Best of Connecticut 2009: Nightlife

 

COCKTAIL: SAKETINI

Asian Bistro
Mansfield, (860) 456-8316, and Shelton, (203) 926-1933 (asianbistrorestaurant.net)
Asian Bistro offers several Far East variations on the classics-including the Zen Green Tea Margarita and Asian Mai Tai-but it's the saketini that stands tall, made with premium Yaegaki sake, triple sec, Asian vodka and fresh cucumber. At press time, variations on this recipe were being tried out, including the Lychee and Ginger Tinis-why not drop by and see which ones made the cut?

BAR

Redding Roadhouse
West Redding, (203) 938-3388 (reddingroadhouse.com)
Its history is only the half of it. The Redding Roadhouse has always been a destination for parched, road-weary travelers, first operating as a small inn where drinks and home-cooked dishes were served in the tavern. A local resident by the name of Samuel Clemens liked to dine there, chatting the night away. Over the years, the Roadhouse continued to attract patrons (some traveling, some not) in search of a place to enjoy the potables and a hearty meal. Today, the quintessentially Colonial taproom remains a particularly popular spot for enjoying your drink of choice while listening to music or simply socializing. It's our favorite watering hole; some things never change.

COCKTAIL: BLOODY MARY

Griswold Inn
Essex, (860) 767-1776 (griswoldinn.com)
Any brunch worth its salt includes a Bloody Mary, so it's little wonder that the one served at the most famous brunch in Connecticut-the Sunday Hunt Breakfast at the Griswold Inn in Essex-would be a real kicker. In fact, it's the Gris' No. 1 summer cocktail. We won't give away the winning classic-with-a-twist recipe; suffice it to say that it's the perfect accompaniment to those scrumptious omelets, smoked bacon, Belgian waffles, or anything else your heart desires.

COCKTAIL: COSMOPOLITAN

Shrine at MGM Grand
Mashantucket, (860) 312-8888 (shrinemgmfoxwoods.com)
A Cosmopolitan is arguably the classiest of cocktails-with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice-and therefore, was made to be sipped in the poshest of restaurants. Order one at Shrine, a hip-and, of course, classy-Asian fusion restaurant at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, and pair it with any of the inventive sushi rolls or entrees like wok-fried Singapore noodles and grilled Ahi tuna with wasabi glaze.

COCKTAIL: MANHATTAN

Doc's Trattoria
Kent, (860) 927-3810 (docstrattoria.com)
Invented in the mid-1800s, the "King of Cocktails" is much admired for its potency, sophistication and simplicity, with a basic formula-whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and a maraschino cherry-that clearly ain't broke, but most bartenders have still spent the last century trying to "fix" it. Doc's has an irresistible variation in the Elderflower Manhattan, a blend of Maker's Mark bourbon, St-Germain liqueur, dry vermouth and bitters that's lighter and sweeter than the standard-without being cloying-and still packs the perfect punch.

COCKTAIL: MARGARITA

Viva Zapata
Westport, (203) 227-8226 (vivazapata.com)
Margaritas are the draw at this Mexican eatery. A lethal combination of tequila, triple sec and freshly squeezed lime juice is served on the rocks in mason jars, but that's just for starters. Strawberry, mango, raspberry, peach and blue Curacao are available frozen, on the rocks or straight up, "The Skinny" made with Fresca keeps dieters happy, and for those with very refined tastes, "The Cadillac" is top-of-the-line.

COCKTAIL: MARTINI

Leffingwells/Mohegan Sun
Uncasville, (888) 226-7711 (mohegansun.com)
There are 17 featured martinis at Leffing-wells (also known as "Wombi Rock"), so you're sure to find one that suits your taste. Tropical-drink fans will love the Mango Tango, featuring Absolut Mango vodka and Malibu mango rum. For a summery treat, order the watermelon martini with Bacardi watermelon rum and Pucker watermelon schnapps. Still not happy with the menu? Create your own!

COCKTAIL: MOJITO

Pacifico New Haven, (203) 772-4002 (pacificorestaurants.com)
Legend has it that the mojito was Ernest Hemingway's favorite drink. Whether or not the story is true, you can be certain that Pacifico's Latin flair makes it the perfect setting for this classic, a combination of white rum, crushed fresh mint, freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar and a splash of 7 Up.

COCKTAIL: NEGRONI

Bespoke
New Haven, (203) 562-4644 (bespokenewhaven.com)
When it comes to playing it cool and sexy, your best move would be to head to Bespoke's long, candle-framed black bar and order a Negroni-here a refreshing blend of Plymouth gin, Campari bitters, soda and a splash of fresh OJ (Bespoke's signature addition to the drink, a replacement for sweet vermouth) accented by a sprig of rosemary. The drink is famed as the perfect aperitif-and what better place to get hungry? Rawrr.  

