By Lanee Lee, Foodable Contributor
In a town that’s always in search of the next great celebrity or fashion statement, cocktails also follow suit. After consulting all-star bartenders and restaurants with serious bar programs throughout Los Angeles, here are their predictions for tipple trends in 2014:
Apple Pucker, Cinnamon Schnapps and the like gave liqueur a bad name for a long time. But bartenders like Cari Hah, formerly of Cole’s, say they’re on the comeback. “Fruit and flavored liqueurs were considered gross, too sweet and not ‘crafty.' But there are some really great liqueurs coming out now.” Two of her favorites to check out: Giffard Pamplemousse (grapefruit) and Creme de Banane from Briottet. Seriously amazing, she says.
Olive Oil Mixology
Olive oil isn’t just for pasta anymore. Bars throughout the country – the Chios Remedy cocktail at Molyvos in New York City featuring rosemary-infused olive oil or the martini with olive oil infused Broker’s gin at Trick Dog in San Francisco – are utilizing it in drinks, too. In L.A., head to Fig & Olive for the Extra Virgin, a garden-inspired cocktail with muddled celery, cucumber vodka, blood orange juice, lime juice and housemade blood orange-infused olive oil.
By definition, for all you cocktail nerds out there, a lengthener is anything added to a cocktail to soften the base spirit, making it easier to drink. In other words, a mixer. “There will be an even greater focus on cocktail lengtheners such as vermouth, fortified wine, liqueurs. I think many bars will put some serious effort behind making their own lengtheners, which will only enhance their cocktail program’s identity,” says Beau de Bois of The Corner Door in Culver City. And he practices what he predicts: Most nights, Corner Door’s off-menu cocktail specials (on the chalkboard at the end of the bar) feature a new liqueur de Bois has made in house.
In a Box, or a Fox or with a side of Botox?
In the city where ‘image is everything’ is practiced religiously, Jason Bran of the Warwick believes cocktails with a schtick will reign supreme. “Bottled cocktails were hot last year, but Devin Espinoza started canning cocktails.” Order a canned Negroni at Church Key and a server wheeling an airplane drink cart zooms over to your table and presents a can with church key opener. “Presentation is always a great way to enhance a cocktail experience and I see people thinking out of the box. Is someone going to box cocktails next?” jokes Bran. Although boxed cocktails aren’t here yet, the Powder Room serves up a boozy milkshake garnished with Swarovski ring at a mere $500, and the Warwick’s scotch bottle service comes with a sexy, professional ice ball press.
Practical vs. Pompous
Alex Straus of Bon Vivants says pretentiousness is out; simplicity and service are in. To illustrate this, Grandpa Johnson’s, Straus’ latest bar consulting project, slated to open in late January in the former Beauty Bar space in Hollywood, will feature straightforward cocktails. No esoteric ingredients, no foraging, no liquid nitrogen tricks – just classic drinks made without an attitude at an affordable price.
Power to the Home Bartender
With sold-out Cocktail Theater classes since 2012, now expanded to Las Vegas and New York, Rob Floyd can attest that 2014 is the year of the empowered amateur barkeep. With the wealth of cocktail blogs, YouTube demos, classes and high-end bar shops available, it’s never been easier to impress friends with mad liquid chef skills. “Before now, these were drinks you could only get at your favorite mixology bar,” says Floyd, Library Bar’s head barman.