The New Cocktailians 

The farmers market–loving, sleeve garter–wearing ladies and gentlemen of the bar taking over L.A.'s restaurants one glass at a time

Wednesday, Mar 4 2009

Page 8 of 10

Cimarusti was also probably the first chef in Los Angeles to treat the bar as respectfully as he did his wine list or his cuisine. His seafood tasting menus always include a course or two matched to a cocktail instead of to a wine — I remember a plate of crab paired brilliantly with a cocktail made with sake, lychee liqueur and fresh tangerine juice — and it became almost a game in the restaurant to see what founding bartender Vincenzo Marianella would come up with when challenged to invent a drink to complement a specific dish. If a Los Angeles bartender ever merited the phrase “bar chef,” it was probably Marianella, who used all the tricks of the modern kitchen — the sous vide, the foams, the process that encapsulates liquid inside delicate sacs of gel — to prepare his cocktails and infusions at the restaurant. (One of Providence’s most notorious dishes is its tasting-menu course of “cocktails”: a mojito, a greyhound, and a gin and tonic willed into quivering alcoholic three-dimensionality.) The house style, which goes so well with Cimarusti’s cooking, generally calls for freshly squeezed juice, an assertive spirit, a spicy spirit and a crack of bitters — the drinks are balanced, cold and complex.

Zahra Bates, veteran of the London cocktail scene who currently presides over Providence’s intimate bar, has perhaps the oddest background of any bartender in town. While crisply shaking a Sazerac, she confessed that her father is from West Virginia, and her mother, who had been decorated as a young girl for her efforts running guns for the Moroccan independence movement, lives in a traditional Berber village near the Algerian border. (Bates grew up in Los Angeles and went to university in London, where she supported herself working at the Long Bar at the Sanderson hotel.) What do her relatives think of her career? “Oh, I dare not tell them,” she says, lowering her eyes. “When I return for visits, there is often a line of prospective suitors spilling into the street, no matter how often I tell my mom that my life is elsewhere. I do not think they’d understand.” 5955 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 460-4170.


click to flip through (18) ANNE FISHBEIN - Where there's smoke: Steve Livigni and Daniel Nelson beneath the Shepard Fairey painted mirrors in the greenhouse at the Doheny.
  • Anne Fishbein
  • Where there's smoke: Steve Livigni and Daniel Nelson beneath the Shepard Fairey painted mirrors in the greenhouse at the Doheny.

Location Info

Related Stories

  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Linsanity Comes to L.A.

    Point guard Jeremy Lin is reportedly coming to the Los Angeles Lakers.  Even if the news turns out to be false, the prospect of getting the 6 foot, 3 inch point guard's electric smile to L.A. set off a round of so-called Linsanity on social media. The Houston Rockets star...
  • Free Rent Linsanity

    It looks like NBA star Jeremy Lin, who was reportedly traded to the Lakers by Houston, picked the right place to ply his trade. See also: Linsanity Comes to L.A. Not only does Los Angeles, arguably the American metropolis with the most people of Asian heritage, have a massive fan base...
  • Paying Jay Z's Price 3

    We hate to be a Debbie Downer, but Mayor Eric Garcetti's claim today that a two-day, Jay Z-curated concert on the streets of downtown would "inject millions of dollars into the Los Angeles economy" is dubious at best. It appears that most of the revenue from $155, 2-day passes for the...
  • 10 Ideas for Making It Out Of This Lakers Season Alive

    Is anyone still out there? Have we abandoned this Lakers squad to smoke wax in the Bronson Canyon Batcave? Television ratings have plummeted 38 percent from last year. The team's record is 18-36, complete with eight straight home losses. Calling this season a bloodbath sullies the fine name of both...



The Cucumber Aperol Fizz at Riva is an especially nice beverage, the kind of complexly scented long drink you may associate with lazy afternoons by the Mediterranean, exactly the right thing to sip in a restaurant a hundred yards from the Pacific. Another cocktail, a Creamsicle-hued foam of apricot liqueur and jet-fuel-scented grappa bound with egg white, conjures a third, new taste, an illusion of bitter almond that seems to float a few inches above the glass. I probably should have guessed the drinks were designed by the Varnish’s Eric Alperin — he expresses the qualities of beaten egg whites almost on a molecular level — but didn’t until I was dumb enough to try to point him to what I thought was a great bar he may not have gotten around to yet. 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-7482.



John Sedlar, the godfather of modern Southwest cuisine, has decided to throw his lot in with the molecularists at his new Staples-adjacent restaurant, and the classical French techniques that underlaid his 1980s cooking have been supplemented with a heavy dose of Spanish chemistry-lab stuff. Where his cooking used to be seriously wine-friendly — his restaurant Bikini famously offered Chateau d’Yquem on tap — the tiny, highly flavored bites at Rivera, even the short-rib-stuffed tamales or snips of Serrano ham, lean more into the sweet-sour-bitter snap of Julian Cox’s well-made cocktails instead. A version of Jerry Thomas’ 150-year-old Martinez, sweetened with a hint of maraschino liqueur and herbaceous red Antica Carpano vermouth, tastes more like a primordial Manhattan than like the martini it classically evolved into; the proto-margarita called Rivera’s Cup is spiked with cucumber, and a Donaji, a potent mix of mescal, citrus and pomegranate, is served in a glass whose rim has been dipped in a blend of salt and ground dried grasshoppers. The quiet rear dining room of Rivera is lined with glowing bottles of the tequila custom-distilled for the restaurant, engraved with the names of Sedlar’s best customers. It’s like a Japanese bottle bar translated into Spanish. 1050 S. Flower St., dwntwn., (213) 749-1460.



Technically speaking, Rustic Canyon, the crowded Santa Monica restaurant whose lemon cornmeal cake and sustainable, humanely raised organic-lamb T-bones with baby artichokes make it one of the toughest reservations on the Westside, doesn’t even serve cocktails. It’s a wine bar. You drink Côtes du Rhône. It goes with the food. But Jon Hoeber, who serves as the bartender for want of a better term, does the sorts of things with Prosecco that other creative bartenders do with gin, flavoring it with lemongrass and ginger, mixing it with blood-orange juice and homemade bitters, or serving it on the rocks with salt, chile sauce and wedges of lime, which I can assure you is not how it is done in the Veneto. 1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050.

Related Content

Related Locations

Now Trending


  • Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar
    Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar, with chef Jason Fullilove at the helm, is in the two buildings at the pier’s entrance that used to be Beachcomber Cafe and Ruby’s Diner. Those buildings, which have been overhauled completely, reflect both the pier’s 109-year-old history and the cultural import of Malibu itself.
  • The Tasting Menu Trend
    In Los Angeles especially, but increasingly across the country, restaurants are either switching to tasting menus, putting a greater focus on a tasting-menu option (while offering à la carte items as well), or opening as tasting-menu operations from day one. The format that used to be the calling card of only the fanciest of restaurants is becoming ubiquitous, even at places where the waiter calls you “dude” and there isn’t a white tablecloth in sight.
  • Milo's Kitchen: A Treat Truck for Dogs
    Milo's Kitchen, a part of California-based Big Heart Pet Brands, is taking its homestyle dog treats on the road this summer with the "Treat Truck." The dogified food truck is making stops all over the country, ending up in New York early September. The truck stopped at Redondo Beach Dog Park Friday morning entertaining the pups with treats, a photo-booth and play zone. Milo's Kitchen Treat Truck offered samples of the line's six flavors, all with chicken or beef as the first ingredient, and all made in the U.S.A. with no artificial colors or preservatives. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.