Connoisseurs of a well-made drink and a comfortable setting look no further. The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery takes its craft seriously and Taos has quickly noticed.
The Lounge is sophisticated without being stuffy, classy without taking itself too seriously. The focus is carefully-crafted vodka cocktails using locally sourced ingredients. The vodka is made at the local Rolling Still Distillery owned by husband and wife duos Liza Barrett and Dan Irion and Nicole and Scott Barady.
“We chose vodka to distill first because it lends itself well to being infused and taking on different flavors that speak to New Mexico. Flavors like piñons, juniper, green and red chile, lavender, pecan, oregano and honey,” said co-owner Barrett.
This isn’t just any ordinary vodka we are talking about. One hundred percent organic maize is distilled with artisanal mountain water flowing from 9,200 feet. The vodka is distilled not once and not twice, but seven times. The result is a premium product.
The couples put their entrepreneurial heads together, started the Rolling Still Distillery and spun off The Lounge or as Barrett terms it, a “tasting room.”
The Lounge sits in Taos’ Historic District on Paseo del Pueblo Norte backing up to Martyrs Lane and according to Barrett, the structure was originally a home. There is a cellar used for storage, affectionately known as “the dungeon.” The inside was completely done over and the result is an intimate space much like a house with three differently appointed rooms, each with its own mood.
The couples have known each other for about 15 years. Besides starting a distillery and The Lounge, Nicole and Scott are part owners of the local's favorite Pizaños. Barrett has a background in graphic design and marketing. Irion and Scott play in the band, The Last to Know.
Barrett and Irion are not new to the restaurant industry. Irion helped found the iconic Taos Mesa Brewing in 2012. “Dan is responsible for bringing the music venue in,” said Barrett. He is still owner/investor in the popular locale.
“We are excited to bring this experience to Taos,” said Barrett of The Lounge. “We are not a traditional bar and have put a lot of spins on the classics.”
With local and seasonal ingredients in mind, they've crafted an elderberry-infused vodka with rose, lemon and Topo Chico sparkling mineral water.
For the adventurous, the flaming pom-chata awaits: ponderosa- and juniper-infused vodka, coconut cream, pomegranate, shredded coconut rim with the pi èce de résistance, a flaming cinnamon stick.
Conversely, traditionalists can savor a shaken or stirred martini.
If vodka is not your spirit of choice, you can always try the old-timey Taos Lightning whiskey (made by KGB Spirits in nearby Alcade), a nod to local legend Simeon Turley. Northern New Mexico history dictates that in 1820. Turley started one of America’s oldest whiskey distilleries in Arroyo Hondo. Settlers, Native Americans and fur trappers were known to mightily imbibe in its noted bite and legend has it Turley’s whiskey left trail-weary frontiersmen thunderstruck.
Spirit-free drinks such as the ruby pseudo are also on the drink menu at The Lounge. Combine raspberry, four pepper simple, mint, ginger beer and Topo Chico and you have a creative alternative.
Playing a supporting role are small plates using locally sourced and organic foods. The green hummus plate is unusual in that it includes a chermoula sauce, a North African mix of herbs and garlic. The hummus’ chermoula consists of arugula, cilantro, parsley, currant, smoked paprika, garlic and shallots. All this served on house-made flat bread. You may possibly never look at hummus the same way again.
Looking ahead to the near future, the partners plan to add a Sunday Bloody Mary brunch outside. The porch is a decent size and will lend itself well to a lazy Sunday with a good view for people-watching on Taos’ main drag. Bigger yet, Rolling Still Distillery plans to add gin to its stock.
Who knows, if this distillery keeps rolling, there’s no end in sight. Turley would be proud.