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Little Tokyo Cocktail

Here’s one of the winning cocktails from the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Competition of 2009 (details and rules here), judged by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh.

The Little Tokyo Cocktail
(by Jonathan Stout)

2 ounces Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse 100 if possible)
1/2 ounce Orgeat
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir & strain.
Orange Peel & Grated Cinnamon – Cocktail Glass


Spring Street District Cocktail

Here’s one of the winning cocktails from the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Competition of 2009 (details and rules here), judged by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh.

Spring Street District Cocktail
(by Marcos Tello, The Tar Pit)

1 ounce Cachaça (Sagatiba)
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Peach Liqueur (Mathilde Peach)
2 Dashes Orange Bitters (preferably a 50/50 blend of Fee Bros. Orange Bitters & Regan’s No. 6)

Stir & strain.
Flamed Orange Peel (Discard) – Cocktail Glass


Historic Core Cocktail

Here’s one of the winning cocktails from the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Competition of 2009 (details and rules here), judged by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh.

Historic Core Cocktail
(by John Coltharp, Seven Grand Whiskey Bar)

1-1/2 ounces Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
1/2 ounce Laird’s Bonded Applejack
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
Dash Angostura Bitters

Stir & strain.
Lemon Peel – Cocktail Glass

This one’s really terrific.


The Toy District Cocktail

This is my entry for the Downtown Los Angeles Sub-District Cocktail Competition. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.) Cocktail competitions are fun — sometimes they’re only ways for the spirits company sponsoring them to get their brand out there, but a lot of the time it’s a great way for a bartender to get a little recognition and maybe even win a prize. Marcos Tello of The Edison is organizing a new one not for a spirits company, but for our own fair city. What we hope to get out of it in a month’s time is seventeen new signature drinks for Los Angeles. Let’s have him tell y’all about it:

New York has for some time had The Manhattan, The Brooklyn, and The Bronx — benchmark cocktails named after their native regions. A short while back a couple of bartenders from New York got together and decided to finish naming cocktails after their beloved neighborhoods. Cocktails such as The Bensonhurst, Greenpoint, and Little Italy. Beautifully stirred cocktails using a spirit base and vermouths, liqueurs, amaros, bitters, etc. Being a native Angeleno, I have always wanted a set of cocktails named after my own city or its neighborhoods.

Recently I bellied up to the bar at Seven Grand in downtown Los Angeles. (As you may or may not know, downtown is trying desperately to become a “full-fledged” city.) My buddy Leo Rivas served me a delicious concoction, stirred, and served up. And I thought to myself, as he was still searching for a name, why don’t we name it after a one of the sub-districts in downtown? And then I thought, why doesn’t L.A. have its own set of sub-district cocktails? This first one we decided to name it the Arts District Cocktail.

The point of all this is that we should have our own set of cocktails named after the city that needs our help in developing a true cocktail culture, in order for it to truly be called a “city”! So in February will have a cocktail competition in which name cocktails after the 17 Sub-districts in Downtown Los Angeles.

I know this is kind of closing the barn door after the bandersnatch has run away, but the deadline for entries was yesterday. (Glerp. Sorry.) Eligibility is bartenders who reside in the Los Angeles area, or who are L.A. natives but now tend bar elsewhere, and also serious non-professional enthsiasts and cocktail nerds. We might have picked up three or two more of yas from the readership here, but oh well.

The Rules: A stirred cocktail using a base spirit, modifying vermouth, liqueur (i.e. Bénédictine, Curaçao, etc.) or sweetening agent, and some type of bitter. No citrus. (Citrus is plentiful in L.A. and it’s too easy; we don’t want a whole bunch of sours either.) Also, ingredients have to be readily available, meaning no homemade ingredients or extremely, obscure hard to find ingredients. We want to be able to make these on a regular basis and promote making them around the city, so they should be somewhat approachable. Entrants are encouraged to do some research on the history of the district they’re aiming for, to help the drink reflect both the past and present in that district.

The competition will be on the first Sunday of February. If we can coax him into town for the weekend from his until-April out-of-town gig, we hope Dr. Cocktail himself will be judging. (I’m sure Marcos has a Plan B just in case.)

I decided to go for the Toy District, bordered by 3rd Street on the north and 5th Street on the south, Los Angeles Street on the west and San Pedro Street on the east. It’s filled with myriad shops for inexpensive toys, trinkets, and you-name-it. It’s also pretty bustling, at least during the day. For years one of my best friends lived in a loft in the Toy District, and there we did lots of eating, drinking and carrying on. (Good, good times.) Besides the personal inspiration, I did a bit of digging and found out some interesting things about the neighborhood.

