Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Jameson Bartenders Ball 2012

Event: Jameson Bartenders Ball 2012

Vanguard NightClub

6021 Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood, 90028

323 463 3331

The Jameson Bartenders Ball was on Monday 27th February 2012 in Los Angeles and turned out to be an extremely fun night for all who ventured out to Hollywood. Held at the Nightclub Vanguard, this was my third year at the Bartenders Ball, but I do believe it may have been the best so far!  Unlike the usual places I talk about,  Vanguard is a night club as apposed to a bar and has the feel of one large warehouse with a stage, bars and tables surrounding a dance floor.

The place itself is huge with a variety of side rooms and an outdoor patio/garden for smokers. Their website describes the venue as; ‘Huge. 17-foot side walls and a 25-foot apex..The stage, flanked by a semi-circle of large video screens, hosts live acts.  Gyrating bodies on the spacious cherry wood dance floor invites onlookers from the VIP balcony above.”  I couldn’t put it better than that, it was exactly as described.

I am not really in to nightclubs anymore, and feel really old saying “the music was a little loud for my liking” but truth be told I am done with my Hollywood clubbing days, i’d much rather be sipping on a clover club at a quiet bar. The music was ridiculously loud to the point where I could feel my body shake from the base out the speakers! Having said that, if i’m going to venture out in to club land…this was a pretty cool venue to attend.

The music line up was much better than previous years, after a good DJ there was a performance by ‘Young Dubliners’ which changed the tone to more Irish Rock, but was fun and certainly fit the Irish ambience. The band ’51/50′ were fantastic.  They consisted of a DJ mixing the latest dance tracks whilst a drummer beat in time to them.  It was an excellent show and got the whole crowd jumping.

The Bartenders Ball is a night out for bartenders only (and there are plenty of them in this city). It is an event sponsored solely by Jameson Irish Whiskey.  Every year it is held at a different location with lots of fun freebies and goodies on offer.

There were t-shirts being pressed with Jameson themes; A lady was airbrushing Jameson logos on to various body parts, there was a photo area for professional pics and cocktail servers bringing little hor d’oeuvres around including delicious mini burgers and my favorite, coconut shrimp on a stick. Being a Jameson fan, it’s a night I never like to shy away from.

The Sponsor

Jameson sells 30 million bottles a year making it the best selling Irish whiskey in the World and it’s easy to taste why. It is smooth with no nasty burning after taste, there are strong nutty and vanilla notes and I find it to be sweeter than most Whiskies.  It is the best in its price point in my opinion and unlike American whiskies, which are usually distilled once, and Scotch whiskies which require two distillations, Jameson is triple distilled in copper pot stills.  The product is made following the original 1780 recipe that uses malted barley combined with un malted barley and other grains.

I actually went to the original Jameson distillery in Dublin, Ireland with my boyfriend in 2009 and found it to be an extremely interesting experience. I strongly urge anyone who goes to Ireland to head over to the distillery.  They are no longer in production at the Dublin location, it has since moved to Cork, but either way the tour and museum were well worth the visit.  Ever since that trip to Ireland I have enjoyed Jameson more and more, on the rocks or with ginger (real ginger that is).

The choices of drinks at the event were limited to Jameson & Ginger, Jameson & Soda and Jameson on the rocks.  They used the Jameson 12 year for these drinks, which although this was good it was nothing in comparison to the Jameson 18 year and Jameson Reserve available to VIPs in the back room.  These were even smoother whiskies which I was happy to enjoy neat.  I have to admit, the 18 year was so good I had probably one too many of those! 🙂

Vanguard looked great with the ‘Jameson Green’ lights and decorations that adorned the room and the Jameson Irish Whiskey drinks were in full supply at the 3 open bars. This years theme was strongly influenced by the ‘Barrel Men’.

 There was a little info on a side plaque that read ‘THE STORY OF THE BARREL MEN ICON: Working at the Old Jameson Distillery in 1780 had the best wages and maintained the best working conditions of all distilleries in Dublin at the time.  To this day you see two barrel men either side of the Jameson label. These two men symbolize the generations of loyal men and women who have distinguished themselves by their hard work and passion for the Jameson brand.”  I love an event with a little history behind it, but I love one even more that has such a great product for free…and in copious amounts!

Dancing and drinking ensued in to the early hours and I had quite the hangover the next morning.

All in all the night was a huge success and I am even more excited to see what the Bartenders Ball organizers come up with next year. It will be hard to top this one. We’ll see…

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Cocktails to cure your ‘Oscars fever!’

As you probably know it is award season here in Los Angeles, so I thought what better way to celebrate the 84th Academy Awards this Sunday 26th February 2012 than learning about a couple of ‘Hollywood Classics’ (Cocktails that is).

In the 1930s when the likes of Ginger Rogers and Clark Gable walked the red carpet, there were a couple of drinks created here in this starry eyed city that deserve a mention.

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Embassy Cocktail
  • 3/4 oz Brandy
  • 3/4 oz Jamaican rum
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • dash Angostura bitters

Garnish: Lime wedge

Shake in ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

This cocktail from the 1930’s was featured at the late ‘Embassy Club’ in Hollywood.  Adolph “Eddie” Brandstatter owned a number of Hollywood hotspots in this era, including the Café Montmartre which was hugely popular with the movie stars of the day.  When the stars complained about the hoards of fans bothering them (people would swarm around the entrance and stare at the patrons eating!) Eddie had the idea to knock a passageway from his place in to a newly constructed building next door and this new space became the exclusive Embassy Club.

It was a speakeasy styled private venue that ‘Old Hollywood’ movie stars could go to escape from the crowds.  Membership was restricted to Brandstatter’s closest friends which included many stars of the time including Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes.

Sadly, the move turned out to be a disaster for Brandstatter because the Café Montmartre lost it’s appeal. The public didn’t want to go there if they couldn’t see Hollywoods royalty.  In order to try and save his businesses he opened Embassy Club to the public but this in turn meant the movie stars stopped going and Brandstatter ended up losing both businesses and filing for bankruptcy. While it was around it is said to have been a beautiful location with a rooftop promenade and glass enclosed lounge with views of the Hollywood hills.

This drink has a great balance of sweet, sour and bitter.  I tried it for the first time this week-end and found it to be really quite delicious.  The Embassy Cocktail is currently a special on the board at Sadie, in Hollywood and will be available to order throughout this award season.

Classic Martini (Also known as the Bradford, Brighton or Gold Cocktail)

  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

Garnish: Olive or a lemon twist

Stir in ice and serve in a chilled cocktail glass

When I think of “Old Hollywood”, one of the actors that springs to mind is Cary Grant.  It is said that Cary Grant’s favorite cocktail was the Classic Martini (made with Gin of course). Author Ian Fleming always said he based his most famous character James Bond on Cary Grant.  James Bond had a reputation for living dangerously and making the wrong seem right, he also had to be different from the average Joe, so Fleming had his character always order this classic incorrectly…”Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”.

A so-called ‘Classic Martini’ is actually really complicated so I won’t go in to it all now,  however the original recipe does call for Gin, which is a much better option than vodka in my opinion. Many cocktail connoisseurs also believe that shaking gin is bad because the shaking action “bruises” the gin (a bitter taste can sometimes occur). In Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, it says  “Bond watched as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker,” I advise you to order yours stirred, not shaken and always with Gin, not Vodka. Sorry James!

