A Toast to 50 Years of James Bond in Los Angeles on National Martini Day

Best James Bond Quotes (Sean Connery era)

I grew up with a particular older brother who had all of the James Bond flicks (half on Beta, half on VHS), so I had enough exposure to the British spy series to pick the cues up quite a few years later. Just recently, it re-started with my viewing of the Mad Men Season 5 finale. That Peggy and Don viewed Casino Royale while playing hooky from work and the finale’s credits closed out with You Only Live Twice made me take notice of everything going on around us. My girlfriend, who volunteers at The Aero, mentioned their Bond marathon. The James Bond frenzy is currently overtaking Los Angeles.

Vesper Martini

Why? Only the 50th anniversary of the Sean Connery-to-Daniel Craig franchise, I eventually found out, and we Angelenos have plenty of chances to get dosages of our own:

American Cinematheque’s The Aero Theatre (Santa Monica) is concluding their Complete James Bond Retrospective this weekend with Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies on Friday, June 22nd and Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace on Sunday, June 24th. The Egyptian (Hollywood) will be screening The World Is Not Enough and Die Another day on Saturday, the 23rd.

If you want to see Bond inspiration articulated in the museum, check out the  “…Is James Bond” exhibit at LACMA, now through September 9, which happens to be co-organized with Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television. You can also catch Bond movie double screenings here every Thursday in July and September. (You can also score a free summer pass at the museum with purchase of regular general admission!)

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But it’s not really celebrating Bond if you don’t toast his tradition of drinking, or concocting, the classics. Lo and behold – today is also National Martini Day! But if you’re like me, you already know which places really know how to make a martini just how you like it. So let’s mix things up with some help from the spy.

If you want to go for a classic formulated and named by the spy himself a la Casino Royale (circa 1953), and the cocktail that just so happens to be Ian Fleming’s favorite, you’ll look for a Vesper. Just remember that you’ll want to correct that infamous phrase to “Stirred, not shaken” and you’re set. (No man is perfect, after all.) But if James Bond were in Los Angeles, you can bet that you’d see him at one of these awesome bars:

Hemingway’s Lounge

After a screening or exhibit viewing at LACMA, head on over to the adjacent Ray’s & Stark Bar, the bar of which is helmed by Paul Sanguinetti, where you can order a Cali Blonde (think Eva Green with a dye job). It’s essentially a Vesper made with Hangar One vodka, Martin Millers gin, Lillet Blanc and lemon peel.

If you prefer the flipped version, you’ll go for the Reverse Vesper at Hemingway’s Lounge with Alex Straus:

3 oz Akvinta Vodka
1 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Stir these with ice, strain and garnish with a twist

Here with the Reverse, the vodka and gin proportions are switched because after all, 007 gravitated more towards vodka further along his career.

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Lounge at The Spare Room

Take things to the next level with a barrel-aged cocktail tribute to author Ian Fleming called The Living Daylights over at The Spare Room inside Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel.

Spiced rum
Dry vermouth
Velvet Falernum
Green Chartreuse
Jerry Thomas bitters

Naomi Schimek, the bar manager, explains, “Ian Fleming wrote all of the James Bond stories from his estate Goldeneye on the beach in Jamaica,” where he of course drank a lot of rum, too. “Like cocktail aging in a barrel, a story develops over time, so we thought this was a fitting tribute to Mr. Fleming, the brilliant man who gave us so many wonderful stories.” Fantastic! (Though Naomi had me at Velvet Falernum and Green Chartreuse.)

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David Fernie at Pour Vous

You can also head on over to Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix‘s Pour Vous, the beautiful new, admittedly French-and-not-English cocktail and Champagne bar. But never fear, because Lindsay Nader has put together the vermouth-based Eau de Chambery, an herbal extravaganza that Pablo can see “Bond sipping [on] as he spits game at a model.”

2.5 oz Dolin Dry
.5 oz Maraschino
2 dash Orange bitters
Stir these with ice, strain and pour into coupe glass and garnish with a twist
Sounds like the perfect dry aperitif to get the spy started…
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But we mustn’t forget the Classic Daquiri at Steve & Pablo’s La Descarga, which always come out superb. Again, here we’re waxing Fleming’s glamorous time in the Caribbean. Kenny Arbuckle will have you covered and it is always a fantastic time with plenty of live music and great tunes. If you want rum neat – and why wouldn’t you? – don’t miss the sipping bar in the cigar lounge out back. There are specialty rums that make limited appearances but always leave you craving more.

