At the top of the US Bank Tower downtown, 71Above lead bartender Darwin Manahan explains the thought process behind the sparkling new restaurant’s cocktail menu. It’s an easy path to follow. “Looking aesthetically at how the building was designed, it’s really based off of a compass,” he says. Manahan, who grew up in Los Angeles County, wanted to represent the different corners of L.A. through his drinks. The concept works particularly well considering all those corners are visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the room, which sits 950 feet above ground level.
"A lot of it just plays off the city," Manahan says. "Each one of these sub-cities has an actual feel to it. That’s what I wanted to portray inside of the cocktails." Here are some of the highlights from Manahan's drinkable representation of the city.
In case you've been living under a rock and haven't had mezcal yet, Manahan recommends the Echo Park. With a split base of mezcal and pisco, the Echo Park isn't as smoke-forward as most mezcal drinks. The aloe liqueur, cinnamon and lime also help mellow out the cocktail. "The pisco can tone down the mezcal, so it’s a great introductory cocktail into the mezcal world," Manahan says. "The cinnamon comes from the little [Echo Park] taquerias, and you can get some pretty bomb horchata out there.” Manahan uses basil flowers discarded by the kitchen as a garnish. "No waste, Echo Park."
"For Hollywood, I just think that’s a funny one," Manahan says. "It’s like, 'Oh, make something hot and make something spicy with vodka.' So we did." The cocktail calls for jalapeño-infused vodka, Lillet Blanc, sherry, grapefruit cordial and lime. For a garnish, Manahan delicately drips a mix of avocado, opal basil and basil oil over the top of the cocktail. "It’s normal oil that you would garnish your pasta with. I like the mouthfeel on it," he says. "They come in little pellets, so as you drink it they kind of burst with a little fat."
Manahan's favorite drink on the menu may be the easiest to drink. The Beverly Hills is a spritzy and light cocktail that could definitely get you into some day-drinking trouble. It's made with Sancerre, St. Germain, honeydew, club soda and Suze, a Swiss gentian-root apéritif. "That one is my jam because I like something 'crushable.' Something you can just throw in a pitcher and I can down it," he says. "I can probably have four of those and just feel it. I'm the type that I can drink a lot, I’m not saying alcohol, I just mean in general. I can finish a gallon of water and it’s just easy for me.”
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"For the Downtown, what do they order downtown?" Manahan says as he finishes the Downtown with a slice of orange peel. "Seven Grand was really at the forefront of all of those bars that started opening up down here. What better than making an old-fashioned?" Manahan's vision of 71Above's Downtown is toasted hazelnut–infused bourbon, cognac and apricot Demerara. It is the most spirit-forward drink on the menu.
633 W. Fifth St., downtown; (213) 712-2683, 71above.com.