Hi Ho Cocktail (Also known as the ‘Highland and Hollywood Cocktail’)

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz White port
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish: Lemon peel twist
Shake in ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.
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The Hi Ho Cocktail was created in Hollywood, California in the 1930’s and named after the cross streets where the Academy awards are held each year- Highland and Hollywood (Hi Ho).   First published in ‘World Drinks and How to Mix Them’ by William Boothby in 1934. I prefer this to a classic martini because I am not a huge fan of vermouth.  While red port is much more common these days, white port is still readily available so make sure you use it for this drink. A dry white port and a London Dry Gin are suggested.

Shirley Temple (non-alcoholic)

  • Ginger Ale
  • Dash of Grenadine (Original is made from Pomegranate based syrup)

Garnish: Cherry

This is a non-alcoholic cocktail named after one of the biggest child stars in history.  I felt the need to put this one on the list (despite its lack of liquor) for two reasons.

Firstly, Shirley Temple was definitely part of the old Hollywood scene.  She was actually awarded a miniature Oscar for charming America with her singing and dancing in the midst of the Great Depression. She was given the award when she was just 6 years old “in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.”and this ‘mocktail’ is said to have been created so that she would have something to drink when out with the adult Hollywood stars.

Secondly, many places today make this drink incorrectly using ‘Sprite’ instead of the original recipe that calls for Ginger Ale,  be sure to ask for the latter when ordering, you won’t be disappointed.

REFERENCES

My research for this piece comes from many sources, but in particular I want to mention three great books I referenced;

1. ‘The Story of Hollywood’ by Gregory Paul Williams

2. ‘Elemental Mixology’ by Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet

and a fun read novelty book;

3. ‘Hollywood’s Favorite Cocktail Book – including the favorite cocktail served at each of the smartest stars’ rendezvous. Food and Wine Combinations.’ by Buzza-Cardozo published 1928.
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I hope you try and enjoy some of these drinks this award season, I have to admit I am not a big Martini drinker myself because in all honesty I find them too strong! I mean, they are for the most part almost straight liquor. I have not yet tried all of the drinks on this list, but am suggesting mainly for their Hollywood history.
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I don’t live too far from Hollywood Blvd but as a picky drinker I have decided it is my duty to force myself and my boyfriend to test these classics whilst watching the Hollywood excitement unfold on TV today. I suggest you do the same! 🙂

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Drink of the Week

The Leap Year Cocktail

  • 2oz Gin
  • 1/2oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/2oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Dash lemon juice

Add Ice, Shake and Strain in to a cocktail glass

Garnish: Lemon twist

Next Wednesday is the 29th February…and what does that mean?…You guessed it, it’s a Leap Year!!! I thought you all might want something fun and different to order/try over the week-end with this upcoming theme in mind.

This classic drink was created by Harry Craddock for the Leap Year celebrations at The Savoy Hotel, London on 29th February 1928. If you’re a Gin drinker you’re bound to enjoy it. I personally like it with Hendricks Gin (as Hess suggests in the video clip below) but a London dry Gin will also work, and is slightly more appropriate considering the drink itself originated in London.

You can order this classic at Bar Chloe in Santa Monica starting today (Friday 24th)  I urge you to head down there and get the Leap Year festivites rolling early!

You can watch this drink being made by Robert Hess below;

Happy Leap Year!

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A not so bitter talk with Louis Anderman

Name: Louis Anderman

Company: Miracle Mile Bitters Co.

Location: Los Angeles, California

“Making the World a better place, 2-3 dashes at a time”


This week-end I finally got to sit down with the lovely Louis Anderman, the man behind the Miracle Mile Bitters Co.  When I say ‘the man behind the brand’ I am being quite literal when I talk about Louis.  Miracle Mile Bitters aren’t mass produced at all,  they are hand-crafted cocktail bitters made here in Los Angeles (Miracle Mile) by Louis ALONE in his rented studio space.

He is a one man show and therefore produces small batches for local businesses, friends, family and fellow enthusiasts.  As his success has risen in the last year he has had to turn down a few distributing companies already, purely because he is realistic about what he can produce as one person.  He cannot create 400 bottles a week, like the larger competitors (Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s etc). He can however, and does, take a little under a month to create a couple of liters of truly exceptional product. He single handedly proves the point of quality over quantity.

These bitters taste real, they don’t taste like false flavorings. Unlike ‘Fee Brothers’ he never uses glycerine in his product, only organic neutral grain spirit (except in the case of his Toasted Pecan Bitters, where he uses 50/50 the neutral grain and Bourbon).  Demand is greater than production allows right now, and he told me that merely mentioning a flavor concept on his Facebook/website has him receiving countless requests for bottles of a product not yet created!

He is a genuinely nice man to chat with and when speaking about what he’s doing now, (a far cry from the world of Miramax he originated in) you really get a sense of his passion for the products he creates.  He has no formal culinary training, but his keen sense of smell, taste and adventure for playing with new flavors is what sent him on his current path.

He started with the Chocolate/Chili bitters early on which ended up being so successful amongst his friends that Joe Keeper (owner of Barkeeper in Silverlake) said “You really should start selling these at my store”. Soon enough his product was doing so well that he said to himself it’s time to “Go Pro or Go HomeLucky for us, he chose the professional route and Miracle Mile Bitters Co. began it’s journey in to the cocktail community.

A Brief bit about Bitters. (Say that ten times fast!)

Ok, so the bitter truth (pun intended) is that until a few days ago I didn’t even know what they really were. When someone mentioned ‘Bitters’ in a drink, I would usually assume, having such a sweet tooth, i’m not going to like it and therefore not going to order it.  I would have been able to name maybe four flavors I knew of:  Peychauds, Angostura, Chocolate and Orange and although I was aware there were more flavors out there, I had no real desire to discover them. To be honest I had no understanding as to why anyone would even want them in a drink!  The only time i’d tasted them in the past had been when I had an upset tummy and my boyfriend FG would give me bitters in soda which was, quite frankly, disgusting! This always stuck with me and when FG would order a digestiv  of ‘beverage bitters’ like Campari or Cynar, I could never understand it’s appeal. It was like taking medicine.

Technically, that’s exactly what he was doing. Bitters originated as medicines and were used to cure a variety of ailments from headaches to constipation to indigestion.  The recipes for some of theses elixirs date back centuries and were used to help fix a variety of sickness issues.  I could not wrap my head around why bartenders had such a desire to add them to drinks, that is until I tried some of Miracle Miles Bitters co. selection at the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar and realized how certain bitters can be a background note that enhance a set of new flavors in a drink.

As soon as I tried them and heard about this ‘Cult member of the cocktail community’ (Louis Anderman) I knew I wanted to meet him, but before I did I decided to do a little research.Amongst other books, I found myself reading ‘A SPIRITED HISTORY of a CLASSIC CURE-ALL- BITTERS’ by Brad Thomas Parsons the most.  It is not a hugely complex book, but was perfect to help me understand their origins and uses. So for all of you, like myself, with little/no knowledge of Bitters here’s a few little things to tell you…in layman’s terms!

What exactly are bitters?

Bitters have been described as “Liquid seasoning for drinks and food”, they are to the bartender what salt and pepper is to the Chef.  FG often has a Negroni or bitter tasting aperitif to help prepare his taste buds for dinner, they cleanse the palette and help enhance flavors in the food you eat, and in the cocktail itself.

“Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent made from infusing roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers and botanicals in high proof alcohol.” Page 9 of Parsons Book.

They are used in the creation of cocktails. Incidentally I should mention that the term “cocktail” should technically always have bitters in it.

Our generation throws the word around with little regard for accuracy. There are thousands of “Cocktail Lists” in this city with not one ‘real’ cocktail on it.   A cocktail (by tradition) is a drink consisting of sugar, alcohol, water and bitters. Thats it! None of these ‘Martinis or Cosmos’ are cocktails at all. We use the term incorrectly and it drives the true drink enthusiasts crazy.

