Even from my miraculous birth, my name has been synonymous with alcohol. I share the same name as a very expensive bottle of wine; my mother used to drink a glass of wine before she nursed me in the evenings to help me fall asleep, and my first official postnatal drink was champagne dipped strawberries with Robert Goulet at the Tampa Yacht Club. By the time I was five, I could properly poor a glass of wine, and by my 10th birthday, I was a pro at making my Oma dry gin martinis; sometimes with olives, sometimes with pickled onion. Like Mick Jagger, I am a man of wealth and taste…except that I am a woman.
With credentials like these, it’s no wonder the Tampa Bay Food Monster asked me to handle his cocktail assignment when he was unable to do so. I’ve been with him on several other cocktail testing excursions and was always pleasantly surprised by the caliber of each place we reviewed, so when TBFM told me I would be trying cocktails at Ruby Tuesday, I was skeptical. However, I have never and will never turn down a free drink. My very good friend and the photographic genius whose work you see in this entry went along to test the alcoholic waters, and we present our findings to you, dear reader.
First, the staff at this particular Ruby Tuesday was fabulous. They were friendly and inviting while maintaining a high level of professionalism. Our waitress gave us personal recommendations, the restaurant and district managers (Donna and Phil) introduced themselves to us, and the bartender (Katy) stopped by to introduce herself to us and ask how we were enjoying ourselves. The staff walked us through their new line of cocktails, explaining that they were developed in the Ruby Tuesday corporate headquarters in Tennessee with very specific goals in mind. The results were, for the large part, outstanding.
Ruby Tuesday has undergone an extreme makeover since I was a kid, not just in terms of its décor, but also in terms of the kinds and quality of food served in their restaurants. The décor at this branch was clean, sleek, and simple. Whereas before, Ruby Tuesday had walls cluttered with kitsch and celebrity paraphernalia, the new Ruby Tuesday has more of a modern bistro feel, with square plates and safe, pleasant artwork. When I asked about the change in outward appearance, one of the managers explained that RT had intentionally embraced the bistro feel to evoke a “fresh” dining experience. Donna also explained that RT restaurants are committed to using healthier, organic ingredients and serving appropriate portions of their meals without compromising guest satisfaction. Regardless of their level of commitment to organics, or “real food” movements, it is clear that this corporation is acutely aware of current culinary/health trends and is trying to fulfill the varied expectations of today’s eater. Donna did not mention whether or not their ingredients were local, but this does not exclude the possibility.
Appealing to a trendy, quality conscious audience does not stop at the dinner menu at Ruby Tuesday; it extends right into cocktail hour. Most of the newer cocktail creations are made from “super fruits” that have emerged on the market in the last five years. Where possible, they are also made with VeeV, an acai berry derived alcohol. According to VeeV, acai is the world’s “premier super fruit” with 57% more antioxidants than the pomegranate. Firstly, I had no idea that pomegranate had ever been the reigning super fruit, and secondly, when did we start judging our fruit so harshly? Just one banana has enough potassium to fulfill your daily requirement, but I don’t think it’s ever been called a “super fruit” let alone a “premiere” super fruit. Poor banana. Your day will come.
But I digress… I suppose the real, burning question here is: does acai derived alcohol with antioxidants make drinking healthy? Can I give my liver the night off and still get krunk? Apparently so. Not only is drinking VeeV good for your heart with all those anti-oxies, it is also hangover-free!? Can it be? I very rarely get hangovers anyway so I can’t speak to this issue. What I can tell you is that I woke up the next morning feeling just like I would any other morning. Finally, the production of VeeV apparently has a very low carbon footprint. So not only has Ruby Tuesday made drinking healthy, you can also rest assured that by drinking one of these cocktails, you are being a responsible, conscientious citizen of the world. Cheers!
But enough about that. Let’s get down to brass tacks here. The first cocktail we tried was the Acai (ah-sigh-ee) Mojito. This was, hands down, our favorite of the night. It was made with acai juice, sugar cane, fresh mint, and agave nectar.
It was georgeous! The color and presentation were beautiful and it tasted fresh and sweet, with a bit of tang, and a nice minty bite. Being Cuban, I’ve developed definite opinions about my mojitos and generally don’t like people to mess with the recipe too much. The Acai Mojito is a great way to update this classic drink. The key to a good cocktail is always balance. Perhaps because acai is such a light tasting fruit, it didn’t overpower the mint or sugar cane, generally the flavors people know and love in their mojitos.
Next we tried the Skinny Lavender Lemon Drop.
The lemon drop is my favorite cocktail of all time so I was ready to be disappointed. The drink tasted like a lemon drop. This was surprising to me because the title promised so much more than a lemon drop. Made with sweetened lemon juice, absolute citron, and a lavender infusion, I expected the lavender to be a more prominent flavor than it was. The magic behind this cocktail is watching it turn from yellow to pink after the lavender teabag is left to steep in the drink for a while. The teabag itself smells amazing but doesn’t make a huge improvement on the traditional lemon drop. I think it’s definitely worth a try but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find this particular lemon drop. The tried and true will do.
Next up was the Skinny Pink Lemonade and the Pomegranate Margarita. The margarita was made with POM (a pomegranate juice) and VeeV, and sweetened with agave nectar. Neither one of these drinks really made an impression on either of us. However, the main benefit of the Skinny Pink Lemonade is that it is under 200 calories, so those of us watching our diets can enjoy ourselves too! For a diet conscious drinker, this cocktail is worth a try. As for the margarita, I recommend skipping it in favor of one of the other cocktails on the menu.
Finally, we tried the Superfruit Cooler.
We were unsure about this cocktail at the start of this evening because its ingredients include: Elderflower liqueur, acai vodka, and cucumber in addition to the VeeV and agave sweetener. I’ve never had Elderberry anything and wasn’t sure how it would taste. However, our waitress highly recommended it to us and having already had so many other cocktails, we were pretty much up for anything. Out of left field, this sweet little jewel proved to be the surprise star of the evening, ranking number two just under the mojito. It was subtle, sweet, and refreshing. The cucumber flavor was very prominent but, being a watery veggie, complimented the other flavors very well without overpowering them. In my opinion, this is a perfect summer drink. I could envision myself on the beach with a good book and a pitcher of Superfruit Cooler.
My evening at Ruby Tuesday was a pleasure! For both the photographer and myself, the standout drinks of the evening were the Acai Mojito and the Superfruit Cooler. I highly recommend making a trip to your local Ruby Tuesday for cocktails just to try these two specialties. Even though your drinks are packed full of superfruits, antioxidants, and booze that won’t destroy you the next day, don’t kid yourself; you are still drinking. Enjoy these creations responsibly and in moderation. This has been a Public Service Announcement, brought to you by the Tampa Bay Booze Monster.