Ciao Baci bartender Lee Edwards is the first to say that the 2004 vote for Best Martini probably did not hinge entirely on the quality of his concoctions. Like the glass that holds the drink, atmosphere plays a crucial role.
"People walk in and feel like they are at a friend's house," Edwards says of Ciao Baci.
Owner Suzanne Boscarolo and manager Megan Bohmova have cultivated a casual but sophisticated mood in the converted house. Patrons are not pressured to order food and they are never rushed to leave. The place stays open so late and service is so relaxed that customers often linger past midnight.
That said, the martini and other specialty drinks have become closely identified with the Ciao Baci experience, thanks to Edwards' skill.
"The funny thing is, I started working at Ciao Baci because of wine," Edwards recalls. "The original concept was to raise the consciousness about combinations of wine and food. Martinis and mixed drinks took off more than any of us expected."
As demand for specialty drinks increased, Edwards began developing seasonal offerings that grew into a voluminous drink menu.
Flavored martinis- not the traditional versions of mostly undiluted gin or vodka - are most in demand. Green apple and espresso are recent best sellers. Kitchen staff passed along the blackberries and blood oranges that spice a couple of popular versions of the cosmopolitan.
Were Times readers really thinking about traditional martinis when they voted Ciao Baci the best? Probably not.
"People like the elegance of the martini glass, they like the way it looks in their hand," Edwards observed. "They don't want the seriousness of the bite of alcohol, and they want something to mask the 80-proof vodka. They also like the visual that the colors create." If somebody does order a "real" martini, that no longer means a splash of vermouth to Edwards, unless the customer requests it. He thinks younger drinkers particularly don't like the taste.
Edwards is in touch with his clientele, and they keep him busy. But he does not cheat on quality when the crowd is two-deep around the small bar.
"I try to accent a drink the same way at 11:30 as I do at 5 o'clock," Edwards said. "Every glass is chilled the same amount. I guess that can translate into popularity."
The owner of The Gun Cave Indoor Shooting Range in Hot Springs, Jan Morgan, announced yesterday that she is banning the presence of Muslims in her business. Her reasoning: "Why would I hand guns and ammunition to people whose religion commands them to kill me and my non-muslim patrons?" OK, let's get that lawsuit rolling.
North Carolina's ABC affiliate reports on hundreds of thousands of mailers with false information about voter registration sent by Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers. The official-looking mailers gave the wrong deadline for voter registration and told people to sign up with the wrong state agency. The mailers also gave the wrong office for questions regarding voter registration, the wrong zip code for turning in a voter registration form, and inaccurate information about how people would be notified of their precinct.
Good piece in Politico from Stanford sociology professor Doug McAdam on the roots of our modern partisan divide. McAdam tells the familiar story of how the South flipped, as yellow dog Democrats in the old Confederacy abandoned the party in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.
The Pulaski sheriff's office reported early this morning that the body of Beverly Carter, the real estate agent apparently abducted while showing a home near Scott Thursday evening, had been found in a shallow grave near Cabot. The charges against Arron Lewis, her suspected abductor, have been upgraded to capital murder.
Sen. Mark Pryor today began what the campaign is dubbing a "Women for Pryor" statewide tour. Pryor is highlighting Cotton's votes against paycheck fairness legislation and the Violence Against Women Act (all together now: the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to do so). Pryor was joined by his mother, the former first lady of Arkansas Barbara Pryor, at this morning's event at the Fresco Cafe in Fayetteville. Events will be held across the state to mobilize women in support of Pryor to vote.