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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 18:06 GMT
The politics of cocktails and cookies
By Yolande Knell
BBC News, Washington

People in Washington have always lived and breathed politics. In the run-up to this year's election, they can drink it too.

A woman tries a Kerry Berry cocktail in Washington
Drinkers are finding their taste buds affected by their politics
The Degrees bar at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Georgetown is offering the choice of two cocktails - the Kerry Berry Kosmo and the W-tini.

Both were invented by master mixer Michael Brown, who says roughly equal sales of the two drinks mirrors splits in the electorate.

"It's a close race between both candidates. It's a huge discerner of what's going to happen," he said.

"The reason why is because the people who like Kerry don't want to order a W-tini, no matter if they think the ingredients work for them or not. Same thing goes for the Kerry Berry.

"So people are very much divided across political lines on this election. This election's going to be huge."

And as well as mixing the drinks, Mr Brown also switched the traditional party colours - making the Democrat drink red and the Republican blue, to show how candidates had to reach across party lines.

Patrons at the bar had differing views on the Kerry Berry - made with raspberry and strawberry vodka, cranberry juice and a dash of grenadine - and the W-tini, which consists of mandarin vodka, blue Curacao, a dash of lemonade and a cherry at the bottom.

One man said: "Kerry tastes more like honesty and Bush's tastes more like freedom." When asked if it would affect his vote, he replied: "Well, honesty is the best policy."

This year the political cupcakes have been phenomenal
John Mannino
Detroit bakery owner
A woman with a W-tini in her hand admitted she felt a bit of a traitor as the drink did not reflect her political opinion.

"I'm not behind W as a candidate but it was the ingredients that attracted me."

A sipper who tried both cocktails could not keep politics out of her judgement of the drinks.

"It's a little sweeter but I think I could drink the whole Kerry Berry. I would only have a few sips of the W-tini. And there may be a political motivation in my decision because I'm definitely a Kerry supporter."

Regional delicacies

Across town, it is no surprise that Charlie Palmer's, a steakhouse on Capitol Hill, is often the scene of heated discussions about the election. Now customers are being invited to put their money where their mouths are.

Chef Bryan Voltaggio
Chef Bryan Voltaggio will keep the winner's menu for his inauguration
The chef, Bryan Voltaggio is offering a choice of two three-course meals.

The Kerry dinner starts with clams, has cod as the main course and Boston cream pie for dessert. The George Bush option includes a spicy gazpacho soup, marinated steak and key lime pie - the Florida influence - with a Texan wine.

"We did some research on the areas they came from and also obviously we did a play off their favourites," Mr Voltaggio said.

"Bush likes very spicy foods, very south-western flavours so we chose to use chipotle peppers and more ingredients from that area.

"For the Kerry menu, well obviously he's from the New England area, so cod was going to be the first choice, the clams are great from there and Boston cream pie is pretty much a staple in New England."

As in the bar, steak diners are split down the middle when it comes to their orders.

But they are also doing what they cannot do in polling stations - mixing and matching what they want from both menus.

Bakery ballots

Restaurants, bars and bakeries across the US have been inspired by the election.

I am actually shocked at how well Kerry is doing in our neighbourhood - I expected it to be much more Bush-heavy but it's very close, pretty much neck and neck
Michelle Fenton
Blue Bonnet Bakery, Texas
It is no surprise that in Mr Dooley's Boston Tavern in Mr Kerry's home town, his burger - served with Heinz ketchup (for his ketchup heiress wife) and a Mass of fries (a nod to his home state) - is outselling his opponent's four to one.

But the sale of cupcakes in the battleground state of Michigan does not bode so well for the Democratic candidate.

Mannino's Bakery in Detroit offers cakes marked with Kerry, Bush and Nader. In recent days, the president has pulled ahead of his closest challenger by nearly 400 cake votes.

Bakery manager John Mannino said they started to sell the cakes to allow customers - who had been arguing politics in the shop - show their allegiance in a sweet way.

"This year the political cupcakes have been phenomenal," he said.

By Saturday, sales were 2,661 for Mr Bush, 2,295 for Mr Kerry and 121 for Ralph Nader.

But even bakery ballots can produce surprise results. The sale of Bush and Kerry cookies at the Blue Bonnet Bakery in Fort Worth, Texas, is not going as owner Michelle Fenton expected.

"I am actually shocked at how well Kerry is doing in our neighbourhood. I expected it to be much more Bush-heavy but it's very close, pretty much neck and neck," she said.

With the race so tight, it is no wonder that professional pollsters cannot accurately predict which way the cookie will finally crumble in this election.

But the huge appetite for politically themed food and drink does reflect one trend expected by most pundits - a high turnout of voters.

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