A few weeks ago, two of the bartenders (Jesse and Luis) and I got some amazing training and information from Eric Alperin. I feel like everyone who works in the industry and/or lives in LA knows who he is. If not, you really should Google him. Needless to say, we felt really privileged to get to spend some time learning from him. He shared a lot of great stuff! He also offered some great suggestions. We now make our own grenadine, have a better honey syrup recipe, and have improved some of our specialty cocktails.
After he left, the boys made comments like: “Man, that guy is f’ing cool,” “I wanna be like him,” “He’s amazing. When are we going to The Varnish?”
Lately, both the boys have started imitating some of Eric’s mannerisms when they’re bartending. It’s actually pretty funny, because anytime they do, they always say “Did you see that?” They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
Lauren Wong, Golden Gopher, GM
You’ve been to Seven Grand.
Like me, you remember the first time you marveled at the deep whiskey list, laughed, and ordered a Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt because you could. You brought your Scotch-loving friends, celebrated birthdays under its taxidermy, and advised out-of-towners to check out this almost-hidden, cozy downtown gem.
But as whiskey and cocktail-forward bars in LA have multiplied exponentially over the past five years, let’s note that Seven Grand was early to both games. Wall of whisk[e]y and bourbon aside, it was one of the first bars in town to deliver a proper return-to-form handcrafted cocktail (before the boom). So in approaching Seven Grand’s newly revamped menu – both assembled and designed by lead barsmith Dustin Newsome – my eyes converged upon the “originals” cocktail section. A wicked Old-Fashioned is reliable poison, but what else does Mister Newsome & Co. have up their sleeves?
With mischief behind the eyes, I watched Newsome prepare his Rufus Fir III, a cocktail created to evoke Scotch whisky finished in rum casks. This aromatic spirit-focused composition weds Chivas 12-year-old blended Scotch whisky, Zaya aged rum, Amaro Montenegro, Cynar and a smoky Islay wash. The result is bold, elegant and approachable. Orange oil and wood smoke mingling with soft peat and caramel notes; A true palate awakening.
A wild card seasonal element adds flair to the Secret Sour, which employs house-barreled Berheim Kentucky wheat whiskey. Fresh tangerine rooibos tea syrup, lemon, egg white and a soda splash made this bright and smooth sour a little too easy to tipple.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes even as a Yankee Candle Co. scent. Newsome waxed lyrical on said candle while he mixed me a Cock and Bull, his sublime tribute to a cool midsummer eve. House-barreled Fighting Cock Bourbon and Pedro Ximinex sherry find ground in fresh mint, crowned with amaro. Sure enough, one sip conjured dewy grass, wild mint foliage, jasmine blossoms and cool night air. Well played!
It’s summer, and I’m a tiki nut. If I had one shot, I would have selected the Rye Got Lei’d, which Newsome saved for last. This inspired tiki nod blends Bulleit Rye with brown sugar, fresh orange juice, pineapple and Stone IPA. Simultaneously fruity, earthy, and malty with a healthy rye underbelly, this frothy elixir is trouble on the high seas.
“Wow, look at all of the kinds of whiskey…” A couple next to me at the bar gaped at the wall, first-timers.
“I wonder if this is the kind of place where I can order a cocktail?” The woman pondered sheepishly, watching a row of neat whiskeys being poured.
I extended my menu to her. “It certainly is.”
Read more of Nathan Hazard’s writing at The Chocolate of Meats.