The Cruise Room opened downtown on December 6, 1933, one day after the repeal of Prohibition. Since then, the room hasn't changed much — nor has its cocktail menu. In the reddish glow of the narrow art-deco interior, bartenders sill make cocktails that thirsty patrons imbibed way back then. One of those bartenders is Aaron Meisheid, who shakes and stirs not only those vintage cocktails, but also a few of his own, including a refreshing, fruity gin cocktail that he created for the warmer months of summer. Meisheid's creation bears the name of a customer, Jane, who loved the bright flavors of the drink. The Jane, which goes on the menu later this month, combines gin, a floral liqueur, lime juice, and a fresh purée of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Here's what goes into Meisheid's summer cocktail:
2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
.5 ounce lime juice
one half strawberry
one slice of cucumber
“I’ve named so many drinks that I start to run out of names,” Meisheid says. “I told some women that ordered a bunch of them one night that if they liked it, they could name it.” The Jane is a gin cocktail, but one that appeals to people who don’t normally drink gin — and both men and women enjoy it, Meisheid attests.
Meisheid uses Hendrick's because “it’s a little bit softer,” he explains. Hendrick's was one of the first of a group of modern gins that downplay the spirit's traditional sharp juniper aroma, often bringing other botanicals to the forefront. In the case of Hendrick’s, those botanicals are Bulgarian roses and cucumbers.
“Any time you add cucumber to Hendrick’s, they play very well together,” Meisheid adds. To begin his recipe, he crushes slices of cucumber and strawberries in the bottom of a mixing glass, then drowns them in gin.
Next, Meisheid adds St. Germain, a French liqueur flavored with elderflower. “It’s a great, all-around liqueur to use if you want to add a touch of sweetness,” says Meishieid, who tries to avoid adding sweeteners to drink recipes — unless that sweetener contains alcohol. “St. Germain has a citrusy, floral kind of fragrance and flavor to it. St. Germain and Hendrick’s play very well together.”
After adding a half-ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice and some ice, Meisheid shakes all the ingredients and strains them into a cocktail glass. “There’s a lot of booze in it,” he says, “but it’s not overpowering.”
“As old as this bar is, we like to stick with the traditional bartending styles," he notes. "The way we build our drinks, we do things differently than most modern bars will. Sometimes it’s a little bit time-consuming, but we feel that you get a better cocktail and a better experience out of it.”
The Jane proved to be so popular as a special that it will be included on the Cruise Room’s next printed drink menu, which will hit the bar top in about two weeks. Until then, it can be ordered by name, as all of the bartenders there know how to make it.
“Everyone has liked it very much.... I’ve had many, many people say that it’s the best drink they’ve ever had,” the bartender concludes.