The Rossi must've thought its reputation as the coolest bar with the hottest patrons and most delicious food shouldn't rest on its laurels. In other words, in the face of the semi-recent cocktail revolution, it was no longer enough to offer just a chic spot, hip tunes, some of the best pizzas, burgers and fries in town, plus a fine little by-the-glass juice list that included The Prisoner, that still-popular zinfandel-y blend.
No, these days, you've also gotta offer specially designed libations to stay on top. Thus, the Rossi recently unveiled a handful of house-concocted cocktails to get up to speed with the shaker-happy craze.
In general, I'd say the fun drinks I sucked back from this new hooch list were always adventurous, amusing and interesting if not always 100 percent successful. Operator error could've played a part in that, as the quaffs are so freshly hatched that the Rossi's bartenders are still peeking at crib notes to produce them. Here's a taste.
• Grey Gardens ($9): You've got to love a pink cocktail named after an unforgettable documentary about Jackie O's gone-crazy relatives. Served in a martini glass, it was refreshingly more bitter (Campari) than sweet (it also had chamomile and Grey Goose vodka), had a smooth and hefty body, and arrived with a salted and sugared rim.
In other words, it cleverly embraced the characteristics and contradictions of the once-rich-and-famous/later-ruined-and-nutso characters of its namesake movie. Most rewardingly enjoyed while wearing "the best costume for the day," this might be like tea for two with a bitter finish, but it's definitely a keeper.
• The Rubicon ($12): If you cross this Rubicon, you'll taste what happens when a Chartreuse-soaked rosemary sprig is entertainingly set aflame and then extinguished with strained gin and lemon. Its sharp and singed pine flavor might best be described as tasting like a late Christmas Eve night after your four-martini-ingesting mom sets the family tannenbaum on fire.
• Parisian 75 ($10): After my first sip this Bluecoat gin, cardamom syrup and Chartreuse mixture tasted heavy and syrupy to me, so I asked the bartender to add more sparkling wine to it (turns out, he'd forgotten that component altogether). Fortunately, the added bubbles leavened and tarted up the drink, making it far more approachable.
• Duck Blind ($9): I found this invigorating and relatively clean-tasting drink's title - which refers to concealment strategies for waterfowl hunters - to be ironic, considering it was the most stripped-down cocktail I tried here.
In other words, it didn't cover over its Grey Goose vodka flavor with a lot of smoke and mirrors, but rather showcased it with the addition of sweet and mustard-seed-spicy house-made pickles.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable