Best of Connecticut 2010: Nightlife

Best Creative Cocktails. 116 Crown, New Haven

Best Creative Cocktails. 116 Crown, New Haven

Julie Bidwell

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Griswold Inn
Essex, (860) 767-1776 (
Everyone from George Washington to Robert De Niro has been served in the Griswold Inn’s Tap Room, everything a great bar should be. Stop by for a chilled mug of the Gris’ own Revolutionary Ale and you’ll know why it’s a winner year after year.


Willimantic Brewing Co.
Willimantic, (860) 423-6777 (
Housed in a historic granite-and-limestone 1909 U.S. Post Office building, Willimantic Brewing brews more than a dozen handcrafted beers per month; our picks include Downtown Willi India Dark Ale, Carrier’s Credo Cream Ale and Rail Mail Rye. There are also dozens of craft microbrews on tap (many from New England), and lots of entertainment options, from beer tastings and beer dinners to theme parties and movie nights.


Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theatre
Uncasville, (888) 226-7711 (
With 350 seats and not one of them offering anything less than a fantastic view, the Cabaret Theatre at Mohegan Sun brings you face-to-face with top performers and stand-up comedians. Past performers to grace the cabaret stage include Tony Orlando, the Indigo Girls, Julie Wilson and Tony Bennett, and there’s also a side-splitting comedy show every Friday and Saturday night—Jim Gaffigan and Kathleen Madigan have appeared in the past.


Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (860) 862-2626 (
In the often closed-in world of casinos, Margaritaville offers an unusual feature: an elevated outdoor area called the Porch of Indecision with tables and chairs and views of the Thames River. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and a breath of fresh air before re-entering the fray. It’s also the ideal spot to sample one of the restaurant’s signature drinks, such as Off to See the Lizard, 5 O’Clock Somewhere, Incommunicado, License to Chill and Why Don’t We Get Drunk & . . .?


Tisane Euro-Asian Cafe
Hartford, (860) 523-5417 (
The Bloody Mary has come a long way from its origins as hair-of-the-dog/brunch cliché. These days, according to Frank Bruni of the Times, it’s a “liquid salad” into which you can “pour any kind of alcohol” and “cram hunks of vegetables.” We love Tisane’s “Bloody Good Mary”—and confess we’re glad they stuck with vodka. Made with house-infused vegetable vodka and their super-secret 12-ingredient Mary mix, it’s garnished with celery, olives and pepperoncini.


The Loft
South Norwalk, (203) 838-6555 (
For a winning cosmopolitan, look no further than SoNo’s chic, sexy Loft on Washington Street. One of the state’s first martini bars (it opened in 1997) and still going strong, the Loft makes its tasty cosmos with Smirnoff vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice. And if that doesn’t suit your mood, there are 19 other exciting martini drinks to choose from, plus live music three nights a week.  


116 Crown
New Haven, (203) 777-3116 (
It’s hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with the Church Key (a mix of Aalborg Akvavit, passion fruit purée, ginger simple syrup and apple cider foam on the rocks) or a Plum Frost (plum wine, Vermont Spirits vodka, Luxardo Triplum and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, straight up in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and garnished with a micro-orchid). We could go on for pages and still not cover all the possibilities. Suffice it to say that all the purées, syrups and foams are housemade (including the pomegranate-flavored grenadine in 116’s Shirley Temple), many of the garnishes come from the garden out back and that there’s no more dramatic place to enjoy some cheer than this refurbished  former hotel’s green onyx bar.


Doc’s Trattoria
Kent, (860) 927-3810 (
Few cocktails have the cultural traction of the Manhattan. Sinatra swung to them; the women of “Sex and the City” saluted New York with them; they were a big part of Jack Kerouac’s life On the Road. Much of the drink’s longevity and “cool” factor is due to its versatility: Our pick is the elderflower Manhattan at Doc’s—Maker’s Mark, St-Germain, bitters, dry vermouth. Lighthearted and a little sweet with a roundhouse kick. Perfection.


The Scorpion Bar
Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, (860) 204-6366 (
Not surprisingly, a bar that offers 100 different types of tequila also creates margaritas that are among the best anywhere. Being able to select from the finer tequilas is the first step, then making your own special sour mix as The Scorpion Bar does is great second step. Mix well with Patrón Citronge, agave nectar, ice and, of course, salt, pour into a wide glass and then sit back to enjoy! 


Fairfield, (203) 292-6916 (
We’ll take Paris . . . or Fairfield, if it’s Martel. This classic bistro is our go-to place for the best martinis around. Our favorite, the slightly frothy, barely pink French Martini—vodka, Chambord, pineapple juice and a twist—packs a powerful punch.
Meet your girlfriends for cosmos (delish), or opt for a dirty martini on date night (ooh-la-la). Either way, pair it with a cheese fondue for two, and you’ll have us at ‘Bonjour.’


New Haven, (203) 772-4002 (
If there’s a highball zazzier than the mojito, we haven’t found it. Introduced during World War II at Havana’s famed La Bodeguita del Medio (and beloved by the bar’s frequent patron Ernest Hemingway), this trifecta of white rum, lime and muddled mint leaves is celebrated in high style Monday through Friday at the Elm City’s Nuevo Latino mecca Pacifico. Stop by for the 4:30-6:30 Happy “Mojo” Hour ($5 a pop) and dig the complimentary tapas, or kick up your spike heels to the Latin rhythms at the Friday Night Mojito Lounge.


Asian Bistro
Mansfield, (860) 456-8316 ( and Shelton, (203) 926-1933 (
The main ingredients are pretty straightforward—sake, Triple Sec and vodka—but the amounts and the way they are all mixed together are what sets the Asian Bistro apart in the world of saketinis. It’s a perfect complement to a great meal, or a fine experience all on its own.

Best of Connecticut 2010: Nightlife

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