I admit I have no issue with the mis use of the term personally, I actually believe it’s ok for the meaning of words to change and adapt over time, but if you are one of those people who believe in accuracy of names and traditions then check out Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet website by clicking HERE. He is a walking ‘drink encyclopedia’ and runs classes and tasting sessions which will blow your mind. (He also just did an article on the ‘Bitters’ book I mentioned, he wasn’t as in favor of it as I am, but have a look at what he said too.)

Bitters are also, as I mentioned before, a form of Medicine.  Louis told me that some of his first recipes and attempts at bitters came from old 19th Century pharmaceutical books he found on the internet “God bless Google Books” he said, when discussing how access to some of these old recipes really helped him create his own, like his very popular Castilian Bitters.

The Forbidden Bitters (Batch # 001) were some of the best he’s ever created, and not that dissimilar from the, now deceased, Abbott’s 19th Century aromatic bitters.  However, in the same way that the Abbott’s are no longer available you also can’t get your hands on this first batch of Forbidden either.  For the same reason too, they are both now ‘Forbidden’ as the recipe called for Tonka Beans (have bitter almond, cacao and vanilla notes) which are not FDA approved.  This is nothing more than a poorly written law and the minuscule amounts used could never cause you harm, but nevertheless, Louis’ current Forbidden Bitters for sale do not include the aromatic Tonka beans at all. They are still excellent however, and I strongly urge you to buy a bottle.

Always one to try new things, he tells me recently he’s been experimenting with Candicap mushrooms, which have a sweet maple syrup aroma.  I asked why no one has thought to use these in bitters before and he replied “They are expensive and the supply chain is irregular” but that’s the beauty of a small operation company, he can play with flavors with a lot less regard for mass production later on down the line.

The majority of his experimentation isn’t for retail either, but limited to ‘on premise’ clients. An example of this would be the savory “Damn you Matt Wallace” bitters he created for Harvard & Stone in Hollywood.  The name intrigues many who hear it, and I was curious as to it’s back story.

Louis told me;

Matt Wallace (Head Bartender at H&S) suggested I try to create a savory bitters. After I started with a tomato base,  I added (amongst other things) some angelic root, pepper, celery and a little citrus for brightness then my savory bitters were born.  They have spice with not too much heat. The idea and the final product ended up being so good I had to say “Damn you Matt Wallace” so that’s what I put on the label of the first bottle.”

The name stuck! ‘Damn you Matt Wallace bitters’ are still on the drink menu at Harvard and Stone exclusively so be sure to check them out there too.

The new ‘Valentines Bitters’ with notes of Strawberry and Rose that were created for Big Bar’s Prom last week, are outstanding. So delicate and floral, they are delightful and having been able to snag a little bottle for my own use I have already been bothered by ‘bartender friends’ who want me to bug Louis about creating more. “Can you see if he’ll make us like 6 bottles?” Seriously, I can only imagine how many calls Louis must get like this after people try his new creations.

The man is gifted and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is such a great little company and deserves all the recognition it can get. In my opinion it’s always better to look after the “little guy” and stay away from “big commercial” companies when possible and unlike other bitters production companies in America, Miracle Mile Bitters Co. does have that small batch appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some other fantastic bitters companies out there ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a great example of one.  There are also small batch bitters operations popping up all over the place like ‘Bittermens’ bitters created by Avery Glasser in New York.

Louis isn’t here to step on anyones toes though, when I asked if he started his company because he thought other companies were lacking an element he replied;

 “Not at all. I honestly felt there was room for me too. There is always room for new flavor ideas, for example, no one was making a Castilian or Yuzu bitters at the time”

and for the flavors already out there, like Orange or Chocolate, he says he’s not trying to take over;

“As long as the quality is there, I believe theres room for everyone. I target a smaller audience anyway and often have people who just want to collect the whole set because I make so few bottle in a batch compared to the big brands”

His work ethic and passion for what he does comes across when he talks and his choice of flavors has inspired bartenders across LA and the country to create new and exciting drinks with his products.  He sparks imagination in people and his ‘Venue specific bitters’ are a smart way to help Mixology bars around LA get on the map, if they weren’t already.  The cocktail community in LA is so welcoming and helpful for promoting each other, he has been quite overwhelmed by how much support has come for his little brand.  Having tasted his products and met Louis now in person, I honestly believe his product won’t stay “boutique” for long.  I’m pretty sure Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is about to become a big name brand and will one day be available and sold all over the World.  It deserves every success.

If you have an interest in buying any of his current ‘retail’ creations please check out his website, or purchase direct from any of the following locations:

The current bitters he creates in a larger capacity for retail are: Chocolate/Chili Bitters, Gingerbread Bitters, Sour Cherry Bitters, Castilian Bitters, Yuzu Bitters, Forbidden Bitters, Orange Bitters.

I am going to end with a copy of the questionnaire I give all the people I interview. I find this is a fun informal way to learn more about a person and I love to see the different answers .
Here are Louis answers…Enjoy!
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1. What is your full name?
Louis Z Anderman
2. What city/state were you born in?
Los Angeles, CA
3. What is your official job title? 
Barpothecary.  OK, so I made up that word, but it appears that someone beat me to Bitterati.
4. Are you a fussy eater or picky drinker? If so, what WON’T you try?
Absolutely not.  And, I should add, I see no food hierarchy.  I think that a $1 taco truck taco can be as noble as anything served at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, and many of my most memorable meals have been in parking lots, or strip mall dives with a health dept. B in the window.
 5. What is your favorite “Classic” Drink?
Can’t pick one.  Best I can do is my top 5, in no particular order:  Martini, Manhattan, Sazerac, Last Word, Old Fashioned.
6. What is your ‘go-to’ liquor of choice? 
Gin.  Beefeater is usually my house staple, though there are many others I love, depending upon mood and/or finances.
7. What is the most unusual dish or food item you’ve ever tasted?
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but perhaps shark fin soup with crab roe, in Hong Kong.
8. What is the name of your favorite (current) Mixology bar in LA? and Why?
Can’t do it.  Can’t pick a favorite.
9. Where can you usually be found on a Saturday night?
For the most part, I’m a boring homebody.
10. What is the best thing about what you do?  
Many things.  For one, truly loving what I do.  For the first time in my life, I actually find myself excited about going to work.  The creative satisfaction I get from developing new flavors, and the further satisfaction at a positive reception, and then seeing bartenders creating new drinks with them that I never would have imagined.  All of the lovely, incredibly creative and passionate people I’ve met.  Oh, and the comped drinks don’t hurt, either.
11. What is the Worst thing about what you do?
Dealing with supply shortages (I went through about a two month dry spell on Yuzu peel, until I found a new, more reliable supplier), and the stress of building a new business from the ground up, learning as I go along (and hoping I don’t screw anything up too much!).
12. If you could live anywhere in the World where would it be? and why?
I’m gonna cheat and imagine that I had access to a time machine, and say LA in the 1930’s.  I’m obsessed with looking at pictures of old LA, and I can’t imagine how beautiful this city must have been pre-traffic, with lots of gorgeous Art Deco architecture.
13. If you couldn’t do what you do now, what would you do instead?
Cry. 
14. If you won the $100,000,000 on the lottery what would be the first thing you’d buy?
A fully restored (and with the notoriously dodgy electrics upgraded) series 1.5 Jaguar XKE roadster – silver, with red or black interior – or the Plymouth Gin distillery, just so I’d have ready access to the Navy Strength which, sadly, isn’t imported to the US.
 
