Why one of Austin's best cocktail bars revamped entire 80-drink menu
One of Austin's best cocktail bars might well have one of the most difficult drink menus to learn, but the bartenders there have now mastered how to make its 80 drinks not once but twice now.
The Roosevelt Room redid its entire 80-drink menu, either by swapping out past cocktails with new ones or revamping old recipes with fresh takes. The downtown bar's two owners, Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis, spent more than a year and a half developing the cocktail program — which includes a small menu of original drinks and an extensive menu of classic cocktails — and launched it anew last week. Not a single drink was left untouched, according to a news release.
Since opening in mid-2015, the bar on West Fifth Street has made its mark by taking a particular focus on classics: more than 50 mixed drinks organized by the era in which they were invented (Prohibition, funnily enough, was actually a prolific time of cocktail creation). The menu almost doubles as a history lesson, told through booze; it's a loving, careful homage to the cocktail culture that has led up to our current craft cocktail renaissance.
But why go through such an extensive revamp, no doubt a daunting task because of the sheer size of the cocktail menu? For Lavenue and Gobis, who have successfully helped to lead the large venue into national recognition, it was a matter of perfecting the program — offering drinks that reflect the tastes of people today.
“Traditional recipes of some classics require ingredients that are no longer available, or if they are, the tasting profile of the original might be too sweet or harsh for the modern drinker,” Lavenue said in the news release. “Our aim is to create the best possible iteration of the cocktail, while remaining loyal to each one’s roots.”
So, for instance, the gin-based Aviation is rounded out with the addition of pisco, and the Lion's Tail with bourbon, allspice dram and citrus gets extra nuance with cinnamon syrup. Joining these on the menu for the first time are the Scotch-driven Bobby Burns and Fernet-focused Toronto. And it's not just some of the ingredients that are getting tweaked: The Roosevelt Room considers the presentation of each drink as well, with exciting garnishes and glassware (such as a Topo Chico bottle).
Here are some of the cocktails to get excited about at the elegant space at 307 W. Fifth St.
- Milk Punch, late 1600s, Scotland: Appleton Estate Reserve Rum blend, Barsol Mosto Verde Pisco, Evan Williams Bonded Bourbon, Landy VS Cognac, Batavia arrack, Kubler Absinthe, Peychaud's bitters, whole milk whey, pineapple, lemon, chai tea and spices
- Blue Blazer, 1849, San Francisco: Your choice of spirit (Scotch, rye, rum, gin, tequila or mezcal) lit aflame with ginger snap syrup, hot water, Abbott's bitters, citric acid, lemon peel, grated nutmeg
- Zombie, 1934, Hollywood: Roosevelt Room tiki rum blend, Donn's mix, falernum, lime, grenadine, Angostura bitters, caramelized absinthe, all served in a skull with flamed cinnamon powder
- Butterbean, an original Roosevelt Room creation: Santa Teresa 1796 Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Cruzan Black Strap Rum, allspice dram, Borghetti espresso liqueur, cinnamon syrup, butter powder, acid phosphate, salt tincture and grated tonka bean
The Roosevelt Room's next-door sibling bar and events venue is another good place to find a mix of both classic and original cocktails, albeit on a much smaller level. The Eleanor opened for the first time this year with regular weekend hours, after serving almost exclusively as a private events space. And the Christmas pop-up bar Miracle on 5th Street returns to the Eleanor this holiday season.
For more information, visit therooseveltroomatx.com.