Thursday, December 07, 2006

Virgin Cocktails @ Sushi Samba

From my article on cocktails for InsideOut:
The term “virgin cocktails” conjures images of frosty beverages garnished with mini-paper umbrellas and canned maraschino cherries. And of course, the absence of alcohol. For pregnant women, designated drivers or those who are not yet legal (for drinking, that is), the best one could hope for when meeting for cocktails is juice or a carbonated beverage of choice. But cocktail culture is becoming more about using sophisticated ingredients than getting buzzed, and non-alcoholic cocktails are popping up on trendy menus around the globe. Sushi Samba Dromo, the South Beach outpost of the New York-based Brazilian-Japanese chain, glamorizes this neglected cocktail category and restores the honor to virgin cocktails with a healthy selection of non-alcoholic drinks.

The selections are all composed of fresh ingredients, exotic fruits, are labor-intensive and are all quite sweet. From the “Watermelon Mojo”made from fresh squeezed watermelon and kalamancy lime juice served in a martini glass to the “Ruby Smash” with pureed red currants and guava juice shaken and served in a wine glass, the drinks are refreshing but it is the curiously named “Acai Fizz” (above) that deserves the most attention.

The acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), a palm berry fruit harvested in the Amazon rainforest, jammy in texture with a deep purple color, is stirring things up in the energy drink world. These Brazilian berries are nutritional powerhouses boasting vitamins A, C and E and the antioxidant anthocyanin – the healthful pigment found in blueberries and wine.

For the “Acai Fizz” Sushi Samba bartender Leo Lopez cracks an egg white into a cocktail shaker, adds simple syrup and acai puree and homogenizes the mix until it is smooth, frothy and henna-colored. Topping it with the tangy energy drink V + V citrus gives the drink a heart-blasting thump of caffeine and, well, fizz. A velvety sip of the acai cocktail rewards with chocolaty undernotes and a sweetness reminiscent of red bean, a prominent ingredient in Japanese desserts.

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