Prior to World War II, Los Angeles was a center for cocktail culture, home to America’s first Bartenders’ Guild and nationally influential. After the war, L.A. was supplanted by cities like New York and New Orleans. For decades, L.A. bars touted style over substance, but in the past few years, local bartenders and business owners have banded together to reverse that trend. As a result, L.A. cocktail culture has erupted. Angelenos are not only appreciating top-flight bars like Seven Grand, The Hungry Cat and The Edison, but they’re supporting exciting new options like The Varnish and Copa d’Oro. This all fits with bartender Marcos Tello‘s vision for The Sporting Life, a revived Los Angeles bartenders’ guild that celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 15 at Bar Keeper.
Tello touched on his vision for L.A. cocktail culture in his most recent Sporting Life newsletter, saying, “In an effort to try to bring honor back to my profession, that was once revered in the same the circle as the “doctor, lawyer, and banker”, I am trying to unite bartenders in Los Angeles that are truly interested in the “craft of the cocktail.”…A Cocktail Revolution is upon us, and being a Los Angeles native I am very interested in revolutionizing the way The City of Angels approaches drinks. We can only do this if we are united, organized, and passionate.”
The Sporting Life Anniversary Party was held at the place where the first meeting took place: Bar Keeper. In the past three years, Joe Keeper has built Bar Keeper into a community hub for Los Angeles bartenders and mixologists thanks to his respect for the ritual. Of course it also helps that he has an unrivaled selection of barware, bitters and cocktail memorabilia.
The anniversary party featured twin bars on the back patio, staffed by many of L.A.’s leading bartenders, including Eric Alperin (The Varnish), Chris Ojeda (The Varnish & The Edison), Damian Windsor (The Edison & Copa D’Oro), Joseph Brooke (The Edison & Copa D’Oro), Christine D’Abrosca (Malo), John Coltharp (Seven Grand), Julian Cox (Rivera), Pablo Moix (One Group) and Michel Dozois (Church and State). To help fuel the event, several top-flight liquor companies donated bottles, including Partida Tequila, Plymouth Gin, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Square One Vodka. Dozois provided Névé Luxury Ice.
One Group bartender Pablo Moix made a Squared Pepper Bramble with muddled bell peppers, Square One Botanical (“gin minus juniper”) and lemon juice, then topped the drink with muddled honey blackberry jam.
Veev is an acai liqueur made with antioxidant-rich Brazilian fruit. The company is based near The Grove and produces the first carbon neutral liquor in the world at a wind-powered distillery in Idaho. Moix made a refreshing cocktail combining Veev, lemon, lime, orange, Serrano, Square One Botanical and cucumber.
Malo beverage director Christine D’Abrosca made the St. Astor, a drink she prepared for cocktail legend David Wondrich in Manhattan. She was even kind enough to share the recipe: 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon, ½ oz. St. Elizabeth allspice, ½ oz. Grand Marnier, ½ oz. lime juice and ½ a bar spoon of agave.
D’Abrosca also made a terrific cocktail using horchata and a slice of jalapeno.
The L.A. cocktail scene is already thriving, and given the turnout at the anniversary party, the unbridled enthusiasm and the top notch drinks, cocktail culture should continue to thrive and grow.