Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Cocktails

Tales of the Cocktail 2012: The Varnish wins Best American Cocktail Bar

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Cedd Moses' downtown drinking den The Varnish took the title of Best American Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail on Saturday night. It was a big win for Los Angeles, which was well represented in nominations, and one that brought L.A.'s influence on the national cocktail scene into clear focus.

An elated Moses took to the stage at the rowdy awards accompanied by the Varnish crew including mixologist Eric Alperin (who was also nominated in the category of American Bartender of the Year).

"Seven years ago I came out here and everybody was laughing about the bars in L.A.," said Moses later. "And I said I was going to do great cocktail bars in L.A. The redemption is good."

The Varnish beat out three other bars in the final stages of the competition including Brooklyn's Clover Club, Washington D.C.'s Columbia Room and Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston. It was also in the running for World's Best Cocktail Bar, but that award went to London.

The celebrations following the awards soon spread to all corners of the French Quarter with many of L.A.'s finest bartenders and bar owners in a feel-good state of mind.

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Photo: Eric Alperin, center, enjoys the L.A. win with Cedd Moses, left. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times.

It's Tequila Day! Sweet deals and 3 recipes to celebrate

Today happens to be National Tequila Day, the perfect excuse to indulge in an after-work tequila beverage, salt rim and all

Today happens to be National Tequila Day, the perfect excuse to indulge in an after-work tequila beverage, salt rim and all. It may only be Tuesday, but if we're being realistic, it's never too early in the week for a margarita. Here are a couple places around town offering specials to help you get your drink on:

Pink Taco Century City and Sunset locations are celebrating with half off their margaritas and tequila well drinks from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The restaurants are also offering their Taco Tuesday specials, including their Clase Azul margaritas for $8 and pitchers of the Pink Taco house margarita. 

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Tortilla Republic grill and margarita bar is offering its house margarita (Tequila Blanco, Triple Sec, house-made agave and fresh lime) for $5.

Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks is serving its signature Casa Vega margarita for $4.99. All you have to do is mention "National Tequila Day" to your server to get the special price.

If you want to make yourself a killer tequila beverage at home, check out this recipe from the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen for a blood orange jalapeno margarita with a kick: 

Continue reading »

FigOly to open July 27 in downtown's Luxe Hotel

The patio at FigOly, which opens July 27
FigOly, a sleek new modern Italian restaurant from "Top Chef" alum Alex Reznik (La Seine), is ready for its close-up in the newly renovated Luxe Hotel across from L.A. Live, with an opening date set for July 27.

Featuring three distinct dining areas, including a large outdoor patio overlooking the hustle and bustle of the corner of Figueroa and Olympic (from which the restaurant derives its name), FigOly also has recruited barman Matthew Biancaniello, who has made a name for himself with his verdant brand of mixology featuring farmers market produce at the Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The space is ritzy, with a VIP patio and dining room that is accessible through the kitchen and a bar that glows a variety of flashy colors.

FigOly recruited Matthew Biancaniello for the barThe menu includes warm buffalo mozzarella topped with macerated strawberries and black pepper ($11); Piemontese pasta tossed with porcini and hen of the woods mushrooms, ricotta salata, cherry tomatoes and Marsala ($16); beef cheeks and oxtail paired with gorgonzola polenta, shallots and sotto aceti ($27).

Drinks include the Mamma Mia (tequila and muddled red bell pepper, scallion, cilantro, lime, agave syrup, and applewood-smoked salt) and Easter Island (vodka, cucumber, Peruvian mint sprigs, and lime with ginger-spiked champagne).

Reservations for opening week are being accepted only via Twitter, which involves a clever marketing ploy that requires people publicly Tweet @FigOly along with the number in their party and the date and time of the desired reservation. Management will then confirm via direct message.

FigOly at Luxe City Center Hotel, 1020 S. Figueroa St., L.A. (213) 743-7600; www.figoly.com.

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Photos: Top, the patio at FigOly; bottom, Matthew Biancaniello pours a drink. Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

Packing for vacation? Don't forget your traveling cocktail bitters

Cocktail travels (1 of 1)Packing your suitcase for a quick weekend or a more leisurely vacation? I know you’ve got your miniature shampoo and lotions. But do you have your traveling cocktail bitters?

Yes, that’s right, a special box of bitters in adorable mini-sizes to ensure you can keep up your cocktail mixing skills while away from home. The German bitters company the Bitter Truth has packed up five little bottles, one each of original celery bitters, old time aromatic bitters, orange bitters, Creole bitters and Jerry Thomas bitters, this last named for arguably the most famous bartender of the 19th century, in its Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set.

Think what you could do to upgrade an in-flight martini or gin & tonic with one of these kits!

The wonderful thing: Each bottle is 20 milliliters, therefore — hear, hear! — small enough to be carried in your hand luggage. 

