The **best-kept secret for some good drinking? Top Chef Michael Voltaggio’s Ink Restaurant **in West Hollywood. Usually at a celebrity chef’s restaurant, the cocktails gets overshadowed by the food. Case in point, have you heard anything about the drinks at Spago? Exactly. Thanks to Ink’s brand-new mixologists Gabriella Mlynarczyk (I have no idea how to pronounce her last name) and Brittini Rae Peterson (SoHo House, Tar Pit), those looking for an impressive sipper to complement their meal or for something well-crafted to enjoy while hanging out at the bar will easily find something to their liking off the new summer cocktail menu.
Ink has only been around for less than a year and yet it had already lost its star mixologist, Devon Espinosa, to Pour Vous. But Gabriella, who comes to Ink by way of Eva Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, and Brittini have proven they, too, can create destination cocktails that stand up to Voltaggio’s fun and unusual dishes. In fact, Voltaggio calls Gabriella the Pantry Raider for her tendency to pilfer ingredients from his kitchen for cocktail inspiration.
The creations are straightforward and simple with the occasional “crazy” ingredient and farmers market produce thrown in. None come on too strong, well except maybe the newest menu addition, the Rum-Tequila coffee cocktail. Whoa, Nelly! I mistook that for a perfect way to end the night, but then realized I’d have to look for a place to lie down immediately if I finished it. Not that that’s a bad thing.
But each of the drinks were meant for enjoying with the food. Michael wanted the cocktails to be food-friendly in terms of allowing guests to enjoy them during dinner instead of the usual before and after. “If you look at the menu and the cocktail menu side-by-side, they kind of read the same way,” said Michael. They’re more restaurant cocktails “and not as cocktail bar-y” as they’re meant to be paired with the dishes. Not so much one cocktail to one dish but one cocktail that you can sip throughout the meal.
However, if you are looking for a couple of cocktail-dish pairing suggestions, Gabriella recommends the mezcal cocktail with the beef tartar as it goes well with the saltiness and savoriness of the meat and the gin carrot cocktail matches up to the sugar snap peas.
The cocktail menu will change seasonally and feature up to 10 cocktails usually. Prices range from $12-$16.
Here are just a few of my scribblings during the hosted cocktail tasting at Ink:
Gin cocktail: Subtle carrot, full bodied and healthy. Gin comes across mid palate. Would be good for those not crazy about something too strong.
Mezcal cucumber: Armagnac and grape juice, almost bready tasting. Celery comes through. Mezcal only on nose.
Japanese single malt: Gingery, peatiness is really faint on tongue but strong on nose.
Nigori sake looks and tastes innocent. Can’t taste any booziness. Really light. Light rice-iness.
Golden ale (Pranqster): Spicy and sweet almost apricots with elderflower and hot sauce. Bubbly. Salty, savory. An intense Michelada. Too flavor-rich for me.
Rum-tequila coffee drink was inspired by Thai iced coffee. Definitely not the brunch cocktail I figured it would be. Potent and rich. I’d start off the evening with this drink instead of having it for the road, unless you grab a cab or have a DD, that is.
8360 Melrose Avenue, Suite 107
Los Angeles, California 90069