For me, 2013 was an uh-mazing year for boozing it up. A lot of awesome bars opened up in L.A. — like Honeycut and Scopa — I went on a bar hop through Seattle, New York and Vegas, in addition to a whale of a blogger barhop I planned with cocktail ringmaster Aidan Demarest. Hit up Monterey for the Pebble Beach Food & Wine. So with this very personal top 50 post I look back at all the drinks I’ve loved before, listed here from January to December 2013. And keep in mind a lot of them may be seasonal cocktails that are no longer available.
For comparison, here’s last year’s “My Top Favorite Cocktails of 2012.”
1**. Anthony Bourdain’s Pappy:** Ludo had brought Bourdain a bottle of Pappy during a media meet-and-greet promoting ABC’s The Taste and Anthony, or Tony as his friends and certainly not me call him, was kind enough to offer me a shot in a plastic cup. Needless to say it was one of the highlights of my year. It may not technically be a cocktail or have been the Pappy 23-year but the thrill evened things out.
2. Manhattan by Sam Ross: While researching where to find the best Manhattan in L.A. I was fortunate enough to get renowned New York bartender Sam Ross to fix me up a Manhattan while he was in town.
3. Pint & Jigger’s Sous Vide Boulevardier: Old Overholt rye, Carpano, Campari sous vide for two days with toasted Jack Daniels barrel chips. Enjoyed this during Hawaii Cocktail Week. Really loved this bar and wished that I had been able to visit it more than once during the trip.
4. Chateau Marmont’s Blasé: Nolet’s Dry Gin, Amaro Ciociaro, Averna, Luxardo Cherry Liqueur. After 86 years, this Sunset Boulevard landmark FINALLY opened a lobby bar and this cocktail was off the super secret menu created by Matthew Schaefer.
5**. AOC’s White Russian **with housemade coffee liqueur and spiced whipped cream. When I found out that barman Christiaan Rollich made his own coffee liqueur, you can believe this is the first cocktail I asked him to make.
Restaurant 1833’s Nutty Buck: Scotch, black walnut liqueur, ginger syrup, lemon. After a weekend of the wine-intensive Pebble Beach Food & Wine event I was grateful for my time sipping this potent cocktail by the firepit whilst waiting for my cocktail-paired dinner to begin. Good times.
Nopa’s Lowland Dram: Glenkinchie 12 yr, Dolin Blanc, allspice dram. Instead of heading straight home after PBFW my roadtrip companion Food GPS and I did a stop up in San Francisco and swung by Nopa for a quick lunch. This aromatic drink really hit the spot after a wine-heavy weekend and before the long road back to L.A. during which I passed out in the backseat.
Crossroads’ Sophia: mezcal, tequila blanco, lime, grapefruit, kalamata syrup. Savory and smokey, this one primes you for eating all that tasty vegan food by Chef Tal Ronnen.
American Trilogy With Miracle Miles Clusterfuck bitters: Thanks to Miracle Mile Bitters creator Louis Anderman’s happy accident, I got to experience this classic cocktail in a wonderful new way.
Goldie’s Battery Park: 100 proof rye, Punt e Mes, maple, peach bitters, Peychaud ice sphere. It’s cocktail magic with the cocktail starting off as a Manhattan and slowing turning into an almost Old Fashioned-like one thanks to the melting Peychaud ice ball.
Paiche’s The Last Ice Age: Pisco, Hakushu whiskey 12 year, egg white, lime, lemon, simple, Fernet drops, off Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest’s opening menu for the Marina del Rey restaurant.
Attaboy’s Too Soon?: gin, Cynar, lemon, simple and orange. Got Sam Ross to give me a taste of his then new New York bar when he stopped by Comme Ca, but I would have willingly paid the airfare to try it back in NYC.
Ink’s Fernet Soda with Coca Cola and Fernet Branca cream. Such a fun summer treat.
Spare Room’s Lava Flow for Tiki night: Atlantico Platino, Atlantico Private Cask, strawberry, lime, coconut, pineapple. Hands-down the best version of this tropical cocktail I’ve ever had.
**1886’s Coke and a Smile: **Fernet Menta, rye, Coke, Galliano Ristretto, sour cherry and whiskey barrel bitters. Brilliant packaging and cocktail.
**Savoy Stomp Erik Ellestad’s English Rose: **Beefeater, apricot eau-de-vie, dry vermouth, grenadine, lemon juice. A beautiful cocktail by visiting booze blogger Savoy Stomp who I was lucky enough to see during his guest bartending stint at Eveleigh.
Trick Dog‘s Alligator Alley: olive oil infused Broker’s gin, Imbue vermouth, Tempus Fugit quinquina, green chartreuse. It may have been too strong for day drinking but what did I care when I wasn’t driving.
Bestia‘s El Segundo Shandy: Citra Pale Ale, lemon, creme de peche, sage liqueur, honey.
Connie & Ted‘s Coffee Milk Punch: cognac, rum, housemade coffee syrup and whole milk. Always a sucker for milk punch and this was a rich, decadent one.
Short Order’s Sentimental Sanchez: mezcal, green tomato, lime juice, smoked tomato honey, Serrano, saline, cardamom bitters. Best way to start your Saturday morning, with this Bloody Maria-esque cocktail.
21.** Matthew Biancaniello’s Uno Dos Tres: **123 Reposado Tequila, lovage, cherry tomatoes, shallot flowers, Hepp’s scorpion salt. During Matt’s all too brief stint at Santa Monica’s Basement Tavern he came up with this beautiful brunch cocktail, a really lovely alternative to the Bloody Mary.
