Five days a week, you’ll find Joe Keeper behind the bar at Bar Keeper, his unique Sunset Junction shop that sells barware and propagates ritual. He’s also working on acquiring a liquor license, and if the process goes smoothly, you’ll be able to purchase small-batch spirits and liquors at Bar Keeper by June 2010. In the meantime, we recently set out for two bars that already sell liquor, and Keeper shared his impressions.
Stop #1: The Roger Room – West Hollywood, CA
This was Keeper’s first visit to The Roger Room, a small bar with a circus theme, located right outside Largo. Lead bartender Damian Windsor wasn’t in the house, but his cocktail menu was in full effect. Keeper ordered Dueling Banjos, a cocktail made with Jim Beam white label bourbon, Carpano Antica Vermouth, green chartreuse and Luxardo maraschino, up. We chatted as he sipped.
What’s your impression of the menu?
JK: It’s nice because they’re not prejudiced against vodkas and rums.
It’s beautiful. What I really like most of all is the mirrored ceiling, because it gives you the feeling of more space. It’s real functional, form following function.
At The Varnish, they can’t do volume because of the way they’re set up. Here they can do volume. Look at all the stations. It looks like they use cold craft ice. They use a gun.
What do you look for when you see a cocktail menu for the first time?
Descriptions. You don’t see that very often, when they list the spirits. They have an enormous variety here.
What about the vibe?
They definitely have a different clientele than we have on the Eastside.
Why did you order Dueling Banjos?
Because it has Carpano, which I love, green chartreuse, which I love, and Luxardo.
What are your impressions of the cocktail?
Delicious. It tastes like a humidor, like pipe tobacco.
One thing I don’t like is they take the glasses and put them in the freezer, which makes them sweaty.
Stop #2: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Library Bar – Hollywood, CA
Our second stop was the Library Bar, a relaxed bar tucked into a corner of the Roosevelt’s lobby. Matt Biancaniello burst onto the cocktail scene earlier in the year by shopping at farmers markets five days a week and combining his purchases with small-batch alcohol in inventive ways. This was Keeper’s second time at the Library Bar, and he ordered the Eggnog, made with vanilla-infused amaretto, yellow raisin-infused Flor de Cana, heavy cream, agave, egg and fresh shaved nutmeg.
It tastes like the inside of a Milky Way.
Keeper tried four cocktails, including Saving Grace: vanilla infused Hasil Hayden bourbon with homemade ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice, mint and Grand Marnier.
What are your impressions of Saving Grace?
It’s delicious. It’s just a little too sweet for me. It smells so damn good.
How do you like the space?
I think this place is exquisite. It’s such a wonderful place for non-Angelenos to come to learn about exquisite spirits and liqueur.
What’s your opinion of Matt?
He does a public service by serving non-traditional cocktails. And he has such passion…He’s the real deal. It’s all about the cocktail. It’s not about him…It’s the foie gras of cocktails.
Do you like the vibe?
I love it. I’ve never been to a hotel bar that was so comfortable, or so warm. You could really be in somebody’s living room.
Finally, the menu?
Incredible. It’s crazy. What it reminds me of is my family in Texas who think, “Those crazy Californians.” It’s a Jerry Brown menu. He’s crazy, but when you get to know him, he has some great things to say.
We planned to finish with a third stop at Jones Hollywood, but Keeper preferred to save that bar for another night.