Where did I spy them? On the counter at Silverlake Wine. But they should be widely available at fine wine and liquor stores.

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Photos: The Bitter Truth's Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times.

 

How about a 'Ramp Jam' cocktail?

Raspberry MojitoDid you happen to catch any of "The Californians" skits on "Saturday Night Live?" The comparisons to our conversations filled with shortcuts trying to avoid traffic are spot on. It's no wonder a traffic-weary commuter's desire for a stiff cocktail or glass of wine at the end of the day is frequent. With the upcoming "Ramp Jam," also known as "the Rampture" set to hit Friday evening, I anticipate that desire becoming a downright necessity rather quickly.

The Locanda del Lago restaurant located at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica is hoping to ease the "Rampture" pain by offering commuters a "carpool" cocktail special. Their “Rampture Raspberry Mojito,” made of raspberries, fresh mint, organic Papagayo rum and sugarcane is priced at $6.22 starting Friday. The cocktail will be offered daily until the completion of the city's carpool construction project.

To receive the special, mention the word "Rampture" and show proof of carpooling. Acceptable forms of proof can be a carpool parking permit or photo on a mobile phone.

Hope everyone finds a suitable, safe way home. Here are the specific "Ramp Jam" details from our sister blog LA Now:

Starting at 10 p.m. Friday, workers will close the westbound Wilshire onramp to the northbound 405 and the northbound 405 offramp to westbound Wilshire. The ramps will remain closed for three months, the first phase of a yearlong effort to demolish and rebuild all eight ramps at the interchange.

Locanada de Lago 231 Arizona Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401 310.451.3525

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Photo: The "Rampture Rasberry Mojito" cocktail from Locanda del Lago. Credit: Locanda del Lago.

4 events: Your week in beer, wine and booze

Beer
Golden Road beer dinner: Tin Roof Bistro chef Anne Conness hosts a Golden Road Brewing beer dinner tonight. The five-course menu is paired with some limited Golden Road brews, and Golden Road co-founder Meg Gill will be there to talk shop. On the menu: cream cheese and crab wontons with Golden Road Hefeweizen; white shrimp ceviche with watermelon and arugula with Point the Way IPA; caramelized Brussels sprouts and crisp duck with Either Side of the Hill; English steak and ale pie with Get Up Offa That Brown; and salted caramel profiteroles and chocolate sauce with Hudson Rye Porter. 7 p.m. $45 per person. 

3500 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, (310) 393-0900, www.tinroofbistro.com. 

'How to Taste Like a Sommelier': Taste wine like a master sommelier at the Taste of Orange County this weekend. Master sommelier and certified wine educator Michael Jordan from the Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim will lead a blind tasting. (Jordan is one out of only 15 people in the world to possess both the master sommelier and the certified wine diplomas.) The tasting takes place Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Also catch a tequila and food pairing with expert Julie Harrington-Griffin on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $49 per person (per session).  

For more information, visit www.tasteofoc.com.

'Art Beyond the Glass': Bartending and art come together in "Art Beyond the Glass," which takes place at Sadie LA in Hollywood on Sunday, showcasing art from participating bartenders. The cocktails, the art hanging on the walls and the music will be created or performed by L.A.'s top bartenders. Admission includes open bar and appetizers. There also will be prizes. 3 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online; proceeds benefit Inner-City Arts. For more information and participating bartenders, visit thirstyinla.com

1638 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood, (323) 467-0200, www.sadiela.com. 

Celebrating summer: Wirtshaus German restaurant and beer garden (www.facebook.com/WirtshausLA) ushers in summer Wednesday with traditional German music and drink specials from 5 p.m. to close. Its featured drink special is Berliner Weisse mit Schuss, a sour wheat beer from northern Germany, served with syrups such as raspberry or the herb woodruff. Wirtshaus will be airing the UEFA Euro 2012 Championship on a 100-inch projection screen in their "soccer room," on the flat-screen TV at the main bar, and on its new TV on the dog-friendly outdoor patio.

345 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 931-9291, www.wirtshausla.com. 

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Photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Free cocktails! Lola's celebrates 16 years of apple martinis

Mac&cheeseAfter a hard week's work (we'll pretend it isn't an after-holiday short week), there's nothing like a good, stiff cocktail to start the weekend -- especially if that cocktail is free. Sure, it's only Tuesday, but for those who observe #tuesdayboozeday, it's never too early to start thinking about a martini.

To celebrate 16 years of apple martinis, Lola's in West Hollywood is throwing a sweet 16 birthday party Friday with free cocktails. From 7 to 9 p.m.,  guests can enjoy free Ketel One apple martinis, appetizers and a DJ.

Lola's claims that in 1996, owner Lola Dunsworth and some members of the staff mixed together the first apple martini in the back of the bar, using green apple Puckers, Ketel One vodka and sweet and sour mix. Ever since, it's been a hit. If you want to try the famous green martini, all you have to do is RSVP for the party at [email protected]. RSVPing early is recommended as space is limited and it's first come, first served.

