In case you weren’t following along on my Instagram feed, this is a mere roundup of what I drank this week. My drinking adventures took me to the new Pearl’s Liquor Bar on Sunset Boulevard, the Santa Monica Pier for a wine tasting with a side of Whac-a-Mole and the Corner Door for a sneak peek of the upcoming fall cocktail menu. H’yeah, I’m taking it easy this week to save my liver for the epic two-person bar hop I’m doing in Seattle this weekend.
When checking out a new bar I like ordering a Manhattan because it’s an effective way to gauge how they do cocktails there. Do they shake ’em? Which bourbon or rye do they use? I admit I didn’t have high hopes for Pearl’s Liquor Room in terms of cocktails simply because they’re owned by the same folks behind sports bar Rock and Reilly’s Irish Pub next door. Not a bad thing, it’s just a different crowd with a different focus.
Anyway, the comparatively quieter and classier Pearl’s actually has a cocktail menu that they admit is aimed “toward the ladies” since, by their reasoning, men will naturally gravitate toward their whiskey and craft beer lists. Since those house drinks are too sweet for my taste, I tried their Manhattan during a hosted tasting. Turned out it’s not at all like I prefer my Manhattans. Here, it’s a mix of Maker’s Mark, Carpano Antica and a maraschino cherry. What about the Angostura bitters, you ask? Yeah, I asked that, too, but that’s not how they make ’em here. At least they stirred it. And the view over Sunset Boulevard from the best seat in the house helped lots, too.
Afterward, I elbowed past David Spade, who was hanging out by Pearl’s entrance (apparently he goes there a lot), to the London Bar at the London West Hollywood. Wanted to check out the cocktails as I hadn’t been there in awhile. My fave L.A. bartender Damian Windsor actually used to work there years ago. That’s gotta count for something, right? On a Monday night the bar was quiet, save for a group of raucous friends and a couple on the other end of the bar who were annoyed by the raucous friends.
A quick scan of the specialty cocktail menu told me I wanted the Last Ward ($16), a cocktail with bourbon, Green Chartreuse, lime and a maraschino cherry. I was emboldened by the fact that the bartender said it was his favorite drink. This variation on the Last Word was still refreshing and well-balanced but those ice chips were jarring. Guess they don’t fine-strain at the London.
If anyone is wondering how to launch a new wine, follow Apothic Wines‘ lead. The wine company rented the Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier to introduce their new limited release 2012 Apothic Dark wine to the media. We were wined and entertained, treated to blind tastings of the Apothic wines as well as amusement park rides and carnival games. As you can see from the above video, wine and Whac-a-Mole do not mix.
The winery did offer their other wines — the Red and the White — at the event but the general consensus favored the new Dark with its smooth, richer flavors of dark chocolate and blackberries. It’s an everyday quaffer and what you’d expect for $14 a bottle. We enjoyed the Dark while on the Ferris wheel, refilled and knocked it back before jumping on the rollercoaster. By the way, drinking wine and riding the free-falling Sea Dragon Swing is NOT a good idea. Erp! Anyway, that had to be the most fun I’ve ever had at a wine tasting.
Wednesday was schmancy day as my friend Jen Len and I met up for dinner at Hinoki & The Bird with plans to hit up the bar at Hakkasan Beverly Hills after. I hadn’t returned to David Myers’ Century City restaurant Hinoki since it opened back in January; its lack of parking (I avoid valet) and meat-intensive menu being my reasons. But when I revisited the dinner menu I saw a few veggie options like the pumpkin toast with miso jam and goat cheese and sweet corn soup.
Since the restaurant didn’t have any openings for dinner, Jen and I took our chances at the bar. After about 30 minutes and some aggressive hovering on Jen’s part, we were finally able to secure some seats. Pfew! The cocktail list hasn’t really changed much since its debut. I know the Nakatomi Plaza with its pressed apple juice, plum wine and Yamazaki has been a house favorite but I went for the Harajuku, a rich mixture of Hakushu Single Malt Whiskey, Gran Classico, Maurin Quina and chocolate bitters. Unfortunately I found it too sweet and def not the drink to order BEFORE a meal. My bad. Wouldn’t have minded finishing with it, though.
Afterward it was off to Hakkasan Beverly Hills. When we arrived there was a crowd of people in front of the restaurant. Walking closer we saw that it wasn’t a line of folks waiting to get in or for their car at valet but paparazzi. It was only TODAY that I found out it was all for Alexander Skarsgard! Or maybe it was for Fergie and Josh Duhamel who apparently were there, too. No wonder the guys at the bar were concerned when we started taking pictures of our cocktails and the flash went off. The new hot spot was definitely buzzing inside, sounding and looking more like a nightclub than a Chinese restaurant.
For drinks, I went with the Vesper Elyxer, a maltier Vesper with its use of Tozai Junmai sake. Very clean and light. I followed this up with the Manhattan. Hakkasan’s Manhattan is a standard one with Bulleit rye, Antica Formula vermouth and Angostura bitters but includes a spritz of Oloroso Sherry for a sweet nose.
Since we don’t get much of the seasons here in L.A. we’ve had to count on the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks to signal the fall. In my case, I just wait for the appearance of new seasonal cocktails. And Beau Du Bois at Corner Door will soon be debuting a short list of Indian summer drinks, refreshing drinks that slot into those shorter autumn days when it’s still warm out. The new list launches this coming Tuesday, October 1st with the drinks going for only $6 all night!
Beau gave me a little preview of one of the drinks, the Stoplight Ticket, which tasted like a tropical winter drink thanks to its use of gin, Green Chartreuse, golden raspberry cordial, lime and mint. Strangely enough, those ingredients together ended up giving the drink a subtle pine-y taste. And with its bottom layer of green and its raspberry garnish this was like “Christmas in L.A.” in a glass!
Fortunately, Beau didn’t stop there with the sneak peeks. The above Hoodlum cocktail, one that he’s really excited about, is going to be on his upcoming fall menu. Perfect considering its mix of Armagnac, housemade pumpkin liqueur and peated clove tincture evokes memories of enjoying a pumpkin pie by the fireplace. Forget Pumpkin Spice Lattes, give me one of these! Potent, rich and downright delicious.
Another new fall cocktail is the Bitter Giuseppe. No, not THAT Bitter Giuseppe, but one with bourbon, blended scotch, Benedictine and Cynar over an ice cube. It’s a nightcap and a half.
By the way, Beau said that he will also debut a “secret menu,” one that only those in the know will know to ask for. It’ll appeal to the cocktail-savvy and complement the mainstream-friendly list.