Monday, July 2, 2012

Napa's Cocktail Renaissance

"The Franklin"
Until recently, it was hard to find a delicious alcoholic beverage in downtown Napa that wasn't wine. The number of full liquor licenses was very strictly controlled, and many were owned by establishments with what can be most charitably described as subsistence-level drinks.  Downtown Napa had about three options for a truly well-crafted cocktail, none of which had spacious bar areas.

No more.  The downtown revival of the last few years has ushered in a cocktail renaissance for our little wine-soaked town, thanks to the fine people at Morimoto, Oenotri, Eiko's, and Norman Rose Tavern.

Norman Rose originally opened with a beer and wine license, but has recently acquired the right to serve it all forth.  And so they do, at lunch as well as dinner.  Their menu includes hyper-local superstars like "The Franklin" (named after their cross street), a thirst-quenching marvel of Zaya rum, grapefruit bitters, Aperol, grapefruit juice and lime.  Sophisticated but approachable, it is wine country style in a highball glass. 

Eiko's and Morimoto offer more exotic refreshment, with both their cocktail menus and the usual denizens of their lounge.  Morimoto's nighttime bar scene delivers some of the best people-watching in town, but also a solid menu of asian-inflected cocktails that change seasonally.  Eiko's plays the liquid nitrogen game with its frozen caipirinha (served as a super cold alcoholic sorbet) and shakes up a slew of options with names like Dragon Cosmo, Sumo-jito, and the like, but my go-to in their sexy lounge space is a simple gimlet made with Skyy Ginger vodka and fresh lime juice.  Classic, refreshing, and spectacularly good with sushi, I am hard pressed not to order it every time I'm there.

The summertime heat is winning the battle with our office air conditioner... must be time for a drink.

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