One can’t talk about Root 246 without mentioning celebrity chef Bradley Ogden. He’s the artist behind all the food and drinks here, this little bit of Los Angeles on Alisal Road in Solvang, looking totally out of place (in a good way) between the strudel shop and the sharp knives shop and the usual windmillscape of this Dutch enclave up north. Ogden’s restaurant features one of the largest open kitchens we’ve seen in the county, and those who love to glimpse behind the scenes can even reserve a table in the corner of said kitchen and watch plates go from stove to dining room.
Somewhere in the middle of our second cocktail, there’s the man himself, behind the bar, shaking our hands and asking about our drinks, letting us know the attention that goes into the food also goes into the cocktail menu. We were just thinking that ourselves, as the menu at Root 246 contains an enticing blend of herbs (and spices!), fruits and special liquors. Our two bartenders, Andre Boler and Nick Collins, have been here for about the length of the entire run of Root, which opened in April of 2009. They’re quick to whip up some cocktails for us.
The Herb Garden Gimlet bursts with cucumber and basil flavors, complicated by fresh strawberries, making this the cocktail version of bruschetta, in a way. (That’s a good thing.) The cucumber comes by way of Crop Vodka and is tres crisp. Making our way through the cocktail, we could taste the different forwardness of each ingredient, finishing with those muddled strawberries. Delightful.
Our next cocktail was a Laughing Buddha, which combines Skyy Passion Fruit Vodka, a special five-spice simple syrup, Serrano pepper, ginger and lime, all topped with ginger beer. Like the gimlet, this cocktail juggled all its complementary flavors this way and that, from the ginger burst at the beginning to the heat of the peppery finish.
For a dessert drink, the Raspberry Truffle was not as sweet as we thought upon hearing the name. The Kahlua provides the velvet depth, Mathilde Raspberry liqueur the fruit and Absolut Vodka the party. But there are no cloying corners to this drink — it fills the mouth with a fresh, clean feel.
All were delicious choices, but pressed, we had to choose the Laughing Buddha. Is he laughing because, even though desire is the root of all suffering, we had nothing but desire for a second glass? That’s the paradox of our Drink of the Week.
1½ ounces Skyy Passion Fruit Vodka
¾ ounce lime juice
¾ ounce Five-Spice Syrup
2 slices serrano pepper
Ginger beer to fill
Muddle pepper with syrup and juice, add vodka and shake. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with ginger.
420 Alisal Road, in Solvang