Experience craft cocktails in Cleveland, Ohio
By Katie DeTar
On a sleepy street in Cleveland, Ohio, in the center of the city of rock and roll, a craft cocktail experience like none other awaits for those who are in the know.
Consider this your insider’s tip for a night out at the Velvet Tango Room, and plan on spending the evening there. The stiff drinks alone will almost require it, but you’ll soon realize the atmosphere is the real hook. Not long after your first sip, you‘ll forget any and all other plans you may have made, and be cozied up by the fireplace, Manhattan in hand.
The lounge’s exterior—a tiny brick house tucked in a tight row with others in the residential neighborhood—keeps the secret from the uninformed. Thankfully, I’d received what amounted to an order from a local: I must stop for a drink while in Cleveland. Otherwise, I may have passed right on by.
My Saturday evening cocktail experience unfolds like a mystery novel. A man in a sharp suit greets me at the door and whisks away my coat. A hostess welcomes me, and finds me a seat at the bar in the front room. Soon after, another woman offers to take me on a tour. Before I look at the menu, I’m whisked off by the man in the suit. Strange, I think, but I follow. Down a short hallway he directs me to a mirrored door, whispers something about a password, and we enter the VIP room.
The space is beautiful. Leather sofas flank a fireplace. Club chairs surround tables in groups of four. A bartender mixes up classic prohibition-era beverages while a waiter confirms the comfort of each guest. The candles are lit, and the snowy weather adds to the ambiance by blanketing the small brick patio in a coat of sparkling white. A grand piano fills one corner of the room. In the other, a couple in their mid thirties swoon over each other like a scene from Downton Abbey. The place is an entire bygone era, masquerading as a cocktail bar.
Even the menu has class and character. Each limited edition book is handcrafted and adorned with custom art. They’re for sale as mementos. Page after page lists the custom offering: gingers with house-made syrup, fizzes and flips, classic sidecars, house-made bitters, limes. I order the Brazilian cocktail described as “a sultry blend of Oronoco—a white run with vanilla tones, ginger beer and bitters. Designed to take the edge off.” Always a fan of anything ginger, I love it. Smooth with just the right amount of bite. It goes down a little too easy.
I sink into the sofa, warmed by the jazz music, the fireplace, and of course, the beverage.
The entire experience is magical for anyone who appreciates the fine art of the craft cocktail.
Odds of Encountering Children: This is the sort of adult haven that should be blissfully child-free. 21 Plus Salute!
Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44113
– Photos courtesy Katie DeTar and David Lalley