One definition of the word “millennium” refers to a period of great happiness or human perfection. We would, naturally, like for this to be the case at the beginning of a new year.
While things may not be exactly happy or perfect outside, we found the atmosphere at Millennium Restaurant in Rockridge to be just the right mixture of comfort and calm, as we ducked inside during one recent dark and stormy evening.
As we settled in at the long L-shaped bar, we checked out the minimalist earth-toned décor. The overall effect of the weathered and “rusty” trompe l’oeil beams — complete with rivets — and the dark wood accents was a cross between industrial and cozy. It sounds like an oxymoron, but we promise it isn’t. Millennium’s bar is bordered by a couple of community tables, as well as more typical two and four-tops. The night we were there, early-ish on a Friday night, the tables and the bar quickly filled up with families, couples, and small groups. The vegetarian/vegan restaurant seems to draw its crowd from Berkeley, the after-work homecoming BART riders, local families, and date night couples.
We peppered Steve, our busy bartender, with a few questions. When we asked about diner favorites, he told us that the bar menu changes all the time, but standard drinks are always available. Millennium offers a variety of non-alcoholic drinks in addition to the booze, including a concoction called an Orange Creamsicle (freshly squeezed orange juice, soy creamer and sparkling water), which could be tempting once the weather warms up a bit in a few months.
We looked over the list of cocktails, which includes the College Boulevardier (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Canton ginger liqueur, Gran Classico, orange bitters) ($12) and the Nasty Woman (vodka, Spirit Works sloe gin, Lo-Fi sweet and dry vermouth, orange bitters, lemon twist) ($12, with 50% of sales going to Planned Parenthood).
But after shaking out our umbrellas and shrugging off our coats, the idea of a comforting glass of brandy, mulled wine syrup, lemon and clove proved to be irresistible. The perfect choice of drink to lift one’s spirits in turbulent times — what with rain and wind and rhetoric blustering all over the Bay Area — turned out to be the Winter Spice Hot Toddy ($12). The mulled wine gave the mixture a deep rosy glow, and a small wisp of steam promised the coziness we craved. The combination of gentle heat, spice and spirit slowly warmed us up from the inside.
With the rain set to return this weekend, it’s worth putting on the rain gear and braving the elements to savor a hot toddy at Millennium.
The drink: Winter Spice Hot Toddy
To try next time: College Boulevardier and Nasty Woman
The crowd: A convivial mix of families, date night, and celebratory groups
When to go: Daily happy hours from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and the last hour of service. Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Early happy hour includes $8 cocktails. Late happy hour includes discounted dessert and dessert wine at the bar.