My friends and I always seem to be looking for things to do, and lately those things have taken the form of events, specifically fundraisers. I’m not sure if it’s because we now have money to spend on charitable causes or because we feel like we need an excuse to consume alcoholic beverages (“I didn’t want to drink five martinis, but it was for a good cause”), but this is how it’s been playing out.
Luckily, in Ann Arbor, a lot of good causes seem to team up with good food and beverages, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. I spend money on food and booze – which I would do anyway – and someone or something (rather than just me and my tastebuds) benefits.
Last Friday night, the Ann Arbor Art Center hosted their third annual Artini Martini Crawl. Eight bars and restaurants created a signature martini for the event. Your admission to the event got you six tickets, which could be “spent” on these martinis at the participating establishments. Attendees were also given a voting card. The idea was to try six different martinis and vote on the best, although I’m sure some participants used multiple tickets on one or two favorites. The bars were all located in the general Main Street area, so you could “crawl” easily from one to another.
Rose, Diane, and I – and Diane’s friend Erik, to whom we accidentally communicated that there would be other men attending with us – thought this sounded intriguing, so we happily contributed our tax-deductible ticket price to the Art Center and hit the town for some martinis.
Our first stop was the Black Pearl, which was featuring a hot chocolate martini. I’m not a fan of chocolate drinks, but I tried to put personal preferences aside for judgment purposes. I suppose it was a tasty beverage; however, the hot drink in the martini glass just seemed off somehow. It was also very rich, and, our group agreed, probably not the best martini to start a crawl with.
Stop number two was Melange, where they were serving up something blue. It was generally refreshing, but maybe a tad too sweet. Melange’s loungey, basement atmosphere was fun, though, and it felt very appropriate to be drinking a martini there.
We hit the Jolly Pumpkin third. By this time, Artini was starting to hit full-steam, so it was a little more crowded than our previous destinations. Jolly Pumpkin was a bit disappointing right off the bat because their martinis were being served in plastic cups rather than martini glasses. We definitely understood from a practicality standpoint, but it did take some of the fun out of things. (They were garnished, however, with amazingly cut and curled carrots.) The martini itself was a mixture of mango, pepper vodka, curry, and probably several other things. We were put off by it – the texture was too thick, and the curry made it seem like something that should be on a plate rather than in a glass.
Fourth stop was Cafe Felix, where we were treated to a truly delightful concoction of cucumber and mint flavors. It was clean, crisp, cool…basically, any “breezy” adjective you can think of. We considered having two of the Felix martini, but a swarm of incoming attendees took over the bar and it became too difficult to get a second drink.
Last stop for us before dinner was Cafe Habana, a Cuban-themed restaurant. We were actually able to snag some seats at the bar, which was great after walking around for the past couple hours. The martini looked like a cosmopolitan – pale pink in color with a lime garnish – but actually gained its color from pomegranate juice. Other flavors were ginger and mint. We considered it a high note and worthy of being the last martini of the night.
All in all, the event was fairly well-run. We didn’t hit huge clusters of people until our third stop. Most of the bars had a designated area set up to deal with the crowds. Cafe Felix was the only place where we had any kind of wait to get our beverages. We had a great time, and probably spent less on tickets than we would normally spend for a night on the town, and got more variety to boot.
Perhaps being part of the old, lame fundraiser crowd isn’t so bad.