Exploring Bar World Myths at Tales of the Cocktail

Taste Test

I’ve never sat in a classroom-like setting in regards to cocktails before, but when David Wondrich, Dave Arnold and Wayne Curtis are “lecturing,” you better choose your battles wisely. The Thursday of Tales of the Cocktail, they explored bar world myths for those eager to learn the truths and untruths of the cocktail world.

It’s time to get geeky with some bartending bullet points:

Dry Shake? From L-R: Cold, warm
  • Do you discard vermouth after it has sat around in the refrigerator for one month?

Ultimately, there is a difference, but it’s so slight that there may as well not be. Refrigerate always (this is a must), but oxidation in vermouth isn’t really a killer. I picked the “wrong” one (or in this case, the un-fresh choice), and preferred the cocktail made with 6-week old vermouth as opposed to the just-opened one.

  • Is dry shaking BS?

No. Shaking warm ingredients without ice makes for better aeration and emulsification in cocktails – especially with egg. Warm eggs are integrated into the cocktail better than cold, and this makes for a better creamy foam top. And by the way – it’s better to keep room-temp eggs at your bar than cold ones. Cold eggs give your bar that “wet dog” smell.

  • Fresh limes are always better.

Surprisingly, the room came to a majority opinion that the cocktail with 5-hours-old lime juice was favorable to the just-squeezed lime juice. Fresh-fresh lime juice is actually too tart.

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La Descarga: The Underground Rum Revival

Main bar at La Descarga

The speakeasy isn’t dead.

Due to fatigue induced by Mark Gold’s wonderful fried chicken over at Eva, I had missed a late reservation on opening night at La Descarga. Luckily, thanks to Mattatouille and the company of H.C. of LA-OC-Foodie and Fiona of Gourmet Pigs, I was able to avoid the rush and visit the new, under-cover, reservation-only rum bar the very next night.

Struggling under the weight of a wine-paired meal at The Raymond in Pasadena, I was determined to see what all the fuss was about. Back in a part of Hollywood that actually borders on Koreatown, comes experience from other parts of town like the membership-only Doheny.  With additional cocktail friend in tow, we admired the neighboring taco stand (complete with lucious spit of meat in the window) while being cleared by the well-dressed, courteous doorman with a clipboard. And up we ascended, up narrow stairs and through jaggedly winding hallways and into an … office with a beautiful lady behind the desk.

At La Descarga, she let us know, there are two bars and one smoking room. The bar in the back smoking room is reserved for rum only while the main, front bar will serve us their cocktail menu. Cigars are available (10 hand-rolled and aged varieties, that is, for your pleasure). From what I heard about Bill and H.C.’s opening escapades the night before, I had already known this – as H.C. had been lamenting about his dry cleaning bill earlier.

The hostess walked around the desk and toward us. Naturally, we backed up. And it was then we noticed that to our right there was a wardrobe, which she opened. We saw white linen Havana shirts hanging with a passageway behind them.

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