COMEDY CLUB

Brew Ha Ha at City Steam Brewery Cafe
Hartford, (860) 525-1600 (citysteambrewerycafe.com)
City Steam, a spectacular seven-level restaurant located in the historic Richardson Building within the Marriott Residence Inn, features a 15-barrel brewhouse offering 12 styles of ales and lagers. As if that wasn't enough to make this place great, it's also home to the fantastic Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club, showcasing sidesplitting comedians every Thursday through Saturday night.

GAY CLUB

Chez Est
Hartford, (860) 525-3243 (chezest.com).
"There's something for everyone at the Chez," and something going on every night of the week, from drink specials and dance parties to karaoke and Latin nights. Throw in 10 beers on tap, an extensive wine list as well as an outdoor bar and patio, and you have a place that's not only a great gay club, it's just a great club.

HAPPY HOUR

Arch Street Tavern
Hartford, (860) 246-7610, (archstreettavern.com)
After a long day at the office, most people are more than ready to get happy, so they head over to Arch Street. Daily drink specials start at 3:30 and great food is put out at 4:30-the menu changes every day, featuring everything from 4-foot grinders and chicken wings to fresh pasta and carved turkey. With dozens of beers to choose from as well as mixed drinks and a nice selection of wines, all wrapped in a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere, it's the ideal place to unwind. So come on, get happy!

HOTEL BAR

The L'Escale Lounge at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor
Greenwich, (203) 661-4600 (lescalerestaurant.com)
The L'Escale Lounge is one of our favorite places-elegant but unpretentious, sexy but not in-your-face, with an appealingly offhand chic. There's a pewter-topped bar, Louis VI-style chairs covered in bright linens, Parisian music wafting from the speakers, French doors looking out on the water. On the menu are Gallic temptations like croque monsieur, pissaladiere and salade Nicoise, as well as oysters, great burgers and curried chicken kebabs. Wash it all down with one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, cocktails named Charity, Fortitude, Hope-and Temperance, which involves fresh raspberries, mint and a blend of light and dark rums. We'll drink to that!

IRISH PUB

O'Neill's Irish Pub
South Norwalk, (203) 838-0222 (oneillsono.com)
What makes this Irish pub tops? For starters, a menu of all the hearty, classic favorites-shepherd's pie, beef-and-Guinness stew, fish-and-chips, bangers and mash-along with an authentic vibe and live music. But the most important must-have is the beer. And O'Neill's has got it: Guinness, Harp, Smithwick's, Blue Moon, Bass, Sam Adams, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Sierra Nevada, New Castle and Killian's, to name a few. Slainte!

KARAOKE

La Luna
Branford, (203) 483-9995 (lalunact.com)
Looking for good food and a good time? Look no further than La Luna. Karaoke night is every Wednesday, so grab the microphone and sing your heart out while the DJ plays all the hits. Here's your chance to be a star-sort of. So what if you only wind up a legend in your own mind (and hopefully, to your friends)? The fun starts at 9 p.m. Make sure you're there!

LIVE JAZZ

Szechuan Tokyo
West Hartford, (860) 561-0180 (asianfusion.net)
This jazz supper club serves up American jazz along with a wide-ranging Asian menu. Owner Paul Lewis started out by drawing local talent from the Hartford Jazz Society, the Hartt School, Trinity College and the Artists Collective; now a steady stream of jazz flows here every Thursday and Friday night. Pianist/composer/arranger James Argio, trumpeter Saskia Laroo and vocalist Theresa Wright are just some of the notable performers who have graced the stage.

NIGHTCLUB

BAR
New Haven, (203) 495-8924 (barnightclub.com).
Since opening in August 1991, BAR has been at the epicenter of New Haven nightlife, for dancing, dining or just hanging out. You can dance the night away in BARtropolis, where DJs play everything from hip hop and house music to samba and R&B, or pile into a booth in the BruRoom to enjoy BAR's own microbrewed beers (blonde, amber, pale and stout) and a slice or two of its renowned thin-crust brick-oven pizza. Or have a cocktail or two at the bar in the Front Room and shoot some pool. Whatever your nightlife style, BAR is the place.

SANGRIA

Barcelona
South Norwalk, (203) 899-0088, and other locations (barcelonawinebar.com)
Drinks anyone? Sangria at Barcelona is a must-taste for all wine aficionados. This refreshing take on the fruity red-wine drink includes Peachtree schnapps, triple sec, amaretto, a splash of Sprite and fresh fruit. Barcelona typically uses popular apples and oranges, but others can be used if you like. Get a pitcher-it's a great accompaniment to the Spanish fare.

SPORTS BAR

Rookies Sports Bar & Grille
Cromwell, (860) 635-1860 (rookiesct.com)
Rookies is the place to be if you love watching sports or enjoy throwing a few back (and especially, if you like doing both at the same time). They've got a bar offering more than 30 seasonally changing beers and hard ciders on tap, a menu of delicious bar food and so much more-70 TVs televising every NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, college football and Division 1 college basketball game, and live entertainment nightly. What more could you ask for? Ah, that's right, drink specials: Don't miss $3 martinis on Sundays, $4 microbrews and imported beers on Mondays, and two-for-the-price-of-one drinks on Tuesdays.

Best of Connecticut 2009: Nightlife

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