Next weekend, the Red Star Cocktail Club, located above Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St., will open to the public. For the past five years the space was used for private events and prior to that, it was a bar called RedLight.
We went for a sneak peek of the space last night – and to sample a few of the cocktails. Red Star officially opens on Nov. 21.
"The overall focus is on craft and cocktail drinks," says Chad Ellingboe, general manager. "Basically classic cocktails with a twist."
Ellingboe says someday there might actually be a cocktail club at Red Star, but for now, the addition of the word "club" in the bar's name is more to suggest a close-knit feel and a sense of camaraderie.
The decor is similar to the RedLight space, but the exposed-brick walls have been repainted with a rich brown. There’s also ambient lighting, a comfortable "living room" area featuring cream and turquoise vintage couches and a large, square bar with ample seating on two sides.
The bar "stools," made from tractor seats purchased and shipped from Belgium, are one of the most interesting features of the new space.
But perhaps the best aspect of the space – which indeed feels like a step back in time – is that’s it’s on the second floor and there are plenty of windows to remind guests of this. There’s also a staircase in the middle of the lounge that leads to a mystery third floor, giving the bar even more of a unique feel. (One employee started out joking that the stairs lead to haunted rooms from a long-defunct boarding house, but later admitted the third floor is simply where they store extra supplies. Aw, darn.)
Because the cozy lounge only accommodates about 60 people, reservations are suggested – you can make them online – but are not required.
There is a separate entrance to the lounge on Pearson Street, marked, aptly, by a red neon star, and a doorman sits inside the glass doors to greet and check in guests.
"We really want to avoid over-crowding," says Jessica Sobojinkski of the Lowlands Group, which owns Trocadero and Red Star. "We want it to feel like a classy cocktail lounge and not a night club."
The drink menu features about 20 different cocktails. They are divided into three categories – small, tall and up – and range in price from $8 to $10.
We tried the Vanilla Fizz, a sweet-but-not-overly-sweet darling of a cocktail made with Kentucky Bourbon, confectioners sugar, fresh rosemary and Sprecher cream soda.
We also sampled the Missed Flight To Warsaw which blew our minds; we never had anything that taste quite like this. Its name is a nod to one of its ingredients: vanilla-infused Roaring Dan’s Maple rum, house orgeat syrup, fresh lemon and lime juice, Angostura bitters and MKE Brewing Polish Moon milk stout.
The mixing of beer into cocktails is always a good idea in our Milwaukee-based book.
Next time we’re definitely trying the Corn Maiz, concocted with Cazadores Reposado, roasted corn (!), anise agave nectar, lime juice and mezcal.
The P and B and B also caught our eye with ingredients like pecan-infused bourbon, coffee liqueur, chocolate bitters, apple spice syrup and B & B liqueur which is a blend of spiced Benedictine liqueur and cognac.
There is also a small wine list – four whites and four reds – and seven craft beers on tap: Spotted Cow, Lakefront IPA, Stella, Stella Cidre, Newcastle Brown Ale and Hoegaarden. There is an additional 20 different beers in bottles. Taps are $5 and bottles range from $4 Miller products to a $10 Lindemans peche lambic or Orval Trappist ale.
"We really want Red Star to take on a personality of its own so we're giving it some really unique touches," says Sobojinski.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.