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Issue Date: October 2013

Best of Cleveland 2013: Drink

Cocktail Class

Shake up the beginning of your workweek with a cocktail or two. Society Lounge's Mix Your Own Mondays lets you make your own concoctions alongside professional bartenders. "I wanted to create this symbiotic relationship between customer and bartender where they learn along with us," says Joseph Fredrickson, the beverage director behind the concept. Choose from an extensive list of herbs, fruits, juices, syrups and liqueurs to create your own cocktails. You'll also get to choose what kind of glass (think snifters, champagne flutes or rocks) and ice (crushed, cracked, cubed or balls) you want and whether you prefer your drink shaken or stirred. We designed our spicy drink with 2 ounces of Espolon Reposado tequila, 1 ounce of lime juice, 1/4 ounce of seasonal pepper chartreuse, 1/4 ounce passion fruit syrup, 1/4 ounce agave nectar, egg whites and garnished it with a twist and cilantro. 2063 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-781-9050,

Gourmet Juice

James Bond would definitely approve of these drinks. Inspired by the lemonade stands found at festivals and fairs, Real Früt president David Gin wanted something more sophisticated in his juice shake-ups ($4). "I just thought there was something we could innovate," says Gin. He began experimenting with a blend of organic sugars to replace the standard, sweet white cane variety. He eventually settled on a mix that represents seven countries and allows for less sugar, but more flavor. Then he adds spring water and your choice of hand-cut fruit, which comes from West Orchards in Perry whenever possible, to the lemon or orange base. And in true 007 fashion, it gets shaken (not stirred or mixed in a blender). "Shaking's important," says Gin, who does his best Cocktail impression at farmers markets and events. "That's part of the excitement." Order Gin's off-menu favorite: lemon, raspberry and mango, for a little taste of the company's secret culture.

Cold Brew

For those looking for an extra jolt in the morning, Rising Star Coffee Roasters has the buzz you need. The Ohio City coffee shop's 32-ounce, to-go growler ($25) contains a direct trade Arabican cold-brew coffee concentrate that you can repurpose according to your inner barista's desire. Splash the rich concoction over ice for a chilled coffee. Blend with chocolate milk for a mocha. Or prepare coffee with equal parts hot water and concentrate. "It makes at least eight cups of coffee. It's a very versatile product," says drink specialist Haley Hudson Morris, who created the cold brew after traveling to specialty coffee shops abroad. The store also sells cold brew growlers in lighter roasts, which preserve the naturally sweeter flavors of the coffee bean. A Filtron system steeps the coffee and water for 18 hours before the brew sifts through a woven filter. "We double filter it to remove so much of the particulate. The result is pure extraction concentrated coffee," Morris says. "The cold brew process really blows up the flavor." 1455 W. 29th St., Cleveland, 216-273-3573,

Beer Milkshake

Beer and milkshakes are disparate forces, separated by a mountain range of culinary differences and rarely combined. No longer. At the Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron, the two meld together in the form of a beershake on the brewery's tasting room menu. A lifelong lover of ice cream, bar manager Dave Hoopes combines his passion for dairy with the seasonal favorite, Frog's Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale. The result, dubbed the Triple Pumpkin Beershake ($5.99), is a creamy concoction of Strickland's pumpkin ice cream and beer, blended to savory-sweet, buzz-inducing perfection. To Hoopes, the beershake is a tribute to his company's craft creations. "It's a wrestle because you don't want to add anything else in, just highlight the beer," he says. The beershakes are also available in chocolate mixed with the oatmeal Imperial stout B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher. 1680 E. Waterloo Road, Akron, 234-525-3764,

Juice Cleanse

It's like an oil change for your body. That's what Good to Go Cafe chef Anna Harouvis calls her three-day juice cleanse ($195), part of her Anna in the Raw line. "Some people do this quarterly or once or twice a year to give their bodies a break," she says. Each day's worth of six drinks include 20 pounds of organic produce blended up by Harouvis the day you're scheduled to receive your order. The flavors have divine names such as Hercules, Aphrodite and Athena and taste just as heavenly. Hercules combines green apple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, parsley and lemon. It's good enough that we'd drink it on a daily basis and sometimes Harouvis does. "If I skip dinner, the Athena with the raw cashews, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg is like a dessert treat to me," she says. 1360 E. Ninth St., Cleveland, 216-623-7220,

Afternoon Bar

We are huge fans of the new Town Hall in Ohio City — and apparently so is everyone else. Nightly visits have us going toe-to-toe with our fellow Clevelanders to order one of its 33 rotating American craft beers. And scoring a table after 8 p.m.? Forget it. So we enjoy its less-crowded afternoon scene, where you can actually hear your company while chatting over the bar's inventive organic menu and fresh-squeezed libations. Cravings for everything from carrot juice to grilled cheese bars and organic tomato bisque, or a skillet-prepared white chocolate chip cookie, can be satiated here. And Town Hall's serene, even earthy decor — a mixture of Indonesian woodwork, patio complete with rock waterfalls and red-hued booths — makes the perfect backdrop. "Coming in the afternoon is a great opportunity to really enjoy the space and unique environment we provide," says former general manager Crista Fitch, who left in mid-September. "There's nothing else like it in Cleveland." 1909 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-344-9400,

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Just like Elvis, we love pairing peanut butter and bananas together. We love it even more when the duo comes in the form of a satisfying smoothie. And until we tried Helvetica Juice Bar & Cafe's version, we didn't think it could get any better. The Latin-inspired eatery's peanut butter and banana smoothie ($4.50) ups the ante of the frozen beverage's classic flavor profile with a dose of spinach. "I wanted the smoothie to have more nutrients," says co-owner Edward Padilla. "People are on the go a lot, so this can serve as a meal supplement." He adds a cup of either soy or 2 percent milk, depending on customer preferences, before feeding the Vitamix with one ripe banana, organic peanut butter and the leafy greens. A few seconds in the high-powered blender yields a lime-tinted, 16-ounce beverage. "Sometimes people come in with a 32-ounce jug and ask for us to make enough to fill it up," Padilla says. "Kids and adults love it because it satisfies their sweet tooth, but they don't feel guilty because it's healthy." 11823 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-4890

Small-batch Beer

Nano Brew proves that good things do come in small packages. Its Kolsh ($5) is so clean, crisp and light you could drink it like water, but probably shouldn't. "Anyone can throw hops in a beer and call it a day. There's a finesse to this one," describes business partner and brewmaster Andy Tveekrem, who has more than 20 years brewing experience. He brews the German-style lager — which is technically an ale — in 20-gallon batches, fermenting it with warmer temperatures, then letting it mellow in cold conditioning. The final result has "a snappy hop finish that's not overwhelming," he says. "It's kind of bright." The brew is just one of the smaller batches — a rotating handful of which appear on Nano's 24-draft list — that allows Tveekrem to stretch his creative muscles. "Typically what we do at Nano is use it as an opportunity to get creative, because we're doing it on a smaller scale," he explains. 1859 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-862-6631, 

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