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Goats and Floats

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, we slog to Princess Gardens.

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Nothing's more dreary than the first few months of the year in the Midwest. It's frigid and gray, and the crusty black remnants of snow are depressing. Maybe that's why there are so many occasions to imbibe this time of year.

We're still recovering from the all-day drinkfest that was Super Bowl XXXVII. And just when we thought we could start on our resolution to eat more healthfully and drink less often, we realized that Chinese New Year is on February 1.

In honor of the Year of the Goat, we wanted drinks with names like the Scorpion and Navy Grog. The inauthenticity of this quest was amusing to us, especially given that we spent last Chinese New Year visiting relatives in Taiwan, where everyone just did shots of Hennessy or sake as they went from table to table at the evening's feasts, doling out traditional good wishes to all. Such festivities are rare here, so we headed to Princess Gardens, where we'd heard that the drinks are good and the menu descriptions are even better.

Both lived up to their reputations. The menu was helpfully divided into categories for every level of lush. We were especially intrigued by Polynesian bowl drinks that served four (a bargain at $8.95!) and the warning that certain under-$5 mixtures were "Strong: For those who enjoy drinking."

"Man, they practically embrace alcoholism here," said fellow girl-drink drunk Cat. "They're just promoting getting shitfaced!"

So we couldn't understand why the bar area looked so forlorn, with just a few bare tables and uncomfortable-looking padded convention chairs. We opted for the dining room, where our host seated us in a date booth -- one of those semicircular enclosures that force people to sit side-by-side. (Nearby, an older man and woman sat next to each other in a nondate booth. Valentine's Day tip to couples: Yes, it's totally dork when you sit on the same side of the booth, and yes, we are mocking you.) The date booth proved an excellent vantage point for checking out the crowd. Among the families and couples, we spied a cute, mop-haired high school boy whose skirt-clad date was inexplicably bare-legged and wearing strappy sandals, despite the 20-degree temperature outside.

The sight of so much white flesh made us shiver. So we ordered drinks, starting with a Jamaica Float ("You will see it really float") and a Robert Special, a blend of three types of rum and fruit juice.

"Who's Robert?" asked Cat.

"Our chef," said the waitress, who had a choppy, asymmetrical bob.

Sadly, the Float didn't levitate its way to our table. It turned out to be a layer of dark Jamaican rum over lemon juice, and it smelled vaguely like cleaning fluid. After mixing it a bit it wasn't bad -- just lemony fresh. The frothy, light-brown Robert Special tasted mainly of pineapple juice. It was nice and potent, and we were huge fans of its maraschino cherry and pineapple-wedge garnishes, which, after soaking in the drink, became little alcohol bombs.

Tipsily entertained by the menu descriptions, we ordered the Zombie ("One reacts to one way, another reacts another way"), a tall, pink, fruity rum drink, and the Princess Garden Grog, a "strong but very passionate" blend of dark rum and juices. Buoyed by all that rum, we had to resist the urge to break out in pirate speak. Though the drinks didn't make us feel particularly full of New Year's cheer, they did warm us up for the cold journey home and make us glad we were wearing closed-toed shoes for the cold slog through the black snow.

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