Drink of the week: Wildflower
Where you can find it: Hot Chocolate
The damage: $12
Why here? Not too long ago, I was the kind of person who licked cookie dough off of spoons and would occasionally pop mini Snickers for breakfast. I constantly pined for chocolate until I hit my mid-20s, when my love for the sugary stuff ended. For some inexplicable reason, I no longer craved sweets. So what's a girl with a defunct sweet tooth supposed to do when her friends plan a meal at Hot Chocolate, a restaurant where it's perfectly acceptable to order dessert for your entree and the owner is Mindy Segal, a James Beard Award-nominee for best pastry chef? Focus on the drinks.
How it went down: It makes sense that a place that puts so much emphasis on dessert also has a quality drink list, keeping the theme of decadent indulgence going. A selection of ales and lagers from small brewers, ranging from the Belgium's Westmalle Monastery to Indiana's Three Floyd's, pairs up with a carefully edited wine list. But I had my eye on the Wildflower, a champagne cocktail among a crew of classic drinks, including a Manhattan, Sidecar and mojito.
A mix of Duval Leroy Champagne, elderflower, orange flower water and lavender, the Wildflower lives up to its name, with every sip offering up a complex bouquet of flavors. The flute comes sprinkled with crunchy sprigs of lavender that are a bit awkward to nibble on, but do impart a nice earthy flavor to the citrusy concoction. The elderflower and orange flower give the drink a perfume-y quality, but it isn't an overpowering flavor. It's all balanced out by the champagne, which tastes crisp and has a dry finish.
Would I want to become a regular? To pair with our drinks, we shared a bowl of mussels, an antipasto platter and a cheese-stuffed brioche, which was heavy on the bread and not so much on the cheese. Though they weren't particularly bountiful dishes, it was enough food to tide us over before our dessert arrived. OK, so I couldn't resist. Going to Hot Chocolate and not ordering dessert would be like going to Hopleaf and not drinking beer. Even if you're someone who doesn't eat sweets, you can't resist Segal's creations; the salted caramel ice cream on top of a round of rich dark chocolate was one of the best salty-sweet combos I've ever had, and we fought over the last bit of the banana-heavy dish. The experience hasn't completely made me a believer in sweets again, but it made me a believer in Hot Chocolate—especially its drinks and desserts.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.