Sipping the day away

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

At any given bar or restaurant in Sacramento, night and day can be exactly that. On a recent Sunday, I had obligations both morning and evening at the Shady Lady Saloon.

So, I just spent the day there.

And after much libation deliberation, I settled upon three cocktails for three different times of the day. It’s a tough job, but …

Morning: You notice a lot more in the light of day, it seems. During my brunch date at the Shady Lady, for instance, I became acutely aware of all the incredible design elements of the place. Sure, I’ve appreciated the flocked red wallpaper and the sophisticated dark wood of the bar on previous visits. But this go-round, I’m checking out the cool pattern painted above the bar for the first time. And the intricately carved mirror frames on the east wall, the bubbled legs of the stools that surround the U bar. My companion spent a great deal of time ogling the pictures of scantily clad ladies above our booth.

The reggae music playing over the speakers, while matching in color palette the eggs Florentine at my table, felt a little out of place. My drink, however, did not. It’s cliché, true, but a Bloody Mary is best in the A.M. at S.L. The right amount of tang, pepper and bite, with a healthy richness that’s fitting for a morning of quiet observation.

’Noon: It’s 5:30. You’ve just gotten off work. You wanna let down your hair, loosen up the tie and the inhibitions, etc. For this, we’ll go slightly off menu, but we won’t stray too far. It’s called “Death in the Afternoon,” created by and named for Ernest Hemingway and his bullfighting novel of the same title. “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” I’d take it down a skosh, to say, two drinks, but keep the languid speed.

Night: If I had to choose, I’d be a card-carrying member of the nightshade family. Evenings at the Shady Lady are prime time. All the elements that you noticed in the morning have melded themselves into a seamless, cohesive, subliminal style that simply is. Live jazz wraps its legs around the room from the stage, conversations buzz vibrato and tremolo. The drink to complement the bar’s sexy evening wear? The Aviation. It’s got the gin that packs the punch of the Jazz Age, paired with maraschino liqueur, a sparkle of lemon juice to match the tin ceiling and a crème de violette as smooth as the red velvet couch in the bar’s entryway. But flyers beware: Make sure to have a designated driver or cash for the cab when it’s time for landing at home.