Behind the bar in Northeast Ohio: The Cleveland Roots

170404 Old City Libation 1679 Lg
Old City Libations General Manager Rob Dorsey with “The Cleveland Roots,” the bar’s take on an adult root beer float. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Dan Whitaker, Contributing Writer

The seeds that have grown into what is now Old City Soda and Old City Libations were first planted when Mike Gulley, then a bartender at XYZ Tavern, began making his own homebrewed ginger beer to mix in his cocktails.

The instant success of the resulting product (the restaurant’s customers depleted the first kegged batch in less than two days) encouraged Gulley to take his small homebrew operation a step further.

After extensive research and experimentation he started a small ginger beer company.

After serving up his brew at the Cleveland Flea, the company started to draw some attention from the press. In the summer 2014, Gulley joined forces with his cousin Sean Adkins, an avid home brewer and business consultant and Old City Soda was formed.

In the beginning, the duo brewed small five case batches of preservative-free, handmade sodas. Cases were delivered to local businesses in a small, refrigerated truck the same day they were bottled.

The business has grown rapidly in the past years after partnering with Platform Beer Co. to increase production and distribution, gaining Kumar Arora as an investor through the Lebron James-produced Cleveland Hustles television show, opening up a retail storefront and a bar and eatery in the blossoming Gordon Square Art District.

Old City Libations, the newest outlet for Old City Soda, opened eight months ago. The bar and restaurant features small-plate, locally sourced food, and GM Rob Dorsey (pictured) and his staff of bartenders serve up craft cocktails that showcase the company’s small-batch sodas.

The Cleveland Roots is the bar’s take on an adult root beer float, mixing OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka and Old City’s Authentic Root Beer to give a new meaning to the idea of drinking for dessert.

How to Make It – The Cleveland Roots

  • 1.5 oz OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka
  • 4 oz Old City Authentic Root Beer
  • Fernet Branca infused whipped cream
  • Luxardo cherries for garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour vodka and root beer over ice. Stir, garnish with whipped cream and cherries.

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Categories: Downtown Food & Dining