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Liquor Cabinet: Prospect Cafe

Before joining the newly revamped Prospect Café in November, Ally Elias worked at Firebox, the Playwright and the Half Door. She's brought some of Firebox's fresh farm-to-table mentality to the West Hartford bar, which features five time-honored cocktails and another five that change with the seasons.

"I think about the seasonals, and I think about the classics and I twist them," she says. For the cold weather months, there's a 345 Manhattan, built around house-infused "winter spice" bourbon with hints of cinnamon, orange, vanilla and fig. A Moscow mule gets a tart splash of grapefruit and a sprig of fresh rosemary. For traditionalists, there's a Last Word with gin, green chartreuse and Luxardo maraschino, and a Jungle Bird, a tiki-style concoction with blackstrap rum, pineapple and lime and a bitter lacing of Campari.

The seasonal cocktails spotlight more winter citrus, with a unique "smoke and fire" margarita made with mezcal, blood orange, chipotle pepper and a paprika salt rim, and the Dizzy Bees with gin, Meyer lemon, thyme and an IPA float. The maple rye fizz earns its frothy texture from shaken egg white, and a winter caipirinha marries Brazilian cachaca with pomegranate, cardamom and clove. The seasonals will change four times a year, with new recipes in spring, summer and fall, she said.

Elias says she encourages the bar staff to create its own cocktail recipes, which are offered to visitors as weekly specials.

"They get very excited because they have more of a say, then when they're talking to guests sitting at the bar, they're excited [to say], 'This is my cocktail.' They love it."

Although the cocktails have drawn raves, Elias says Prospect Café's 24 draft beers — a mix of craft, local and macrobrews — are the biggest attraction on the bar. "The beer has its own crowd."

You can see more of Prospect's cocktails and a video of Elias whipping up the maple rye fizz at ctnow.com/prospectcafe.

The bar at Prospect Café, 345 Prospect Ave., West Hartford, is open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; and 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. 860-519-1048, prospectcafewh.com

>>E-mail Leeanne Griffin (lgriffin@courant.com) or Suzie Hunter (smhunter@courant.com) with your favorite Connecticut cocktail destination or your favorite bartender, and find more cocktail destinations at ctnow.com/liquorcabinet.

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