"Word is the most badass female bartender in the city works here."
Leslie Ross's reputation has apparently already spread to the neighborhood around Johnny's Gold Brick — at least, if the person who crashed Tuesday night's invite-only friends and family preview is to be believed. Announced in December, the Heights neighborhood "bar ass bar" that's replaced the Boom Boom Room will open to the public on Friday, but it used previews on Tuesday and Wednesday to get some practice in before a sympathetic audience.
As promised by Treadsack owner Chris Cusack, Johnny's is a low-key affair. Green walls, low light and wood accents give the space a serene feeling. Thoughtful touches abound — from pickaxe "gold digger" logos on the cocktail napkins to gold bricks embedded in the tables that are adjacent to the cream-colored banquettes.
She developed the list and recipes with a mind towards drinkers who are experienced but not sophisticated.
Johnny's cocktail menu is painted on the wall: 10 classics for $8. As Ross explains, she developed the list and recipes with a mind towards drinkers who are experienced but not necessarily sophisticated . . . i.e., Cusack's aunt, who he affectionately refers to a "Disco Dot."
Dot may not know the difference between a Negroni and a boulevardier, but she will appreciate Ross's Manhattan and frozen margarita. As at The Pastry War, the frozen margarita at Johnny's blends both Persian and key limes to get the right balance of tart and sweet. Order it "El Diablo" style for an added shot of creme de mure (a blackberry liqueur).
The El Machete version references the bar's original name. The variation adds Big Red soda for a so wrong it's right vanilla, strawberry, lime combination.
Two familiar faces have joined Ross behind the bar. Jason Moore and Amber White, the couple behind Treadsack's modern ice house D&T Drive Inn, have returned from their California sojourn. In addition to being a friendly face, Moore brings his eclectic music knowledge to Johnny's playlist.
Meanwhile, Ross says she's "taking haute couture and making it ready to wear" by applying standards from her extensive competition experience in training the rest of the staff. Liquors are poured with the labels facing out, and glasses are chilled with ice prior to serving.
Do these touches make the drinks taste better? Maybe not. Do they indicate a thoughtfulness and consideration for service that's more fancy cocktail bar than neighborhood dive? Absolutely.
Watch the video above for more from Ross and Treadsack owner Chris Cusack. And to see Johnny's partner Brad Moore demonstrate the proper way to consume the bar's boilermaker. Disco Dot would undoubtedly approve.