We recently caught up with Julian Cox, the award-winning bartender at Playa, the Latin-inspired restaurant on Beverly, and Picca, the Peruvian-inspired restaurant on Pico — two of the hottest new restaurants of 2011.

What's your favorite part about being a bartender?

Probably taking care of people, having conversations with people. The whole interpersonal interaction is pretty awesome. That's what I enjoy.

How has the cocktail program changed at Playa this fall?

When we head into fall, we definitely try to play off the season. People have ideas about what the seasons are supposed to be, and what they're supposed to bring. So we use more apple and pear, the flavor of apple cider, pimento dram, that kind of thing. We use more dark spirits — less gin and vodka, and more whiskey and cognac and dark rums. We use much more warming spirits this time of year.

Will there be a winter list?

We change the program every time a new season comes. I do that with all my cocktail programs. We do seasonal offerings to keep things fresh. Often times, we do get people hooked on drinks. Then the season changes, and we get them to try new drinks. Then the season comes back around, they see their favorite drinks, and they start to remember.

What would you recommend first-timers try at Picca?

If you're at Picca and you're not a big cocktail drinker, the pisco sour is the national drink of Peru, and the one we do there — a lot of people think it's a really great version, a really traditional pisco sour. It can be kind of hard to try a lot of my drinks. They're really

adventurous in style, and you won't know if you're going to like them unless you actually try them. It's tough, if you're not a huge drinker, to know what some of these spirits and tinctures are. If you're not familiar with Peruvian food or Peruvian drinks, the pisco sour is a really good place to start. I tell people: don't worry about the spirits. The drink is always based around something. So if you like apple, Boots with Fur is made with brandy, pisco, and fresh granny smith apple. It's really a nice fall-style cocktail.

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