When I first met Joe Brooke at The Edison, it was a whole seven, maybe even eight, years ago. And though I steer more towards food than cocktails on this blog, I hadn’t so much as written about a Vodka-Red Bull by then. My perception of cocktails, as well as as the entire cocktail scene in Los Angeles, was about to get turned upside down. Joe was one of the first craft bartenders I ever met and is one of the most hospitable.
Bar Harlowe has been open for four months, now, and has become my favorite bar of the 1933 Group. It’s easy to see why, when Harlowe’s cocktail menu with housemade elixirs and modern techniques was designed by Dushan Zaric, Chris Amirault (recently named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30) and Kyle Ackley.
While we’ve gone back and forth for awhile, the weather has gotten pretty warm and I’m sure that it’s here to stay. Well, besides June Gloom in a couple weeks, that is.
But it’s hard to argue that Los Angeles is the place to be in Spring, and Comme Ça, fresh off their remodel, is the perfect place to celebrate and clink glasses. They’ve got quite an impressive cocktail menu that has been out for a couple weeks. Looks are deceiving, because while the Basil Blush, for instance, looks like your typical strawberry-basil cooler, it actually packs quite a punch thanks to its freshly muddled ingredients and tasty, spicy white rum.
The Hudson has been at the center of many a West Hollywood scene. So when they shuttered over the new year for 3 weeks to renovate their interior, they had in mind to update the feel of the place – without doing so much as to disrupt the reasons their patrons have become regulars. What you’ll feel immediately when you walk in is the added height – 8 feet, to be exact – and a now-exposed, beautiful A-frame ceiling.
I can’t be sure what exactly I was expecting out of The Corner Door in Culver City, but I guess it should be known that one of the few things worth traveling to that quandrant for – in my opinion – was ramen, Rutt’s and Roy Choi (even then, I’d still point out that Roy grew up on the eastside of Los Angeles). There have been new restaurants springing up lately, but in a lot of ways, they were neighborhood stops. It seems The Corner Door has found a great balance between being that neighborhood place, and in a lot of ways is heading towards existing as a destination. When you have great food and inspiring cocktails, that’s just what tends to happen.
Since the weather, yet again, is doing nothing to evoke anything the least bit autumn, there are four new cocktails at Sadie in Hollywood that will do it, themselves. Forget that we’ve yet another heatwave (alas, in November) and let Giovanni Martinez’s new creations take you to a place where the leaves turn colors and the air smells crisp. And your taste buds find a new appreciation for cognac…
There was a point in time about a year ago where, upon first meeting other Angelenos and exchanging which neighborhoods we lived in, I stopped getting as many wrinkled noses and, “How’s THAT going for you?’s” in response to my living in Hollywood. But I still get them, to my own bemusement. It’s a revealing comment about the inquisitor, divulging more about their assumptions than I care to disprove. When it comes to drinking and the requisite clubbing, there has sprung up plenty of spots to disprove those stereotypes for a few years now (Library Bar, Harvard & Stone, The Spare Room, Sadie – three of which I can walk to, the other I can Metro to).
I think a gal can be considered lucky when she has top-notch bartenders within walking distance from her separately located home and work. I’ve just reached those ranks thanks to Mia’s new position at The Churchill inside The Orlando Hotel. Now, I’ve realized it can be a dangerous thing when, after a hard day at the office, she’s a mere 3 blocks away and on my way home. And this bar is also inside a hotel, so even when I get off early every Monday through Friday, it’s open!
It’s rare when I get a full picture of an entire cocktail menu, but it’s even rarer when I’m afforded the opportunity to do so and end up consistently impressed with cocktail after cocktail. The bar at 1886’s recent Spring menu makes it the destination in not only Pasadena drinking, but a go-to for some of the best cocktails in all of LA.
Sure, it flies under the radar because of its location, but 1886 has also benefited as a result. Free of the obligation of appealing to overflow traffic, 1886 has the freedom to focus on seriously fun cocktails, akin to the audience the bar has cultivated since its opening in late-2010.
The Pimm’s #5 Cup (after previous other Pimm’s versions with other spirits) is a perfect cocktail to head off the menu for Spring. The rye, Bitter Lemon Fever Tree Tonic and housemade Pimms made for a perfect balance, rendering a super-refreshing cocktail just as a Pimm’s Cup should be.
If you’re in the mood for their other rye cocktail, go for the 20,000 Leagues – a kind of swizzle made with peach-infused rye, mint, and housemade yellow chartreuse candy (the garnish was especially tasty!). Imagined by Pete Lloyd Jones, this deliciousÂ cocktail was the result of a request by the Pasadena Historical Society to honor residents who were aboard the Titanic. The ingredients were inspired by the Titanic’s own dessert menu.
The Water of Life, made by Garrett McKechnie with the Norwegian spirit, Aquavit, homemade Chamomile-Syrup and Noletâ€™s Gin, is the floral tea-influenced cocktail of the season. It’s also a light yet herbal treat and finished off with a sprig or two of Chamomile.
