Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Romance, Adventure and Drinks

There is just something about The Velvet Tango Room.

The upscale Tremont bar/lounge specializing in high-end, handmade cocktails is a beacon of civilized sipping and socializing in a world gone sloppy and crass, an elegant out-of-time oasis, a place like no other where craft and quality are never compromised.

And the man who conceived it, built it and now watches over his creation, Paulius Nasvytis, is as unique as his establishment, a guy who can rock a cravat and two-toned shoes; who chases perfection as relentlessly as a man pursuing the one he loves; and a man of many skills, among them a way with words.

Photo by Nicole Bakker 
Nasvytis recently debuted 12 new cocktails and his Facebook posts about them have utterly charmed me. They have an clever, worldly style with a splash of sly humor. Oozing personality, they truly capture the VTR spirit.

In fact, his writing reminds me of the text that made the J. Petermen catalog (and Elaine's boss on Seinfeld) famous: mini-narratives hinting at mysterious events in exotic locales, fascinating encounters with strangers and insider information.

So I've decided to let Paulius' writing serve as a stand-in for my own to describe a few of these additions to his book of beverages. What follows are his musings on what's in the glass.

The Hulett
An homage to Cleveland's smokey, industrial past. As the tale goes, we were walking down St. Clair, and Rick was walking down Ontario. We were holding tequila, and he was holding a Laphroig — and, NO ONE WAS WATCHING WHERE THEY WERE GOING. And well, let's just say that it was a very happy accident. We added lime and secrets.

The Five Fifteen
Sometimes a bartender finds a bar and everyone knows it was meant to be because it is the quintessential pairing. At around her one year anniversary with us, Nina created the 5:15. A frothy combination of cherry and lime, shaken hard with gin. It's sweet, with an underlying current of something more. Just like her.

The VTR Mai Tai
Just the mere thought conjures up dreamy places we would rather be. But in the right here and now, this one can put you pretty close. It's the original Mai Tai improved upon. It's just what we do.

The Vieux Carre'
Circa 1930s and straight from New Orleans, this cocktail is named after The French Quarter. So ... it's not surprising that it's a fun, even crazy blend of flavors. Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth with dashes of Benedictine and two kinds of bitters.

The Boulevardier
Created in 1927 in Europe by American ex-pats during Prohibition. A Negroni turned on its ear, replacing gin with bourbon. A magnificent drink to have as a fallback when you want something richer and more complex than just a whiskey, but can't think of what else to order.

The Rouge Awakening
The perfect way to start the week and shake off "The Mondays." Nina takes her craft seriously, and it shows. A complex cocktail with the bitter pith of grapefruit, the tang of rhubarb and the spiciness of falernum. When balanced well, these produce a full spectrum of flavor. A veritable symphony.

The Final Word
This one should be served only after signing a release form. Our very own twist on the classic Last Word. Substitute the liquor and everything changes. It's bourbon instead of gin. It's 130 proof bourbon. Strong and complicated. Happy landings.

Photo by Derek Cahill
Reading all this, I find it impossible not to yearn for these drinks and the time to sit and savor them — ideally with some soft, live jazzy piano music in the background (this, happily, is a regular occurrence here) and accompanied by a plate of charcuterie, now featuring only the fine products from Salumeria Biellese in New York City. (I detect the behind the scenes influence of the woman in Paulius' life, a lady with a discerning and discriminating palate whose high standards mesh well with his).

Adventures await and the cocktail hour approaches. And one more thing worth mentioning — the back room is available for private parties. Being as this is the season of celebrations, consider booking it for your own chance to create a good story.

No comments: