OK, everyone knows that mixology has finally made it to Richmond. Upscale establishments like Julep's and Lemaire have outstanding bartenders serving all sorts of herbal-infused, muddled or outlandishly garnished grown-up beverages. For this story, we sought out a variety of dining establishments to see what sort of specialty beverages could be served to both mother and daughter.
Kenn-Tico Cuban Bar & Grill
204 E. Grace St., 225-9216
Karen says: Dining downtown always makes for an adventure, and Kenn-Tico did not disappoint. I sampled the traditional Mojito Cubano ($7), though there is an entire mojito menu. Mine had all the requisite ingredients – Bacardi, fresh mint, lime simple syrup and seltzer — for a refreshing summer classic. This funky bistro also offers a variety of Latin soft drinks and some unusual house-made milkshakes.
Halle says: There were several Hispanic sodas, which was cool. The Materva ($1.85) tasted sort of like cream soda merged with root beer and had a slight spiciness to it. Our piano teacher joined us, and he ordered the mamey milkshake ($3.75), which we had the hardest time trying to describe. Cary, my sister, thought it tasted like sweet potato, and that's the closest we could get. It was mild and sweet, and the waiter said the stuff they make it from comes directly from Cuba via Miami, so it's quite authentic.
2601 W. Cary St., 562-0138
Karen says: With creative names like "Caught in the Rain" and "Also Known As," the challenge was picking from an extensive list of specialty drinks and old standards. I ended up choosing "Also Known As" ($7), a gorgeous pale pink blend of Vina Vieja, Pisco Vargas, bits of fresh watermelon, crushed pink peppercorn and lime served in a tall, skinny highball.
Halle says: I tried the kid version of something on the menu called a "Summer Squash," which featured house-made lemon-ginger beer and strawberry purée. The best part was watching the bartender make it right in front of me. She made another drink for my sister with kiwi purée in it, but we liked this one much better. Apparently they make up drinks for people all the time, and all you have to do is say fruity, sour or sweet, and then they just start having fun putting all the different combinations together.
9125 W. Broad St., 762-9330
Karen says: Mekong's sister restaurant serves nine kinds of daiquiris for an affordable indulgence ($5.50 with alcohol and $3.95 without), along with one of the best beer selections in Richmond. On a hot and muggy day, nothing satisfies like a crispy spring roll and a Belgian-style ale. My Blanche de Chambly, a Canadian microbrew, was mildly malty and slightly sweet ($5).
Halle says: The drink containers were really cool. They were ceramic and looked like pretend bamboo. I've never seen so many delicious flavors to pick from — kiwi (which Cary ordered), pineapple, guava, papaya, strawberry, banana, coconut, peach and mango (which is what I ordered). They kind of reminded me of a really good Slurpee. We got fortune cookies with our drinks, which was really fun, too.
2915 W. Cary St., 342-1003
Karen says: When the weather is super hot, I just can't eat too much. The thought of a gooey dessert is no longer appealing, but a liquid end to a summer meal in Carytown hits the spot. The Creamsicle Martini ($9) conjured up childhood memories of the Good Humor Man — the vanilla vodka, whipped-cream vodka and orange juice served in a giant, chilled martini glass went down oh so smoothly.
Halle says: Their "Bon Bon" was made with orange juice and a splash of grenadine, done in a shaker with a pretty fruit garnish of cherry, lime and orange. It was like a special Shirley Temple. Bonvenu is also really close to Bev's Homemade Ice Cream, so Mommy and her friend, Russ, took us there afterwards.
522 N. Second St., 888-8058
Karen says: The hippest dining zone in Richmond now is Jackson Ward, and sipping one of their champagne cocktails on the second-floor balcony could not be a more perfect warm-weather respite. Halle and I split a yummy Gouda-and-caramelized-onion pizza, while I enjoyed a "Gracie" ($5) — champagne, organic lemonade and a simple syrup made of basil and lemon; the concoction was garnished with a lemon slice, of course.
Halle says: The organic peach-infused tea ($1.95) was black tea but with a sweet, fruity flavor and a pretty sprig of fresh mint and a whole slice of lemon. I liked it so much I had two!