The Cinnablossom by Lacey Murillo comes with a cinnamon garnish that is toasted – or flamed – tableside. Gin, lemon juice and homemade cinnamon bark syrup make for delicious gin-citrus cocktail with a subtle touch of spice.
One of the best beer cocktails I’ve had in awhile also happened to be the prettiest, which is quite lovely since it’s a testament to how far they’ve evolved. TheÂ Wild Orchid is a shaken cocktailÂ made with Torontel Pisco, Vergano Bianco Vermouth, Grand Marnier and Hefeweissen with the orchid garnish. The effervescence of the beer worked well with the depth of the Pisco, vermouth and Grand Marnier for a really wonderful combination of flavors and textures.
The other flaming cocktail on the menu is the Bittersweet Farewell in honor of former 1886 barman, Danny Cymbal’s. A flaming lemon peel floats as an oasis in a shaken concoction of London Dry Gin, homemade Passion Fruit Syrup, lemon juice and Campari. It’s a beautiful gin drink with just the right amount of tart.
The all-out favorite of the night had to be the Rum Whistle, which is basically 1886’s new bottled special and bottled each and every night for a fixed amount to be sold at the bar the next day. It’s not only bottled, but it also has the widest range of appeal; boozers and non-boozers alike will love it. The green apple-celery soda base isÂ spiked with aged white rum and finished off with fresh lime juice before being carbonated and bottled and the results are simply tasty. You may order more than one – not only because you can but alsoÂ because you love it.
The Vintage Caprice Flight features three vintages of classic Beefeater Gin Barrel-Aged Caprice â€“ made with Beefeater Gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters and thenÂ aged at 4-months, 8-months and 12-months.Â I wasÂ surprised to find that I actually favored the 8 month vintage over the 12. Older isn’t necessarily better and sometimes, your gin is just done aging.
The Barrel Roll (title picture) doesn’t just fall under the years-long trend of barrel aged cocktails, it’s also a super tasty rendition of aged Bols Genever, Carpano Antica, Green Chartreuse and aÂ Campari chip byÂ pastry chef Jeff Haines (who also did the Yellow Chartreuse candy). It just so happened to be one of my favorites.Â The chip was theÂ slight sweet touch to the Bols cocktail and made for a strong yet nuanced cocktail.
Of course, you’ll need a few bar bites to line your stomach – but the selection at 1886 does more than that. They are daring yet successfully delicious plates, indeed. The musts: Shrimp toast and Lamb necks.
So get on over to 1886 right away and drink up. You’ll learn why it’s one of the best kept secrets inÂ Pasadena.
All food and cocktails were hosted. Special thanks to Brady Weise.
Tonight, Drago Centro will unveil their Spring cocktail menu and it’s a pretty exciting one to boot. Ten new signature drinks by Jaymee Mandeville and Jen Len are available tonight for $8 each. There were 3 in particular that I fell in love with, which I feel compelled to share here.
Since I’m partial to Negronis, the Nebbia Rossa (that is, red hog in Italian) is a nice spin on one with a smoky kick. This cocktail has Del Maguey Vida Mezcal to thank for its slight peaty notes, but the drink is also so well balanced that it’s not the first thing you will notice. The drink also has Campari, Bittermens Citron Sauvage and Dolin Blanc and to be honest – this is probably the drink of which I would have ordered another, if only I didn’t have all the others to try… If you can’t decide between an aperitif and digestif, you won’t ever have to make up your mind with the Nebbia Rossa.
Another favorite of mine was the Ver La Luz Del Dia, made with Kappa Pisco, Lillet Blanc, Hangar vodka, Bombay Sapphier and basil. It’s a completely aromatic drink and, contrary to its appearance, not to be passed off as a light drink. It’s beautifully strong in girth yet nuanced in flavor. A really sophisticated drink for those who love their spirits.
The Night and the City is a kind of avant garde Bloody Mary – both in color, presentation and taste. Made with Hayman’s Old Tom Gin (I’ve always loved gin instead of vodka in my Bloody Marys, anyway), Bittermens Hellfire, Miracle Mile Candy Cap Mushroom Bitters, Heirloom Tomato Shrub, black pepper and squid ink syrup & freshly grated horseradish, the Night and the City gives off this savoryness that duels perfectly with its pickled radish garnish. The candy cap mushroom bitters were absolutely delicious. While some may shy away from the color of the liquids, the taste of the cocktail itself was enough to make me turn those sips over in my mouth until none was left. Prepare to reconsider the standard Bloody Mary like you never have, before.
So head to downtown LA tonight to try a few of these favorites off the new Spring cocktail menu. Order some pork cracklins, flatbreads and/or oysters while you’re at it – the bar bites at Drago are legit.
All cocktails were hosted.