Esther of estarLA, Neil of Food Marathon and I started to make a secret pact. There’s a bar that we went to the other night that has an awesome, yet-to-be-discovered bartender who creates cocktails with the likes of prosciutto-infused bourbon, olive oil and fresh ingredients straight from the farmer’s market which he goes to five times a week. The problem is that he works in a bar that has such a small space that if word got out about him and his innovative drinks, we’d never be able to visit him ever again.
But then we realized that since this small, speakeasy-esque bar is in the heart of Hollywood, land of permit parking and metered parking til last call, and the cocktails run about $15 each, we’re probably not in too much danger of creating a stampede of cocktail enthusiasts running over to the Library Bar at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
But I have to tell you, Matt Biancaniello is pretty darn good. He’s only worked at the Library Bar for a year (yes, he was/is an actor) and started his mixology program about eight months ago but what he lacks in years of experience he more than makes up for in passion and MacGuyver-like ingenuity. He counts Copa d’Oro as his favorite bar (Vincenzo gave him some pointers on how to make foam) and his favorite spirit is gin, fave drink gin and tonic.
Esther, Neil and I were lucky enough to be hosted over at the hotel bar. I was so glad it wasn’t Teddy’s or the Tropicana Bar but then again those clubby parts of the hotel are strictly of the quick pours and Red-Bull-and-vodka variety. It’s only at LB where they use Neve ice and take the time to create cocktails you’d consider.
Actually I had to look on Yelp for the bar’s location since the hotel’s site makes no mention of it. Turns out it’s just off the main lobby in a small dark room filled with leather furniture and weird faux zebra skin bar stools.
The three of us cozied up to the bar and made friends with Matt who, despite the impatient hotel guests and thirsty West Hollywood Film Fest goers, was able to fix us up countless creations. OK, I think there were about nine (?) drinks we sampled. And I was motivated enough to finish two.
Here’s the rundown of what we had in order of my most fave to not-so-much:
- Chili Margarita: Patron Silver tequila, agave, Cointreau, pinch of cayenne, lime juice, fresh Mandarin juice with a Mezcal misting on top. This was our favorite (despite the Patron, heh). So spicy but sweet. Would be so refreshing on a hot day.
- Last Tango in Modena:Hendricks Gin, muddled strawberries, 3-year-old balsamic vinegar topped with St. Germain foam. I’d say the margarita and this cocktail tied for the number-one favorite. I love the innovativeness of this and how he turned one of my favorite desserts into an impressive cocktail. It even looks like dessert in a glass. I kinda wish it wasn’t served over a big block of ice though because I wanted more of it to drink! Perhaps a smaller cube for me?
- Blood & Sand: The classic cocktail but made with fresh mandarin juice. Matt made this for Neil. This was so drinkable and sweet but not overly so. I love how he used a ring of orange peel to make it looked like a layer of sand.
- Vanilla Ginger Smash aka Saving Grace is based on a bourbon smash and uses ginger syrup and Grand Marnier with shredded mint as a garnish. One of my faves but this was Esther’s drink so I couldn’t take it from her. It reminded me of my vanilla mint Listerine but in a good way.
- Basil Mojito:Malibu Rum, basil, fresh lime, club soda and white peaches (?). I can’t believe I didn’t take notes on this drink. I forget who of the three of us ordered it or who Matt made it for but I remember my being surprised that it was a mojito with basil. The fruit made it fresh and sweet but not in a sugary way.
- Vanilla Manhattan made with vanilla-infused bourbon: Now I didn’t love this as much as I thought I was gonna. I mean, it’s a vanilla Manhattan, I should want to marry it! It had the burn I was seeking from the fig Manhattan but I guess I wasn’t as crazy about the vanilla finish. I’d trust Matt with a straight Manhattan though. He seems to respect the drink and its required technique.
- 17-Step Bloody Mary:Now I’m not a Bloody Mary fan but this was frickiin good. Matt muddles cherry tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, red bell pepper and dill together; adds fresh olive juice from the farmer’s market and four hits of Tabasco; grinds fresh black pepper; adds a huge dollop of horseradish; and finishes it off with Stirrings’ Bloody Mary mix. That last bit was kinda confusing to me because why would you add mix after all that, but after tasting this drink all doubt left my mind. The piece de resistance was the garnish: a beautiful flowering basil sticking out of the pint glass. That thing was huge and oh-so fragrant. A feast for the eyes and nose before that first sip.
- Ham on Rye cocktail made with prosciutto-infused Basil Hayden’s and black walnut liqueur and garnished with little pickles on a spear. An interesting drink to be sure. I told Matt that he should make his own version of Copa d’Oro’s mustard cocktail, the Sour Kraut. Maybe do a two-cocktail delicatessen flight. The thing is I couldn’t enjoy this all by myself. It’s kinda meaty but I did appreciate what he was going for and gold star for presentation.
- Fig Manhattan made with a fig-infused bourbon. I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy this one all that much since I LOVE figs. But the figs apparently smoothed out the bourbon, taking its bite away so it gave me the sensation of drinking flat soda. Meh.
I’d like to visit Matt again, on an off night when there is a bar stool open. He definitely has fun with mixing cocktails, likes to explain as he goes along, and is great with thinking outside of the box. “Someone is going to steal him away,” Neil said as we were leaving, making our way down to Essex. If they did, I’d follow him.
Library Bar at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, California 90028 (map)