READERS' PICK: You know any place with a laughing Tiki mask as an entrance isn't going to spare you from any of the elements. And what are the elements? Alcohol, ice, fruit and sugar. And sometimes coconut milk. These basic compounds are alchemically whipped, shaken, blended and stirred into a vast array of potions, the lethal properties of which are buried innocently within a menu rife with bad puns and rhyming words. Reading this odd poetry aloud as you try to narrow down the dozens of options is like invoking a primal incantation guaranteed to leave your spine floating somewhere just out of reach as the room suddenly blurs into two of everything. An out-of-body experience that's still 100-percent legal, Kon Tiki remains a favorite for birthdays (particularly the 21st rite of passage) and happy, happy hours.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Kingfisher Bar and Grill, 2464 E. Grant Road. It's not easy to keep up the air of mystique in a bar these days, but the bartenders at Kingfisher treat their profession as a craft. Stylishly dressed behind an immaculate bar, these guys remain cool as cucumbers even though this place is hopping on any given night. They're fast, but not rushed. And they do believe there is such a thing as a perfect cocktail--accurately measured, appropriately mixed and carefully poured into the proper glass. We've long been fans of their martinis and Manhattans, but one birthday we decided to put them to the ultimate challenge by ordering a puscaffé, an Italian aperitif so rare we don't even know how to spell it (pronounced poos-caf-AY). Not only did they figure out what it was, they actually had all the ingredients. Each of its seven layers was then carefully poured (into one tiny glass) and ceremonially carried to the table intact. The idea is that you're supposed to sip one layer of flavored liqueur at a time. If not poured in the proper order (requiring the pourer to know either the recipe or the weight of each liqueur), it's a ghastly, greenish-brown mess. But this was a beauty, with the colors of the Italian flag distinctly and evenly layered. We haven't ordered one since, but after six years, we haven't forgotten it, either.