Thanks for reading!
(If you would like to be considered for interview or represent a bar/brand you want to bring exposure to on my site, please feel free to contact me direct: pickydrinker@gmail.com)

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Drink of the Week

The Akira Kurasawa

  • 2 Japanese cucumber slices
  • 1 Shiso Leaf
  • 1 1/2 oz Pisco
  • 1/2 oz Negori Sake (unfiltered)
  • 1/2 oz Agave
  • 3/4oz Lime juice
  • Dash of Yuzu essence
  • Top off with Aloe Vera juice

Muddle fruit, Shake and Serve on the Rocks

Garnish: A cucumber slice

Created by Yuval Soffer of Neat, I had this drink for the first time this week-end and loved it. Yuval has chosen to play with some different Japanese flavors- the Sake, Yuzu essence, Shiso leaves and Japanese cucumbers create an interesting combination.  The event I attended had him using Pisco Porton which is actually a great Pisco with complex flavors, slightly earthy but smooth with residual sugars. It complemented this drink beautifully.  The drink is refreshing, light and sweet.  The Aloe Vera juice adds something really different and was a taste I don’t think i’d ever actually experienced before.  I know it’s a lot of fairly unusual ingredients to find for this recipe, but if you get a chance I strongly recommend trying it.

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Big Bar Prom = Big Success!

Event: “Midnight in Paris” Prom 2012

Big Bar and Alcove Cafe  

1929 Hillhurst Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 644-0100

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For the second year in a row the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar was a huge success.  Hosted by Eugene Lee and Dan Long, they also had Aidan Demarest of Neat returning as MC. This year the party theme was “Midnight in Paris”, and they went all out transforming their great space in to a Parisian paradise.

I should mention in advance I enjoyed the night even more when I was voted to be a member of the Royal Court, and later in the night was fortunate enough to go on and win (with my boyfriend FG) the title of PROM KING AND QUEEN!! It wasn’t fixed I swear, I just made sure to include the words “World Peace” in my speech, and tell the crowd Aidan would be buying everyone a drink if we won! Worked a charm.

I want to start with a big thanks to Eugene and Dan for making the evening such a success as well as the judges Jessica Borges (City Sip) and Whitney Olschwanger for picking us as Prom King and Queen. We really appreciated our prize of the beautifully romantic horse drawn carriage ride! I always enjoy meeting new and fun people in the cocktail community and the carriage ride was just an additional treat to an already great Valentines Day.

I had such a fun night (even before I won a crown!) and was impressed with the overall set up of the place.  They had a number of interesting drink concoctions, activities and foods. There really was something for everyone. There was a Punch Garden, a make-your-own-cocktail setup (partnering with Miracle Mile Bitters), and a French inspired specialty cocktail list created by Daniel Long.

There were Mimes, an Accordion player, French singers, Characuture Artists and a Prom picture station set up. Everything you could want to feel whisked away to France!

The courtyard was beautiful with fairy lights adorning the trees and the 17ft Eiffel Tower in the middle really added to the overall atmosphere of the night.  I can imagine that even without the tower the courtyard is a beautiful space to sit and enjoy cocktails. I hear they have a wonderful Sunday brunch with Mimosas and I can totally see this place being great in the day time too.  It was a chilly night, but they have a lot of heat lamps so we survived outside.

If you’ve never been to Big Bar or Alcove Cafe & Bakery (which I hadn’t until this event) let me paint a quick picture of the venue.  After passing through the  beautifully lit courtyard you enter a building which divides in to two spaces, Alcove Bakery on the right and Big Bar on the left. I couldn’t help but think “What an interesting mix of two genres…pastries and cocktails!”

            

It does feel like two distinct spaces but they complement each other in their diversity. Also, I can’t imagine anything better than stumbling out of a bar in to a bakery at 1 o’clock in the morning… It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Bartenders Breakfast!’

I do plan to review this place again on a ‘normal’ night, because it had such a great feel to it and i’m told the food is very good. I would imagine this to be true as the ‘French themed’ Hors d’oeuvres I had at the event were truly delicious.  We ordered a selection of food items which included the Croque Monsieur (little cheese and ham baguettes-Delicious!), Angus Beef Sliders with avocado and crispy bacon (I believe they have these on the regular menu and I highly recommend. We ended up ordering 3 servings!), Crab cakes (a little spicy, but lots of flavor) and Goat Cheese stuffed Medjool Dates wrapped in Bacon (need I say more! Yum!).

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COCKTAILS

As I mentioned above, Dan Long (Originally of First & Hope) put together a cocktail list inspired by the French theme of the night.  I started with the “Le Vie En Rose’.

First off, it was an attractive looking drink with lots of color, a large ice cube (I always love) and a  beautiful rose petal garnish.  It had a distinct floral taste throughout, was light but flavorful.  It was a pleasent drink overall, but just a little sour for my liking. I’m not sure what their ratio is at Big Bar but I found the majority of drinks to be a little on the sour side for me.  Having said that, ‘Le Vie En Rose’ definitely grew on me the more I sipped it and I found myself finishing the whole thing with no concern for a lack of sweetness!

Le Vie En Rose: Hudson white Whiskey, Rhuby Liqueur, Lime, Honey, Rose Essence

FG had ‘Le Cercle Rouge’. I enjoyed certain aspects of this drink. Hendricks Gin is one of my favorites, and like the ‘Le Vie En Rose’ drink this too had subtle floral flavorings in it, although was slightly more citric from the lemon.  It was a well balanced and interesting mix of flavors, sadly I just cannot get myself to like the taste of absinthe no matter how hard I try! FG certainly liked it though and devoured it quickly.

Le Cercle Rouge: Hendricks Gin, Solerno, Lillet rouge, Lemon, Absinthe

The champagne cocktail section was the most interesting to me and one of my favorite ‘areas’ of the event.  You had to pick your sugar cube (brown or white), then your bitters (from a large selection of Miracle Mile Bitters. that included Chocolate/Chili, Castilian, Gingerbread, Peach, Forbidden, Valentine and Orange)  and then decide between Rosé or Sparkling wine.  FG created a drink for me and decided to go for the ‘Valentine Bitters’.

The flavors were strawberry and rose, they smelt romantic and girlie to me, like strawberry blossom. These particular bitters were created especially for Big Bar by Louis Anderman (founder or Miracle Mile Bitters Co.) and were a “first attempt” he says, created just weeks earlier specifically for Prom.  In my opinion they turned out pretty darn good for a first shot! The strawberry notes and floral elements complimented the bubbles perfectly. It ended up being the simplest, but possibly the best drink I had all evening. I will be doing an interview with Louis in the next few days, so be sure to check back to the site for that!

After my deliciously simple champagne cocktail I used my drink ticket (which was a bargain at just $8) to try the punch bowl in the back courtyard.  The punch was refreshing and had a splash of prosseco on top. It was also a little sweeter (from the Disaronno) than all the other drinks of the night, which is always a plus for me and my sweet tooth!

Le Punch Drunk Love: Disaronno, Bourbon, Lemon, Cinnamon, Fig Tea, Bubbles

In conclusion, even if I hadn’t won a crown, I would have thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Big Bar Prom and I know all the friends and colleagues that came with me had a great time too. We all got charactures done, (which were hilarious because they looked nothing like us) and had ‘prom style’ photos taken. I will be at Prom 2013 handing my crown over to the next King and Queen!

For those of you who came to the event and had Prom style photos taken, be sure to collect them HERE. Coming soon!