Before the wave of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere in Asia arrived to make the Toy District into what we know it to be today, the neighborhood was “filled with the colorful sights and fragrant smells of old Greece”, according to the Los Angeles Times, and was known as Greek Town. The city’s first Greek restaurant was on 4th Street, with Kalamata olive oil importers a few doors down. There were 65 Greek businesses clustered in the area, although few remain today and all but two of the original buildings have been razed.

I chose one of my base spirits, Metaxa, to reflect the flavors of the community in old Greek Town, augmenting it with rye whiskey to give it balance, a sturdier backbone and to reflect my love of the downtown drinking scene (I like to drink whiskey in downtown bars). The bitter component is Amaro Ramazzotti, complementing the floral notes of the Metaxa with bitter orange and fragrant spice (plus, the Romans had pretty much all the same gods as the Greeks). Lillet is there to help bring the flavors together, and to reflect the presence of fabulous French dip sandwiches a few blocks away. A muddled slice of ginger, as well as the ginger garnish, reflects the current Asian population of the Toy District and gives the drink a bit of brightness and zing.

Okay, I’m being silly with some of the symbolism there, but I wanted a Greek spirit and thought it’d taste good with the Italian amaro (wonderful stuff, which I want to use more often), and the other ingredients were chosen solely for taste and balance. I worked on this for about three days, and Wes and I drank most of the not-quites. (Hence, we were fairly shitfaced on Friday and Saturday and stayed home.) I’m pretty happy with the result. If you’ve a mind to, give it a shot and tell me what you think.


1 ounce Metaxa 7 Star.
1 ounce rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce Amaro Ramazzotti.
1/2 ounce Lillet blanc.
2 slices of fresh ginger.
1 orange peel

Combine liquors and 1 slice of ginger in a mixing glass. Muddle the ginger slice to extract flavor. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Double-strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with additional ginger slice and orange peel.

Here’s hoping I win my district! [UPDATE: I did. Yay! Although I think I had one, maybe two competitors for this district, and good luck ordering this anywhere.]


Mixology Monday XXX: Local Flavor

Yeesh, so soon already! Well, we did get a week’s extension on MxMo XXIX last month, in order for our brains and livers to recover from Tales of the Cocktail, and August’s has crept up on us already. This month we’re hosted by Kevin Kelpe, a bartender and restauranteur in Boise, Idaho and author of the drinking blog Save the Drinkers. It was great to see Kevin at Tales again this year, and I’m comforted in the knowledge that if we stop through Boise we know where we can go to get a damn good drink.

The theme this month is local flavors, and Kevin puts it thusly:

Option 1: Gather ingredients that are representative of the culture/geography/tackiness of your respective cities and make a drink with a truly place-based style. For example, huckleberries are native to the geographical area where I live, as are elderflowers, potatoes, and extremely conservative, closet-case politicians. (I’m just saying!)

Option 2: Dig up an old drink that came from your city and revive it! If you can find the original bar, that would be even more interesting.

I really wanted to do option 1, given the bounty that’s in my own backyard. We have a very old fig tree that’s brimming with fruit right now, absolutely stunning figs more than half the size of your fist. I’ve been brewing an idea back in me brain to make some fig-infused Bourbon, using both fresh figs from my garden and dried Mission figs to give it a greater depth of flavor. By the time I finally read Kevin’s post there was no way I’d have that ready for MxMo XXX, so it’s going to have to wait a few weeks. We also have a large grove of pomegranates, but they won’t be ready until late fall / early winter at the earliest.

So I’m gonna go for a variation on option 2, digging up a couple of new drinks that come from our city, and I’m gonna be Mr. Overachiever as I did last month and post two. They’re terrific drinks from the same bar, the bar that really did the most to kick off the cocktail renaissance in Los Angeles, and were created by Los Angeles bartenders for Los Angeles; one of them is also a nod to that bar’s long history … as a jeweler in the 1920s.

You’ve undoubtedly heard me and many others was poetic about this Los Angeles bar; Seven Grand is one of our favorite places to drink in the city, in a year where we suddenly actually had places to drink in the city other than our house. Los Angeles had been pretty much a big zero in the quality and classic cocktail world for ages, and all of a sudden 2007 saw us take off like a Saturn V rocket. We fell in love with this bar right away, even though we didn’t get our procrastinatory asses in there until they had already been open for four months, and we still love it. The key to Seven Grand is to go on Sundays through Wednesdays, earlier in the evening, when you can get personalized attention from their bartenders; John, Leo and the rest of the guys will take very, very good care of you.

They’ve just streamlined their cocktail menu (I was JUST there the other day and forgot to take a look at it, d’oh), but today I’ll offer you two of Seven Grand’s house cocktails that were on their early menu last year, and if either of them aren’t on it at the moment (which I doubt), surely they can still make it for you … or now you can make it yourself.

