Refreshment is an almost unparalleled joy. When your throat is a barren, pebbly wasteland, your brow is slick with sweat, and you're feeling flat, exhausted, in need of pumping up, finding the cure, inevitably a liquid, is more pleasurable than discovering a $20 bill on the sidewalk. At Laurel Hardware, Phil Howard's beautiful new eatery, bar and purported patio wonderland on Santa Monica in West Hollywood, refreshment of the highest quality won't quite cost you a Jackson -- that is, unless you have two.
Many tasty cocktails grace Laurel Hardware's list (designed by Cole Apodaca of Hotel Shangri-La), but the standard is established by the Gangster ($12), a sweet, clean mix of fresh watermelon juice, cucumber-infused vodka and ice. It's sort of like that melon you plugged with Heaven Hill back in high school, except it's designed to pick you up, not send you crashing to the tile floor with a head injury and watermelon seeds caked to your face in sticky clumps.
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Other drinks of note: the appropriately named Aqua di Vida ($12) -- plum vodka, Champagne and St. Germain -- and the Creeping Fig ($12) -- bourbon, lemon, fig, black tea and bitters. The former was especially good, sort of like umeshu crossed with a half-frozen wad of bubblegum, but in a good way. You might also want to order food (the realm of Mario Alberto, formerly of Freddy Smalls and the Lazy Ox), possibly a merguez-and-dandelion-green-topped pizza ($16) or pork cheeks with squash and pea tendrils ($18).
In what was once a real hardware store, white tiles adorn the walls in the wood table-filled front room; plants snake up the sides; half-open windows look out onto Santa Monica Boulevard. There is a lovely patio bar out back we would have liked to see (instead, we've relied on Urban Daddy pics). Sadly, because a private party had cruelly commandeered the area on our outing, we were relegated to a sweaty spot at the counter near the open kitchen, where the heat emanating from the oven and salamander necessitated drinking a beverage as refreshing as the Gangster.
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