“People think that if you work with high end cocktails you spend all your time drinking in upscale bars,” says Eric Alperin, the bartender behind The Varnish. “But that's not necessarily the case.” And while Alperin says he does spend a lot of time checking out his friend's bars to see what the other top bartenders in town are up to, his go-to spots are a little less swank.
“I like to take people to King Eddy, just to see their reaction … like, 'whoa, we're actually here.' It's an old Bukowski hang out. You don't want to hang out there too long, so it doesn't matter if the ice is any good. It is real down and dirty. It has the oldest liquor license downtown. A lot of the skid row folks hang out there. You can get macaroni salad for 75 cents. Not that you should … you definitely shouldn't. But it's the idea of the thing. You should go soon though, because it's been bought by some developers. So who knows what's going to happen to it? I mean, we do know. It's going to be totally different. And it's going to disenfranchise the people who could afford to hang out there.
“The other place is Jumbo's Clown Room. Burlesque can be done really well. At Jumbo's it's a one woman show. They wear their own costumes and choose their own music from a jukebox, and some of them are just really good dancers. It's a place a lot of bartenders go, looking to relax.”
Coincidentally, Serious Eats put up a post today about L.A. bartenders and where they like to drink. Their choices are a little less “down and dirty” as Alperin put it, but fun nonetheless.
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