Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.
So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:
As we all well know, cocktails are an art. But that doesn’t mean that many of the Los Angeles bartenders aren’t multi-talented, with abilities that reach far beyond the bar.
And for the second time this June 30th, dozens of LA’s top bartenders will gather for Art Beyond the Glass II, a fundraising event with, of course, cocktails, but also art, music and more – all entirely created and performed by bartenders. This year’s event will be at the exclusive, members-only Los Angeles Athletic Club’s new bar, Invention.
I had a chance to attend a shortened version of basic cocktail training Sam Ross might employ to new bartenders. It was an awesome chance to learn from and get back to the basics of great cocktails with the guy who, through Comme Ca, pretty much helped to revolutionize the cocktail landscape of Los Angeles. Next time you’re in New York, you can visit his and Michael McIlroy’s latest project, Attaboy, in the intimate, former Milk & Honey space in Chinatown. It’s for old world drinking aficionados.
As you’re on the other side of any bar figuring out what to order, you might not need to know that 3/4 oz lemon (or 1 oz lime) balances out 3/4 oz simple syrup in most citrus drinks on the menu. Or that the Old Fashioned on the rock just served to you was actually served “hot,” or short of optimum dilution, so that you’d enjoy it as it mellowed out as the ice melts. It would, however, add to your appreciation of the techniques that go on behind the bar.
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.
While I love living in Hollywood, sometimes you have to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of living in a town that’s the notorious destination for clubs, live acts, theatre and just plain drinking. And as a resident, I’m so glad that David Reiss’ (A-Frame, Sunny Spot) new place featuring the wares of Jason Travi (Spago, Fraiche, La Terza) is here. Littlefork is a clear selection that sits under the “positives of Hollywood” column. (If you’ve ever eaten at the former Korean BBQ spot, which happens to lie spitting distance from arguably the best concentration of Korean food in the world, I’ll try not to judge you.)
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…
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!
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.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
$8 on preview night
$12 all other times
Drago Centro 525 S. Flower Street Los Angeles, CA 90071 213.228.8998
We’re all familiar with our favorite stands and spots at the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax, a Los Angeles landmark that dates back to 1934. As we fast-forward and look at the space beginning the 21st century, much hasn’t changed in awhile before the Dupars remodel. Short Order and Short Cake just recently became the stalwart newcomers for the last couple months (and with good reason).
Now, there’s a new kid on the block, and her vibe is a luxe, open-air space accentuated by sleek and simple design lines and a centerpiece 360-degree bar. Staged across from Zara and Cafe Marmalade, the bar has potential to play host to a vibrant, pulsing energy. The only thing that would make the scenery prime is if the bar were maybe just one level up (didn’t you know – The Grove parking lot has some of the best sights of the city).
But all of this barely matters, because you still get the view of the original clock tower and more importantly, cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese and helmed by his conductor, local expert barsmith Joe Brooke.
In short, yes – go for the House Martini. It’s one of the best martinis you’ll ever have. It’s so cold while achieving the perfect dilution (see above video) and made perfect in no small part due to the frozen glass and spirits.
Another gin go-to would be the Breakfast Martini, made with Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and orange marmalade – a signature drink from 1997 that may immortalize Salvatore in the cocktail world. It’s just jammy enough thanks to the marmalade (an ingredient inspired by Salvatore’s wife) but not not too sweet. And of course, you’ll have to order your own to see if it actually tastes like breakfast.
Spice lovers won’t be disappointed by the still-elegant Spicy Fifty, made with Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka, elderflower cordial, fresh lime juice, honey syrup and chili pepper.
But the true signature cocktail of the menu would have to be The Farmer’s Martini, made with frozen Stoli Elit, blue curacao and Salvatore’s bitters & champagne. I can’t say I’ve ever had much of a blue cocktail since I’ve left undergrad – but while it’s not my favorite, this one is legit and, together with the Spicy Fifty, has me perhaps reconsidering my prejudices against vodka…maybe.
And for those who are secretly or not-so-secretly craving a girly drink will have to pony up (personally or not) for the $18 Hollywood Bubbles, a Champagne cocktail made with Benedictine, fresh raspberry puree and pomegranate juice. Though I might be quick to judge on looks alone, Bubbles actually packs quite the berry punch.
Mixology101 also serves bar food, though it decidedly carries less emphasis as it all fits onto the last page of the menu – after Salvatore’s bio. But really – if you were aiming to really eat, you’d go across the way to Planet Dailies.
It’s an exciting time to be at The Original Farmer’s Market. People don’t have to flock there purely on account of old favorites anymore and now have reason to make new ones.
Though their location is right by the Farmer’s Market, you won’t be finding a lot of housemade syrups, as that’s a variable to contend with from batch to batch. Mixology101 focuses on using modern (not to be confused with gastronomic) methods to make the classics. But it’s clear that Joe Brooke seems happy to be exactly where he’s at, under the tutelege of a world-renowned mixologist and continually learning.
With Short Order around the corner and offering quite a different style and selection of cocktails, it becomes clear: Cocktails of all kinds will be a new pull to the Original Farmer’s Market.
We’ll just have to deal with the early call times.
Mon – Thur
5 – 10 PM
Fri – Sat
5 – 11 PM
Mixology101 at Planet Dailies 6333 W. 3rd St., Ste. O20 Los Angeles, CA 90036