For those of us who travel to eat, a stay at the 250-acre Meadowood in St. Helena goes hand in hand with an extraordinary meal at the resort’s three-Michelin-star restaurant, where chef Christopher Kostow serves a forward-thinking tasting menu inspired by the surrounding landscape. But what outsiders might not know is that this temple to gastronomy is also a magnet for locals looking for something more casual.
Right next to the main dining room, the Rotunda Bar and Lounge opened in 2013 with a lofty wood-beamed ceiling, two roaring fireplaces, and board games and books that invite visitors to linger. The main draw is the roster of inventive cocktails by bar manager Sam Levy, whose seasonal concoctions are simply named after their spirit (Beluga Vodka is a blend of mint, ginger beer, and lime; Brown Butter Bourbon has oaked maple syrup, sarsaparilla, aged balsamic, and lemon). The fun part is ordering off-menu: Sam will gladly whip up something new based on your preferred tipple—like the AFAR-inspired Near and Afar, a mix of far-flung and local ingredients, with foraged spicebush, Sonoma gin, St. Elder from Massachusetts, French Chartreuse, California Meyer lemons, and house-preserved cherries (recipe below).
Hungry? Book one of five seats at the bar for a three-course dinner, which offers an abbreviated snapshot of what’s being served next door. But if you’re just feeling peckish, order the bar bites, which might include Kostow’s ethereally light fried squash blossoms or his habanero-covered buffalo wings—no reservation needed.
NEAR AND AFAR
By Sam Levy, The Restaurant at Meadowood
When we asked Levy to whip up a travel-inspired cocktail for us peripatetic travelers, he created the Near and Afar. We gave it two big thumbs up. Order it fireside when you’re at Meadowood—or make it at home while you’re plotting your next big travel adventure.
Near and Afar
Served up in a coup or martini glass
1.5 oz. Spicebush Spirit Works Gin (see below)
.5 oz. St. Elder
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.75 oz. Meyer lemon
.25 oz. Cherry syrup sunk to the bottom of the glass and a cherry garnish
Add all ingredients together except the cherry syrup in a shaking tin. A hard quick shake is enough to mix everything together. Fine strain through a sieve to remove all ice chips. Sink the cherry syrup down the side of the glass and it will create a nice little layer at the bottom. Garnish with a single cherry on a pick.
Spicebush (Calycathus Occidentalis) Gin
750ml Spirit Works Gin
2 Large spicebush leaves
2 dried seed pods
6-inch segment of a fresh spicebush branch
1 lime peel
Let the infusion sit then strain it out after a week.