Cloak & Dagger, Cleveland
This Cleveland spot is rewriting expectations of what a themed cocktail bar can be with its wildly creative cocktails and consummate hospitality.
Once upon a time, there was a very clever book-themed cocktail bar in Cleveland. Co-owner Casey Hughes describes the experience as the unraveling of a story, starting with a page-turner of a bar menu. The ornately illustrated booklet is equal parts thriller, allegory and mystery, teasing out cocktail descriptions that reveal the overarching theme.
“Every bar needs a niche, or it doesn’t stand out. I enjoy stories, cinema and film, and I started to think it could be a good theme for a bar,” Hughes says. “There are so many different kinds of books.”
Cloak — as the regulars refer to it — fully embodies its literary theme. Old books, vintage furniture and curious objets d’art create the look and feel of a well-loved library. Considerable effort went into crafting an immersive environment that’s both intelligent and comfortable — a perfect foreshadowing of the gustatory exploration to come.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Hughes says. “We do all of our own juices and syrups. Our staff developed all the recipes.”
Cocktails change thematically with the seasons — each menu book offers between 10 to 15 — and the bar’s masterful mixologists stray from convention any chance they get. (Select cocktails can be enjoyed to the fullest without alcohol, too.)
Autumn’s Cursed menu explores “cocktail oddities,” spanning unusual or surprising flavor profiles and combinations like the Pain & Sorrow, with popcorn and chile-infused tequila, a smoky elote mezcal, corn syrup and spicy bitters. The Death Roll imagines sushi as a beverage, featuring a house-made blended rum (with sesame, nori, sugar and salt), ginger agave and wasabi, garnished with a nori “fin.”
The winter season menu, Krampus, is named for the menacing creature of German and Austrian folklore and features cocktails that toe the line of mischief and merriment. Hughes’ own creation, Arose Such a Clatter, is a pistachio and sugar cookie whiskey sour, which should solidify her place on the nice list.
In an unexpected plot twist, all of Cloak & Dagger’s drinks and carefully curated food selections are vegan. Vegans and omnivores alike will find the plant-based meat and cheese board a bold move. Heartier entrees include a “fried oyster” mushroom po’ boy and Buffalo-style Fresno chile pepper “chicken” skewers.
“We wanted to work with Chef Todd [Kronika] because of his creativity,” Hughes says. “It matches what we are doing with the bar.”
Reservations are recommended. 2399 W. 11th St., Cleveland 44113, 216/795-5657, cloakanddaggercle.com