Lola's West Hollywood, 945 N. Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood.

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Photo: Mac and cheese and an apple martini from Lola's. Credit: Lola's.

SHOREbar soft-opening Saturday in Santa Monica

SHOREbar
Consummate cool guy John Terzian (of the buzzy nightlife-producing h.wood group) will soft-open a new lounge in Santa Monica on Saturday called SHOREbar.

Located on Channel Road, between the Hungry Cat and Giorgio Di Baldi, in the former Hideout bar space, SHOREbar touts a cocktail list by mixologist Vincenzo Marianella of the esteemed craft cocktail haven Copa D' Oro.

The redesign, featuring a nautical theme and an ivory-and-brass color scheme, was done by Rosetta Getty and is being referred to as "Nantucket chic," which immediately conjures images of Vampire Weekend. I like the idea of a bunch of sun-soaked preppies in pastel Lacoste shirts and boat shoes reclining in this beach-adjacent hang. It's very summer-like.

There is a second, smaller upstairs bar that is reserved for members only. There you can keep a house expense account, order food from local restaurants, throw wild parties and have access to your very own locker to keep, well, whatever it is that you keep in a locker at a bar.

Although unlikely, it's my personal hope that SHOREbar can help usher a new spirit of artsy revelry into the Santa Monica Canyon neighborhood, which has a rich history of just that.

In 1948, the writer Christopher Isherwood, whose short stories about Berlin inspired "Cabaret," rented Lee Strasberg's house at 333 E. Rustic Road -- a short walk from SHOREbar -- and came to believe it was haunted. He wrote in "Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951" about "the intensity of the unpleasant psychic atmosphere." Isherwood, who lived in Santa Monica Canyon until his death at age 81 in 1986, called it "our western Greenwich Village."

But hey, I'll take our western Nantucket.

SHOREbar, 112 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica. (310) 429-1851.

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Photo credit: SHOREbar

The perfect Saturday-afternoon pour at Chez Jay

ChezJay
This is going to be hard to believe, but before Saturday afternoon I had never been to Chez Jay, the famous little sea-side steakhouse with a 53-year history of serving the stars.

I had heard about it, of course, but I don't think I'd ever noticed it in all the years I rolled around the Westside. That changed Saturday when my friend Emily and I went to pick up an out-of-town friend at the Viceroy in Santa Monica.

We were looking for a place to stop for a cocktail when we drove by it. It's a little shack of a building with a vintage cocktail sign. As soon as I saw it I made an elaborate U-turn to enter its lot. I'm a sucker for classic bars -- I love the Prince, Musso & Frank, the H.M.S. Bounty and Dan Tana's --  so when we entered Chez Jay and saw its tiny, well-worn interior with old-school checked tablecloths, scratched bar and cast of colorful regulars, I fell in love.

It was mid-afternoon and a relaxed vibe prevailed. People ordered the omelet special and read the paper, sipping on bloody marys and beer. The top of the front door was open and warm sunlight filtered in. As Malcolm Lowry (a notorious drunk) once noted in his book "Under the Volcano," there is something sad and lovely about watching specks of dust drift through the sunlight under the crack of a bar door when you're day drinking.

And so it was at Chez Jay as Emily and I drank a tequila gimlet and enjoyed the sense of discovery that came with stumbling across this priceless piece of L.A. history.

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Photo: Chez Jay. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

Slingr: The social networking tool for drinkers

CharlieSlingr
It was like a dream come true. The day was Sunday and my band mates Charlie, Emily and I had retired to the Red Lion Tavern in Silver Lake for a beer and burger after a hard day of lying by the pool. When we sat down at a table on the patio we spied a placard for a new mobile app called Slingr that described itself as "a hot new technology that allows your friends to remotely send drinks and food directly to your table through Facebook and Twitter."

What? We could check in to the Red Lion on Facebook via Slingr and request a drink, and our friends could buy it for us on their phones or computers and have it delivered to our table, tip included? Score! We would never work again. We would just go wherever Slingr was, check in and drink up.

Who wouldn't want to buy us a drink?

"If I saw that my buddy Manny in Portland had posted with this, I'd totally buy him a drink," said Charlie, texting our table number to Slingr. Emily and I followed suit.

"It's Sunday!" I wrote as my reason for asking for shots in what suddenly felt like a Kickstarter campaign for my late-afternoon drinking habit. (You can also request a beer, a mixed drink, a martini, food and more.)

Ten minutes later our server, Greta, appeared at our table and put a shot of Patron with lime down in front of Charlie.

"This is from Manny," she said, as we stared at the shot, dumbstruck. Apparently Manny in Portland felt the same way Charlie did. It was a very dudely show of support, and serendipitous, too, since Charlie had just been talking about Manny.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.