Savor the State: Secrets of Crafting Cocktails at Velvet Tango Room

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From the August 2014 edition

The Velvet Tango Room’s downplayed exterior in an out-of-the-way part of town only adds to the authentic speakeasy vibe; this cocktail mecca pioneered the pre-Prohibition recipe resurgence long before it was a trend. Every beverage bartenders concoct at this Cleveland lounge—the kind of place where a jazz combo provides the soundtrack and a copy of “Wuthering Heights” is part of the ladies’ room decor—is precise, intentional and consistent. Take the Ramos Gin Fizz, for example. This light, frothy drink is time- and labor-intensive, but it’s well worth the wait. Here’s how they do it. 2095 Columbus Rd., Cleveland, 216-241-8869, velvettangoroom.com

1. Starting with a cocktail shaker on a gram scale, bartender Erin Jesson cracks the top of an egg and skillfully tilts it in a circular motion, pouring 30 grams of egg white into the shaker.

2. While many simple syrups are made with one part sugar to one part water, owner Paulius Nasvytis makes his using two parts sugar, creating a thicker, sweeter syrup. The Ramos Gin Fizz calls for 20 grams.

3. Next comes five drops of orange-blossom water, which Nasvytis orders from France, followed by 30 grams both of Hendrick’s Gin and half and half.

4. Now it’s time to shake. “First you do a dry shake for 25 seconds or so,” Jesson says.

5. Before the next round of shaking, she adds ice that’s been kept at 30 degrees below zero. “If you use soft ice and shake it, it’ll just turn into a slushy,” Nasvytis says. Instead of timing the second shake, Jesson keeps going until she can feel it’s ready. “You can kind of feel when the ice cubes start to change a little,” she says. “They’re round more; it gets heavier. They wear down, I think, just from hitting the tin. There’s also pressure that builds up.”

6. After pouring it in a tall glass and topping it with soda, the citrusy cocktail is served with a spoon and a straw, which should stand on its own in the glass. “It is going to separate over time, so with the straw you’re going to get more of the liquid, and with the spoon you’ll get more of the foam,” Jesson says. What pairs well with a Ramos Gin Fizz? “Just a New York Times,” Nasvytis says. “It’s the most perfect Sunday morning cocktail there is.”