I’m giving Big Bar Valentines Prom (and this is a rating JUST for the event):

 

3.5 out of 5 Clover clubs for Drinks.

I liked the cocktails a lot and the variety was good, but they were all a little too sour for my palette and I preferred the champagne cocktail bar and punch to the cocktails I had. The service was super slow (although to be fair it WAS an event so it’s to be expected) but overall the drinks were balanced and well thought out selections, Dan Long always does a good job with that, and FG enjoyed everything he tried. I’m sure the regular bar on a ‘non-event’ night is excellent and I will be sure to comment on that in my next review.

 

4 out of 5 Platters for Food.

The food rating is one of the highest because the bar bites we got to try were all excellent, especially the sliders. I am excited to return to order food off the regular menu and also get my hands on some of those pastry, cakes and chocolates!

I will be returning again to see this location in the day time soon. If this event was anything to go by, the place is worthy of a second visit and I recommend you to give it a try!

Here are some photos that I borrowed from the Big Bar website…check out more on their facebook page.

Above photo Left to Right: Dan Long, Eugene Lee, Aidan Demarest

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Drink of the Week

The Clover Club

  • 2 oz Dry Gin (Martin Millers is my personal preference)
  • 1 oz Fresh Lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz Raspberry syrup (or Grenadine)
  • Egg white

Dry shake ingredients, then shake with ice and serve up or in a sour glass.

Garnish: Original recipe calls for a Marasca cherry, but I like a Raspberry!

It’s VALENTINES week!! So why not enjoy this beautifully pink classic (and my personal favorite) alcoholic beverage. This is the drink I order the most when i’m not in the mood to try something new. It is fruity,  sweet,  sour and creamy.  It is a member of the Sour genre and sometimes referred to as a ‘Gin Rose‘.  As with the Whisk(e)y Sour the egg white is not added for the purpose of giving the drink flavor, but used as a thickening agent. When the drink is shaken a foamy head is formed and makes it taste fluffy and light. SO yummy! As with the Whisk(e)y Sour this drink should technically be served in a sour glass, but I do love it in a coupe, it is my favorite glass after all! 🙂

Make sure you go somewhere that uses fresh ingredients to order this drink, I am really picky about raw eggs in beverages but if you go to a good Mixology Bar you will be fine.

Go out with your love this week and order this pink beauty!

HAPPY VALENTINES!!!!

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Urth Caffé – Beverly Hills

Urth Caffé Beverly Hills

267 S. Beverly Drive

Beverly Hills

(310) 205-9311

This is probably my favorite little lunch time spot in all of Los Angeles. Unlike most of the places I review, this place has nothing to do with cocktails but is all about the food and coffee; it is after all, a cafe.  The mindset behind this place is organic, and they are strict on the rules of this in particular with the coffee. The first location (on Melrose) has won numerous awards including  ‘Best Environmental Coffee House’ by Coffee and Cuisine Magazine and ‘#1 Coffee Restaurant In Los Angeles’ by Los Angeles Magazine.

Established in 1989, Urth Caffé is America’s first exclusively organic coffee company.  They work directly with a limited number of sustainable coffee growers who produce the finest organically grown coffees available in LA. They also have a great selection of fine teas from selected tea sources, including their own tea garden!

They opened the first café located at 8565 Melrose Ave in 1994, and this location in Beverly Hills opened in 2003.

It is first come, first served place and the courtyard fills up quickly so try to arrive at least half an hour before you want to eat…just in case there’s no seats. This isn’t like a Starbucks though, it is rare to see someone ‘hogging’ a table with their laptop and one coffee for 4 hours. You stand in line (next to delicious looking cheesecakes, buns and pastries) then order, pay and take your designated number to a table.

Please Note: You can’t save a table without having ordered your food first, so don’t try. I personally love this rule because it protects the ‘first come, first served’ policy.

Ok so what to order??…Well, I always get the same thing here to be honest. The small portion of the salad with chicken and pesto is my favorite for a light lunch. Sounds pretty mundane and boring I know, but it’s surprisingly filling and really flavorful. The pesto is divine here and they always grill the chicken perfectly. It’s a very simple dish obviously, you can add candied walnuts (at your request) and I suggest you do that because the candied walnuts are absolutely delicious here, they really are like little rocks of candy and seriously crunchy. This salad comes with a side of bread and butter too. I am a sucker for decent bread in this city, because I find it so hard to come by.  Being from Uk I often forget how spoiled I was being able to get a great crusty baguette from the local supermarket that actually tasted like it would in France. In general I have found the bread to be not that good in California, I have had amazing sour dough bread in San Francisco…but sadly in LA I find it really is hard to come by. The bread at Urth Caffe is pretty darn good though.

Entree Salad: Fresh local mixed greens, Roma Tomatoes, Urth Vinaigrette and served with fresh bread and butter. Chopped Grilled Chicken breast w/ Pesto. Half Salad $9.50

Panini Roasted Turkey: Butter roasted turkey breast with Jarlsberg swiss cheese. Grilled on a poppy seed crusted honey wheat bread, served with whole grain mustard sauce. $12.95

FG tends to get the Turkey Panini for lunch. The turkey is always moist, never dry or overcooked. The bread is toasty and delicious with poppy seeds, there’s a layer of cheese that melts in with the meat and the grain mustard sauce is creamy with just the right level of mustard seeds. Very flavorful sandwich and comes with a light side salad.

DESSERT!

Having been several times for dessert alone, it is necessary to have a whole section of this review dedicated to my favorite course! They have home made pies, like Deep dish peach, cherry or apple pie.  They have a fantastic Tiramisu and a divine selection of cheesecakes. The Oreo Cheesecake and the 3 layer chocolate with Espresso Cheesecake are my favorites and both fantastic. They are very rich and creamy, so you will almost certainly want to share!

The Chocolate pound cake and the orange blossom pound cake are also very good. They don’t skimp on size either. We ordered a slice of each of the cakes, I thought ‘wow $5 a slice is pretty steep, it better be good’ turns out you get 3 slices for an order! Thank goodness for doggy bags in this country!!!! The Orange Blossom pound cake was delightful, really there isn’t a better word to describe it. Fluffy, soft with just a hint of citrus without being over bearing orange flavor. The chocolate was also very good, but more decadent and rich. I ended up putting the two flavors together and creating a chocolate orange slice. If you’re not calorie counting, I highly recommend! 🙂

Other than the teas, I like that they have a great selection of other beverages for the ‘non-coffee’ drinkers. I often get a chocolate milk or a chai tea latte, which I like because they offer almond milk or soy milk for those who don’t want regular.  You can add Boba (tapioca balls) to any drink which is not usually available at coffee shops and they have a really tasty hot chocolate.  All the chocolate drinks taste like real cocoa as apposed to fake chocolate flavorings, you can literally taste the quality of the food and drink here.Another thing I love about this place is the fact that the straws are all biodegradable, at last there’s a place that understands the disastrous effects plastic has on the environment. The bus boys work really hard here, they will happily answer any questions you have and are really quick to clean the tables when you’re finished.

All in all this place is a great location and they are open for dinner as well. I recommend parking up the street (before Charleville Blvd) in the structure. It is just a short walk and the first 2 hours are free, saves looking for a spot.

 I rate this wonderful cafe 5 out of 5 platters!

The food, service and prices are all fantastic. I have been several times and it is never below excellence. The desserts are delicious and they use only good organic, sustainable farmed ingredients. Can’t get much better than that!

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Drink of the Week

Whisk(e)y Sour

  • 20z Whiskey (of choice)
  • 10z Lemon juice
  • 3/4oz Simple Syrup
  • 3/4oz Egg White

Dry shake, then shake with ice, then strain in to a sour glass.

