Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards: The Varnish is America’s Best Cocktail Bar

The Varnish, Downtown Los Angeles – Photo courtesy of 213 Nightlife

“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.

Post-Spirited Awards Celebration at One Eyed Jack’s

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.

Continue reading

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!)

***

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.

***

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.)

***

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…
***
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!

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

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

Tonight: Movember Benefit at The Spare Room With Warpaint & OK Go!

Finalist at World Beard and Moustache Championships, 2005 | Photo courtesy of princess red on Flickr

Well, N Movember is here. Growing a moustache? Watching other people grow moustaches?

You might as well do it for a cause, a cocktail (or two, or…) and live tunes – and you can do that tonight at The Spare Room inside The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Your tongue will feast on a special Mo-cocktail, your ears on a performance by Los Angeles girl band Warpaint and a DJ set by OK Go!‘s Tim Nordwind. Actress and Mo-sista Malin Akerman is set to host. Proceeds from sales of the Mo-cocktail and pictures from the state-of-the-art, retro photo booth will go towards Movember and prostate cancer research.

You might as well bowl a few strikes…and spares…while you’re at it (lanes and designer bowling shoe rentals available at $100 per hour, up to 6 people) – just be sure to reserve your hour or two.

I’ll see you at The Spare Room with your handlebars!

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Thursday, November 3, 2011

9 PM

Event Facebook Page
RSVP: reservations[at]spareroomhollywood[dot]com

The Spare Room at The Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.769.7296

Tonight: Audrey Saunders Welcomes Naomi Schimek, The Spare Room Beverage Director

Hello Naomi, Bye Aidan! | Credit to CarolineOnCrack.com

Mixologist Audrey Saunders, of the Bemelmans Bar reopening in The Carlyle and Soho’s The Pegu Club, is pretty much a spirits goddess in the New York area and beyond. She’s in town today for a “ladies night” of sorts to welcome fellow bartendress extraordinaire Naomi Schimek to her new position as Beverage Director at The Spare Room.

Naomi, who was mentored by Audrey in her early days, is paving the way for her and other women mixologists to make a splash in a scene that’s known for being a boys club. In honor of Naomi’s new title, Audrey is presenting a six drink guest menu at The Spare Room tonight and will help debut the gaming parlor’s new fall menu, which includes Schimek’s own salute to her mentor – the “Ode to Aud” cocktail. Now this sounds absolutely tasty:

ODE TO AUD
Japanese cherry green tea infused Plymouth Gin, Green Chartreuse, lemon, egg white, jasmine essence

Let’s help the Spare Room co-creators Marc Rose and Med Abrous in helping to welcome these two extraordinary women. Tonight’s festivities are sponsored by Plymouth Gin.

See you tonight!

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Monday, October 10th

8 PM

The Spare Room
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (Mezzanine Level)
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028