By Nathan Hazard
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.