There's a cocktail revolution afoot. It's not just that martinis are back. That wave has already crested. But tropical drink sales have increased. Wine and hard liquor -- formerly like oil and water -- are now mixed. And well-known chefs add spices like cardamom to alcohol for concoctions that have more in common with food than, well, drinks.
This revolution has reached its apotheosis at Trina, the culinary jewel in the crown of the new beachfront Atlantic Hotel (601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-567-8070). Trina's signature cocktail list runs to 17 entries. There's a clove martini made with clove syrup, vanilla vodka, and star anise; and a blueberry daiquiri composed of white rum, lime juice, blueberry syrup, and "drunken blueberries."
Fresh juices for the drinks are hand-squeezed, and most of Trina's fruit infusions and syrups -- and all of its cocktail onions, maraschino cherries, and marinated olives -- are made in-house under the direction of Nick Mautone, formerly a managing partner at New York's beloved Gramercy Tavern and author of the cocktail tome Raising the Bar. Mautone has been credited with a major role in the cocktail revolution. Says he: "Bartending is a little like having your own chemistry set. You're mixing and matching."
But the explosions at Trina happen in the mouth rather than in the lab. Take the Trinatini ($12), the restaurant's eponymous cocktail. This lavish drink is complex and decadent. It's composed of vodka, mandarin Napoleon liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juices, verjus (a sour nectar pressed from unripe grapes), lavender syrup, and pomegranate molasses. You don't so much quaff this concoction as unravel it; it gives up its pleasures in layers, alternately tart, musty, floral, mineral, and sweet, until that last sip of lavender-scented honey, tender as a sigh and flecked with one or two tiny flower buds, at the bottom of the glass.
"I've always been enamored of that [cocktail] ritual," Mautone admits. "We've gotten away from it, but it's a harkening back to a way we used to be -- where you can just take a few minutes and unwind, chill out before dinner, so that you're ready to appreciate what follows. It's a very civilized way to begin a meal."
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.