A friend of mine, who worked at the now closed Uptown Peasant in Phipps Plaza, told me a story about a certain Atlanta media mogul who came up with the perfect plan to enjoy a cocktail at lunch without anyone noticing. He would order a bowl of the restaurant's gazpacho and quietly ask the waiter to "walk the soup by the bar and sneak in a shot of vodka." He would often enthusiastically enjoy two or three bowls of this special gazpacho while the rest of the guests wondered when he would move on to the entrée.
Quick thinking and vision served this media mogul well in many areas of his business life and even the gazpacho caper proved he was again ahead of his time.
Today we'd honor his ingenuity as advanced mixology – blending ingredients from the kitchen with libations from the bar.
Take the Bloody Mary on the bar menu at TAP for instance. No pre-made mix in the bottle for this brand new Midtown "gastro pub"- instead the juice is made from fresh heirloom tomatoes and garnished with a colorful combo of in-house pickled green bean, baby turnip, radish and can-ya-believe this- a Brussels sprout?! I asked the bubbly and petite TAP server Kellie Thorn about the popularity of food as drink today and she jumped right in, "Oh, any food or beverage today tastes best with fresh and seasonal ingredients and mixologists are doing that too. Like key fresh limes for a margarita instead of a mix, a lot of people want minimal sugar."
So, expect to start eating (or drinking) your vegetables at Happy Hour now too. Restaurant Eugene's Mixologist Greg Best adds frozen English cucumbers to his Gloria's Gimlet and Chef Linton Hopkins pickles his own cocktail onions. Relax before dinner at Floataway Café with a Watermelon Martini or Vodka Lemonade and know that chef/owner Annie Quatrano's reputation for raising the culinary bar on using organic and local produce is happening at her bar, too.
At Trois, where "on the rocks" means using only hand cracked ice, you can expect cocktails with foodie menu descriptions such as "green tea and mint infused" or "cinnamon, clove, and star anise perfumed." Poised, slender and decked out in white jeans and sleek black top, Leslie Smith, of Tallahassee who visits Atlanta often to check out the shopping and dining scene says, "I think these drinks certainly sound more appealing." She likes the idea of more attention to taste in drinks but cautions that doesn't always mean it's a healthier choice at happy hour, "There's a super sweet cocktail at Bonefish Grill called Key Lime Pie that comes with Graham cracker cookie crumbs on the rim of the glass. I guess you'd just have to call that dessert!"
And whether it's a Pomegranate potion made with a syrupy liqueur or a Chocolate Martini with sugar on the rim these super sweet sippers will, of course, be higher in calories than a basic vodka and soda. Which brings us to the real action for body conscious calorie counters at the bar. According to Thorn who has worked happy hour crowds at other Atlanta bars before joining TAP, "Flavored vodkas with club soda are so popular with women watching their weight. They have moved on from rum and Diet Coke." Someone should tell the folks presently marketing Coke Zero and Bacardi.
How much nutritional benefit there is to quaffing fresh fruit purees or vegetables juices with a libation depends on how much is in the drink. The juice in a Bloody Mary is a sizeable enough portion to give you the goodness of tomatoes but a splash of cucumber essence isn't really delivering much more than flavor. But, if you like grapefruit juice or orange juice in your drinks it's interesting to note that folate, the B vitamin found in citrus and other fruit including strawberries and cantaloupe may dampen alcohol's effect on breast cancer. A study done at the Harvard Medical School, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who had at least one alcoholic drink a day or more, were 89% less likely to develop breast cancer if they had high levels of folate in their blood, compared to those with the lowest blood levels. So, how about a Cantaloupe Cosmo?
Even happy hour nibbles are experiencing a healthy makeover. While orders of indulgent kettle chips smothered in blue cheese and firecracker fried shrimp are still among the most popular snacks at Marlow's Tavern with locations in Vinings, Alpharetta (and soon to be in Midtown) owner John Metz was really surprised that healthier offerings such as hummus spread with soft tortillas and fresh vegetables became such big sellers, "It's not what we expected. The blackened tilapia wraps with slaw and fresh fruit were a bigger hit than we thought too."
Belly up to the Bar Appetizer Tips:
· To enjoy shared appetizers without overindulging, ask for an empty plate and transfer a portion to your plate so you can keep track of what you're consuming.
· With tapas, don't be fooled by the relatively small size of servings. Two or three small plates is more than enough food (and calories) for most of us.
· Most bartenders expect to serve food to guests and are ready to provide the full treatment. So, if you're sharing fried shrimp for instance, go ahead and make a special request for cocktail sauce or lemons instead of the high calorie tartar sauce it may come with.
Happy Hour Bar Bites:
Edamame beans (1/2 cup) – 80 calories/ 4 grams fat
Hummus spread (1/4 cup) – 100 calories/ 5 grams fat
Fried Calamari (3 oz) – 200 calories/8 grams fat
Fried mozzarella sticks (4) – 300 calories/ 21 grams fat
Buffalo chicken wings (6) - 450 calories/30 grams of fat
Blue Cheese Dressing (2T) – 160 calories/ 16 grams fat
Chicken quesadilla (6 1/2") - 465 calories/ 26 grams fat
Stuffed potato skins (4) – 560 calories/ 40 grams fat
Happy Hour by the Numbers (in typical serving sizes)
Chocolate martíni- - (2oz vodka, 2oz choc liqueur, 2oz cream, 1/2oz dark creme de cacao and choc sauce)
Pina Colada (6 ounces)
Mojito (8 oz glass rum, sugar cane syrup)
Cosmopolitan- (4 oz)
Coffee liqueur (1.5 ounces)
Margarita (5 ounces)
Green apple martíni
(1oz each vodka, sour apple schnapps, apple juice)
Beer (12 ounces)
Martini (2.5 ounces)
Port wine (3 ounces)
100-proof spirits (1.5 ounces)
Bloody Mary (5 ounces)
Red wine (5 ounces)
White wine (5 ounces)
Light beer (12 ounces)
Champagne (4 ounces)
Whether you're drinking a beer or a Bellini, the higher the alcohol content of the booze the higher the calories. Here's how it works with vodka.
Vodka 80 proof (40% alcohol) 64 calories/ 1oz
Vodka 86 proof (43% alcohol) 70 calories/1 oz
Vodka 90 proof (45% alcohol) 73 calories/1 oz
Vodka 100 proof (50%alcohol) 82 calories/1 oz
FYI: People must be very interested in knowing how many calories are in their favorite vodka cocktails because after chicken and pasta, vodka is the next most popular search on calorieking.com