By Sara McAninch // Photography by Stacy Able
You sit down at a restaurant and order a cocktail. Maybe you’ve ordered it before, or maybe it’s the first time you’ve tried it. Regardless, you’re pleasantly surprised when it arrives at your table and there’s that little something extra that begs to be shared with others. Excited, you pull out your smartphone, snap a picture and post it to your Instagram account. Here are four such cocktails from in and around Indianapolis.
Tiki Bowl at Lotus Garden
49 W. Mercator Drive, Greenwood
Located just off U.S. 31 in Greenwood, Lotus Garden is a family-owned Chinese restaurant that’s been in business since 1965. With its traditional decorations in vibrant red (and heavy on the lanterns) Lotus Garden might not seem like the best spot for a tiki-style drink to accompany your sweet and sour chicken. But there it is, right on the menu: the tiki bowl.
At the base of the beverage is Bacardi black and light rums and soda water. Pineapple, orange and lemon juices, along with crème de banana, give the cocktail a tropical flavor that brings to mind warm sand, a lot of sun and palm trees. Served in a special glass that has a hollowed-out center, the drink is lighted on fire when it’s brought to your table.
Not into flaming concoctions? Manager Jeff Tam’s alternative cocktail is the house specialty, Dr. Wong’s Tonic. This slightly sweet drink is a mix of black rum, sweet vermouth, grenadine, almond-flavored liqueur, coconut-flavored liqueur, soda water and a splash of pineapple and lemon juices. Like the tiki bowl, this drink is also served in a unique glass.
Lotus Garden also has two dining rooms. In the first room you are served by staff members and order off a menu; the other room has a full buffet containing appetizers, salad and more than 10 popular entrees. Have a large group? That’s not a problem at Lotus Garden. Its party room can easily hold 50 to 60 people, and you can order off the regular menu or request a special one. If you’re not a fan of Chinese food, the restaurant also serves American fare: prime rib, chopped steak, hamburgers and cheeseburgers.
The Aviator at Big Woods Franklin
1800 E. King St., Franklin
Don’t let the soft violet color of the aviator cocktail at Big Woods Franklin fool you. It contains a heap of flavor in a chilled coupe glass. The main spirit is Fords Gin, which contains pine and juniper flavors when you first taste it and ends with notes of orange and lemon. The result is a “really refreshing gin,” according to Harrison Downing, beverage and hospitality manager for Big Woods Quaff On Hard Truth.
The beverage also contains fresh lemon juice, a Luxardo cherry on the bottom of the glass, a little bit of cherry syrup and the crowning ingredient: crème de violette. Not only does the liqueur add a floral and sweet violet flavor, but it also lends the concoction its famous pale purple color. This Prohibition-era drink is the restaurant’s take on the traditional aviation cocktail.
If you want to grab a bite to go with your beverage, Downing recommends the shrimp egg rolls on the appetizer menu because the bright citrus mandarin dipping sauce will “bring out some of the notes of the gin.” The ancient grain bowls, complete with fresh pesto, are also a nice earthly complement to the sweetness of the drink.
While Big Woods Franklin is located on the grounds of Hillview Country Club, the restaurant is open to the public. The woodsy, rustic feel of the place mirrors the other Big Woods locations, while the sweeping green view of the golf course is unique. Televisions on the wall are often on the Golf Channel, but the staff will gladly turn on the big game if you request it.
Painkiller at The Inferno Room
902 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis
When you step into The Inferno Room, you quickly lose track of time. From the jungle vibe and Polynesian décor, to the exotic music softly playing over a hidden speaker system, it’s easy to forget that downtown Indianapolis is only a few short blocks away. Throw in a couple of drinks from the extensive bar menu and the only reason you’ll pick up your phone is to take a picture of your cocktail.
One of the more popular tiki drinks, and a best-seller at The Inferno Room, is the painkiller. Served in a hollowed-out coconut shell, the concoction contains a taste of the tropics with rum, coconut and pineapple. Once the garnishes, including a pineapple leaf and wedge, a live orchid and custom swizzle, are added, the drink gets a dash of fresh grated nutmeg. The combination is “the perfect storm of ingredients,” according to co-owner Ed Rudisell. Available in regular or prescription strengths, which includes all the main ingredients plus an over-proof rum, the painkiller will ease whatever ails you.
Should hunger come knocking at your tiki hut, Rudisell recommends the crab Rangoon. Made with fresh lump crab meat and tarragon, the appetizer continues the tropical taste bud teasing. Other complementary dishes are the pork or jerk chicken kabobs.
Although you won’t see Don the Beachcomber, Steve Crane or any of the other giants of Polynesian pop roaming the restaurant, you will be surrounded by preserved palm trees, skulls, handmade wood carvings, rattan and authentic décor purchased at an estate sale from a guy who spent 16 years conducting anthropological studies in Papua New Guinea. That, combined with the laid-back feel of the restaurant, makes for the perfect escape.
S’mores Martini at Bar Louie
1251 U.S. 31, Greenwood
Spring means that colder temperatures are slowly shuffling out, but the evening air still feels a bit frosty. The s’mores martini at Bar Louie is the perfect cocktail to make you think about nights snuggled up near a warm bonfire as you chase away the chill.
The beverage’s base is Absolut Vanilia vodka and Godiva chocolate liqueur, which infuses the cocktail with flavors of comforting vanilla and rich chocolate. Half-and-half and toasted marshmallow syrup round out the flavors. To build on the s’mores taste, Bar Louie’s bartenders add a drizzle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup and a mini marshmallow garnish. Before arriving at your table, the martini glass is rimmed in more chocolate syrup and crushed graham crackers. The result is a picture-worthy cocktail that still has the taste of gooey marshmallow without the sticky fingers.
Looking for the perfect food pairing to go with your s’mores cocktail? General Manager Dan Bennett recommends the chocolate cake. With six layers of cake and mousse, both chocolate of course, plus a fudge topping, this decadent dessert is a sweet treat lover’s dream. If that pairing is too much sweetness for one sitting, however, Bennett also recommends the voodoo pasta. The house-made spicy sauce with its proprietary blend of spices, combined with sautéed shrimp, andouille sausage, onion, peppers, garlic, parsley and cavatappi pasta, is a savory counterbalance.
If you’ve never been to Bar Louie, expect to experience a trendy restaurant that also has a laid-back feel. This family-friendly place has booths for cozy conversations and televisions at the bar with all the big sports games playing. In the warmer months, the outdoor patio is open, and it’s perfect for sipping a cocktail while enjoying the gas fireplace and live music on Thursday nights.