For the uninitiated (me) walking up to Tasting Kitchen chef Casey Lane’s new downtown Los Angeles bar/restaurant, The Parish, can cause a bit of confusion. You see a wedge of an eatery with lots of windows and sparse seating pointing out toward the intersection where Spring and Main connect at 9th street. That’s it?! Where’s the bar everyone‘s talking about? “The bar” here is simply a counter backed by…no booze whatsoever and no bartender. Wuuut?
However, it turns out that there IS a bar; a gorgeous, cocktail dream-fulfilling one upstairs, accessible by an easily dismissed staircase near the kitchen in the back. Bartender John Coltharp — formerly of Copa D’Oro, Seven Grand and Tasting Kitchen — is the mixology mastermind behind its cocktail program.
But if you show up to the Parish on a busy Friday night like I did with four friends, never mind that one of your friends is Aidan Demarest (Neat bar, Elit by Stoli) who used to work with John in 7G, you’re SOL at the front door. Never getting to even peek upstairs because it’s so packed. So we instead killed time at the Varnish around the corner and returned to the Wedge aka Parish a couple hours later.
Sure enough that was an excellent call as now The Parish’s upstairs bar is nearly empty. Coltharp is behind the stick and pours us shots of Fernet while handing out his cocktail menu. The list is a mouthwatering mix of neo-classics, like a Disco Nap with Grappa, Aperol, muddled lemon and mint and a Historic Core Cocktail with rye, applejack, sweet Vermouth, Green Chartreuse and bitters. But the Nightshift is calling my name. Made with bourbon, Czech Fernet, Espresso, Pu-Erh Tea, chocolate syrup and milk, it sounded like the perfect nightcap for me (espresso doesn’t affect me).
What arrived in my hands was an iced coffee cocktail, complex but subtle. It comforted and soothed making me want to guzzle it greedily but its depth of flavors compelled me to sip and savor it. Fortunately, this chocolate, creamy, coffee concoction didn’t put me to sleep but steeled me for the after-hours ahead. Good stuff.
Coltharp isn’t the creator of my new favorite cocktail, however. “It was created as a collaboration between Ryan Wainwright of The Tasting Kitchen and Kirk Sutherland,” he said. “They wanted me to try it when I came in to Ttk one time off shift and it caught me off guard as the most subtle yet interesting iced coffee cocktail I had ever tasted. I immediately asked Ryan if I could put it on the downtown menu at The Parish. He loved the idea and he still makes the Pu erh tea and chocolate syrup that goes into it, while Kirk’s barista team makes the espresso every time….The combination of espresso and Fernet helps settle the stomach after a big meal. Perfect ‘pick me up’ drink for our current warm weather spell.”
In any case, I gotta get me to the Parish again to try out the rest of the list. Plus? It boasts beer cocktails as well as 20 rotating taps of local craft beer. Hmm, so thirsty all of a sudden.