Top 10 Favorite Cocktails of 2009


As another year ends, I’m left to reflect on this year’s many cocktail adventures (see my map of Fave LA Bars of 2009). Much to my joy, many new cool bars opened up in 2009 and most were instant favorites like Copa d’Oro, Roger Room and the Tar Pit. And I’ve sampled many a cocktail but somehow managed to whittle down all the ones I loved to this manageable list for your perusal. It’s no coincidence that they’re all basically dark spirits — bourbon, rum, tequila. Oh but how I love aromatic cocktails!

Tar Pit's Jamaican Firefly

Here they are, my top 10 cocktail faves from Oh-Nine. They’re listed from most recent to not-so recent.

1) Jamaican Firefly at the Tar Pit: I love Dark & Stormys and this one off Audrey Saunders’ new La Brea bar menu is no exception. Dark rum, house-made ginger beer, lime juice, simple syrup. The house-made ginger beer is nice and spicy and I love the tasty candied ginger garnish which echoes the sweet and spiciness of the cocktail. I’d definitely make a habit of ordering this baby.

2) Superstizione at Drago Centro: Bourbon, Kahlua, Dry Vermouth, Peychaud’s Bitters, Orange Bitters. This tasty, aromatic cocktail created by mixologist/cocktail blogger Mark Blackhart is reminiscent of the Revolver, one of my most fave drinks ever, at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.

PDT's Benton's Old Fashioned

3) Benton’s Old Fashioned at PDT in NYC: Discovered during my trip to NYC last October, PDT’s yummy-sounding Benton’s Old Fashioned is made from bacon-infused Four Roses bourbon, Grade B maple syrup and Angostura bitters. The bacon flavor was so subtle but you could still taste it. And despite the maple syrup this wasn’t a sweet cocktail.

4) Last Tango in Modena at Hollywood Roosevelt’s Library Bar: Then hidden-gem-of-a-bartender, Matt Biancaniello, created this innovative cocktail comprised of Hendricks Gin, muddled strawberries, 3-year-old balsamic vinegar topped with St. Germain foam. I heart how he turned one of my favorite desserts into an impressive cocktail. It even looks like dessert in a glass. Yummy.

Bottega Louie's Manhattan

5) Manhattan at Bottega Louie: Knob Creek 9-year, Antica Carpano sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and garnished with Morello cherries. Yes, it’s a Manhattan but you have to understand that I found this well-made cocktail after having been disappointed by the ones I had just hours before at the Gallery Bar in the Biltmore. And when I took that first sip, I had to wipe away a couple of tears. Relief, maybe. Happiness, definitely. The cocktail had the perfect measurements of everything. I wanted to swish it around in my mouth and gargle with it before letting it run down my throat. Dee-licious.

6) Tiger’s Milk No. II at Heaven’s Dog in SF: Tiger’s Milk No. II, mixologist Jacqueline Patterson’s creamy mix of Spanish brandy, rum, sugar, cream and nutmeg. OMG so tasty. I encountered the tiger at San Francisco’s Heaven’s Dog, a noodle shop/barestaurant with yummy cocktails. This one was dangerously drinkable in that I could down two of these one after the other. It wasn’t as sweet as its ingredients implied it would be but I think it would be an awesome way to finish off your dinner.

7) Thug at Roger Room: This is my favorite on the La Cienega Boulevard bar’s menu, created by Damian Windsor and Jared Meisler. With a combo of Maker’s and habanero pepper, how could you go wrong? Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Baronjager Honey Liqueur, lemon juice and spicy habanero bitters on the rocks. It’s spicy spicy, perfect for savoring.

Copa d'Oro's Diva

8) Diva at Copa d’Oro: Sazerac Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, orange bitters and rhubarb bitters. This cocktail, created by Vincenzo Marianella, appeared on the Santa Monica bar’s debut menu but frustratingly enough couldn’t be ordered for several months since its key ingredient, the Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, was difficult for the bar to get hold of. When it was finally available, its composition reminded me of a chocolate-tinged Manhattan. Its cocoa flavor was very subtle only showing up in the finish. It was tasty although missing some depth which was instantly corrected when made with Campari which provided it with a much-needed kick.

9) The Lullaby at the Malo Cocktail Contest: I was fortunate to have this during a cocktail competition held at Malo in Silver Lake which pitted a bunch of mixologists against one another. Matty Eggleston, formerly of The Hungry Cat and The Varnish, created this mother’s milk of a cocktail using Gran Centenario Rosangel, Nutella and steamed milk. His comforting concoction would make a lovely night cap. Despite the use of Nutella it’s not too sweet and the orange zest and grated cinnamon give it the spiciness it needs.

10) Donaji at Rivera: An unusual mix by Julian Cox of mezcal, citrus, pomegranate, agave nectar and Chapulin salt. So aromatic and smoky with a lot of kick. I’ve never tasted anything like it and it won’t be the last time as this will be my drink of choice here.

Related Post: My Top 10 Favorite Cocktails From 2008

9 Responses to Top 10 Favorite Cocktails of 2009
  1. e*starLA
    December 28, 2009 | 10:10 am

    Ooh, the Jamaican Firefly as #1! Ordered that last week…anyhoo, I have been meaning to get the manhattan at Bottega Louie to try on for size after your experience. Great list. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Caroline on Crack
    December 28, 2009 | 10:42 am

    Heh, it’s listed from most recent to not-so recent. But I did like that one. I can’t wait to go back there. And yes to BL’s Manhattan. I crave it.

  3. ShopEatSleep
    December 28, 2009 | 1:19 pm

    My faves are the Blood Sugar Sex Magic at Rivera and the Ward Eight at Copa d’Oro. I want to try the Manhattan at Bottega Louie, too!

  4. Thirsty In LA
    December 28, 2009 | 2:42 pm

    What, no Trident? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Great list, +1 on the Jamaican Firefly, Superstizione, BL Manhattan, & Thug. Skyler at Tony’s Saloon does a great Manhattan too; he makes it with Rittenhouse 100. My fave cocktail of 2009 might be The Claremont Affair, from Bourbon & Branch: pear-infused Old Overholt Rye, Amaro Nonino, Fee Brothersโ€™ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters, topped with clove essence.

  5. Caroline on Crack
    December 28, 2009 | 2:45 pm

    ShopEatSleep,
    Actually I had originally put down Blood Sugar Sex Magic but changed my mind last minute. ๐Ÿ™‚ We should do a BL Manhattan run!

    Thirsty in LA,
    No way, man! Heh. Thanks! Oooh, that Claremont Affair sounds divine. Will have to try that next time I’m in SF.

  6. Food GPS
    December 28, 2009 | 5:24 pm

    Very good picks, just like last year, and I enjoy your commentary. Last Tango in Modena is great, and so are the Thug, Jamaican Firefly and Donaji. I need to check out that cocktail at Drago Centro. Bourbon’s always a good place to start.

  7. Caroline on Crack
    December 28, 2009 | 10:49 pm

    Food GPS,
    Thanks! It was a fun list to research. Heh. And amen about bourbon.

  8. Open Mouth, Insert Fork
    December 29, 2009 | 10:42 am

    “I wanted to swish it around in my mouth and gargle with it before letting it run down my throat.”

    Now that’s one not-to-miss recommendation.

  9. Caroline on Crack
    December 29, 2009 | 10:50 am

    OMIF,
    LOL! Definitely a not-to-be-missed Manhattan.

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