“Five years ago at Tales [of the Cocktail], it was just a small group of us from L.A. The guys from Portland, New York, OH MAN SAN FRANCISCO … would ask, ‘Where are you from?’ … ‘L.A.? Oh, that’s nice. How’s the bottle service?'” – Aidan Demarest, Tello Demarest Liquid Assets
“The Varnish didn’t just win. All of us, all of L.A. won.” – Cedd Moses, 213 Nightlife
I’ll never forget my first time in New Orleans this past weekend at the 10th Anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail. There’s something about getting to witness your favorite bartenders in your home city come together to celebrate their craft with their big shot counterparts from other cities. Going from seminar to tasting room to industry party to Spirited Dinner (while catching some not-to-miss eats of the city in between) in the humid, 90° swelt of The French Quarter was a new junket to me, but the presence of Los Angeles was unmistakeable, making Tales all the less intimidating and more familiar, much faster.
We are all bartenders, brand ambassadors, educators, writers, photographers and more – with many wearing more than one hat – and as with every year at The Spirited Awards on the last night of Tales, the best of the best are officially recognized. A winner in each category is announced after an initial top ten finalists are narrowed down to four. Though Eric Alperin and The Varnish have been our bastions of Los Angeles in these awards for the past couple years, it was the 2012 Spirited Awards when the L.A. bar community finally felt taken seriously.
There was a plethora of Top 10 finalists representing Los Angeles, announced back in May. Their mentions are below, with the Top 4 denoted by an asterisk: Eric Alperin(*) and Vincenzo Marianella of Copa d’Oro were recognized in the American Bartender of the Year category. The Huston Brothers and Steve Livigni’s and of course Pablo Moix’s Harvard & Stone and 213 Nightlife’s The Varnish(*) were both nominated for Best American Cocktail Bar(*) and World’s Best New Cocktail Bar.
There may or may not be enough places to eat or drink in the block on 6th Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The problem: Where is the bar in all of Los Angeles specializing in tequila at which the drink menu isn’t automatically reduced to a range of flavored margaritas? Las Perlas – which only last Tuesday has joined the neighborhood of Must Bar, Nickel Diner, The Association Bar, The Varnish and Cole’s – is the answer to all your tequila and mezcal needs. The gag-inducing reputation tequila ill-earned with you during college thanks to all those discounted bottles of Jose Cuervo is light years away.
In this latest Cedd Moses (Seven Grand) venture, the space is comfortable and the atmosphere is casual yet festive. But the most important part – the elaborate drinks are made with utmost precision and the drink menu, written in marker on construction paper, is small but has something for everyone. The green backlit bar is impressive while the colorful plastic covering the tables retains that cantina feel. Pop in a few quarters in the personally-approved, brand new jukebox for the perfect, smokyÂ mezcal-sipping soundtrack. Or play a round of pool on a table as brand new as the bar itself (I’m 2 for 2).