Garnish: None needed in my opinion, but a cherry and orange slice are typical.

PLEASE NOTE: This photo of a Whiskey Sour, although in my favorite coupe glass, is actually incorrect. It should technically be served in a Sour glass.

This drink is a classic sour. Sours belong to one of the old families of original cocktails and are described by Jerry Thomas in his 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks as mixed drinks containing a base liquor (bourbon or some other whiskey in this case of a whiskey sour), lemon or lime juice, egg white, and a sweetener.

To me a Whiskey sour, when done correctly, is utterly delicious. Sadly not all places will use egg, but if you go to one of the many mixology bars popping up around the city you can assume they will make it correctly. The egg white is really what makes the drink so good to me! It’s creamy, slightly sour, and utterly delicious in it’s simplicity.

I have tasted fantastic versions of this classic at Seven Grand and Bar|Kitchen  in Downtown and Bar Chloe in Santa Monica, to name a few. There are of course hundreds of locations around the city that will make you a great one. Just be sure they use fresh ingredients and egg white in their recipe.

Go get one tonight and ENJOY!

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VALENTINES SAVE THE DATE!

Hey everyone! So Valentines Day is fast approaching and I thought I would mention  just TWO events happening next week that you might be interested in… I personally hate how the restaurants in this city decide it’s ok to jack the prices through the roof and do a 5 course set menu (who wants that much food on a date?!) on Valentines Day, so this year my boyfriend and I have decided NOT to do the dinner route at all…but instead we have chosen to eat at home then have a fun time getting drunk on well made drinks at a great bar! I suggest you do the same!!! 😀

I am going to plug 2 events I heard about through USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) LA division…. There is the ‘Valentines Day Prom’ being held at Big Bar and an anti-Valentines ‘Love Stinks Kareoke’ being held at Neat.

Big Bar

1972 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

323 644 0100

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Big Bar will be hosting a ‘Midnight in Paris’ themed evening complete with artists, champagne cocktails, a punch bowl and a 17ft Eiffel Tower! I am told last years ‘Prom’ was a huge success, so I myself will be attending this year. I am looking forward to it and will report back on how it went!

Please Note: I have never been to Big Bar but will be reviewing it (as best I can in a probable drunken state) after the Prom. I have heard nothing but good things about the drink program there and am excited to check it out. If you have a special someone to go with you, I suggest you check it out. For more information go to their facebook page here.

Alternatively….

1114 N Pacific Avenue, Glendale, CA 91202

818 241 4542

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For those of you who HATE the idea of Valentines day, but still want to go out and get a decent drink then definitely head over to Neat.  I will be posting my full review for Neat soon, as I have been there a few times now and have always had an enjoyable time.

The wonderful and vibrant Aidan Demarest (who opened 2 of the best bars in LA- Seven Grand and Spare room) owns this place. As to be expected he has put together a great team and a slightly different approach to a drinks program here.  For those who don’t know him, Aidan is the co-founder of the cocktail consultation company Liquid Assets with his business partner, Marcos Tello.  He has bounced from bar to bar in LA and done magic with them, I will go in to more detail when I put up my full review, but what’s good to know is despite the commute to Glendale (which I know can be a put off for some of you in West LA) it is absolutely worth the journey. It really is a great little bar with a fun atmosphere and fantastic drinks, and honestly from personal experience and many would happily admit AIDAN DEMAREST CAN THROW A PARTY!!!

Really what more could you want?!  If you don’t have a ‘someone special’ for Valentines or you have just started dating and don’t want to do the dinner route then definitely head here, you will have a fun and crazy time for sure! It is being hosted by Caroline on Crack, there will be hand crafted cocktails for just $8 and Kareoke. Err hello?! What more could you ask for!?

ENJOY YOURSELF AND HAVE A HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!!

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Father’s Office, Culver City

Father’s Office (Culver City location)

3229 Helms Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034

310 736 2224

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Came here for Monday date night with my boyfriend FG (read about me section for more info) having heard so much about the ‘Office burger’.  It has been written about by many bloggers as the best burger in LA and was described in Esquire magazine as ‘one of the best burgers in the World’. The main attraction to the burger is the applewood smoked bacon compote and the dry-aged beef. Chef Sang Yoon was in charge of this creation at the original Fathers Office location in Santa Monica.  This location we went to in the Helms bakery building opened up in 2008, but follows the same standards and rules as the original location.

I had heard good things about the food and beer prior to coming here, but didn’t really know what to expect other than it is described as a ‘gastro pub’.  I had feared it would have a sports bar feel to it due to the TV screens and so many beers on tap, but they have definitely made this more upscale than that. A nice long wood bar, low ceilings with edison era light bulbs hanging all the way along made the place warm and inviting. It was anything but a sports bar and had a great slightly romantic ambience. Please note they do not allow modifications or substitutions of any kind here, and they mean it. I don’t usually like this idea in restaurants because 1. I’m fussy! and 2. I do have allergies to some items. Seeing as I wasn’t allergic to anything on the list I wanted to eat this time, there was no need to bother them on this point.

I should talk a little about the beer menu. I don’t drink much beer myself, but do enjoy themaltier beers and on occasion a porter or stout.  Their list is extensive here and documented nicely in the menu with a good description below each one. This is great for someone like me who really doesn’t know names of beers or what direction to go for usually, the descriptions made me WANT to try the beer! For example, Bear republic Heritage Ale was described as ‘Deep roasted chocolate and smoke with biscuit undertones’. YUM!

They had the beers in categories I could understand too… MALTY, HOPPY, YEASTY/SPICY and FRUITY/HERBACIOUS. They also had a whole section dedicated to SEASONAL beers and rare bottles. If you are in to your beer and want a better ambience than somewhere like ‘The Yard House’, then definitely check this location out. (Or the Fathers Office in Santa Monica.)

Despite being a beer place, I decided not to go with a beer but try a speciality cocktail instead because I had heard they put effort in to this aspect of the menu also. I ordered a ‘Oaxacan Fizz‘ purely because I was intrigued by the ‘tobacco syrup’ they make here.

Oaxcan Fizz– San Juan del Rio Mezcal, Tobacco Syrup, Cynar, Lemon, Pure Seltzer

Now, my boyfriend and I don’t smoke. I don’t often enjoy mescal type drinks for that very reason, I used to think it tasted like water in an ashtray to be honest but recently my palette has been adapting to the smokiness of these drinks and i’m actually beginning to like them! It was pretty smoky as the ingredients would suggest, but it had something to it that i really enjoyed. It was refreshing and light despite its smokiness, no doubt due to it being on ice with seltzer. Actually FG did point out it is technically a collins not a fizz because it has ice. A lot of people don’t realize that a ‘Fizz’ is a type of drink, its like people who mix up a ‘Fix’ and a ‘Sour’, the only difference is whether or not it’s on the rocks but it does become a different drink genre for those who didn’t know! Anyway, it was tasty and the tobacco syrup turned out to be pretty potent.

FG got a real buzz off it actually, and seeing as he’s never even tried a cigarette in his life, he couldn’t figure out why he felt so light headed after one drink. Our bartender Mike (who was great by the way) commented on the fact they make the syrup in house by steeping a really high end tobacco in sugar water so he’s most likely getting a high off of that. If you like smoky, you’ll enjoy this drink….and the buzz you’ll get too!

FOOD

We decided to order the burger med/rare with frites and the duck salad.

Office Burger.

