Margarita Martini at Lolita
Peanut butter and jelly. Bread and butter. Chips and salsa. Michael Symon and a pig. Bring the right combinations together, and magic will happen. Case in point: This popular cocktail invented in 2006, when maverick mixologists Rebecca Yody and Frank Ritz first thought about fusing two wildly popular libations. Out of their many trial and errors, Lolita's Margarita Martini was born. Spend a few minutes at Lolita's nowadays with bartender Sin-Jin Satayathum, and you begin to understand its appeal. "We are constantly creating new cocktails," he says. "Some of our customers even ask us to surprise them with cutting-edge drinks." Watching him create a Margarita Martini, it's clear that presentation is an important part of the ritual. The drink arrives in a steel shaker along with a chilled martini glass with a lime wedge at the bottom. There's a feeling of being in a James Bond movie as the bartender shakes (not stirs) the cocktail in front of you, and slowly fills the glass to the brim, forcing you to take a sip before you pick it up. The first impression is of a delicious Sauza tequila margarita. But instead of the traditional bitter taste at the back end, the martini side of this drink kicks in with vodka and cranberry components, providing a smooth finish. The price is a pleasant surprise, too — regularly $11, lowered to just $5 during happy hours and late nights. Considering the location and the quality of the drink, that's a bargain. You will need to imbibe in the bar area to get that price, and it would be best to arrive early, as seats there are highly coveted. Who says you need to be a magician to create magic? You just have to be a mixologist at Lolita.
900 Literary Rd., Cleveland, 216-771-5652, lolitarestaurant.com
Twelfth Night Martini at LUXE
Americans have been enjoying apples since Johnny Appleseed stamped the fruit into American folklore. Traditionally, alcohol drinks that feature apples are served warm. But the good folks at LUXE are offering a tasty counterargument. Among an eclectic assortment of fall cocktails they've created this year, the most innovative is the Twelfth Night Martini. It's made with apple-infused vodka and a spiced cider reduction, chilled and served with house-made caramel. The inspiration came from proprietor Melissa Cole, who challenged her talented staff of seasoned bartenders to create a new fall drink menu. The Twelfth Night Martini is the work of Colleen Drakage, a seasoned mixologist who has taken this drink to a chef-quality level. She starts with house vodka, fused with a combination of three different apples: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Macintosh. This process can take up to five days to achieve maximum flavor. For the reduced spiced cider, Drakage combines organic cider with cloves, cinnamon, and dried chili flakes. This mixture is then boiled and reduced. "The process can take some time to get that rich color and proper flavor," she notes. Finally, the cocktail gets a splash of Cava, a Spanish sparking wine, and is garnished with some house-made caramel and a slice of Red Delicious apple. When the drink is placed in front of you, it has a deep color and the smell of the cider hits you before you take a sip. The cider reduction explodes as you taste every bit of the cloves and cinnamon, with a hint of chili heat in the back of your throat. The caramel is a nice touch — its sweetness complements the savory ingredients of the cider. Given all this attention to detail, the drink is worth every penny of its $8 price. Or come during happy hour for a reduced price of $5.50.
6605 Detroit Ave., 216-920-0600, luxecleveland.com