A Brief Menu for Gourmet Drinking in LA
One part foodie, one part craft tradition, three parts drunk and left to set a moment—LA’s haute cocktails are doing their part to rescue drinking from vodka, neon liqueurs and anything –tini. These are the best of the best.
Behind the French brasserie in Comme Ça in West Hollywood, Tim Loden’s pouring drinks. Comme Ça has borrowed the aesthetic established by Eric Alperin and Sasha Petraske at Milk & Honey in New York (arguably the vanguard in the Cocktalian revolution), emphasizing fresh ingredients from Erlenmeyer flasks. Try an Eastside Fizz (cucumber, mint, gin, soda) or a Pepper Smash (red bell pepper, Rittenhouse rye, honey, lemon) before trying to get a table here or afield.
At Copa D’Oro in Santa Monica, fresh also means local, with the Market Menu coming from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Their Market Menu does bespoke boozing, and between their $5 Prohibition-era happy hour and their extensive menu of cocktails to any palate, they’re the perfect precursor to sunset on the beach or a night of serious drinking. Try the Jack Rose (applejack, fresh lime, homemade grenadine) for a classic, or a Sour Kraut (Miller’s gin, Cointreau, lemon, marmalade, Dijon mustard) for a taste of perfect cocktail audacity.
It’s hard to imagine a more serious spirit than whiskey, and Seven Grand (Downtown) is the West Coast home for whiskeys. From the ice (bottom frozen blocks) to the vermouth (Andica), Seven Grand is the bar to learn what a Manhattan or a Sazerac, both classics, should taste like. If you’re afraid of the brown liquors, start with a Bourbon Berry Bramble, with muddled blackberry compote bringing out the sweetness of Knob Creek, or breathe mint deeply with an authoritative Julep. But then, really, try the Manhattan and Sazerac. Seriously.
An underground lair of Nu-Victorian affectation, The Edison would be insufferably pretentious if it weren’t full of such delicious drinks. Ignore the writhing burlesque dancer and her listless snake—focus on the masterful menu, a mix of venerable favorites like the Rat Pack approved Flame Of Love or Embassy, and original inventions like the Brass Flower (gin, grapefruit bitters, elderflower cordial, champagne). If you’re not sure yet that you want to love cocktails with all your drunken heart, The Edison’s accessible, well-balanced drinks are the place to grow your courage.
The Varnish, a nouveau speakeasy hidden in the back room of Cole’s, is where the “cocktail forward” bartenders come to do their drinking. If you’ve ever wondered what George Washington drank (Philadelphia Fish House Punch), or wanted to try Cynar, the artichoke liqueur, this is the bar you hit. Just make sure to hit it early and on a weeknight, because it gets tighter than a wino’s gullet.
The next round:
The Hungry Cat, Hollywood: Worth visiting if only for the Avation No. 1, a drink copied around town but worth seeking out at the source.
Malo, Sunset Junction: What Seven Grande is to whiskey, Malo is to tequila. Able to match their anejo to your mood.
Providence, Hollywood: What kind of restaurant has a tasting menu of cocktails? Our kind of restaurant.
Tiki Ti, Silverlake: Secret formulas and unlabelled flasks mean you’re never quite sure what’s in your drink, but it’s tasty enough that dark gods must be involved.
By Josh Steichmann