It's hard to call The Rose Room at Valley Bar a speakeasy without provoking a certain level of ire. But there are no red velvet ropes, no password required, and the lack of pretension in the basement lounge is refreshing. Best yet, the cocktails are approachable — as in, devoid of esoteric ingredients and terminology that can turn off the uninitiated spirits drinker.
The cocktails are named after local politicians and public figures, such as the "That's a Duce-y" made with whiskey, port, lemon juice, and housemade cinnamon syrup, as well as the room's namesake "'The Rosé Mofford," named for our first female governor, and consisting of vodka, violette, lemon juice, rose water, and simple syrup. We're drawn to the "John McCain," which is an enjoyable drink with Southwestern flair.
The "John McCain" is made with mezcal, a smoky agave spirit traditionally from Oaxaca; Ancho Reyes, an ancho chile liqueur from Puebla, Mexico; orange and lime juices; and simple syrup. Mezcal and Ancho Reyes have a reputation for playing well together, and we were excited to get a taste of the dynamic duo together again.
The stiff and earthy drink is dominated largely by the mezcal, tempered only slightly by the addition of citrus juices. It's hard to use orange juice at the best of times, as it's more watery than lemon or lime juices tend to be, but the drink thankfully manages not to be over-diluted by its addition.
We do wish there had been more Ancho Reyes in the cocktail, however. While there should have been a spicy kick, we could only barely detect its influence. Still, the drink is nice if you consider it a mezcal sour — sours being made with a base spirit and equal parts sweet and sour.