye mask at a spa. The flavor is fresh and tangy with the breezy cucumber flavor balancing perfectly with the tequila zing. It’s topped off with Ventana’s sea foam, which should be patented and served with margaritas worldwide. The frothy foam with… Read More

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Bloody Mary Bar at Fellini’s

Bloody Mary bar at Fellini'sMaybe I just like my Bloody Marys swimming in Worcestershire, but something about the make-your-own approach makes any brunch more festive. I’m not sure how it took us so long to discover that Fellini’s has a make your own Bloody Mary bar on Sundays, but it’s far too many weekends missed.

First, you’ll be served a great mix that’s hearty, nicely seasoned, and with just the right hair-of-the-dog balance. Then you walk over to the bar and the real fun begins. All the fixings are there: eight different kinds of hot sauce, horseradish, A-1, bbq sauce, Worcestershire, Tabasco, lemons, limes, carrots, olives, celery, pickles, and (my favorite touch) pickle… Read More

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Honey Ginger Martini at Bang

Bang - 4The restaurant Bang has more martinis than a UVA football game has bowties. They tend to cater to a younger female audience, with a reliance on fruity flavors and a naming scheme that involves Sex and the City characters, but most deliver a solid alcoholic punch as well. For me, however, a sordid college past that involved mixing anything alcoholic with Snapple Kiwi Strawberry has made me wary of the Bang classics, as I’ve avoided any overly sweet drinks in my wiser, more mature years. So I was pleased to find a new favorite after giving the martini menu another try on a recent visit to Bang: the Honey Ginger martini, which consists of Ketel One vodka with ginger simple syrup… Read More

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Bubble Tea at Ni Hao Café

Ni Hao - 13If you’ve never had the oddly delicious experience of tapioca in your tea, now’s the time. At first glance, bubble tea looks much like iced coffee, but then you see the black spheres on the bottom, and a strange jumbo-sized straw that can only be there to grant passage of those spheres into your mouth. What are those things? Blueberries? Junior Mints? No. Boba balls. Made of tapioca and other stuff I can’t pronounce, boba balls are chewy morsels of unidentifiable flavor that sound weird but taste fun. It’s all about the texture. You have to try them to understand.

Ni Hao Café, which also serves our favorite Chinese food in town… Read More

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The Goosehound at C & O

The Goosehound at C&OI wasted many years denouncing vodka. I thought it was flavorless and smelled like rubbing alcohol, which only brought back awkward memories of practicing CPR on a dummy in gym class in high school, with my friends cracking jokes on the side about me falling in love with a “dum” girl named Annie.

Then my Polish mom introduced me to Belvedere and the magic of cloudy-bottled vodkas. I don’t claim to be able to distinguish Stoli, Absolut, and Ketel One in a blind taste test, but Belvedere is different. So is Grey Goose. It’s silkier in the throat. Less fiery going down. And more forgiving the following morning.

At C&O, the mixmasters have wedded… Read More

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Zocalo’s Fresa Negra

zocalo finds - 3When Zocalo’s Joya McMurray recently won Best of C-ville bartender for the second year running, it seemed time to make a return trip to the downtown hot spot for a fancy cocktail. I was looking for something different, although I’m not sure I expected something quite as different as the ominously delicious sounding Fresa Negra (“black strawberry”), a fascinating chili-infused blackberry lemonade with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Skyy Vodka, or Cuervo Tequila. I chose vodka and awaited the first sip. Surprisingly, it worked: the spice was artfully balanced with the lemonade’s tangy sweetness. It was purple and pleasingly strange and I felt like I was at Happy Hour in a Tim Burton movie. True… Read More

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Vivace Bar

vivace bar - 7My nominee for the most underutilized bar in Charlottesville goes to Vivace, hands down and with great enthusiasm. Yes, the Ivy Road location is a slight drive from downtown. But the reward upon arrival is great. First of all, there’s the popcorn machine where you can fill up old school popcorn baskets as much as you’d like. They… Read More

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