As the unofficial ambassador/cheerleader for Cleveland, I want anything that happens in the area to be a rousing success. So when the NCB team learned Joseph DeLuca was opening Apothecary, a new cocktail lounge in Lakewood, Ohio (just west of downtown Cleveland, where the Nightclub & Bar magazine staff is headquartered), we were thrilled to get a first look at the bar. As we walked in the door for the grand opening, it was quickly evident DeLuca and his business partner Niko Moulagianis created a cocktail lounge that adds to the burgeoning Cleveland-area cocktail scene without turning up its nose at the beer lovers of Lakewood.
The bar features brick walls adorned with locally commissioned art and offers a menu of classic cocktails such as the Singapore Sling, modern interpretations like the Lil’ T&A (Tanqueray No. 10, Lillet Blanc, Lillet Rouge and Aperol), esoteric beers (Arcadia Angler’s Pale Ale or a Pink Killer, anyone?) and a descriptive wine list.
But DeLuca and his team offer more than just the basics of a cocktail lounge. Inspired by the stand-up bars in Rome that serve coffee in the morning and alcohol beverages in the afternoon and evenings, DeLuca crafted Apothecary around the idea of “a bar that paid homage to all beverages — spirits, wine, beer, coffee, milkshakes, phosphates, etc.” Plus, DeLuca “really liked the idea of the pharmacy counter of yesteryear where sodas were hand crafted.” While currently only open evenings due to operating constraints (for one, a shared bathroom with Moulagianis’ restaurant, which doesn’t open until 5 p.m.), DeLuca expects to operate longer hours next year when his rooftop patio opens (including bathrooms).
The NCB team stopped by the opening of Apothecary to meet the staff (front, from left): Alissa Ponchione and Emily Hanna Mayock and (back, from left) Donna Hood Crecca, Niko Moulagianis, Joseph DeLuca, Tobin Northrup, Nathan Burdette and Rob Ghosh.
Building on DeLuca’s inspiration, Apothecary serves fresh-squeezed juices (lime, lemon, grapefruit and orange), coffee and tea from French presses, handcrafted Shrubs made with fresh fruit, honey and balsamic vinegar, a tangy Orange Julius (orange juice, egg white and muddled vanilla bean) and cream soda made from scratch. Soon, the team — DeLuca and his two bartenders Tobin Northrup and Nathan Burdette — will add house-made ginger beer, root beer, tonic water, phosphates and even milkshakes to the menu.
Such house-made products may be common on backbars in other cities, but they’re relatively new to the Cleveland-area scene and likely are inspired by the city’s food revolution. The well-recognized culinary scene, brought to national light by hometown chefs like Michael Symon, and the addition of Apothecary outside of downtown shows just how far the Cleve has come lately. The presence of Tanqueray brand ambassador Angus Winchester at the opening sealed Apothecary’s immediate status as a must-visit cocktail venue.
“I think we are responding to the guest’s desire for authenticity in ingredients and in historical context,” DeLuca says. “We’re tired of chemicals and additives in food and drink. Why are we buying sweet and sour mix full of preservatives when we have sugar and lemons in the bar?”
This fresh ingredient concept won’t be a hard sell for many of the young, eclectic residents of Lakewood, but DeLuca hopes to educate his patrons on the fresh-drink-making business; staff is more than happy to show guests the process behind the homemade orange cordial or explain the bar’s unique products. They create an experience well worth the $8 (or so) per drink price tag, which is critical, as Apothecary’s main competition in Lakewood is bars with dollar drafts targeting recent college grads and young professionals.
“The concept skews toward professionals who have an appreciation for luxury,” he says. “Yes we hand craft cocktails, yes we like to showcase oddball wines and craft beers, but we also offer Budweiser in quarts served with wine glasses if you like simple beverages. We want to introduce you to new things.” And I, for one, am thankful I’ve been introduced to Apothecary. NCB