Dry-aged beef patty, Caramelized Onion. Bacon. Gruyere, Maytag Blue, Arugula $12

As I mentioned before, this burger has won several awards and been noted as one of the best burgers in the World, so needless to say it had a lot to live up to. I don’t usually like onions on my burger at all, but no modifications meant i had to bite the bullet and taste it regardless….i’m glad I did. The caramelized onion bacon mix was superb and worked beautifully with the two cheeses. It was rich in flavor without being greasy or overpowering.

The meat was cooked to melt in your mouth perfection at medium rare, it was soft almost like butter and had all its flavor still intact. Sadly the soft bun was nothing special, and I felt could have been crispier against the softness of the meat etc. Not sure if it would get my ‘best burger’ title, but is certainly memorable. The only aspect I didn’t like about this dish was the frites, ours were a little over cooked so tasted more like crispy sticks than fries, I never really like the spindly chips (as I call them), I prefer a thicker cut and we regretted not ordering the sweet potato fries which the man next to us got and they looked delicious.

The garlic aioli that accompanied them made up for it though, wow was that good. Creamy with just the right amount of seasoning. Chef Sang Yoon doesn’t allow any ketchup in the building, so don’t bother trying to get it. I am glad of this fact, because the aioli was just perfect.

Liberty Duck Confit Salad

Mustard Greens, Frisée, Figs, Hazelnuts, Tangelo Vinaigrette $13

The salad was also very tasty. It had citrus and asian inspired flavors throughout. Each bite would move through stages, you’d get a burst of sweetness, that would become sour and end with a slight bitterness. The orange of the Tangelo Vinaigrette cut through the richness of the duck meat and complimented it nicely. I wish there had been more green on the plate as apposed to so much frisée, but I was by no means disappointed with the dish as a whole. I really enjoyed the addition of figs and hazelnuts too. The duck was cooked well and I realized from the two dishes, they really know how to cook their meats to perfection here. Other menu items that intrigued me (I didn’t get to taste this time round) were the ‘Hawaiin Butterfish’ and ‘Steak Au Poivre’, I would no doubt try this on the next visit.

It gets 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs

My drink rating here is a tricky one because it’s based only on one cocktail. I am giving this place a 4 out of 5 clover clubs which is VERY generous, but only because the beer list is so extensive there is bound to be something for everyone and the drink I did have was enjoyable and different. It looses a point for the mistake of a ‘Fizz’ and not being able to taste the syrup to distinguish the mescal from the tobacco.

It gets 3.5 out of 5 Platters

The food we ate was all good but not exceptional in my opinion.  It looses points for the disappointing over cooked fries and the lack of green on the salad. Also I kind of wish they’d cut the duck over the salad as apposed to a big chunk of duck meat on the side, but that’s just a personal preference. The menu choices were interesting though and I would be happy to return to try more food in future.

All in all it was a good experience, food and drink was reasonably priced, service was quick and the staff were friendly. A place worth checking out, especially if you like a good pint!

If anyone has any comments on this location in comparison to the Santa Monica one please let me know, I will no doubt check out the other spot in the near future also.

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Del Monte Speakeasy @ The Townhouse


Del Monte Speakeasy @ The Townhouse

52 Windward Avenue, Venice, CA

(310) 392-4040 ‎ · townhousevenice.com
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This little underground gem is literally the only reason I would ever head to Venice at night. I have been at least 5 times now and it rarely disappoints. I actually held my birthday party here this year and had an amazing rum punch bowl created…SO much better than LA club table service with ridiculously overpriced bottles of flavorless liqour.

I first came here around 2years ago completely by accident.  I went in during the day and was greeted by George Czarnecki, an older bartender who turned out to be a bar historian with so many stories about the location, it blew my mind.  This week end, I was lucky enough to get another history talk and tour from the current manager and drinks program director Brandon Reynolds-Ristaino.

A Little History.

The history of this venue makes it even more enticing to come visit, it is one of the few genuine speakeasys that has been family run for over 30years and there has been a bar on this premises continuously since 1915, despite prohibition.

Three families have been involved in the continued operation of The Townhouse. It was first run by the Menotti family as a Buffet which opened in 1915 and the name is still visible on the original tile floor at the front of the bar today.  When prohibition was implemented in 1920 the Menotti’s had grocery’s on display upstairs and moved the bar down to the basement (now The Del Monte Speakeasy).  At the end of the street used to be Abbot Kinney pier (that was destroyed by fire also in 1920) In those days the territorial waters of the USA only extended 3 miles out, so Menotti had ships of alcohol come from Canada, stay at the 3mile limit then smaller boats would greet the liquor ships underneath the pier and bring the alcohol through underground tunnels to stock the speakeasy.  The police somehow turned a blind eye to Menotti’s organization, which means despite prohibition this location has been serving alcohol the entire time! Pretty impressive!

Sometime in the 1950’s the old bar’s name was changed to Grady’s Town House and in 1972 the Bennett family purchased the bar and shortened it to ‘The Townhouse.’The Ryans took it over in  2007 and rennovated the whole place, especially the downstairs ‘Del Monte Speakeasy’.  I never saw the building before rennovations but I am told the Ryan’s have brought it a new lease of life and restored its legacy.

On my tour of the building with Brandon he showed me where the underground tunnels used to lead to and informed me there are still caves all over the city and they recently discovered there is a tunnel that leads all the way to the ‘King Eddy’ in downtown.  These caves were only filled in in areas so there are undoubtedly STILL several open caves damaged only by earthquake activity.The staircase in the photo on the left is hidden in the back of the basement, (now a storage room) but used to be the staircase that was at the end of the alley to the bar and lead inside.

The Del Monte Speakeasy

When going downstairs (and they’re steep stairs so be careful!) you get a sense of excitement, especially knowing the history. You feel like you are entering a secret society in an underground hideaway, there is an elegance and sophistication in this location. It isn’t a dive bar, it is a reflection of the good parts prohibition brought about like the underground cocktail culture. It is a unique experience. Music ranges in style but there is live music 3 times a week (Sundays, Thursdays and Saturdays) and they have some of the countries best muscians/bands and when the live music stops there is often a great DJ. They don’t play cheesy pop music down here though, in general it is heavy edge artists not mainstream, cultural music, and sometimes jazz. It has such a unique vibe and every guest i’ve ever brought has commented on how much they like the ambience.

Brandon Reynolds-Ristaino (worked for 1933 group) came here 6 months ago and created the current drink program.  Since he’s been around he’s really brought it back to its element.  On my last visit one of the girls I was with asked for a drink with berries, I was suitably impressed when he responded “i’m afraid we don’t have berries right now, I won’t stock my bar with anything not currently in season”. He won’t break his integrity and that is always admirable! The drinks I tried were really good. The winter cocktail list is currently available and I first chose a Winter Sour and my friend had a El Volcan.

WINTER SOUR– Black Pepper infused Gin, Kumquat, Honey, Elderflower and Citrus. Shaken and served up.

MORRICONE-Brandy, Amaro Averna, Carpona Antica, Walnut, Miracle mile chocolate chili bitters

EL VOLCAN- Strawberry infused mescal, Cynar, Yellow Chartreause, Agave and fresh squeezed lime juice. Shaken with that holiday feeling. (I love this method description they added to the cocktail menu)

I have to admit, I broke my own rule and modified my Winter Sour choosing Plymouth as apposed to the pepper infused gin option…I regretted this later when my friend ordered it the correct way and it was SO much better. Trust the professionals! The honey was overpowering in my version and tasted like a cold toddy, I could imagine it helping me feel much better if I got sick. The pepper gin (which I did taste and although it had a kick to it was not too spicy as i’d feared) made the drink well balanced and really interesting. The El Volcan was also well balanced and tasty, I was astounded I liked that at all because it was really smoky (Mescal) and had a bitter after taste but there was a definite sweetness to it and overall was a pleasant drink.  It’s a VERY GOOD sign when I don’t like most of the ingredients but can appreciate the mix of flavors in the end result! That’s how I felt when tasting this drink.  I really wouldn’t want to taste any of those liquors usually, but they complemented each other beautifully in this drink and I found myself enjoying it.  I have also had the Morricone here, which again was balanced and delicious. The chocolate chili bitters were subtle, but added an aromatic element to the drink which I enjoyed thoroughly.

