L.A. Drinkie: New York Drinkie samples cocktails in the City of Angels

21 Feb

A group of friends from San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Dubai converged on Los Angeles last weekend for a few days of drunken debauchery. We started the fun at chef Mark Peel’s Tar Pit, which Leah suggested after seeing it on “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” The venue’s dark décor, sleek style and plush seating created a sophisticated ambience. The cocktail menu is divided into sub-sections like “More Tart Than Sweet” and “Crushed” (all cocktails are $12). From the former, I ordered the Twist on a Twist, made with Jamaican rum, Amaro CioCiaro, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco cherry liqueur, lime and bitters—which I’m guessing is a Italian take on the classic Daiquiri. From the latter, I opted for the refreshing Juniper Flats, comprising gin, Averna Amaro, guava, lime and Mexican cinnamon.

Barbara got the East Indies Fix, also from the “Crushed” category. The lush cocktail mixes Batavia arrack—a rum-like Indonesian spirit distilled from sugar cane—with maraschino liqueur, pineapple, lime, mint and Angostura bitters.

In addition to drinks, we shared a variety of small plates and desserts, including Pickled Deviled Eggs, Duck Confit Sliders, four-cheese Macaroni & Cheese and Guinness ice cream with fig compote. But the revelation—and probably the best thing I ate in L.A.—was the Fricassee of Gnocchi & Escargots, a delicate dish lightly doused in a garlic-parsley tomato sauce.

The following night, we ate at Lucques, an eclectic restaurant from James Beard award-winning chef Suzanne Goin. We sat outside in the lovely, vine-covered patio area and enjoyed a decadent dinner, accompanied by wine, beer and drinks. I tried the two seasonal cocktails ($14), beginning with the Almond Grove, a milky blend of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Grand Marnier, tangerine, blood orange and house-made orgeat syrup, resulting in a tasty tropical concoction.

Next I chose the spicy and tart Brazilian Sunset, mixing aged cachaça, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, kumquat, lemon and jalapeño. Beer-lover Dave ordered a flight of the three brews that Lucques offers on draft, which changes regularly. During our visit, the selection included two special brews from Craftsman Brewing Co. in Pasadena, California—Poppy Fields and 1903, a minty pre-Prohibition-style lager made with corn—as well as an amber ale called Red Seal from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, California.

For food, I ordered the flavorful Fried Squid Salad with sweet peppers, red curry vinaigrette, cilantro and Thai basil and the savory Slow-Roasted Lamb Sirloin with parsnip purée and balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts. Needless to say, it was a deliciously satisfying meal.

After dinner, we headed downtown to Las Perlas Mezcal y Cerveza, a bar specializing in the Mexican agave-based distilled spirit and beer. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, with a Caribbean vibe and a DJ playing old-school tunes like Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step I Take.” An impromptu break dance battle even broke out near closing time. “Las Perlas” means “the rabbits,” so of course I opted for the signature 400 Rabbits cocktail ($12), comprising mezcal, muddled blackberries, Port wine syrup, egg white, agave nectar, lime juice and a float of Pinot Noir, topped with Angostura bitters and edible flowers. The rich and vibrant drink is served with a bubble tea straw to suck up all the fruit and ice.

General manager Raul Yrastorza recommended I try the Pablano Escobar ($12)—a play on the name of Columbia drug lord Pablo Escobar—made with mezcal, Royal Combier liqueur, Poblano pepper, pineapple, cumin, lime and agave nectar. The tart and tangy cocktail featured a healthy kick of heat, providing a perfect nightcap for an extravagant evening.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

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