I couldn't wait for Olivea to open, because I'd always liked the feel of the space when it was Aix — cozy and intimate without being claustrophobic — and I thought that the foursome behind Duo who'd bought it (Stephanie Bonin, Keith Arnold, chef John Broening and pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom) would definitely do interesting things here. But when I walked in a few days after Olivea opened, I realized that they'd gone way beyond interesting. The cozy space was more comfortable, because the bar — where I'd eaten most of my Aix meals — has been reconfigured to seat more people and also give the bartenders some breathing room. And it seems the breathing room has encouraged some delightfully innovative drinks. My first order off the specialty cocktail menu was the Basileus Martini ($9). Made with muddled basil, simple syrup, lime and Jack Daniel's (yes, Jack Daniel's), this bourbon mojito did not disappoint — though I probably will ask for a premium bourbon next time, since I think it would step up the drink's bourbon essence. Then I learned that the bar had been working on a number of simple syrups for Italian sodas — cucumber, rosemary, lavender and rhubarb — to both thrill the non-drinking crowd and enhance the cocktail menu. So I tried a Rhubarb Martini ($8), made with Pinnacle vodka and rhubarb simple syrup. Perfectly sweet and tart, it quickly became my new favorite summer drink. And Olivea could be my new favorite summer bar.
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