Los Angeles Veteran Barsmith Joe Brooke Lands at The 86 Co.

Joe Brooke’s Shaker Face. Photo by Caroline on Crack

When I first met Joe Brooke at The Edison, it was a whole seven, maybe even eight, years ago. And though I steer more towards food than cocktails on this blog, I hadn’t so much as written about a Vodka-Red Bull by then. My perception of cocktails, as well as as the entire cocktail scene in Los Angeles, was about to get turned upside down. Joe was one of the first craft bartenders I ever met and is one of the most hospitable.

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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.

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Giddy Up: Mint Juleps On Derby Day

Mint Juleps | Photo credit to heathercapri on Flickr

This may not be Kentucky, but if there exists a people who are experts at pretending we’re something or some place we’re not, it’s us, Los Angeles. Celebrate your bets vicariously at the bar with a Mint Julep tomorrow (and today, if you prefer to celebrate early). There are plenty of spots around town to get a good version of the spearmint muddled cocktail.

Dominick’s (West Hollywood)

Dominick’s always brings a solid pour to the bar. Enjoy your Mint Julep surrounded by the ’50’s era decor with tiled floors, dark wood and deep booths. Or, since the wind has died down, sit outside on their pleasant patio while basking in the sunshine.

Open at 6 PM

Dominick’s
8715 Beverly Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
310.652.2335

Thirsty Crow (Silver Lake)

I’ll take any reason to revisit the brand new, 1930’s-themed bourbon far from 1933 Group. In fact, I’ve already had their Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark, and it was pretty fantastic. Don’t forget to play a song for a nickel on their 1936 jukebox. 

Open at 5 PM

The Thirsty Crow
2939 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026-2127
323.661.6007

Elements Kitchen (Pasadena)

Enjoy the recently-revamped space with its modern decor while you sip your Bourbon and mint. As one of the most exciting places to eat or drink in Pasadena, Elements’ Mint Julep comes from a cocktail program designed by Michel Dozois of Neve Ice. What more could you ask for?

Bar Service 4 PM – 12 AM

Elements Kitchen
37 S. El Molino Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
626.440.0044

Rivera (Downtown)

They may serve food under the “Modern Latin” column, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the official Kentucky Derby cocktail from a menu designed by Julian T. Cox. The bar in the subtly-lit, elegant restaurant is the site of one of the premier drinking spots in Downtown L.A.

Open for dinner at 5:30 PM
Late night until 1 AM (Food 12 AM)

Rivera
1050 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213.749.1460

Copa d’Oro (Santa Monica)

Whatever the cocktail and whatever the occasion, it’ll turn out top notch at Copa d’Oro. Special order up a traditional version or pick one of Vincenzo Marianella’s gin variations (the Freezing Jess includes elderflower and a touch of absinthe).

Open at 5:30 PM

Copa d’Oro
217 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401-2311
310.576.3030

Have a great weekend with your mint-muddled cocktails!

There is something about a mint julep.
It is nectar imbibed in a dream,
As fresh as the bud of the tulip,
As cool as the bed of the stream.
There is something about a mint julep,
A fragrance beloved by the lucky.
And perhaps it’s the tint
Of the frost and the mint,
But I think it was born in Kentucky.

-Ogden Nash
Excerpt from: A Drink With Something In It