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Where: Ardeo + Bardeo, 3311 Connecticut Ave. NW
Bartender: Genni Ahrens
Mystery Ingredient: Watermelon, tropical punch, and strawberry Pop Rocks
Bartender Response: “Pop Rocks, it’s been a long time,” said Ahrens, who, like many experimentally dispositioned bartenders before her, has already used the candy in a drink. “Who would have thought that playing with Pop Rocks some point in your life would come back?”
What We Got: A bitter, bubbly concoction involving vanilla ginger soda added to Aperol and a citrus vodka that Ahrens infuses herself, with a Pop Rocks–encrusted glass rim. Bright and playful, it looked like a fifth-grade chemistry experiment.
How It Tasted: Very grown-up, in fact. The real ginger, vanilla, and infused-citrus vodka shoved away the neon “flavors” of the Pop Rocks. Ahrens was so afraid of the drink being too sweet that at first she thought her solution was too bitter. But it grew on me, especially the soda’s ginger bite. And yes, the Pop Rocks were as explosive as you’d expect.
Improv Points (1 to 5): 4. I loved that Ahrens combined candy and carbonation, proving the urban legend wrong: Your stomach will not explode if you drink soda and Pop Rocks. And it turns out it’s not easy to get Pop Rocks to stick to the rim of a glass. They ricocheted off and flew through the air. Some even landed in my purse. Eventually, Ahrens poured the contents of several packets over the top of the rim instead of dipping the glass into the pile. Should she have used Pop Rocks in the drink proper? That might have been just too wacky.
1.5 ounces of citrus-infused vodka or Stoli Citrus vodka
1.5 ounces of Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon
5 drops of Fee Brothers West Indies Orange Bitters
2 ounces vanilla ginger soda*
Combine citrus vodka, Aperol, lemon juice, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Cover the rim of a glass with simple syrup, and pour Pop Rocks along the rim. Strain cocktail into glass, and top with vanilla ginger soda.
*To make vanilla ginger soda, add 2 ounces vanilla simple syrup and one minced large piece of ginger to a siphon, fill halfway with water, and apply a soda charger.
Photo by Adele Chapin