In Los Angeles, even the bars get dressed up for Halloween. This year, all eight of the downtown L.A. bars owned by Cedd Moses -- Casey's, Cole's, Las Perlas, Tony's, Cana, Broadway Bar, The Golden Gopher and Seven Grand -- are competing against each other to see which bar can be the most zombified with ghoulish decor, creepy costumes and special Halloween cocktails. There's real money at stake. The staff at the winning bar gets to keep all the profits from Saturday night and divide it among themselves. The real winner? You.
This weekend, each bar is serving a custom-concocted punch for only $5 a glass. In some cases, it's a drink that's already on the menu; in others, it has been created specially for the Halloween festivities. Check out the photo gallery and cocktail descriptions on the next page, and judge for yourself.
As one of the "professional" judges for this competition (yes, it is the hardest part of our job), we visited all the bars and sampled all the cocktails. Casey's, with its cobwebs and coffins, and Cole's, with its Depression-era zombies (including a bullet-riddle Clyde still pining for his Bonnie) outdid themselves. Tony's, which went in a completely different direction, was, however, the creepiest. Decorated like a serial killer's lair, it was covered in blood-splattered plastic sheets adorned with pictures of nutjobs like Albert Fish and Mark David Chapman. With its eerie, desolated vibe, it seemed like the kind of place where you might sit down for a quick drink and wake to find yourself gagged and bound in the back of a windowless van. Then again, Tony's usually feels like that.
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As for the cocktails, our favorites were the sweet/tart/spicy Jalisco Punch at Las Perlas, the Fiending Frenzy, with its hint of nutmeg and allspice, at Cana and the Dead Rose Punch at Cole's, which mixed Hendrick's gin, Maurin and rose-infused simple syrup. For sheer presentation, Broadway Bar's Sympathy For The Devil punch, was the unquestioned winner. The bubbling brew, made with spicy Fresno chili-infused tequila, green chartreuse and the "blood of the innocent" (a.k.a. blueberry pomegranate syrup) was poured over dry ice and served in a champagne glass. Don't let your lips don't touch the dry ice, and you should avoid true Halloween horror.
One more note: We saw plenty of fabulous staff costumes, from the zombie Indian princess at Casey's to the nightmarish versions of Disney characters at Golden Gopher, but no one topped the hunky, Scottish Highlanders at Seven Grand. Were they scary? Only if they remind you of Mel Gibson's acting. That doesn't matter.
Halloween is the holiday where every costume for women is somehow prefaced with the word "slutty." Slutty nurse, slutty police officer, slutty accountant, slutty Freddy Krueger. Let's see some gender parity. Hike up those kilts a little higher, boys, and bring us a double order of shirtless bartenders.