Cleveland Culture via THE COCKTAIL

MocaAs a real estate professional one of the best ways, for me, to introduce the culture of a city is by food and drink, especially in Cleveland. The hospitality agriculture of C-town is a gastro-tapestry woven with varied ancestral traditions, held together over the years with nouveau threads that’s interesting; lush and different.  And it’s pure bliss, for me, when a client is able to see—embrace the evolving textile of CLE.

This past Thursday I invited a home buyer, relocating from the East Coast, to accompany me to hear a lecture, THE COCKTAIL: ORIGINS + EVOLUTION at The Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, known to locals as MOCA. (Yeah, we went to an art museum to hear a lecture on cocktails; way cool and very #ThisIsCle)

I was thrilled that I was able to introduce my client to two of my favorite proprietors in Cleveland, both of whom happened to be experts on the panel that evening. Today, I’ve decided not to write about the lecture, but about these two men because they are vibrant fibers in the flavor of Cleveland culture and very different from one another.


I met Paulius Nasvytis back in the mid-1990s. He’s a gentleman of thought and courtesy, often wears a three-piece suit with ascot, and he’s the only man I know who can don a walking stick, without pretension. Much like his attire, he’s a layered man—appreciating the finer things in life, respectfully, master of conversation and introductions, and his Lithuanian heritage hums in the background of what makes Cleveland unique; it’s residents. Back in 1996 he embarked on bringing that way of civility—that we’ve all read about in Edith Wharton novels, to Cleveland with The Velvet Tango Room.  The VTR is a place where you sip your cocktail, slowly as if you’re savoring that sustained “Ahhh…” in the beginning of Bachianas Brasileiras nº 5.  More simply, it’s an aria in a glass.  The Velvet Tango Room is referred to as a speak-easy, but I think that description just doesn’t do it justice; it’s more special than that. There’s too much thought, execution to detail within its walls with reminders of elegance, much like its proprietor…


You know when you first meet someone and after a minute of conversing with them you think to yourself, This person is really, really smart. And it’s not because they are highlighting their resume or parroting some article, theory or book they have read; they just have that spark—that brilliant energy, a distinct zeal.  That’s Michael Nowak the Chef/Owner of The Black Pig. I can’t tell you how many times I look at a menu and I just don’t hear the music—that true distinct voice of the Chef throughout, from the pre-dinner cocktail list all the way to the dessert menu; it doesn’t blend, not balanced. Well, that’s not the case at The Black Pig.  Chef Nowak really understands food, cocktails and wine; all of them—intimately—and historically, creating this really incredible, unheard-of music in dining. For me, it’s like if the French composer Hector Berlioz collaborated with Bad Religion composing a modern-day, Symphonie Fantastique. There’s something happening—something exciting and new at The Black Pig, and I can’t wait to see what transpires over the years with Chef Nowak’s Symphonie Gastroteque—Cleveland-style.




¾ oz. gin
¾ oz. green Chartreuse
¾ oz. maraschino liqueur, like Luxardo
¾ oz. fresh lime juice


Vigorously shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a martini glass or a coupe.

(Alright. So this drink originated in Detroit, but a Clevelander did introduce it to me.)




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