22. 10 Pound’s Alt 0163: Macallan 18, Lazzaroni Amaretto, Amaro Nonino, Jerry Thomas bitters. I’m usually wary of cocktails that use booze best enjoyed on its own but this was actually complemented the scotch.
23. Pedaler’s Fork Upper Echelon: English Harbour Rum, El Dorado 12 yr, coffee, orgeat, nutmeg.
Last Consignment of Black Tot rum at 320 Main: All in the name of research I was able to snag a taste of this rare and expensivo rum even taking a souvenir tot home courtesy of Jason Schiffer at 320 Main.
Eveleigh’s Mustache Ride: Serrano-infused mezcal, heirloom sungold tomatoes, lime, agave and smoked sea salt.
26.** Corner Door’s The Hoodlum:** Armagnac, house made pumpkin liqueur and peated clove tincture. Back when I started blogging (and cocktailing), I couldn’t do the fall season without one of those sweet pumpkin cocktails. But now that I can’t do sweet cocktails anymore, and my tastes have changed, I was so happy when Beau Du Bois of Corner Door introduced me to this straightforward pumpkin. Instead of something frou-y it was aromatic and potent. Love.
Rob Roy’s El Tio Nonillo: mezcal, pear liqueur, dry vermouth, Amaro Nonino.
Zig Zag Cafe‘s Trident: Cynar, Aquavit, manzanilla sherry, peach bitters . A great way to end my Seattle weekend, with a beautiful drink in a chill bartender’s hangout.
Vesper Bar’s Hollywood Swinger: Art in the Age Rhubarb, Nolet’s Silver, Dolin Blanc to smooth things out, Bitter Truth orange bitters, and Veuve Clicquot. Went back to the Vesper to see if bartender Roger Gross could come up with an L.A.-inspired cocktail. And this was it, his ode to the city and his Angeleno friends. Very clean, dry cocktail with the right touch of effervescence.
Manhattan and cigar at Vesper Bar: Because Vegas. Enjoyed sitting in that casino/lobby bar and watching the world go by — drunk, stumbling and sparkly for the night out.
31.** Sotto‘s Bada Bing:** Ocho Reposado, Torani Amer Amaro, Licor 43, Sambuca essence, burlesque bitters, espresso beans.
Honeycut’s Snap Judgment: banana Aviation gin, Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac, Vinhos Barbetio 5 yr Rainwater Madeira.
Picca‘s The Candidate: Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Appleton 12-yr rum, barrel aged bitters, date sugar.
Pouring Ribbons‘ Midnight Marauder: mezcal, Bonal, Cynar, mole bitters. Straightforward and not messing around.
Dead Rabbit’s Gladstone: Rittenhouse bonded proof rye, Aalborg Aquavit, Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, dashes of Pernod absinthe, gum arabic, Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters, mace tincture. Ordered this and sat down with a good book, Dead Rabbit’s hardbound cocktail menu.
Scopa Italian Roots‘ Westside: vodka, cucumber, mint, orgeat, lime bitters.
Craft’s Daddy’s Thermos: Buffalo Trace, Fernet Branca, Zirbenz Alpine Liquor, mulled apple cider. What looks like a simple cup of coffee is something so potent that it’ll make you just want to stay in and get under the covers for a cozy evening.
Short Order’s It’s the Great Pumpkin adult shake: vanilla Straus custard, malt, spiced pumpkin, dark rum. I had shied away from these adult shakes forever but since I’m a sucker for pumpkin I couldn’t say no any longer. A well-balanced treat that isn’t too sugary and still heavy on the booze.
Scopa Italian Roots’ Bullock’s Wilshire: bonded bourbon, Demerara rum, Cynar, maraschino liqueur.
Ink’s bourbon, Cocchi rouge, Campari, chocolate bitters, hibiscus sage soda.
1886’s El Inquieto: Stumptown infused El Dorado 12 year, almond liqueur, Irish stout, whipped cream, cayenne pepper. The perfect day drinking brunch option. I’ll take this over Bloody Marys and Mimosas.
Corner Door’s Cousin Eddie: heavy cream, whole egg, white sugar, Armagnac, Demerara rum, Czech Fernet, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper.
Feed Body & Soul’s Umami Milkshake: candy cap mushroom infused bourbon, heavy cream, agave, egg with coffee shavings. Can’t resist Matthew Biancaniello’s umami egg nogg.
Goose & Gander’s Bali Spice Old Fashioned: bourbon, cinnamon, star anise, orange, bitters. Simple and lovely, this just reminds me of that one beautiful afternoon I had while wandering around St. Helena by myself. Le sigh.
Cana Rum Bar’s Snowball Riot: Tanqueray, chai infused PX Sherry, creme de cacao, Fernet, cream.
Cana Rum Bar’s The King’s Daiquiri: peanut infused Banks 7 Island Golden Rum, banana honey cordial, lime, bitters, brûléed marshmallow. This cocktail has an unfair advantage. I’ve always been a fan of Elvis and his favorite peanut butter and banana grilled sandwiches.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Norwegian Wood courtesy of Short Order: Aquavit, Applejack, Sweet Vermouth, yellow chartreuse, Angostura bitters. I saw this cocktail on Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog and was possessed with an overwhelming desire to try it. But since I didn’t have most of the ingredients at home, I did the next best thing and asked a bartender at Short Order to please, please make it for me. She did and said that she was going to keep that recipe in her back pocket.
Goldie’s Spiced & Malted Eggnog: homemade malted eggnog with spiced bourbon. Loved this variation on a holiday classic. I didn’t think it was possible but Brittini made it even cozier than the original.
Spare Room’s Fernet Egg Cream: A deliciously decadent drink.
Petty Cash’s The Brixton: gin, poblano sorbet, habanero, lime, flaming Green Chartreuse. Fyah!