Last night marked the debut of The Spare Room, a new cocktail lounge and Hurst-esque gaming room, located at the mezzanine level of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It is the joint brainchild of Downtown L.A. cocktail pioneer Aidan Demarest (Seven Grand, The Edison, First & Hope), Med Abrous (Teddy's, also at the Hollywood Roosevelt), and Marc Rose. The Spare Room has been getting a lot of buzz lately thanks to their two high-end bowling lanes, replete with designer bowling shoes, and their fun selection of board and card games.
We sat down with Demarest last night just as the doors opened, and talked about their new cocktail program, the differences between running a bar/lounge in Hollywood versus Downtown, and the area's unique cocktail history. “Hollywood invented the cocktail,” he told us. “We're just taking it back.”
The Spare Room will eventually feature twenty cocktails and ten punches. There is already a wide selection of beers, as well what Demarest calls, “probably the best selection of Scotch and whiskey in Hollywood.” The Spare Room has no house liquor, and uses only fresh juices and premium ingredients, while also making many of the ingredients in-house, like their bitters and grenadine. The goal is to create, “volume craft cocktails.” They want you to have quality, but not have to wait twenty minutes for them to make each drink.
Yet what Demarest seems most excited about — of all things — is the bottle service, which will feature quality liquor, enhanced with their own unique infusions. “No Stoli, but a lavender-honey infused gin,” he offered as an example. And since Hollywood bars make a lot of their money off of bottle service, Demarest looked at it as an opportunity to embrace it, and improve upon it, rather than fight it. “I don't want to be the red-headed stepchild. I don't want to not make money,” he said. “We're still sending out a five hundred dollar bottle of booze, but we're doing more than just cracking a case and opening a bottle.”
But if you aren't interested in bottle service, you can order a punch bowl instead, which they will prepare for you table-side, like a roast chicken carved at an old, swanky French restaurant. Or put another way, “To see people bowling and drinking punch is amazing.”
Demarest had long been against the idea of trying to bring craft cocktails to Hollywood. “I spent so much time downtown thinking Hollywood was the antithesis of good drinks,” he said. To him, it was a place filled with a lot of the aforementioned bottle service, and very little quality. He did eventually change his mind of course, thanks to the massive turnout for a Le Deux Halloween party he put together; the great success of Library Bar's unique cocktails, located just downstairs; and finally, the look of the space itself. Now he is fully embracing Hollywood, and seems inspired by its history. “The first Oscars were here at the Roosevelt,” he said.
You can also expect to see a lot of tequila on the cocktail menu. “Tequila was a huge liquor during prohibition. Everyone talks about gin, but that's New York,” he explained. “Why would you make bathtub gin when you could drive a few hours past the border and drink tequila and mezcal?” So in all likelihood, the “gin and tonics” people were illegally drinking at the Hollywood Roosevelt were, in fact, made with tequila. “All you would have gotten here in 1929 was a glass of tequila.”
Tequila blanco, he told us, was actually made to satisfy Americans. They triple-filtered their tequila for us, so that we could use it to make, say, a Tom Collins. Not that you'll find a simple tequila Tom Collins at The Spare Room. Instead? How about a cinnamon bark anejo Old Fashioned? Okay, so maybe Hollywood is a cocktail town after all.
The Spare Room is currently closed on Sundays and Tuesdays, and are open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. They are open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays. Eventually, they plan to be open seven days a week.