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Infused Cocktails

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At the sleek Silk Elephant, in Squirrel Hill, there are flavorful "Thai tapas" plates for both vegetarians and flesh-fanciers to share, an impressive wine list and a cozy lounge for grown-and-sexy types looking to celebrate.

And what better way to celebrate -- or just relax after a stressful day -- than by sipping one of Silk Elephant's infused cocktails, such as the venue's signature ginger-lemongrass vodka infusion?

The path to these deliciously doctored drinks typically begins when the infusion feature -- often berries or citrus fruit -- is soaked in a big glass jar with the base alcohol, most often vodka. Gin can also be used, but the sugar content of brown liquors makes them unsuitable. The fruit or herb swims around in the jar for a few days, and is either strained out, in the case of fruit, or left to keep flavoring the booze, such as ginger.

Silk Elephant generally has two infused potions available: the ginger-lemongrass and a rotating second feature, often seasonal.

Last week, the bar was offering a blueberry-infused cocktail. It's cold season, after all, and since blueberries are little anti-oxidant powerhouses, this may count as a feed-a-cold remedy. Cranberry infusions turn up at Christmas time, and summertime sees strawberries in the mix.

"We have a couple bartenders who are great at coming up with different cocktails," says Silk Elephant's sommelier, Jamie Patten. "It's a point of pride."

Fresh ingredients, explains Patten, are the key to creating a cocktail that's flavorful without being too sweet. "It's fresh, not from a mix, which gives it a bright taste," she adds. Mixes tend to taste syrupy-sweet, whereas Silk Elephant's ginger-lemongrass concoction is perky and spicy.

Another notable fruit-and-veg cocktail on offer is the cucumber martini, which, while not an infusion, does bring a unique twist to a stalwart drink. The vegetable is muddled with the vodka and provides a subtle, mellow sweetness. The result is very refreshing and a cool counterpoint to the more fiery dishes at this venue.

The idea of booze-plus-available-produce is as old as mulled wine or mead, Patten says, but as a feature cocktail in restaurants or bars it's a relatively new phenomenon. Silk Elephant's take on the traditional trend certainly invites some reflective sipping.

 

Silk Elephant Thai Tapas and Wine Bar. 1712 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-421-8801

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