The first is named after the original occupants of the beautiful 1921 building in which the bar is housed. Brock & Company were a prominent jeweler in Los Angeles, and although their days are long gone they still live on at Seven Grand. Many of the architectural and interior details of the old space were reused in the design of the new — the glass jewelry cases formed a bank of small windows near the ceiling in the room divider, wooden jewelry drawer fronts with gorgeous brass handles were mounted on the front of the bar, and the beautiful polished wood surface of the bar itself came from the boardroom table. Then there’s this very, very tasty drink named after the original occupants; I think they’d have to find it as tasty as I do.

Brock and Co.

Brock & Co.

2 ounces Knob Creek Bourbon whiskey.
1/2 ounce ginger-infused syrup.
1/2 ounce “runny” honey (or 2:1 honey syrup)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce orange juice.
Long, thin ginger slice for garnish.

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then pour into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with the ginger slice.

Bright, tangy, summery, refreshing, and a great drink for quenching your thirst over the next couple of months when it’s gonna be HOT.

If you don’t have ginger syrup you can substitute Massenez Crème de Gingembre or Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.

The next is another of Seven Grand’s house cocktails, and although it may not feature local ingredients per se, it’s named for our great city. [UPDATE: There’s a bit of history here too; a quite similar cocktail appears in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book from the 1930s, which I had completely forgotten about (and thanks to Erik and Anita for reminding me of this in the comments). This is is a slightly modernized adaptation; I’m assuming that it was the inspiration for this local version.] I suppose calling it the El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula Cocktail might be a bit unwieldy, so they wisely opted to stick with the shorter, more colloquial name for the city and the drink. This is the way I make it, with my preferred Bourbon these days; use the one you like best.

The Los Angeles Cocktail

The Los Angeles Cocktail
(House version served at Seven Grand)

1-1/2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon whiskey.
3/4 ounce simple syrup.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/4 ounce Vya sweet vermouth.
1 egg white.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

Add the egg white to the shaker and shake like hell for at least 10 seconds alone, WITH NO ICE. Add the rest of the ingredents, then plenty of ice, and shake like hell for at least 15 seconds. Strain into a sour glass, wine or port glass, or something elegant.

This one’s reeeeeally nice. It’s basically a whiskey sour with a bit of spice added to it from the vermouth and the bitters; I like to keep this one in the California family by using Vya, a wonderfully spicy sweet vermouth made in California. Substitute Punt E Mes or Carpano Antica, if you can find them.

I’m gonna be a royal pain in the ass by throwing in a third drink, which although has the same name as a venerable, famous landmark Los Angeles restaurant of yesteryear, and the same name as that restaurant’s house cocktail … it ain’t that cocktail, and wasn’t served at that restaurant. I just like it, and the name makes it sound local, so there.

Dave Wondrich describes it thusly:

Fact is, we can’t find a damn thing about this perfectly charming drink, and the Second Law of Mixography dictates when all else fails, discuss the drinking habits of our ancestors. (The First Law? Hemingway probably drank it.) What we know: The Brown Derby appears in Esquire’s June 1939 “Potables” column. Before that, nothing. After that, nothing. Did it come from Robert Cobb’s famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood? There is a Brown Derby cocktail we’ve seen connected to the eatery — but it ain’t this. (And what would they be doing messing around with maple sugar out there in sunny California, anyway?) Or is the name just because it’s brown?

The only spar we’ve got to cling to in this sea of ignorance comes in the unlikely form of roly-poly Alexander Woollcott (the guy on whom Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner was based). In 1935, he turns up in So Red the Nose, an odd little book in which famous writers of the day contributed their favorite drinks, all renamed after their latest books. Woollcott’s When Rome Burns is essentially the Brown Derby, but with lemon juice instead of the lime and maple syrup instead of maple sugar, and with the key specification that you use Medford rum. They don’t make that anymore, either. But when they did, they made it in Medford — right outside of Boston. So. The Brown Derby, or whatever you want to call it? New England’s answer to the daiquiri. It might not be tropical, but it sure is tasty.

Oh yeah, that other Brown Derby? Jigger of bourbon, half-jigger of grapefruit juice, teaspoon or so of honey (stir ’em all together before you add the ice). Let us know how it turns out.

The Brown Derby Cocktail

2 ounces Jamaican rum (I like Appleton Estate V/X in this).
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 teaspoon grade-B maple syrup.

Shake and strain.

Thanks to Dan Reichert for turning me on to this one. The original recipe, as Dave mentioned, called for maple sugar, but maple syrup’s a lot easier and cheaper to obtain, and grade-B maple syrup is such a terrific cocktail ingredient it should be used more often anyway.

Okay, so, that was really four drinks, if you include the recipe for the Brown Derby Restaurant’s actual house cocktail; told you I was a pain in the ass.

Happy Mixology Monday! Now get drinking.