It's a good day when the first meaningful thing that's put in your hands is a drink: a good drink, a weird drink, a purple drink, one so chock-full of fruit it almost tastes like it'll boost your immune system, the rye expertly disguised in blood orange juice and an indigo robe of cassis, girded by Cynar, the whole effect refreshing as hell.
The drink was the Never Let Me Go, fashioned by Matt Biancaniello of the Hotel Roosevelt's Library Bar. And it was, for me, how the afternoon began at Art Beyond the Glass, a benefit for Inner-City Arts held on a recent sunny Sunday at Sadie Kitchen & Lounge in Hollywood, which on this June day was definitely more lounge than kitchen.
A brilliant collection of bar talent had gathered to whip up drinks and show off other talents as well: Various bartenders, among them Steve Livigni (Harvard & Stone) and Allan Katz (Caña), spun beats on their hard drives and sent shock waves through chilled shots of pepper-inflected vodka. On the back patio, Pablo Moix (La Descarga, Pour Vous) took his time building up the pastel paint on a 6-by-8-foot canvas, while next to him patrons bid on other works of art, many cocktail-inspired in some way.
There was music, there was food, there was a bit of Hollywood sun, but the focus of the afternoon was where it was supposed to be: on the drinks. At a dozen stations, two dozen bartenders, including Edwin Cruz, Naomi Schimek, Jason Schiffer and Biancaniello, pulled together sets of cocktails six at a time, drawing from every major spirit group and broadcasting a remarkable array of flavors — so many, in fact, that to get through them all you'd need a second liver and a ride home.
In order to dip into the Kentucky Bubble Bath (bourbon, lemon, lavender agave and Cynar), for instance, you'd need to put down your Goldmember (involving gin, Becherovka and absinthe) and your Backyard Mary (roughly, a rum Bloody Mary with Tabasco, barbecue sauce and beer). No matter how awesome your Awesome Possum was (and it was, a kind of Scotch cream soda), downing it would leave you short the brain cells to receive a Punch to the Cortex (as if I remember).
But these are the sorts of dilemmas that cocktailians face in Los Angeles these days, a surfeit of talent that, when put into the same room, tends to leave you stunned and a little overwhelmed. My only regret is for the poor suckers who went out for a drink anywhere else in the city that Sunday, when the talent was surely diminished. And even if you missed the drinks, you still can donate to Inner-City Arts at inner-cityarts.org.
Patrick Comiskey, our drinks columnist, blogs at patrickcomiskey.com and tweets at @patcisco. Have a spirits question for a future column? Ask him. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.