As you may or may not have noticed, our 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants issue came out this week. Over the next few days we'll be highlighting a few categories drawing from the list. Today: Cocktails!
There are a ton of restaurants on our list with fantastic cocktail programs, so make sure you check out the whole thing, but here are five of our favorites to get you started.
The bar at Cole's, the 105-year-old restaurant that claims to be the “originator of the French Dip,” serves some of the best classic cocktails in town. Look up to the mirror behind the bar for the day's special drinks, often something timely and obscure pulled from history. And in the evening, make sure to duck into the Varnish behind a door in the back of the restaurant — there you'll find some of the best cocktails in the country.
The Hungry Cat, David Lentz's modern seafood restaurant tucked into a crevice of Hollywood, takes its booze seriously, both on the wine and cocktail front. Drinks are generally heavy on the fresh fruit, making them great for brunch imbibing. Last year, one of our favorite drinks was the Rum Diary, a pina colada made grown up.
Ink.'s highly conceptual food is matched and complimented by its equally conceptual drinks, organized by type of liquor. Example: tequila, paired with sherry, pineapple, orgeat, lime, and mole. Somehow, even the most disparate ingredients manage to find harmony in the glass. A recent trend behind ink.'s bar has been to add interesting wines or wine-based liqueurs to the list of cocktail ingredients. So gin gets cardamaro, basil-beet shrub, lemon and sparkling gamay, and mezcal gets Floc de Gasgone (a French fortified wine), celery, lemon, and cucumber.
2. Bäco Mercat
Along with its awesome, varied beer and wine list, Bäco Mercat serves some killer cocktails, often times riffs on classics but with an international twist. What could be more appropriate for a restaurant that is basically an international mashup of deliciousness? So instead of a Sazerac you might try the Bäzerac, a twist on the classic New Orleans rye cocktail, with the addition of kaffir lime syrup.
There are a number of restaurants on the 99 list with fantastic cocktails from Julian Cox — we probably could have made a list just for him (Rivera, Sotto, etc.). But we chose Picca, for its bright, amazing drinks that match Ricardo Zarate's Peruvian-Los Angeles food so well. We gave Picca Best Pisco Sour in last year's Best Of L.A. issue, and Picca's Cold War Kid, an outrageously delicious mix of Pisco, fino sherry, cognac, lime juice, Vietnamese cinnamon syrup and angostura bitters, was one of our favorite drinks of the winter.
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