Toast with something different.

The region offers a host of wines and microbrews, but those begging for another kind of beverage can find plenty of local, specialty drinks.

Here, a sampling of some the area's signature sips:

Chai this

Michael Kent spent about 10 months perfecting the chai at Old Town Coffee & Eatery. The result is an aromatic, slightly spicy tea drink.

As soon as the temperature heats up, some customers order chai served cold -- either on ice or blended. Kent's quest for the perfect chai started in college.

"I was looking for something that was not super caffeinated (and) fell in love with the regular box stuff," said the shop manager.

He worked on the ingredients (among them: ginger and cloves "for a kick") and got the brewing time spot-on. Now, the cafe window boasts the slogan "Northern Michigan's best handcrafted chai."

Kent is experimenting with using chai in other combinations. He's playing around with a chai ice cream and created a chai milk shake that "is a dream."

Price: A medium chai is $3.75.

Location: Old Town Coffee is at 517 South Union St. in Traverse City.

Soda pop

A local, family-owned company produces sarsaparilla and black cherry cream sodas, but the old-fashioned Wild Bill's Root Beer is its most famous flavor.

Northwoods Soda & Syrup Co., based in Williamsburg, bottles the rich, smooth root beer. Northwoods also makes fountain syrups used in area restaurants.

"We have been blessed in this area with so many people wanting to buy locally," said Co-owner Maureen Fosdick. "This whole community is just so unique in all the little things that are local-made."

The company is adventurous with its drinks, beyond the popular root beer.

"Whatever somebody orders, we can make," she said.

Price: A bottle of Wild Bill's Root Beer is $2.09 at Burritt's Fresh Market in Traverse City.

Location: Northwoods products also can be found at Slabtown Cafe & Burgers. The Beverage Co. in Traverse City carries a half dozen of its soda flavors.

Chubby Mary

The Chubby Mary is a cocktail conversation piece.

The trademarked (yup) concoction is the signature drink at The Cove in Leland. The Fishtown restaurant lives up to its surroundings by offering a Bloody Mary with a hook: Each glass comes with a whole, smoked chub garnish. The drink started as a spoof on a "Saturday Night Live" skit that pushed the "Bass-O-Matic" blender, which chopped up a full fish.

Owner Rick Wanroy said area chamber of commerce officials stopped at the restaurant years ago and inquired what the speciality drink was.

"We told them we did chub margaritas and took a whole chub and blended it into a margarita," he said. "It was pretty awful."

But the idea for a cocktail featuring the small fish was born, and the revised Chubby Mary has been on the menu for at least 15 years.

"It used to be a novelty shock-type thing. You would go, 'Oh my God.' Not anymore. Now, it's more like a cult following because it's a Bloody Mary and an appetizer in one," Wanroy said.

Customers often take pictures when the drink comes to the table.

"It's definitely a photo moment," Wanroy said.

Price: The Chubby Mary is $10.

Location: The Cove is at 111 River St. in Leland.

Hot chocolate

Patisserie Amie serves a decadent dessert-in-a-cup hot chocolate that's been a menu mainstay since the French-inspired eatery opened.

"It's made with really fine, quality Belgian chocolate," said Co-Owner Keil Moshier.

The chocolate is chopped in the restaurant every day -- "That's the biggest key," he said.

A high-quality whole milk and real whipped cream completes the drink. Some customers order it instead of coffee, and children love it, too.

Price: The hot chocolate is $3.50.

Location: Patisserie Amie is at 237 Lake Ave. in Traverse City.

Cherry cocktails

No local drink list is complete without cherry-inspired cheers.

The region's royal fruit is toasted at Uncorked, a bar located inside Cherry Stop. Among the favorites is the chocolate cherry martini, made with a local cherry vodka. Another popular and simple drink is the bar's hard cherry coke, made with cherry vodka and Northwoods cola.

Price: The cherry coke, with an adult twist, sells for $5.50.

Location: Uncorked is located at 211 E. Front St. in Traverse City.

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