The Spare Room, the Hollywood Roosevelt’s swanky cocktail lounge/bowling alley, has been without a beverage director since Naomi Schimek departed last year, and, the cocktail menu has remained virtually unchanged since last November. Fortunately, this past January, the bar got some new blood when Yael Vengroff took over the shakers. Her style tends toward playful and whimsical—the perfect complement to a bar featuring a bowling alley and Jenga.
“We are promoting a jovial atmosphere in here so I think the cocktails should reflect that,” she says. As the first national Speed Rack winner and the former bar manager of Harvard & Stone, she’s also bringing a ton of cocktail industry cred to the place as well as a lot of changes with this cocktail menu.
Classic-inspired drinks but Yael-style: The previous menu had always featured eight original cocktails and eight classics. Instead Vengroff is doing elevated classics. Rather than a dirty martini, think a Salt & Vinegar Martini with pickle brine and celery shrub. “I’m going to take any classic and really blow it out. Take it my way and a step ahead,” she says.
A new drink order: The menu is now conveniently categorized sort of like your dinner menu of appetizers, mains, and dessert: “Ante Up” (easy drinking), “Bullseye” (a bit more substantial), and “Winner’s Circle” (nightcap). It’s a suggested progression of an evening but people can drink in any order they want. “We didn’t want to limit people with a time period for specific drinks. We didn’t want to make people feel like if they’re here at 1:30 they can’t order something off the lighter menu.”
Check out that vintage-inspired menu design: The Spare Room co-owner Marc Rose drew inspiration from old Los Angeles restaurant menus. The drawings in the menu are meant to emulate a chef’s notebook, except in this case it’s Yael’s handwriting and cocktail build notes.
Yael doesn’t do seasonal menus: Instead of being updated seasonally, the menu will only be changed about three times a year. The combination of her perfectionism and a “season-less” Southern California, she doesn’t see the need to update the drinks THAT often. “If I had it my way I’d be on the Trick Dog model where we’d do it twice a year and blow people away and that’s it,” she says. But look for a special small menu for Halloween since that’s her favorite holiday.
Less punch: Because she felt six large format options were excessive, the punch program has been cut down from six to four, with two of the old favorites remaining: The South Pacific and the Old One Two. One of the new punches, Famous Last Words, allows the guest to decide whether they want it made with gin or tequila, as Vengroff couldn’t make up her mind about which one tasted better. Spoiler alert: They’re both winners.
Good-bye, Moscow Mule: Where the old menu spotlighted the Moscow Mule, this new one features the Pisco Punch. Because “people are going to order Moscow Mules anyway, let’s bring their attention to something else, a little bit different but as approachable,” says Vengroff. And it’s not your typical Pisco Punch as this one is made with pineapple-infused Encanto pisco and green tea citrus cordial.
Shots! Shots! Shots! There’s a special category on the menu called “Pals” which is simply drink combinations, like the “Ego Boost” which is a shot of Old Grand Dad Bonded Bourbon and a High Life Pony. There’s also the popular “Headpin Strike” of Yael’s housemade Fireball whiskey with a Waupoos Cider. “If you want a couple things to sip on it’s perfect.”
The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-769-7296