LA Cocktails: Terra Firma

Posted on February 26, 2010 in Spirits

In spite of LA’s unrivaled haunts and illustrious lineage—from the Brown Derby to Chasen’s, Chandler to Barrymore—until recently, there were only a handful of places left to get a proper cocktail.  The classics—Musso & Frank, Dan Tana’s, the Bel-Air, waning remnants from the Tiki era, and a few innovators, like resident historian, Ted Haigh, who were reading musty old books rescued from garage sales in Los Feliz and looking east.

In September, 2009—when I posited that Los Angeles was ‘the epicenter of groundbreaking cocktail culture’ in LA Times Magazine—the anonymous, unqualified user-generated internet erupted in a frenzy of blather.  Self-loathing bridge-and-tunnel misanthropes had something to drool about.  While conversely, many friends in the industry from places like New York and San Francisco were responding by jumping on airplanes to find out for themselves.

In the half-year since the publishing of “Liquid Heaven” many of Manhattan’s best and brightest have come; and some never left.  Fortunately for Los Angeles, among them are Chad Solomon, Christy Pope and the consummately graceful whilst preposterously gifted, Audrey Saunders.  This week also drew the Yankee likes of Milk and Honey’s Sasha Petraske and Brian Miller, from Death & Co., while Sam Ross was just down the coast.

Last night, at la Descarga—where rum has been singularly re-imagined—Ms. Saunders was beaming at the hand of Pablo Moix’s drinksmithing; across town Lucas Paya, and his collaborator, José Andrés, are redefining avant-garde libations at SLS; a humble Julian Cox is charting new waters in agave-based cocktails at Rivera; the Seven Grand’s John Coltharp knows whiskey like nobody west of the Mississippi; meanwhile, the first mezcal bar in the history of the United States, Las Perlas, is getting ready to open its doors.

Yeah, I say we’re breaking some ground.

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