Some may say that chocolate has no place in a cocktail. We beg to differ. Particularly at this time of year, a little extra sweetness helps reduce pre-holiday stress, and increases the ability to enjoy the spirit of the season.
We gave ourselves an early present by sampling from the Twelve Cocktails of Christmas featured during December at FIVE Bistro & Bar. Listed between the Eight Maids a Milking (chili vodka, chocolate liqueur, sugar and cayenne rim) and Ten Ginger Lords (vodka, ginger liqueur, apple cider, gingerbread cookie rim), the Nine Ladies Dancing leapt into a clear lead in a very competitive field.
Since it’s early in the month, bartender Victoriano had yet to tackle the Nine Ladies. This proved not to be a problem for the chemist-by-day, bartender-by-night, however. “Bartending is just like chemistry,” he assures us, as he reviews the ingredients and mixes the requested drink, which he then served in a glass with a cocoa-coated rim.
Yes, it combined sweetness and spirits, easily flowing into a pas de deux that delighted. Imagine your favorite rich, chocolate ice cream, allowed to melt a little bit. Now add a bit of liqueur, swirl it together, close your eyes and sip. Rich and creamy, chocolate with a little kick: very close to heavenly.
FIVE Bistro & Bar is a favorite Berkeley gathering place for theater goers, Cal fans and their rivals, and guests at the Hotel Shattuck. The Golden Bear cocktail, created for Cal alums, scores big with game-day patrons. Opposing team fans may enjoy a specially-created drink as well. “We try to keep everybody happy,” Victoriano explains.
A variety of classic cocktails — with innovative twists — are also available at Five. A re-imagined Moscow Mule, served in the traditional copper mug, is a house favorite.
Whether you prefer a kick from a Mule, or a twirl with the Nine Ladies, you’ll probably find something to toast the season with at FIVE.
The Drink: Nine Ladies Dancing, Grand Marnier cherry, Godiva white and chocolate liqueurs, served up.
Drink(s) to try next time: One down, eleven to go.
The crowd: Cocktail devotees and holiday celebrants.
Behind the Bar: Victoriano “Bartending is just like chemistry” mighty mixologist.
When to go: Pre-theater, post-Cal games; or post-theater, pre-Cal games.
The Deets: FIVE: A Modern American Bistro & Bar, located at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in downtown Berkeley, 2086 Allston Way.
Risa Nye, aka Ms. Barstool, is a freelance writer based in Oakland. She writes the blog Zero to Sixty and Beyond.