Viva la Bond and Happy National (modified) Martini Day! I’m definitely grabbing a Vesper or something else Bond-inspired after work. Enjoy you and yours!

Ray’s & Stark Bar
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.857.6180

Hemingway’s Lounge
6356 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.469.0040

The Spare Room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave
Hollywood, CA 90004
323.871.8699

La Descarga
1159 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323.466.1324

Hemingway’s Lounge: Where Elementary to Elegant Imbibers Mix

Whistle Pig Rye Manhattan

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining Dan of Thirsty in LA, Caroline on Crack and John of Social Domain LA in taste-testing Hemingway’s Lounge Director of Cocktails Alex Straus’ new winter cocktail menu. Alex’s renditions of winter cheer did not disappoint.

Hemingway's Nog

For one, my favorite drink on that menu has to be the Hemingway’s Nog, made with Atlantico Rum, Licor 43, creme fraiche, Tiki bitters, grated nutmeg and love. It’s the perfect adult nog that is extra comforting to your palate yet won’t give you that stomach ache like you got at your grandmother’s after too many glasses. Atlantico, a blend of Dominican Republic small batch rum, is the perfect spirit and the creme fraiche is the perfect substitute for the milk and cream. The cocktail is so light yet savory to the froth.

If you’re looking for something more aromatic and English, go with the Chamomile-infused Gin Martini, made complete with chamomile-infused Junipero, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Regan’s Orange Bitters and flamed orange. The florals are accentuated nicely by the citrus, making this particular gin martini another one of my favorites on the new menu.

Whiskey Warmer

Feeling like a hot toddy? The Whiskey Warmer is most excellent. Made with Elijah Craig 12, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, hot water and ground cinnamon, the warm drink takes me from Hollywood to Mammoth in one sip. In fact, I believe I’ll be bringing more than my snowboard on my next trip up and will try to re-create this deliciously comforting, soothing cocktail.

Speaking of favorites in general, there were so many other cocktails that were superbly made for us – like the Moveable Feast (rye whiskey, sage, berry, honey, lemon and The Bon Vivants Tomahawk Bitters) and an impromptu cocktail with Coruba Dark Rum, Appleton Estate Reserve, Smith & Cross, lemon, lime, pineapple and and St. Vincent’s Orgeat – but I really have to cut to the chase. We all had to have a Manhattan, and it was my first time having it made with Whistle Pig Rye. It was incredible, and I’ll leave it at the fact that I have had it 3 times since this tasting.

Interior of Hemingway's Lounge (Photo credit: Hemingway's)

I’d be remiss to omit that Hemingway’s Lounge is a rather unique space to enjoy great cocktails for all the wrong reasons. Okay, here’s one right reason: The interior is beautiful, with books and typewriters lining the walls straight up to the ceilings. Here’s another: Muriel Hemingway expressly gave the bar her blessing to use the family name, giving credence that the bar is an appropriate tribute and not a knock-off. And now for the rest: It’s on Hollywood Boulevard, where no drinking establishment is exempt from patrons who willingly line up 5 deep to order “vodka-sodas with a splash of Red Bull” (I personally witnessed this on a Saturday night I was seeking some entertainment in the English language on the day I had flown back in from Taiwan). But Alex Straus is a mixologist-bartender who thrives in this industry and environment – even when it’s 10 deep. After all, one’s shaker arms can only take so much. As one who avoids reservations and bars in general on Friday and Saturday nights (amateur hour), I have to say that it is completely worth it to see Alex or one of his guys on the weekday (Tuesdays, Wednesdays) and/or as early in the night as possible. For beer drinkers, Hemingway’s has only taps, no bottles – with a non-Hollywood price point ($5-6), to boot (list). The bar’s soundtrack is solid, with classic rock, funk and even jazz dominating the playlist. Impressive.

If someone told me that my new favorite neighborhood cocktail bar would be on Hollywood Blvd., I would have scoffed at one point. But for the first time since moving to Hollywood (and luckily walking distance to Hemingway’s), I felt that the people in the 20 foot line outside this bar were sitting on a goldmine – and not just another joint pumping out spicy tuna at 180 BPM. It’s not my fault if they don’t recognize it; save those shaker arms for me, please!

Tuesday – Friday

8 PM – 2 AM

Saturday

10 PM -2 AM

Closed Sundays and Mondays

Hemingway’s Lounge
6356 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.469.0040