Where You Should Be Drinking in LA: Big Bar
We spent extended time in California over the holidays for a few reasons: to enjoy as much warm weather as possible during our parental leave, to introduce our West Coast friends and family to our new baby, and to try on California living for size. On that last point, we ultimately left California with Boston maintaining an edge, for now. A strong point in LA’s favor: outdoor dining.
We love a good patio. In fact the patio of our apartment in DC was quite possibly our favorite thing about living there: ideal for grilling, also ideal for growing fresh herbs, just the right mix of private and public, and with warm enough weather to use it nine months a year–a good four months more than Boston. In LA, you get twelve months out of your patio.
Big Bar in Los Feliz isn’t. It’s a small bar, with just a few seats, in a cozy room that makes the bar seem even smaller. It’s the companion of a small cafe next door. The bar and the cafe have separate food menus, but share a cocktail menu. They also share a sprawling, lovely patio. It’s a patio big enough to please everyone, with people watching tables out front, and secluded nooks around the side, and tables of various sizes and decor everywhere. And even in January, in the evening, you can sit out there; there are heaters just to take the edge off, but they weren’t even entirely necessary.
We ordered our big salad, our sandwich, and a couple of drinks and found one of those nooks.
What We Ordered
Allora: Italian mushroom-infused Cocchi di Torino; Ford’s gin; Campari; truffle salt
Fireside Chats: brown butter washed Tapatio tequila reposado; Highland Park Scotch; Benedictine; Smith and Cross rum; Miracle Mile toasted pecan bitters; Angostura bitters; saline
What We Thought
The menu gave us the impression that these drinks would be a little fussy, a little precious, or both. Allora didn’t fully reverse that impression. At its core, it’s a pretty simple variation on a Negroni. Shifting the proportions in favor of the vermouth, and making that vermouth Cocchi di Torino gave it a warmer touch than is usual in a Negroni; it embraced rather than slapped. It would be a good gateway Negroni for a Manhattan lover. It was a nice drink, but the abundance of mushroom in the ingredient list did nothing to make it so. We might very well make this drink, but without all of the foraging–and we doubt we’d tell the difference.
With Fireside Chats, however, all the fussing paid off. It felt like a drink made by tiki methods, but with almost entirely non-tiki ingredients. To our surprise and delight, the combination of base spirits felt not like a muddled mess but an artful blend. The flavor was dark, intense, and stiff, but also smooth. That smoothness was probably aided by the warm oiliness of the brown butter, and just a touch of salt turned up the brightness on the Benedictine’s spices. Even outside on a patio, on a perfectly temperate day, we loved the warmth of this Fireside Chat.