The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2018

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18  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2018 COCKTAILS 18  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2018 Buzzworthy Beverages MIDCENTURY MODERN BAR BIRDS & BEES DELIVERS FRESH SENSIBILITIES TO POST-PROHIBITION COCKTAILS by Rich Manning Birds & Bees Bar Manager Jake Larowe uses fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to craft drinks that reflect the Los Angeles establishment's midcentury modern aesthetic. Santa Monica Smog Cutter ◗ 2¾ oz. mix (¾ oz. Caña Brava Rum, ½ oz. Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum, ¾ oz. Cognac Park, ¾ oz. Fords Gin) ◗ ¾ oz. lime juice ◗ ½ oz. orange juice ◗ ½ oz. pineapple juice ◗ ½ oz. hibiscus orgeat (1 oz. dried hibiscus: 8 oz. orgeat) ◗ ¼ oz. PX Sherry ◗ 2 dashes cinnamon tincture Whip ingredients and top with crushed ice in a Collins glass. Float PX Sherry. Garnish with a pineapple leaf and mint sprigs topped with powdered sugar, then serve with nuts, and chocolate. G etting to cocktail bar Birds & Bees is almost like exploring a time-bend- ing labyrinth. After you walk through a Downtown Los Angeles parking lot and down a staircase, you'll see a narrow alleyway funneling past brick walls. Keep going until you reach a bright yellow door. You don't need a password to enter the midcentury modern–themed joint—just walk right in. A period sometime between World War II and the Summer of Love exists on the other side, where Atomic Age furniture and a corner hi-fi coexist with old episodes of The Twilight Zone playing on TV. The time warp slightly morphs once you approach the bar: The staff here defiantly shun the ready-made mixes and artificial juices that gradually seeped into the cocktail scene around the midcentury era's latter half. "That era of mixes and blended drinks was the worst thing to happen to the American cocktail scene, and that includes Prohibition," says Bar Manager Jake Larowe. "At least you could get a decent drink during Prohibition!" A healthy slice of Birds & Bees' menu plays on popular Post-Prohibition cocktails, transforming them into the bar's own appropriately-named renditions (its take on the daiquiri, for example, is called the Desi Arnaz). Yet the use of housemade tinctures and fresh ingredients—several of which Larowe procures at L.A.'s sprawling epicurean center Grand Central Market a block away—rock- ets these old-school drinks into the 21st century, much to the enjoyment of the more knowledgeable modern-day palate. While the spirit of these beverages ties into the bar's fun and funky aesthetic, the craftsmanship connects to something much more "of the moment." "There's a lot of great things happening in Downtown Los Angeles right now—great bars, restaurants, art, culture," Larowe explains. "We want to be part of that, and one of the best ways for us to do so is making these drinks the right way without shortcuts." Larowe does reserve space on Birds & Bees' seasonally-rotating menu for classically-inspired creations like the Santa Monica Smog Cutter: a mélange of rum, Cognac, gin, and fresh fruit juice bound by dried hibiscus and cinnamon tincture. Regardless of what timeline his drinks are inspired by, however, his philosophy remains the same. "If you're not going to make a drink with the best ingredients you can use," Larowe says, "you really shouldn't bother making it at all."

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