I think Brandon has done a great job creating a list that appeals to all, there is a great range of his own creations but still a list of classics that are all executed correctly, like the orignial Sazerac.  All in all, you won’t be disappointed with a trip to this bar. The culture and history of the place will make you want to dress up in 1920s attire (and i’ve seen many visitors do this with themed parties) and the drinks are tasty and well thought out. Check out their website here for current events, I am told they have an ‘artists night’ when artists paint large canvas’ during the course of an evening, and ‘burlesque nights’ although I have never been to either i’m sure they are great!

It gets my rate of 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs. (See rating break down here and read below)

The drinks I tried were all well balanced and prepared correctly, the bartenders are always ready and willing to create you something great off menu if you need and the ambience is like nowhere else on the west side of the city. Brandon is a pleasure to talk to and really knows his stuff. This place looses a point purely for the mechanics of the place and by no means for the cocktails themselves. The music on a few visits has been too loud through the speakers, the place gets crazy packed on some nights making it hard to dance and sadly the “attitude” of our particular cocktail server that evening really did it. I really believe (having been a cocktail server myself) that it isn’t JUST about taking orders especially  in a place like this, it is about selling people on the list of drinks available. The owners chose to hire a bar consultant, then Brandon came in and created a wonderful cocktail list, but the server I talked to didn’t try/know how to sell me on any of them! When I asked “Is the Sazerac here good?” she responded “I don’t know” without a smile, when I said “oh ok…have you had this?” pointing to the ‘El Volcan’ she replied “I haven’t had it… I don’t like Mescal”. Obviously, this was one server, maybe having a bad day and i’ve never had an issue with the others there or the bartenders but the ‘old me’ (read the About me section to understand) would have just reverted to ‘i’ll have a vodka cranberry’ because it’s easier than trying something new and that totally defeats the object of a place like this.

All in all this place is excellent and is a location worthy of a visit. I will be back again for sure…

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Sadie (Bar Review)

Sadie

1638 North Las Palmas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028 

323.467.0200 

This new place just opened in the last few weeks in the space where the infamous nightclub Les Deux used to be. It is no longer part of the club

scene and the area seems to have been cleaned up drastically. The owners spent thousands of $$$ ripping out the court yard and remodeling the inside. The end result looks wonderful. I really appreciated the brass top square bar, which is so unique in this town that seems to open bars constantly with marble counter tops. The brushed orange/brown metal makes it feel more rustic and old. I am sure as the bar is continuously used and dirtied it will add even more character to it.  I am told their inspiration/concept was “Steam Punk, think ‘Jules Vern’. When looking around the room at the mix of metals, old saloon style attire on the bartenders and bizarre black and white (creepy) photos on the wall, in my opinion the place reminded me more like the movie ‘Cowboys & Aliens’!! The most attractive feature that stood out to me, besides the brass bar, was the gorgeous wood panelling on the ceiling. The ‘orange/brassy’ color palette of the place make for a warm and inviting bar and restaurant, there are black and white framed images on the walls that change as you walk past them…cute idea, but honestly just creeps me out! Big thumbs up for doing something different though!

The cocktail list was pretty impressive. All bespoke syrups and fresh ingredients. I will be doing a repeat review at a later date for the restaurant side of Sadie, I was there for the opening party and sampled drinks only on this visit.  The drinks I did try were fantastic. Giovanni Martinez was in charge of the drink program here (he did the drink programs for ‘Fig & Olive’, Hollywood and ‘Buffalo Club’ Santa Monica) with the help of his extremely talented bar staff, which include Greg Bryson, Head Barman at ‘Bar Chloe’, Daniel Parino from ‘Fathers Office’ and Jade Warner from ‘Next Door Lounge’.

I tried the ‘Kentucky Ninja’ first which I enjoyed so much I had it again before leaving, it was well balanced and an interesting mix of flavors. Bourbon was the base, which is certainly not my ‘go to’ liquor of choice but worked beautifully against the lavender-infused wild honey (which the bartenders infuse in house).

Kentucky Ninja – Japanese Single Malt Whisky \ Bourbon Whiskey \ fresh lemon juice \ lavender-infused wild honey. Shaken & served in a Peychaud’s Bitters rinsed glass.

The next drink I sampled was a ‘La china’. My friend liked this, however it wasn’t my favorite. I really wanted to like it, even though, to be perfectly honest I don’t enjoy the flavor of Tequila. I liked the idea of it. Lychee black tea infused tequila blanco sounded wonderful, but when I tasted it the tequila over powered any attempt to taste the tea or lychee elements and therefore I didn’t like it too much. It was balanced and everyone else around me enjoyed it. If you like Tequila a lot, you are bound to enjoy it!

La China – lychee black tea-infused Avion Silver Tequila \ fresh lime juice \ organic agave syrup \ Velvet Falernum \ shaken & served up

After these new drinks I decided on a classic Bramble. This has a summery and refreshing taste to me and Sadie’s version uses muddled

fresh blackberries as well as the blackberry liquor.  The bramble is essentially a short gin sour with crème de mûre, on top. It was not invented at Sadie of course, it was created in 1984 by Dick Bradsell, at ‘Fred’s Club’ in London’s SoHo — although it is remarkeably similar to Jerry Thomas’ Gin Fix from his 1862 cocktail guide. Method is the same, prepared over shaved ice and fruit of the season on top. The only real difference is the fact ‘Blackberrys’ aren’t specified and no Creme de Mure. Anyway, it is a refreshing drink nonetheless and was made well here.

Bramble – Old Tom Gin \ fresh lemon juice \ crème de mure \ fresh blackberries (Dick Bradsell, 1980’s)

I didn’t get to sample but was intrigued by the Gran Prix mix of gin and beer! I am not a huge beer drinker (even though i’m from the UK) and even less so of Pale Ales…far too hoppy for me. However, I would be interested to hear how this tasted if anyone tried it. Message me if you enjoyed it and what worked/didn’t work with it. Here is the drink profile for those interested…

Gran Prix – Chrysanthemum-infused Beefeater Gin \ honey syrup \ fresh lemon juice \ shaken & finished with Racer 5 IPA.

All in all my experience at Sadie was excellent. The bar staff seemed extremely competent and every drink, by each individual bartender (I made a point of having drinks made by different people this night) came out balanced, beautifully presented and well made.

It gets my rate of  4.5 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

Service was fast and efficient, bartenders were knowledgable and new decor was interesting and attractive. It really is an excellent staff and bar program, and hats off to them for opening in the heart of “Head to toe Ed Hardy, Grey goose martini drinking ‘Les douche’ area”  They bring a clear level of sophistication to the area and hopefully will inspire that sort of client to try something new. I did and I loved it.  The half point missing from excellence was due to the odd music choice of the night, the tequila drink I didn’t care for  and the ‘les douche’ style people that attended that evenings event. I am almost certain the DJ and customers for opening night were not the usual, so this is likely to increase to a full 5 experience on second inspection. I will definitely be back.

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