In the heart of downtown Los Angeles is where you’ll find Seven Grand (515 West 7th Street), although you might just feel like you’ve stepped back in time to an old Irish pub. Dimly lit, with taxidermy-lined walls and dark leather furniture on all sides, this isn’t your typical whiskey bar. Yet it takes more than charming ambiance to set a place apart. After all, customers aren’t just coming here to enjoy the atmosphere—although it certainly helps. What the people want is good booze and a knowledgeable staff to serve it, and Seven Grand delivers in spades.
With a collection of over 370 whiskies, this hidden gem boasts the finest array of bourbons anywhere in Southern California. And they’re not just here to pour, the Spirit Guides—no mere bartenders—are here to promote awareness and “make whiskey accessible,” as Pedro Shanahan points out. He’s been with Seven Grand since they opened shop 5 years ago. You can only imagine how many whiskies he’s had the good fortune to taste since then. His bar features booze ranging from $7 for a low-end single malt, all the way up to $600 for a half pour of a 55 year old Macallan. Yet they never eschew the essentials, as they go through endless bottles of Jameson and make one of the finest Old Fashions in town using time-tested Maker’s Mark.
After an in-depth demonstration of what comprises the unique flavors of the intoxicating elixir, our friendly Spirit Guide whipped us up a few of their signature boilermakers—a shot of whiskey with a beer back. The first was called 120 CoConuts ($21) and consisted of a devilishly smooth Knob Creek Single Barrel—made especially for this bar—served with Maui Brewing’s refreshing CoConut Porter, the same one that I lauded earlier in the year as being one of the best canned beers on the planet. After employing the obligatory ‘Kentucky Chew,’ I took a swig of the 120 proof whiskey and was amazed by how little bite it had. Although there were initial tones of chocolate and coconut, there was a lingering spice left on the tongue that was washed right away by the subtle sweetness of the porter. Perfect partners in crime. Next up was the Rasta Rooster ($13): Fighting Cock Bourbon paired with Jamaica Red Ale. Again, Shanahan’s exhaustive research paid off, delivering a masterful match of flavors which counterpointed the tasty tannins of the bourbon with the full-flavored ale.
Shanahan knows his booze inside and out. He calls it the ‘transcendent juice’ and after an enchanted evening at Seven Grand not only will you transcend into another time and place, you’re also bound to imbibe a little wisdom with your whiskey. I’ll drink to that.