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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A special blend

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What is the measure of a bar? Is it the value-to-quality ratio, or is it the proportion of chesty blondes to close-by barstools? No, according to an arbitrary decision by The Daily Cardinal, it's how a bar responds to the challenge of \Surprise me.""  




In an effort to keep Madison bartenders on their toes and get a feel for current levels of creativity at area bars, Cardinal Food assembled a crack team of experienced drinkers and journalists, and set out last Saturday night to make a circuit up East Johnson Street, around the Capitol and back down State Street. Making a concerted effort to keep the study as unscientific as possible, all participants were instructed to tell bartenders, ""Surprise me,"" and then egg them on as much as possible. No score would be kept, and the only records allowed were smeared with cigarette ash and illegible to the point of needing another team just to decode them. Where relevant, quotes overheard at these establishments are mentioned. Onward! 




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Caribou Tavern 




703 E. Johnson St. 




The 'Bou is an infamously tiny establishment, tucked away between a record store and a laundromat, and looks as though it may have pioneered the term ""dive."" Mixed drinks are rare here, and the team suspected that they might be the 'Bou's weak point. Team member Brandon Lachner, after some background discussion with the bartender (identified simply as ""Aaron""), received a rocks glass filled with a light pink fluid, involving vodka and milk. Brandon was indeed surprised, but not pleasantly.  




""It tastes like cough medicine,"" he said. Asked for a name, Aaron said it was ""just a concoction"" and gave naming rights to Brandon, who dubbed it ""Rubbing Alcohol."" 




Team member Gregg Sparks received a Cuba Libre: a rum, cola and lime beverage. ""I'm not a big rum fan, but this is really good,"" he said, thus making the Caribou a draw. 




Overheard at the Caribou: ""Hmm. I'd like it if it was gone."" (Spoken by team member Brandon, with regards to his drink.) 












Genna's Lounge  




105 W. Main St. 




A classy, candle-lit sort of place, Genna's is often full on the weekends, despite prices that run significantly higher than bars just a few doors down. Genna's drinks rarely disappoint, and they excellently warmed to the challenge. Gregg's ""surprise me\

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