When I ascend the staircase from The Henry House to The Drawing Room on the top floor, I can't believe this little gem exists. It's dripping in luxury: the walls are covered in a rich chocolate brown paneling and the room is awash with the glow of candles. Groups sit on leather benches and velvet-covered chairs while crooners belt it out on the stereo, but the music is barely audible with all the chatter in the room.
It's Friday night and we score the last table available. The drink menu is organized by era: Golden Age, Prohibition and Repeal. Within these headings, drinks are listed by their creation dates. We ask about the Aromatic Mist ($2) and the server responds coyly that we'll have to order it to find out.
I choose a vodka martini ($11) with just the faintest whisper of vermouth and lots of olives. My friends order fruity options: the Basil's Apricot ($12), which is a mix of sparkling wine, apricot, basil and lemon, and the Tickle Me Rhuby ($12) with house-made rhubarb cordial, gin and lime.
The Basil's Apricot has a delicate sweetness with a hint of lemony basil. The Rhuby tastes more like key lime pie than rhubarb, but it's tart and refreshing. My martini is good, but heavy on the vermouth.
Within a few moments our server is back. Wordlessly, she leaves a glass at the table and scurries off. A cloud rises slowly out of the glass, then faster and faster, spilling the scent of lavender into the air. We're thrilled as we realize that this is the Aromatic Mist.
I head back to The Drawing Room the next night with a different group of friends. Their reaction is the same as mine the night prior: shock, awe and then glee at having a beautiful new spot to frequent. We're hungry, so we order the warm herb and artichoke dip ($10), bruschetta ($8), French fries ($6) and some mixed nuts ($4).
We've decided to try the Absinthe Drip ($14), a mix of absinthe, sugar and cold water, but our server suggests that we start with something a little less potent, so we choose a Mint Julep with bourbon, mint and sugar ($12) and a Burie'd Mojito ($12)---a classic mojito with fresh berries. I order a Moscow Mule ($13), a thirst-quenching mix of vodka, lime and ginger beer. They arrive in silver cups complete with silver spoon-straws. My friend also orders the Aromatic Mist and moments later our table is flooded with the fragrance of peppermint.
The food arrives and it's great. The warm artichoke dip is mouthwatering; served with crunchy corn chips and the soft flatbread, it's dangerously dippable. The bruschetta has a lovely flavour while the fries are standard hand-cut and served with a chili mayo dipping sauce. But with drink prices like these, the nuts should be free---for $4, we expected more than a bowl of Planters.
Then, it's time for the absinthe. The bartender explains each step as she lays out the glasses, a spoon and a sugar cube under the tap. We watch as each drop of water dissolves the sugar. Once the drink is cloudy, we use the water tap to dilute the mixture. It's intense, with a strong flavour of anise, this drink is not for the faint of stomach.
We feel like Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight and it's time to go. The Drawing Room has a limited licence and last call is at 11:45pm. Though there is a wait time, the drinks are well worth it and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. It's not a place that my pocketbook could afford on a weekly basis, but The Drawing Room walks the line perfectly between a special occasion venue and a spot to stop for an impromptu stiff drink.