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Holiday Drinks: The Roger Room's Winter Cocktails

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Inside the Roger Room (Photo by Ross Reyes via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Inside the Roger Room (Photo by Ross Reyes via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
By Lindsay Armstrong/Special to LAist

Tucked two blocks (yet a world away) from the holiday hysteria of the Beverly Center, you'll find the Roger Room--an intimate speakeasy boasting vintage cocktails and top-notch service.

The dim lighting, antique glass décor and black-and-white photos of elephants, bearded ladies and other circus oddities combine to create a playful carnival vibe; however, one of the first things I noticed about the Roger Room is the smell. Smell is rarely your first impression of a bar--unless it's a bad impression. Bucking that dubious trend, the Roger Room smells good. Really good.

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“That's because you're sitting right next to all of the fresh fruit,” bartender Tai Bennett explained. Indeed, an entire side of the bar is lined with fresh lemons, oranges, grapefruit and fresh cut basil alongside an impressive collection of bitters, spices, and spirits. Mixologist Jason Bran reiterated their importance: “Every spirit offers a different inspiration. Every ingredient offers a different inspiration.”

From a traditional Whiskey Cider to a modern take on the Old Fashioned, this season's five winter additions are designed to entice. “Most of our customers know what that they like (from the set menu, which features 20+ drinks). With the seasonal drinks, there are combinations that convince our regulars to try something new,” Bran said.

The John Fante might be my new favorite drink. A novel twist on an Old Fashioned, it features rum and coffee syrup, served with a singed orange zest and maraschino on the rocks. The cocktail is complex, yet balanced--the hint of coffee and rum are a welcome addition to a quintessential classic.

Another standout is the Good Duker--a blend of Belvedere pink grapefruit, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, egg white and freshly grated clove. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the egg white and clove tempered the tart citrus base. The Good Duker packs a punch without the sourness that can sometime accompany cocktails that feature citrus.

The Whiskey Cider features Hirsch Corn Whiskey and an allspice dram that adds an earthy, grounded quality--served piping hot. The King of the Road is incredibly smooth, combining cognac, Plymouth gin, white vermouth and Crème Yvette served straight up.

Bennett recommended waiting for the Mystery Train: “It's definitely the one to save for last.” Combining Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate and Tanteo Chocolate tequila, Mystery Train is spicy and sweet with just a hint of jalepeño pepper. Tanteo, alone, is a dessert spirit with a mature edge - but it offers a perfect pairing with the Abuelita. For me, Mystery Train instantly evoked a sense of nostalgia for holidays of old - before Black Fridays and Christmas music on a 24-hour-loop.

The Roger Room's winter cocktails are available now, all $14.