The Northlandhattan at Bellisio's. Photo by Jim Lundstrom.

On a chilly Friday evening, I found myself on Canal Park a full hour before a dinner meeting at Bellisio’s. So many choices.

My left leg was not happy that my choice was Vikre, as far as you can go before hitting the Aerial Lift Bridge. I had just been learning how barometric pressure affects the titanium implant that has been in my left leg since 2010 when a truck hit me on my bike and shattered the leg in six places. The first thing the surgeon said when I woke up was, “Wasn’t that long ago, with that much injury we would have just amputated.”

This recent bout of wintery weather has played hell on my leg. I had to make several stops to recuperate on my way to Vikre, which makes the journey even better, I kept telling myself.

When I finally arrive, two couples are ogling the merchandise in the foyer, and I note the sign saying please wait to be seated at an unoccupied clerk station. I ask one of the waiting women what’s up and am told they’ve signed up for a table of four and have been waiting about five minutes. Then a guy showed up at the station.

“Can I help you?” he said.

“It’s the cocktail hour,” I said.

“Just you?”

After affirming my singularity, I said good luck to the quartet that still waited and the guy brought me up a flight of stairs to the end of a slim counter with a row of bar stools. I took one of the two empty ones at the end. I briefly thought of ordering a flight of the house liquors, but then was intrigued by the cocktail list. There’s a really interesting lineup of house cocktails, but I flipped to the next page and found the classic cocktails, which included one I only recently discovered and was compelled to try.

I ordered from a cocktail waitress, but the bartender delivered the cocktail, which I thought was a nice touch because, otherwise, you don’t have contact with the bartender. There are no seats at the bar, but there is a mix of comfortable lounge table seating and the aforementioned bar stool counter where I was seated.

The Boulevardier is all booze, but through the magic of mixology does not seem such. The magic touch here is a curl of orange peel at just the right place to stimulate the olfactory senses and with each sip fill them with all the spicy exoticism that exists in the pure aroma of orange unleashed just as you take in the whiskey-based drink.

As I neared the last quarter of the Boulevardier, I noticed another drink I had to try. I stil had a half-hour before my dinner meeting, plus another 15 minutes because the person I was meeting is always late, so, yeah, plenty of time for a Mercy, Baku.

I had to have one of these because of one ingredient, Lapsang Souchong tea. It’s a delicious smoked tea that is one of my favorites and is a must-try whenever I see it in any menu. The Mercy, Baku is definitely a dessert drink, possibly the best I’ve ever had. So very many things going on with each delicious sip. This is a drink I must try to replicate.

I was so impressed by the drink that when it came time to pay the bill, I said to the waitress, “Please give my regards to the….” I stopped because I almost said “chef,” but she filled in for me, “bartender,” and I thankfully said, “yes,” but I should have said chef. I consider it a culinary experience. A very yummy one.

But I had to get my butt down the street to Bellisio’s, where, just as I was about to walk in the door, my phone rang. It was the person I was meeting, calling to say he was late. Surprise! He had made a reservation, so I took a seat, and instead of diving into the hefty wine book, I looked at the cocktail menu and had to order a Nothlandhattan, which I hoped would be more than a Manhattan full of ice. It is.

Here is the official description: “Spirit-forward, rich, spicy Tattersall rye whiskey, Two Gingers whiskey, Bernard Abricot Liqueur, Don Ciccio & Figli Luna Apertivo, Bordiga Centum Herbis bitters, lemon juice.”

All of the liquids in this drink – except the lemon juice and bitters, which are green – are in the orange-red spectrum, giving this drink a most marvelous amber glow. I had to look up three of the items – Centum Herbis (100 herbs) is made in the Italian Alps, where the gathered herbs are loaded with essential oils; Luna Apertivo is from a Washington, D.C.-based Italian liqueur maker – Luna can stand in for Campari in either Boulevardier or Negroni recipes; and the Bernard Abricot (or apricot) is also from the Italian Alps – apricot pits are macerated in organic neutral grain spirit, then mixed with mountain spring water and organic cane sugar.

Let me just say how much I appreciate these carefully crafted cocktails. Yum!