For every bar there's a liquor and for every liquor there's a bar. Nightlife impresario Cedd Moses' latest venture, Las Perlas, soft-opened last night, aiming to become to mezcal and tequila what Seven Grand is to whiskey and La Descarga is to rum. The result is somewhere between an upscale cantina and a theme park for drinkers of the agave-based liquor.
To the uninitiated, tequila may be the free-flowing booze that caused so many college hangovers (not that there's anything wrong with that). But to aficionados, tequila is the most well-known type of mezcal, a smoky, subtle liquor typically roasted in earth ovens and made in small batches. With a centuries-long tradition rooted in religious ritual, mezcal can now be legally distilled from 28 different varieties of agave.
Las Perlas boasts over a hundred hand-crafted tequilas and premium mezcals. No worms here. More like small-batch, single-village distillations. Rivera bar chief Julian Cox and general manager Raul Yrastorza (who helmed Cole's Red Car bar and oversaw tequila at El Carmen and El Dorado) have created a menu of complicated cocktails: the spicy Poblano Escobar (Sombra Mescal, poblano chiles, fresh pineapple), the sweet and cinnamon-y Little Burro (Sombra Mescal, lime, cinnamon, ginger and club soda served in a tall glass) and the mild, sweet 400 Rabbits (Antiguo Reposado tequila, blackberries, port wine and a pinot float garnished with flowers & berries; 400 Rabbits refers to Centzon Totochtin, one of the children of the goddess of agave, Mayahuel).
Inside, Las Perlas features floor-to-ceiling wood walls festooned with flowery wrought-iron brads. It's a mid-size bar with colorful plastic tablecloths, hand-blown Oaxacan mezcal bottles and a beautiful backlit bar that casts a lime-green glow onto the two pool tables. From the smoking patio outside, you can look across the street at the revamped Cole's, another Cedd Moses venture that calls to mind all the authentic cantinas, dives, neighborhood bars and speakeasies that downtown has lost and, for better or worse, is continually resurrecting.
Las Perlas: 107 E. Sixth St., Los Angeles; (213) 988-8355.
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