Old Is Gold
Some of the best bar programs in the City of Angels are all about keeping it simple, doing it right, and educating the L.A. revelers that pack their bars each night. Oftentimes, that means looking back East to the gods and goddesses of modern bartending (Audrey Saunders and Sam Ross, among them). L.A. mixos like Kiowa Bryan, Brandyn Tepper, and Devon Espinosa are borrowing from the modern greats and building upon their city’s young, exciting cocktail scene with their own takes on modern classics. “We’re not re-inventing the wheel. We’re helping it turn,” says Tepper, who heads the bar program at Hinoki and the Bird.
A Little Mexico: Altos Reposado Tequila, Carpano Antica, Cynar, and Miralce Mile Chocolate-Chile Bitters
Bryan’s A Little Mexico is a homage to Audrey Saunders’ Little Italy, which was Saunder’s variation of a Manhattan to begin with. Where Saunders’ version uses rye, Bryan goes for tequila. To that she adds Miracle-Mile Chocolate-Chile Bitters. Bryan’s earthy, bitter, spicy riff on a riff almost vears into negroni territory. Saunders has been a great influence on the L.A. cocktail scene and as Brayn says, “It’s an ode to Audrey.”
Kentucky Beet Down: Roasted Beets, Lemon, Honey, Ginger, and Bourbon
Kiowa Bryan’s Kentucky Beet Down is a variation on the modern classic The Penicillin. She leaves out the Scotch and adds bourbon instead. She keeps the honey, ginger, and lemon, then adds roasted beets. The beets are cooked with vanilla and sea salt, before being muddled with the rest of the ingredients. The vanilla bean and the beets add a touch of sweetness to an otherwise sour cocktail and the ginger really pops, balancing out that sweetness.
White Negroni: Gin, Salers, Bianco Vermouth, Rocks, and Grapefruit
Tepper knows what it takes to make a damn good negroni—a spirit, a bitter, and a fortified agent. And he knows how to give it a facelift. He sticks to the gin base, adds a whisper of sweet Bianco Vermouth, and instead of finishing with Campari, he goes for Salers Aperitif--a classic French beverage created from the roots of Gentiane Lutea--which adds floral and vegetal notes. He garnishes with a grapefruit twist: crisp, tart, and straightforward. “We serve our negronis on ice. That first sip is very intense. Being served on a big ice cube, it allows it to dilute and get better over time.”
Gordon's Cup: Gin, Muddled Lime, Cucumber, Szechuan Pepper, and Salt
At Hinoki and the Bird, Brandyn Tepper takes a caipirinha, swaps the cachaça for Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin, muddles in cucumber with the usual lime, and adds a mentholated, savory twist by garnishing with Szechuan pepper and salt. Gordon’s Cup is practically weightless, refreshing, and easy to drink. A contemporary take on a veteran drink.
Sex on the Beach Otter Pop
At The Church Key, Devon Espinosa is fearlessly mixing two decades into a singular, chill-inducing experience. His inspiration is the Otter Pop freezies of the 70s to which he adds a boozy 90s twist to get his adult Sex on the Beach Otter Pop. In his version though, the drinks are made with only fresh ingredients and juices, and are frozen to order by the table side. As he says, “I wanted to keep it fun and playful.” And that’s exactly what he’s serving up.