Story and photos by Anna Cox
LA Jams – The Strand House
LA jams was conceived in May 2012 by Levi Lupercio, a 16 year veteran bartender. Though Levi loves inventing new drinks, he tends to hand off the drink naming to others. This particular name comes from the Oprah-featured Laura Ann’s jam used in the cocktail. Friends refer to Laura Ann as LA, a former punk-rock drummer turned jam-maker.
This concoction is a real family affair. Even the pastry department is in on it. A hard candy garnish is made fresh before each shift. Each piece is etched, then shaped with an artistic vision in mind. Levi’s slave driver, wrangler, and sidekick — General Manager Luis Villaneda can take some credit for the high number of new drinks Levi cranks out. Levi is encouraged to come up with something new every few weeks. The most popular drinks graduate to the permanent menu.
Ingredients: Sombra Mezcal, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, pineapple Juice, lime juice, Laura Ann’s Raspberry-Habanero Jam, Muddled Lime andOrange, and a rock candy garnish.
Served by bartender: Levi Lupercio
Jack’s Honey Lemonade — Lido di Manhattan
Lots of drinks claim to taste like honey. This one actually does. Actually, it’s better. It walks the tightrope between sweet and sour, letting you settle on the sweet. The zingy 7-Up makes sure it’s not flat. Keeps you on your toes. One of those rare finds so fun to drink, you must have two. So hard to describe, and so very lovely.
Owner Lisa Hemmat and her crew developed this refreshing summer cocktail back in March. The ladies like to use new ingredients to come up with unique creations, as unique as their crowd. Which is an eclectic one, consisting of business travelers, local Northrop Grumman engineers, and even the occasional group of gentlemanly Aussies. Lido di Manhattan is perfect for curious, cerebral types , and wine snobs seeking out a low-key wine bar, that is still up to par.
This drink left an indelible mark on my taste buds that I’ll be raving about for years. Here’s a drink that makes you wonder and makes me dream. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so, as it is the most popular drink on the menu.
Ingredients: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Tuaca Vanilla Citrus Liqueur, Fresh Lemon, 7 up.
Served by bartender: Tatiana Erse
Fire Chief — Old Tony’s on the Pier
This year, Tony celebrates its 60th with a blue-lettered, lowball mai tai glass. The 50th anniversary mai tai glass had gold lettering. In ordinary years, the “Old Tony’s on the Pier” is printed on the glasses in black.
Though best known for their traditional mai tais, another Tony’s gem is the Fire Chief mai tai. A splash of grenadine makes it more colorful, while a floater of Barcardi 151 makes it “effective.” Tony’s mai tai is not as sweet as Trader Vic’s, due to the absence of French almond syrup known as oregat.
Though the mai tai, the Fire Chief and the margarita all come in commemorative, take-home glasses, most regulars do not take them home, “as they would need an additional room in their house,” says veteran bar keeper Pat. Keepers of this cozy crow’s nest with the killer view are: Billy with 40 years, Manny with 29 years, and Pat with 18 years. Helpful and friendly Gia can be spotted here as well.
Ingredients: orange and lemon juice, dark rum, light rum, grenadine, float Barcardi 151
Served by bartender: Pat McCluskey
Ginny Hendrix – Fishbar
A decidedly grapefruit drink that is tart, but not sour. It doesn’t make you pucker. It makes you say hmm. Known as a mimosa alternative, with grapefruit in lieu of orange juice, and agave instead of triple sec. An instantly popular and memorable drink.
Invented by Gwen Bueker on a rather productive Sunday Funday this past March. Started out as a bunch of grown men drinking out of champagne flutes. The crew of Brittany Graham and her boyfriend Andre Davis, member of local American rock/reggae band Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, asked Gwen to fiddle around behind the bar. As musicians, they wanted something related to music, so they started with the Hendrick’s Gin. They just kept adding more good stuff, until this drink was born. Now served as a very healthy pour in a white wine glass.
If mimosas necessitate a mid-day nap and burn a hole in your stomach, you’ll appreciate this drink. Customers were spotted refueling on this truly crisp summer cocktail. They were on number 4, but who’s counting?
Ingredients: Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit juice, agave nectar, champagne, and lemon juice.
Served by bartender: Lehua Verkerke
Last Rites Sangria –Manhattan Beach Post
You’ve had sangria, but have you had it MB Post style? Chef David LeFevre’s lauded restaurant is known for innovative food. Now it’s being recognized for its adventurous cocktails and barmen, as well. Matching the food’s pioneering spirit, their sangria is made with scotch. Along with the obligatory fruit, are unique floral and spice elements such as rose petal, coriander, and hibiscus.
Drink formulation begins with a structured pow-wow between chef David LeFevre, general manager/wine and beverage director Jerry Garbus and three barmen: Greg Westcott, Sal Roses, and Mike Daze. When these five master minds come up with a winning drink, it’s no accident. It takes about 30 hours of such intentional sessions to develop their hand-crafted cocktail menu. Last December they sat down with a goal in mind: to make a sangria, and to make it better. Steering away from brandy, rum and vodka, which the majority of sangria is made with, a Scotch was chosen instead. Scotch can be polarizing, but when chosen correctly, integrates with the honey, pear and coriander components.
Two other differences in the MB Post Sangria: use of a sparkling red wine — dry Lambrusco — for a frisante feel, as well as use of a high quality wine — Pleides by Sean Thackerey — for the sangria fruit mix, itself.
Last Rites is named for the act of a priest anointing a Spanish bullfighter before a fight, while the Sangria alludes to Sanguine, or blood, the color of the drink. MB Post offers a complex, sophisticated sangria with an element of mixology.
Ingredients: Compass Box Oak Cross (a mild peat scotch), Sangria Mix, Lambrusco (a sparkling red wine), pear, Meyer lemon, tangerine, quince, hibiscus, rose petal & coriander honey.
Served by bartender: Gregory Westcott