Bar Toscana: I Don’t Speak Italian Cocktails

— by Caroline on Crack

Bar Toscana Cocktail by Caroline on Crack

I had first heard about Bar Toscana in Brentwood from Aidan Demarest (The Edison, 1886 Bar, Spare Room). A bunch of us bloggers wanted to thank him for putting together such an epic blogger barhop and he had picked Bar Toscana, which opened last December, as the place to celebrate a job well done.

After all, the new bar off-shoot of Toscana restaurant, boasted a cocktail menu created by Francesco Lafranconi, the director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits. It was heavy on Italian ingredients to complement the bar’s stuzzichini.

Haven’t had the chance to make good on my promise to Aidan yet so it wasn’t until I had a meeting with the beverage committee for Taste of the Nation LA (TOTNLA), of which I am a member, that I finally made it over to the bar.

Now at the risk of alienating myself from the LA cocktail community, my real disappointment here was the cocktails. To be frank, judging just from the menu, the drinks sounded unappealing in that they read too sweet with the doubling up of liqueurs and agave nectar and too bitter with the use of Cynar and bitters.

However, admittedly I’m not a huge fan of too bitter or too sweet flavors, apparent characteristics of popular Italian liqueurs (see: Aperol, Fernet Branca, Campari, Cynar, Limoncello). Shrugs. I just prefer my cocktails aromatic, simple and not too sweet.

In any case, I decided to go with the Toscarita ($16) made with tequila, orancello, agave and topped with grand marnier-blood orange foam and Sicilian orange peel sea salt. It sounded the least sweet of the bunch and comfortingly familiar with its margarita characteristics. However, I found it difficult to imbibe.

The salt which usually serves as a nice contrast to the sweetness of a margarita only rendered this cocktail even more unpalatable. It’s already tangy and bitter, but salty on top of it all? Not for me.

But what served as a double kick in the nuts…if I had nuts, were the prices. I mean $16 for a drink I could barely get through?! However I had to remind myself that this was Brentwood, after all. Looking around at the lounge, it’s definitely an older, affluent crowd, the kind who probably regard a $17 “Italian Sazerac” as a happy hour treat.

So, yeah, Bar Toscana suits the neighborhood. But as a drink destination on my shortlist of Westside watering holes? No.

I could bring myself to splurge on $15 cocktails at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, but at least I usually walk out smiling. Here, I left asking “Che cavalo?”