Coffee, fruit, cream make drinks worth driving after


December 06, 1992|By ROB KASPER

The question was how to make a drink appealing when it doesn't have hooch.

The answers, as I found out while judging a non-alcoholic drink contest the other day, were varied.

Some mixologists took the make-it-taste-like-dessert approach. They filled their alcohol-free drinks with chocolate, whipped cream and, in one case, even tossed in a cookie.

Others replaced one kind of zing, alcohol, with another, caffeine. Still others used the warm-and-cozy technique of replacing an ice cube-filled cocktail with a cup of something hot and comforting.

And finally there was the what-a-friend-we-have-in-fruit-juice approach. Practitioners of this theory crush cranberries, apples, oranges and limes to help their cause.

When the sipping had stopped at the contest, two drinks -- one sweet, one sour -- were declared the best non-alcoholic drinks in Maryland.

The sweet winner, Mandarin Mocha Cocoa mixed up by Sandy Evans and Steve Harris of the Dummer's Lot Pub of the Maryland Inn hotel in Annapolis, tasted like dessert with a cup of coffee.

The sour winner, Chesapeake Cider, whipped up by the trio of Steve Gerike, Jan Esielonis and Matt Tove at Juan Alfredo's Waterfront Cafe in the Annapolis Marriott, had more berries in it than a fruit basket.

The contest, held at Loews Annapolis Hotel, was jointly sponsored by the Maryland division of the American Automobile Association and First Night Annapolis. The First Night group is a collection of Annapolis businesses and organizations that for three years now has thrown a big no-alcohol celebration on New Year's Eve. The restaurants serving up the non-alcohol drinks in this week's contest were, in effect, warming up for the New Year's Eve festivities.

Representatives of the Maryland AAA said the idea of holding this non-alcoholic drink mix-off grew out of similar contests held in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Wilmington. The auto clubs see such contests as one way to attack the problem of drinking and driving.

That may be, but as I prowled around the Annapolis contests sipping drinks, I was not interested in social message. I was looking for flavor and trying to detect the drink-making philosophy of the mixer.

The first two drinks I quaffed, the "Broulet" from Buddy's Crabs and Ribs in Annapolis, and the Barn Burner from Steamboat Landing in Annapolis, were excellent examples of the warm-and-cozy approach.

The Broulet was made by boiling a mixture of tea, red wine -- the alcohol was said to disappear in the boiling -- and fruit. The Barn Burner combined the happy twosome of butter and brown sugar, XTC along with eggs, spices and hot water.

Both drinks were served hot and made my innards glow.

In addition to the winning cocoa, another drink that tasted like dessert was the Chart House Mud Pie Shake. The drink consisted of milk and a piece of the restaurant's mud pie, tossed in a blender. This was served in a glass with whipped cream, peppermint and a cookie. It was the first time I had ever sipped a pie through a straw.

A prime example of relying on coffee for the kick came from the Cafe Northwest Espresso of Herndon, Va. It put a shot of espresso along with some cocoa, sugar and a shot of magical mystery Italian syrup into its Mocha Mint drink. As a coffee fiend, I could see myself drinking this concoction all night.

The most widely held belief of the mixers seemed to be what-a-friend-we-have-in-fruit-juice. Six of the eight drinks had fruit juices in them, with the dominant fruit being the apple.

The Spicy Cider of Armadillo's restaurant in Annapolis took a traditional approach, mixing cider with butter, cloves and brown sugar.

The top tart-tasting drink, Chesapeake Cider, paired cider with cranberry juice, then tossed in an orange, some juniper berries, a taste of honey, and star anise, a spice, and topped it off with bitters. In a nice touch, it was served in the traditional cocktail glass, an eight-sided number called, I am told, the Gibraltar Rocks glass.

The James Grog from the Corinthian restaurant in Annapolis went with hot cranberry juice, mixed with lemons, oranges, limes, honey and spices.

After downing the drinks I drove back to Baltimore, sober as a judge, fruit-stuffed as an orchard.

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