Lorri and I were thrilled to see The Ghost Walks open just a few blocks from our new Bay Village office and even more thrilled to see alums of three of our favorite places in charge: General Manager Peter Szigeti (Committee), Beverage Director Moe Isaza (Baldwin Bar) and Chef Aaron Lhamon (Wink and Nod).
Located in the Theater District (below Bijou), The Ghost Walks has a dark, clubby interior but seems determined to keep a fun, almost hipster-cheesy vibe. The beverage program is ambitious and committed to pushing FAR past the bounds of a typical cocktail lounge.
The already notorious champagne vending machine serves up Moet splits (you have to buy a token, so no worries about teenyboppers running in and out with deadly booze).
The cocktail menu is all originals. Being a anti-vodka snob, I wasn’t thrilled to see so many vodka cocktails: vodka has little to no taste, so vodka cocktails are essentially adding alcohol to other ingredients which tends to result in cocktails that are overly fruity or sweet or mixer forward … or all of the above.
The rest of the menu was definitely interesting, and like the slave to sherry that I am, I opted for the Box Office, featuring Pedro Ximenez, the sweetest and richest type of sherry (and whose casks are commonly used to age Scotch in). I also saw popcorn and assumed some crazy kind of popcorn infusion or fat washing was going on.
I then got served what I thought was a side of popcorn, and started munching away.
After awhile I was wondering where my drink was, like an oblivious fool. Lorri (like you, I’m sure) pointed out that popcorn is not typically served with a straw and sure enough, my drink was buried underneath all of those kernels. The Box Office was a successful reproduction of the movie going experience and was probably the most tiki-ish non-tiki drink I’ve had in its approach: boozy, buttery, and fruity (and probably one too many flavors).
For my second, I went for one of their “Press” highballs, since I’d never seen one of those before. We’ve never been a fan of highballs (even the exalted Japanese highballs at Bar Goto in NYC still struck me as a slight waste of a good whiskey), and I can’t say that the Paloma changed my mind. The Paloma featured grapefruit soda, agave syrup, lime, salt and Avion Blanco tequila (upgradeable to Don Julio Reposado, but really WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO A GOOD TEQUILA?) and was a faithful approximation of a real Paloma, just probably with more soda than you’d normally get.
It’s an easy drinking beverage so I can see it being a hit with many folks (except for those who want a true bartender-created cocktail, like we always do).
The assembly of the pressed highballs is undeniably cool (although the many steps are bound to drive the bartenders batty when they’re in the weeds). The press widens the opening to the soda can wide enough to stick a full nip bottle of booze in it.
Here’s a video that demonstrates the procedure:
And here’s the final result:
And here’s a closeup of the enlarged hole:
Always tending towards the spicy. Lorri ordered the ghost-pepper flavored Firecracker – it’s gin and cognac based but the mango, pineapple and lime made it too fruity for her taste – I actually liked it better than my Box Office.
She then asked the bartender for a rum old-fashioned with Plantation OFTD rum, a fantastic VERY overproof dark rum collaboration by eight titans of rum that’s rumored to really stand for “Oh Fuck That’s Delicious”. The bartender challenged her to trust him with his spin, which involved Giffard’s Banane Bresil, a remarkable banana-infused liquor that somehow isn’t overpoweringly banana or sickeningly sweet. It was spectacular and original, the all-too-rare case where the additional ingredient pulled something special out of the base spirit. We ran out and got a bottle shortly afterward!
All in all, it was great to see that within all of the fun gimmicks and adventuresome originality of The Ghost Walks, it’s still capable of delivering the inspiration of a talented bartender.