Lawry’s Classic Cocktail Tasting

Restaurant Sign Los Angeles

Lawry's The Prime Rib has record longevity along La Cienega's Restaurant Row.

In honor of their 70th Anniversary, Lawry’s The Prime Rib assembled a group of media members to their La Cienega flagship by promising classic cocktails. It was interesting to be able to try the same drinks that founders Lawrence L. Frank and Walter Van de Kamp offered upon opening in 1938.

Absolut Spirits Company sponsored the event, and their cocktail experts were on hand to field a litany of questions. Chris Patino, an Absolut rep out of New Orleans, said, “1806 was the first time the word cocktail was used in print.” A cocktail is just “Spirit, water, sugar and bitters.” Tim Master, Patino’s colleague from New York, added, “Everything derives from another cocktail. The mojito was a takeoff on the Southside, a drink favored by Chicago gangsters.”

Before waitresses began circulating in the back room with trays of drinks, Master put Plymouth Gin in historical context, reeling off facts about his Swedish company’s recently purchased product. “Gin is a wheat based product,” said Master. “They have different botanicals. Plymouth has less juniper, no bitter botanicals…It was the top selling gin until Prohibition…The first documented dry martini was made in 1869 with Plymouth gin…It’s the Royal Navy’s official gin. Commanders are given of bottle of gin to this day…The first gimlet was created with Plymouth by Dr. Gimlet, on a ship…Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book, the first cocktail book, mentioned Plymouth by name. No other brand was mentioned.”

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The first drink of the night was a Bourbon Sidecar: 2 oz. Maker’s Mark, 1 oz. Cointreau, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Cointreau added nice sweetness and an orange hue to the well balanced cocktail.

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To accompany cocktails, Lawry’s provided small versions of some signature sides, including mushroom caps filled with creamed spinach.

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Tiny baked potatoes – fingerlings, purple and red French fingerlings – were hollowed out and filled with sour cream and bacon bits, then topped with chives.

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The French 75 combined 2 oz. Plymouth Gin, 1 oz. Cointreau, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, all shaken with ice, then topped off with chilled champagne. Master dutifully posed the sweet drink with a bottle of Plymouth and a Lawry’s menu card. Way to represent.

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Toad in the Hole was topped with finely chopped Prime rib and gobs of sour cream. The savory pastry brought back good memories of my cousin Connie’s Yorkshire pudding, which I ate every Christmas as a kid.

Hors D'oeuvres Los Angeles

The snack table also held dishes of mini meatballs in tomato sauce, jumbo shrimp cocktail, potato chips sprinkled with Lawry’s seasoned salt, and salty, puffy gougeres.

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The Honolulu Cocktail is front and center, a drink credited to the Brown Derby in the 1930s. It combines 1½ oz. Plymouth Gin, 1/2 oz. lemon juice, 1/4 oz. orange juice, 1/4 oz. pineapple juice, 1/2 oz. sugar and a dash of bitters, shaken with ice. This was probably the sweetest cocktail of the night, almost completely masking the presence of alcohol.

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In the interest of research, I sampled a fourth cocktail – Between the Sheets – 1 oz. Jim Beam Black, 1 oz. Dekuyper triple sec, 1 oz. Cruzan light rum and a single squeeze of lemon juice and sweet & sour, shaken with ice. According to Master, the cocktail was first served in 1928, “a variation of a sidecar. It was a no-no to mix spirits. Speakeasies just wanted to get people drunk, so why not mix drinks?” After sipping this cocktail, it makes no sense that mixing was once controversial.

Two other classic cocktails will appear on Lawry’s classic cocktail menu, but weren’t served. These were the Angel’s Wing – layers of 1/2 oz. White Creme de Cacao, 1/2 oz. Knob Creek and 2 teaspoons of light cream; and the White Lady – 1½ oz. Plymouth gin, 3/4 oz. Cointreau and 3/4 oz. lemon juice, shaken with ice.

The classic cocktail tasting was a good learning opportunity. Hopefully other “research” assignments go down so smoothly.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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