Cocktail log, stardate 2012.127: (I’ve always wanted to say that.) This week’s drinking adventures took me from an avant-garde cocktail class at SAAM to a Fernet luge at Cole’s to magic cocktails by Magic Castle bartenders.
During a hosted look-see at the redone Caulfield’s Bar and Dining Room in Thompson Beverly Hills, Beverage Manager Jeremy Beck took us on a tasting tour of his new cocktail menu which he created with Pierre Dos Santos (formerly of London’s The Playboy Club with Salvatore Calabrese). My favorites were the Gin 2 Ways which is two cocktails served on a tray: one aged Hanky Panky and the other a cocktail of gin, sweet vermouth, and green chartreuse. It’s always fun to compare the rich, full-bodied barrel-aged cocktail with a regular one. The sneak peek of the new ABH’s (Above Beverly Hills rooftop bar at the Thompson) cocktail, Hemingway’s Lost Again was my other favorite. It’s a take on Hemingway’s Daiquiri with housemade grenadine.
After the dinner, I rushed across town to Drago Centro where I checked out bartender Jaymee Mandeville’s new winter menu. A standout favorite of the five I tried was the Bronzeado de Sol, an aromatic bitter but sweet cocktail which evoked a fireplace with roasted nuts and just a hint of bitter coffee.
At one of the fanciest brunches I’ve ever had was at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. I’m not just talking the spread but the guests. Larry Flynt just rolled in with his gold wheelchair. Later I breezed past Justin Bieber in the hallway. Yeah, that kind of brunch. And call me prejudice but I figured a place like this with clientele like this wouldn’t have serious brunch cocktails. But that Lake Como Estas — tequila, muddled grapefruit, rosemary, maraschino, mezcal mist — was surprisingly tasty and well-crafted, like a savory, smokey Paloma.
In the evening I hit up an avant garde cocktail class, Cocktail Fundamentals at SLS’s SAAM run by mixologist Rob Floyd. We tasted a rum cotton candy cocktail, learned how to add a layer of Grand Marnier to a B-52 and enjoyed a gin and tonic dessert from a former El Bulli pastry chef. Really fun class that was supplemented with bites from The Bazaar.
Afterward, I rushed over to Corner Door in Culver City to meet up with my blogger bffs — EstarLA, Lindsay of LAist and ShopEatSleep. I’ve already tried bartender Beau Du Bois’ winter menu so he broke out with some new ones, including the Pencil Moustache with Fernet Branca, tamarind syrup, lemon and egg white.
Tasting Kitchen’s Justin Pike was doing a guest bartender stint at The Eveleigh on Sunset, giving those Westside-averse a chance to sample his much talked-about cocktails. I tried his bitter Cure All cocktail with gin, Punt e Mes, maraschino and absinthe and ended the night with his Hot Toddy.
Repeal Day’s Eve was spent at the 4th Annual Jimmy Barela Bartending Competition held in Cole’s Red Bar downtown. While I waited around for the last round of the cocktail competition to begin, I had The Cooper cocktail made with Miller’s Westbourne gin, Fernet, Cocchi Vermouth, Luxardo. So fricken tasty. Aromatic, flavorful and perfect for sipping on while waiting.
Later I joined fellow blogger Thirsty in LA for a Fernet luge where we fixed our mugs to a block of ice at the end of an ice luge while a bartender pour a shot of Fernet at the top end. This should definitely be a fixture in every house party.
Surprisingly Repeal Day was pretty chill in Glendale even though I met up with Neat’s Aidan Demarest and The Famous’ Nick Vitulli and Luke Leonard. We did a whiskey shot toast at Neat for the 79th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and then scooted over to The Famous to end the night with $5 Brown Derby cocktails and more shots of whiskey.
Thursday night did me in. I stretched myself pretty thin by tackling three events all over town in one night. But I couldn’t say no to any of them. Former Library Bar bartender Matthew Biancaniello consulted on the menu at the new On Rodeo Bistro in the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel. It was so good to see him after his departure from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel bar. Even though I was supposed to check out his menu, he started me off with a couple of off-menu cocktails like his delectable double mushroom eggnog — this ruined me for all other eggnogs — with a side of pinot-infused pomegranate seeds and a cocktail made with rye, scotch, chipotle, Earl Grey.
Afterward, I jetted west to a Microsoft party in Venice. The hosted bar only offered a couple of forgettable cocktails but at least Dylan McDermott was there. I just had a sip of their Red Spice cocktail (spiced rum, holiday spiced syrup, cranberry juice and mint) and then traded it for water.
Then it was on to Sadie in Hollywood for the sneak peek of the new Magic Castle cocktail menu by Joshua Lucas and Jordan Gold. They made the crowd ooh and ahh, not only from their beautiful list of full-bodied drinks but by performing some magic tricks. The Fields of Copper is made with Scotch, Punt e Mes, honey syrup and Luxardo while the Rabbit’s Tale was a nice malty concoction of carrot syrup, genever, Combier and Angostura. The carrot came through softly and mixed well with the Holland gin.
For a media dinner at the new Public School 310, I was supposed to check out the beer they had on their 24 taps but was lured by the cocktail list. I was surprised they had a Boulevardier (Carpano Antica, Campari, Angels Envy) on their menu so had that as my aperitif. It was more bitter than I make mine at home but was fine. I followed that up with the Red Smoke, which is made with grapefruit, agave, jalapeno, Alipus Mezcal. They could have easily messed this up what with the spice of the jalapeno. I usually find cocktails made with the pepper to be over-the-top hot. But this was actually well-balanced.
Afterward, I had to meet up with Thirsty in LA again so that we could practice our presentation at the Carpano Antica Formula Video Awards on Monday. We decided on the Stark Bar at LACMA, who was actually premiering sommelier/bar smith Paul Sanguinetti’s new winter cocktail menu the following day. But Paul offered us a sneak peek of a couple of his cocktails. The standout favorite was Phil’s Lamumba with Meletti Chocolate, Terry Centenario brandy, Calisaya Amaro. I guess the cocktail is supposed to be served cold but Paul served it to us as a hot cocktail making it the perfect winter drink. It’s hot chocolate without being syrupy, rich without being cloying. My new favorite winter cocktail, best enjoyed on a chilly evening under a heat lamp on that Stark bar patio.