Happy Hour Hound: Atomar

I arrived around 5 p.m. — plenty of time to have a couple of drinks, explore the snacks menu, and split before the 6 p.m. deadline. At 5:15, the sky opened up, the street outside downtown’s Atomar was instantly slick with rain … and nobody was going anywhere. It made for an interesting dynamic. Those of us already there determined to stick it out, some cancelling reservations at other locales, others trying to put off dates and assignations. A few more straggled in, wet, choosing internal irrigation to the external variety. My minty mojito got a fair amount of attention, leading to more orders to the left and to the right. Some folks settled on the skewered beef alambres as an accompanying snack; spicy shrimp nachos with black beans were my choice. If you can’t beat it, you know…

Happy hour at Atomar, which runs from 3-6 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, consists of a list of five specialty cocktails and house red and white wines at five bucks, five platitos at the same price, well drinks at $3.50, and some beers you probably don’t want (except maybe in the rain) at $2.50. Personally, I wasn’t the least bit interested in the Pucker Up Sour Apple Martini or the Acenar Red Sangria, but, in the absence of a Dark and Stormy, the Mexican Martini sounded like a good starter — and it was.

The just chatty and hucksterish enough bartender put on a show pouring from precipitous heights without the aid of so much as a shot glass, shaking, garnishing (the two large olives sandwiching a lime wedge are almost worth the price of admission alone), and presenting with a flourish — and a challenge regarding the amount of olive juice he had added. (“It should really be listed as a dirty Mexican martini,” he admitted.) At one ounce of olive juice, I was anticipating having to be an SOB about it, but no: the chile/salt rim and an extra squeeze of lime did the trick. Considering that everything was well-standard stuff, it was a damn good drink. And it was perfect with the spicy nachos, vinegared red onions and all.

The mojito was a simpler operation, but for the obligatory muddling of mint and lime and a little pouring back and forth I never quite got. But it was fresh, fragrant, and, apparently, seductive. It was scheduled to be my last drink, but the rain hadn’t stopped, so what was a guy to do? Order the house marg on the rocks, of course. Here’s my take on that: unless there’s another incident of climatologic quirkiness, don’t bother; it’s a tequila-plus-pre-made-mix affair, and is not worth drinking even at $5. On the regular drinks menu, however, there is a hand-shaken margarita with silver tequila, Gran Gala (a blend of orange liqueur and VSOP brandy), fresh lime and simple syrup. Sounds much better, sunny or stormy.

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