Downtown's Seven Grand, the old-timey, vaguely Scottish-themed second-floor whiskey bar, is 10 years old this week. I bet this makes a lot of Angelenos, between the ages of 31 and 45 or so, a bit nostalgic.
When Seven Grand opened, the first floor of the building was empty — certainly not occupied by the tall-ceilinged, bustling Mas Malo. Bottega Louie was not yet across the street. Clifton's had not been bought by Andrew Meieran and remodeled. As a young person out on the town, if you told, say, your boss or your parents that you were going to a new bar downtown, at Seventh and Grand, you'd be met with a blank stare, or fear for your safety.
I suppose there are some sticks in the mud who still fear downtown, but most of us have gotten a lot more sophisticated — at least about downtown. And about cocktails, too, and that's due in part to Seven Grand and the company that owns it, 213 Hospitality. As Caroline Pardilla put it last year, "This May marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of Seven Grand, a turning point in the L.A. drinking scene, when we first pushed vodka-tinis aside to make room for crafted old-fashioneds."
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It doesn't seem very wild now, but in 2007 Seven Grand was taking a huge risk. All the young people were doing fruit-flavored shots in Hollywood clubs. This bar decided to offer mostly whiskey, and some of it really expensive. (And the bartenders all wore suspenders. It's a joke now, but at the time it was pretty hot, and seemed dressy.) This was a serious establishment for serious drinking. But fun was allowed, too. There are pool tables and a smoking patio, after all.
And Seven Grand is still making admirable whiskey drinks. The Sazerac is perhaps the best of the classics: whiskey, absinthe, bitters and a sugar cube. Throw a strip of orange peel in there, and you're set for a night of drinking and remembering the good old days.
515 W. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 614-0736, 213hospitality.com.