Felicia’s Atomic Lounge is not your usual late-night hangout. Hippies with dreadlocks rub shoulders with yuppies in tuxedos. Girls looking to hook up with some hot young dude can only pout at finding well-groomed men making out with each other instead. The prerequisite for being a bartender at Felicia’s seems to demand either a ring in your nose, a tattoo on your shoulder or some really funky hair-do.
Of course, the drinks at this cocktail bar are no typical fare. Equal parts wild imagination, hip creativity and a consciousness for all things local, Felicia’s features not only an ever-changing selection of seasonal cocktails, but also a myriad of local microbrews and Finger Lakes wines.
As I sank comfortably on the lounge’s deep couches, enjoying the free Friday night live music, I sipped on the Concordian, a gin and tonic prepared with house-made grape-infused gin. Recalling a New York-style blush wine bursting with fruitiness, the cocktail’s effervescence nicely accentuated the crispness of the tart-sweet Concord.
While people-watching on the benches in front of the establishment, I slurped on an Espresso Martini, the lovechild of a Chocotini and a White Russian. The martini’s saccharine sweetness spiked my insulin to dangerous levels and its milky creaminess flooded my taste buds with bliss. I had to wash down that strong coffee flavor lingering in my mouth with a Sage Riesling cocktail. The mix of a Finger Lakes Riesling with muddled sage and lemon turned the cocktail into a Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc of sorts — much more grassy and tangy. I loved it nonetheless.
As I lazed around on an outdoor seat along the European-style alley adjacent to Felicia’s, I warmed up to the Hot Toddy. With Bourbon and hot water sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and garnished with a clove-studded lemon slice, this light cocktail is a spiced-up lemonade, a diluted Bourbon and an alcoholic chai all at once — a great hangover cure except for the Bourbon.
Ithacans flock to Felicia’s evidently for its creative drinks and cool company, and it is safe to say that food is not its strongest suit. Served only from 4 to 10 p.m., pizzas are the only bites you can dig into if you want to slow down the evening’s intoxication. A promising apple walnut pizza was so overwhelmed by the briny flavor of feta that the its topping of sliced apples tasted like slivers of pressed cardboard. The crushed walnuts also lost their aromatic nuttiness, adding nothing more than mere crunch.
The fig tapenade pizza was a slightly better attempt at a flatbread. Caramelized figs were spread as a paste on the dough, which was sparsely dotted with kalamata olives and finished off with crumbled goat cheese. The figs’ sweetness complemented the cheese’s creamy and slightly pungent flavor, but somehow, the saltiness of the olives was lost in translation. Another option — the starch-on-starch monstrosity of a roasted potato pizza — sounded as nasty as a deep-fried Twinkie, potentially really delicious but just outright odd.
For a run-of-the-mill experience of drinking and partying, head to Chanticleer, Level B, or any frat party you stumble into. But for an out-of-this-world bar experience with a dash of Ithacan quirkiness, Felicia’s Atomic Lounge is the place to see. Make sure you bring your wallet — the drinks aren’t cheap — and leave your boring rum-and-coke penchant at the door.