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Issue Date: October 2012

Best of Cleveland 2012: Drink

Cocktail Revamp

The Velvet Tango Room has been lauded by national publications such as Esquire for its cocktail selection and swanky atmosphere. But lately the bar has been singing the praises of its hometown with the addition of Cleveland-inspired drinks such as the Cleveland Rose and the Rust Belt (both $18). Developed by former bartender Julie Friedman, the Rust Belt consists of Bulliet Rye, Cynar (an Italian artichoke liqueur), fresh lime juice and Peychaud's bitters. "The tartness from the lime stands out at first, then you pick up the herbs and spiciness of the Cynar and the rye," says Friedman. "It's not for the faint of heart." The drink also represents the feelings so often associated with our city. "Some Clevelanders have a bittersweet relationship with their city," she says. "My drink is also bittersweet but has a lot of layers, and actually, the longer time you spend with it, the more it grows on you — just like Cleveland." 2095 Columbus Road, Cleveland, 216-241-8869,

Cereal Martini

We're fans of breakfast for dinner, but now we can also have one of our morning staples in cocktail form. Taste lets us indulge in our favorite sugary pastime with its rotating lineup of cereal martinis ($9) made from Cap'n Crunch, Cap'n Crunch Berries or Cinnamon Toast Crunch. After steeping the cereal in 2 percent milk overnight to get that bottom-of-the-bowl concentration, the liquid gets mixed with Baileys, Smirnoff vanilla vodka and amaretto. The drinks are garnished with a crushed cereal rim and a sprinkle of whole pieces on top. "I don't eat cereal all that much," says general manager Carlos Corona. "But my favorite cereal growing up was Cap'n Crunch Berries, so this brings me back." 2317 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-9100,

Vegan Smoothie

If yoga can improve your overall physical and mental balance, then Willoughby's Harmony Yoga has found its center. The Harmony Studios Smoothie Bar inside the new studio location has been offering vegan-friendly drinks since May. "We decided we needed to have something for people to grab and go, so that they can feel healthy and know they're getting their vegan fix," says owner Natalie Lorber. Chock full of baby spinach, kale, apple, banana and orange juice, the Detox Green smoothie ($5 for 12 ounces, $6 for 16 ounces) is filled with antioxidants and not at all reminiscent of diets or restrictions. Visitors can also add vegan protein to one of three vegan smoothies for an extra energy boost. The best part of having the smoothie bar housed inside the studio? You can pre-order your drink of choice and it will be waiting for you when class finishes. 38108 Third St., Willoughby, 440-942-9642,

Basement Bar

There's a secret little bar beneath Happy Dog, one of our favorite dive spots. If you blink, you might miss the doorway to the Underdog along the back wall. The low ceiling and muted lighting make this basement bar cozy and inviting, but you almost feel as though you've stumbled on something so cool, you aren't sure if you should even be down there. With three pinball machines and a shuffleboard table, if the Brady Bunch had a basement, this would be the place. A TV over the bar and projection screen on the back wall show monster movies (such as Godzilla), cartoons (Underdog, obviously) and whatever else is desired. Just don't expect sports. "If you want to watch a game," says Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson, "Winking Lizard's got us beat on that." But it's a great place to hang while waiting for your favorite band to take the stage, says Watterson. The Underdog features the full hot dog menu from upstairs and a private stash of bottles and cans of beer, some of which you can only get on the underside. 5801 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, 216-651-9474,

Alcoholic Float

We like beer and we like ice cream. Since the best things in life are often carefully crafted combinations, the BottleHouse Brewery's Milk Stout Float ($8.50) melts us in all the right places — and we wouldn't have been able to make it through the hot summer without it. BottleHouse, a recent addition to Cleveland Heights' Cedar Lee District, combines vanilla ice cream from Ohio City's Felice Ice Cream with Left Hand Milk Stout or the brewery's own Galaxy Milk Stout for a frothy and smooth concoction. Watching it being made can be just as satisfying as consuming it, according to BottleHouse co-owner Dave Schubert. "One of the coolest parts about it is the way it filters into the glass," he says. "The milk stout goes on top of the ice cream and sort of has to work its way down the side. It's like your own little lava lamp." And don't worry about the kids getting jealous. They have a root beer float too. 2050 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-214-2120,

Drink Doctor

Joseph DeLuca of Dr. Drink's Traveling Apothecary Show knows his booze and lives by a simple rule: "A red Solo cup is not proper presentation at any time." We encountered his talents when he whipped up a deliciously floral Botany Collins (Watershed Distillery Gin, vodka, St. Germain, Cointreau, lemon juice, rhubarb bitters, fresh herbs and soda water) at a recent Dinner in the Dark, but he also works his magic at other events throughout the city. So, what's the biggest bartending blunder people make at home? "No. 1 is using bottled mixes and things that are artificially colored and flavored," DeLuca says. Also, make sure you have fresh ice. "I see people using ice they've had in their freezer for six months," DeLuca says, "and it's just not pretty."

Mimosa Kit

Everyone from couples celebrating their engagement to larger party crews are sippin' in style during Sunday Fundays at Market in Rocky River. Its mimosa kit is the latest entry in the make-it-yourself dining trend, and this one has some serious Hollywood-esque sizzle. The kit ($35) features a bottle of chilled La Marca Prosecco and four carafes of juice — traditional orange, passion fruit, mango, and a blend of pomegranate and blueberry. Jazz it up with the accompanying diced strawberries, pineapple and blueberries for an added pop of color and to boost the juices' flavors. "Part of the beauty is you can try things out and find out what you like," says general manager Mike Sestili. He recommends mixing a little of the orange juice with some of the pomegranate blend and topping it with a few pieces of strawberries and pineapple. And since each kit typically makes five to six mimosas, there's plenty of room for experimenting. 1137 Linda St., Rocky River, 440-799-4292,

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