The Place: Neat, 1114 North Pacific Ave., Glendale; (818) 241-4542.
The Hours: 4:30-7:30 p.m. every day.
The Deals: Half off everything.
The Digs: Behind an unlikely door in an unlikely strip of Pacific Ave. in Glendale lies a bar with an unlikely twist on the craft cocktail movement -- it's not about the cocktails. Neat is the brainchild of Aidan Demarest, of cocktail consulting and beverage managing fame from places like 1886, The Spare Room, and 7 Grand, among others. But here, as the name implies, the focus is on the spirits themselves.
The concept, basically, is that people seek out fancy spirits in cocktails, but don't have an understanding of or an appreciation for the spirits themselves. Though you can get a cocktail at Neat, the focus is on their high-end spirits, from Gin and Whiskey to Cognac and Mezcal, served in a glass without ice or water, also known as neat (get it?). If you so desire, the bartenders will mix up a specialty side drink like a fruit soda or ginger beer to accompany your liquor.
The décor is typical for a bar with high-end drinking ambitions, dark wood and low lighting, bartenders in vests, a fireplace and a small stage in the back for the occasional quiet jazz performance. The heart of the bar, and the center of its design, is behind the counter -- the liquor. Dozens of bottles of all shapes, sizes, and points of origin rest on three backlit shelves, the brightest part of the entire place. They stand like a boy band on a bright glass stage, just waiting for their turn to sing.
The Verdict: Though the selection may at first appear daunting, the gentlemen behind the bar are happy to perform the dual roles of bartender and spirit guide, carefully honing in on the right pour for your mood. Whether you lean towards high-botanical Gin or spicy Rye or smoky Mezcal, or (especially) if you want to try them all, this can get expensive fast. But that's why we love happy hour -- everything is half price. From 4:30 to 7:30 every single day, just about anything in the bar is well within an affordable range for high-end spirits. The $20 per (generous) pour of the Speyside Scotch of your dreams seems a whole lot better for $10, particularly considering the price of a decent cocktail just about anywhere in this city these days. The accompanying chaser only sweetens the deal, whether you opt for the sugary fruit soda or the astounding made-to-order ginger beer. That ginger beer, a combination of variable amounts of soda water, bitters, and fresh ginger juice which pairs beautifully with a wide variety of whiskies, is almost worth the price of the happy hour glass on its own.
Under normal circumstances, six to ten dollars for a happy hour shot doesn't really catch our attention, but Neat is a different beast. The opportunity to sample such a wide range of outstanding spirits for half their normal cost, and to be guided by friendly, knowledgeable bartenders who also happen to mix a mean ginger beer, elevates this deal to near-legendary heights.
The Grade: A
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