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Blue Nile's Crocodile Smile Martini: Drink of the week

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Crocodile Smile Martini $8.00

Blue Nile 2027 Franklin Ave. E., Mpls 612.338.3000 website

Stepping into Blue Nile is like entering an alternative universe. While all around the Seward neighborhood people are co-op-ing, bike riding, and sporting backpacks, entering the restaurant and lounge, with its fragrant air full of the scents of Ethiopian cooking--turmeric, garlic, paprika and injera frying like pancakes--while exotic music plays, now this is a good way to forget your worries.

The drink menu at Blue Nile is as colorful as the food. Since I love me the spicy, I tried the Crocodile Smile Martini. For this little number they infuse vodka with their barberre (often spelled berbere) red pepper spice blend that tastes of cumin, cloves, and shallots, and let it sit for a whopping two months. The result is aromatic, copper hued, heavily spiced, and hottie hot hot.

While I bet this potion would be good on its own, it makes for a wicked martini when simply mixed with vermouth, shaken and served up. The vermouth mellows out the spice, so upon first sip you experience only a back-of-the-throat burn and a nice noseful of spice. But as you continue sipping, the heat builds into a full lip-buzzing burn. But the drink is not only hot, it is also full of flavor, with hints of clove and cumin and a slight tartness, similar to the taste of bitters or Cynar liqueur.

If you dare drink one of these babies, in this vibrant atmosphere, I promise that the world will turn into a much more interesting place.