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How Sweet It Is

Dana sips an unusual concoction on Avenue M's secluded outdoor patio.
Tuesday Jul 22, 2008.     By Dana Kavan
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Drink of the week: The Mustique

Where you can find it: Avenue M

The damage: $12

Why here? There are few outdoor activities that I enjoy as much as drinking. And while I'll happily grab a seat at any old sidewalk cafe, to truly get the most out of imbibing outside, there's nothing like a plush, well-hidden patio. Avenue M's back patio has all details covered: large rounded pots stocked with flowers, trees lined with white Christmas lights, a tall wooden fence and cushioned seats. The interior's loft-like feel even extends alfresco, with exposed ducts and soaring brick walls rounding out the patio's urban-escape setting; slap a fancy cocktail in my hand, and I could pretty much stay put until September.

How it went down: Avenue M's drink list is divided into martinis, specialty cocktails and champagne cocktails. I'm a huge fan of a good old-fashioned champagne cocktail: a sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters, dropped into a flute and topped off with bubbly. It's so simple and yet so satisfying that I've often thought the new trend of mixing champagne with just about anything has kind of missed the point. When I saw that Avenue M's Mustique mixed dry champagne with light rum, orange juice, lime juice and—gasp—grenadine, I was as intrigued as I was disgusted. Rum and champagne? I had to try it.

When I first saw the ruby-red drink all I could think about was a Shirley Temple, the kiddie cocktail I loved as a seven-year-old but couldn't imagine laced with rum. Indeed, there was certainly a resemblance to the fruity kid's drink, but the flavor reminded me more of a cherry Jolly Rancher. A nice fizz from the champagne hit me at the beginning, followed by a strawberry-citrus bite at the end. It tasted sweeter than most drinks I like, but it wasn't nearly as saccharine as it could've been. Clearly the bartender used a judicious hand when pouring in the sweet stuff.

Would I want to become a regular? As much as I loved stopping by Avenue M's patio on a weeknight, when the patrons were a quiet mix of friends and couples, I doubt it'd be my scene on a weekend. It definitely has a see-and-be-seen kind of feel, with somewhat snobby service, expensive everything (from the $12 drinks to a $44 steak) and posh environs. Would I come back again on a weeknight? Absolutely. Would I order the Mustique again? I'm not so sure. But if you like your bubbly with a bit of childhood nostalgia and touch of sweetness, drink up.

 

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