It’s always a pleasure to find a bar with good drinks. All the better still when you see the bartender get into the drink and make you something you’re going to like. Most of the time you don’t get that. More often you get a combination of things poured up quickly and sent out. Not something to complain about if it’s Happy Hour and the drinks are priced for slamming.
Earlier on this blog, I went on and on about Cucina 24 and the Capital Grille (Charlotte). Unfortunately, I can’t do the same for our latest local addition, The Rankin V@ult Cocktail Lounge. We wandered in the other night with pretty high hopes, I mean, it says “Cocktail Lounge” in the name right? I only had one drink and can’t condemn a place over one drink. The trouble is, I didn’t want another. The space is nice, not overly plush. Asheville is a laid back place and I think anyone would feel comfortable in the seating area. The back bar has a nice display of better bottles, maybe 40 or so all together. The cocktail menu had a good mix of drinks. My drink, the Ruby Bliss ($8), looks like a local creation. It’s listed as a Martini, but really its a gin sour with some pomegranate for color served in a Martini glass (which doesn’t make it a Martini). It was hot outside and I like me a gin sour, so it seemed like a good combination. My inner snob started to come out as I watched my drink begin with a large pour of Arsitocrat Gin. Not that there’s anything wrong with the bottom shelf stuff, just don’t hide it behind the bar where I can’t see it until you pick it up and start putting it in my drink. Maybe the bottle of Hedrick’s on display was empty. Later, I was a little surprised to see their on-line menu indicate that Bombay would be used in the drink. Of course there is a disclaimer that the menu is “subject to change.”
My second complaint is minor, and maybe not what someone else would think is a fault: the cocktail glass was huge, maybe one of those 9 ouncers. It takes a lot to fill one of those, which I guess explains the use of a gin that cost less per bottle than the drink it’s used in. Last minor points, too much citrus, not enough red stuff. It tasted, and looked, like pink lemonade and was out of balance. Also, it looked like a Cosmo which made me self conscious while it sat next to me. Lucy Brennan’s beet infused vodka Ruby is deep ruby red. A better name for my drink would be a Pink Bliss. Don’t get me wrong, I drank the whole thing, it was our first stop after all. I probably drank it a little too fast to get rid of it and thereby end my embarrassment at selecting a drink with more appeal for the ladies. That was my fault not their’s.
I can’t criticize the people that run the place. It takes a lot to get a new business off the ground and running. More than I could do, and something to be admired and supported. They have an upcoming benefit for our local Habitat for Humanity chapter. They must be good people. But look, if you call yourself a Cocktail Lounge, you’re going to get guys like me (i.e. a cocktail geek) who are looking for the cocktail scene. Maybe the person mixing was new. I’m sure I’ll find my way back sometime, but I’ll limit myself to a G & T or some other drink that doesn’t require much active bartender intervention. Maybe I’ll just get a beer.
At our next stop I got a Negroni, on the rocks. I slouched in my chair and tried to look tougher. It was outdoors so I kept my sunglasses on.