Los Angeles: The Varnish

You do not go to The Varnish bar to watch sports on a plasma TV or for neon Margaritas served in 42-ounce glasses. You go to The Varnish, the downtown collaboration of bartender Eric Alperin and New York cocktail swami Sasha Petraske, for a dimly lit, mahogany-paneled drinking experience that feels part Los Angeles Prohibition-era dream, part cocktail-purist-gets-his-own-exclusive-clubhouse. There’s white penny tile on the floor, a broken antique piano, and Douglas fir booths. Choose a classic cocktail from the spare, eight-item menu, and a bartender in shirtsleeves will become a potion-and-spirits pouring blur. The Vodka Daisy goes down like a melting lemon sorbet, and the tart Pisco Sour comes frothily pale and anointed with a few drops of orange bitters. My friend Joe ordered something called an El Diablo. It was fizzily delicious, held a branch of hand-chopped ice, and tasted of tequila, freshly juiced lime and ginger, and a splash of crème de cassis. “This is a drink that Mickey Rourke would order,” he said, admiringly, “then pour a little bit to one of his tiny dogs.”

The Varnish 118 E. 6th St., Los Angeles (213-622-9999; thevarnishbar.com)



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