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Barbabietola Affumicato at Frasca

I'd gotten to know Bryan Dayton over the past few months through the Colorado Bartenders Guild, and last week his infectious enthusiasm for cocktails finally lured me up to Frasca. That's the five-year-old restaurant started by Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey that's earned rave reviews for Mackinnon-Patterson's work in the kitchen and Stuckey's expertise as a master sommelier. Dayton had just returned from a "stage" (a French term for a work experience) at Violet Hour, the uber-hip speakeasy in Chicago owned by Toby Maloney, formerly of New York's Milk & Honey and Pegu Club, who's considered the darling of the classic-cocktail revival. But Dayton quickly proved that he has a few tricks up his own sleeve by mixing up an amazingly earthy and smoky Barbabietola Affumicato ($11), made with house-pressed beet juice, Sombra Mezcal, Cabo Wabo Blanco, Grand Marnier, agave nectar and fresh lemon. After another cocktail and much discussion of the importance of the right ice in a cocktail (very), whether people still sit at the bar at such a food-driven restaurant (yes) and whether in a restaurant dominated by a fantastic wine program a mere bartender ever feels slighted (no, allegedly), Dayton showed off a new cocktail he's been working on ($10), tentatively titled T.M., since it was inspired by Maloney. Made with Cynar (an artichoke-based bitter), Russell's Reserve Rye Whiskey and an entire egg, it was sweet and bitter at the same time, and perhaps the most bewildering cocktail I've ever tasted. If I didn't love it — which I did — I'm quite sure I'd hate it. Officially, Frasca has three stars — but there's another one behind the bar.

 
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