Harvard & Stone, the new East Hollywood watering hole from Mark and Johnny Houston — the duo behind destination drink spot La Descarga — promises to be the neighborhood bar East Hollywood/Los Feliz has been waiting for.
The 3,500-square-foot, two-level bar, in the space formerly occupied by the Stone Bar and named after the nearby intersection on Hollywood Boulevard, feels reminiscent of where Rosie the Riveter must have grabbed drinks post factory whistle. The walls are faux rusted and aged, high top tables are supported by old pipes and hanging metal baskets which look straight out of a coal mine display whiskey bottles instead of broken-up granite. The drink prices here aren't exactly everyday affordable at $9-$11 for specialty cocktails and $7-$8 for well but neither are they outrageous like most cocktail-savvy spots.
Unlike popular spirit-centric bars like rum bar La Descarga or whiskey bar Seven Grand, H&S's goal is to offer the “most unique selection of American distillates,” according to bar man Steve Livigni. “We're really focusing on craft American distilleries so there are more people making whiskey in the U.S. than any other particular thing but there's people making great vodka, gin, absinthe, rum, brandies and applejack. So we're going to feature a lot of that stuff, too.” However, the bar will also stock a small menu of tequila, cognac and rum as well as recognizable brands.
The current cocktail menu has drinks like the Apple Martini with Original Moonshine, Han's Apple Syrup, lemon juice and whiskey barrels bitters and a Walnut Manhattan with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Carpano Antica, Nocello walnut liqueur and bitters. And there are five craft beers on tap as well as a few bottles of wine.
The smaller back bar looking out at the smoking patio will feature a nightly rotating cocktail menu, with a different spirit highlighted monthly — whiskey through the end of February and gin for March. “The idea is every night is unique and no night is the same as the other so you should probably try the drinks and try the spirits,” Livigni said.
On Sundays and Mondays, there will be a tasting where the brand ambassador will come in to discuss the featured spirit and the rest of the week will focus on that particular brand, with cocktails offered at discounts.
Bartenders at the back bar will be on a fluid schedule as well, be it Livigni or his La Descarga partner Pablo Moix manning the cocktail tins, or bartenders from other local bars, brand ambassadors or old friends in the liquor business like Erick Castro, Plymouth Gin brand ambassador, who was formerly of The Rickhouse in San Francisco.
The schedule of spirits and impromptu bartenders will be posted regularly on the bar's Web site. Unlike the musical acts, which won't be scheduled per se like in a regular live music venue. Rather, there will be spontaneous “secret” shows. “It's just like you're here and all of a sudden a band shows up and starts playing. It'll be very last minute, whenever someone is in town,” Livigni said. “We're going to keep a house drum kit and guitar upstairs and if they want to play they can play.”
Although Livigni, also the general manager of La Descarga — a bar known for its dress code — insists this is the type of “place that you go to four times a week,” it also isn't a “free-for-all. It's an Eastside lounge.” Meaning: “If four or five guys show up in cargo shorts and tennis shoes and Ed Hardy T-shirts, we're probably not going to let them in. It'll be at our discretion, but we really want it to be a neighborhood bar.”
For a taste of the new bar, here's a cocktail recipe for you to try at home:
Baby's First Bourbon
From: Harvard & Stone
Makes: 1 drink
2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
3/4 ounce Orgeat
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Dash of Angostura bitters
1. Stir over ice.
2. Strain into a double old fashioned glass.