Nobody panic. Prohibition isn’t upon us again. But tell that to the group of downtown nightlife developers who have taken it upon themselves to install their high-end juice-joints in some of the long defunct architectural gems of Los Angeles. Re-imagining the speakeasies of bygone days, Angelino’s can gussy up, belly up, and pony up—it ain’t always cheap, folks—without having to keep it on the down low for fear of those pesky fed raids.
515 W 7th St, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Our first stop was 213’s new whiskey haunt, Seven Grand, tucked discreetly into the upper level of the historic Brock & Co. Jewelers building.
I have to admit that climbing the plaid-encrusted stairs, only to be visually assaulted (as if the plaid weren’t enough) by a herd of jackalope skulls lining the wall and a glass-encased display of a mister-mannequin tricked out in flannel and shotgun, was a little unnerving. But hey, this is LA and any bar worth its 15 minutes needs a good kitschy theme, right?
Bartender Marco, having designed Seven Grand’s drink menu according to Prohibition-era tradition, is a virtual historian of spirits. I don’t know if it was the delish ‘Hemingway Daiquiri’ or the absolutely authentic cosmopolitan—yes, kids, Marcos knows the real recipe, and it ain’t Ocean Spray and cheap vodka. When he literally lit that bad boy on fire, it was like a cran-lemon aromatherapy session. By the end of the night I had dubbed Seven Grand my new favorite downtown spot, Marcos a mixologist among mere mortals, the Cosmo my new/old favorite cocktail, and the antler overkill…well…that’s still a bit much.
In true man-lodge fashion, they do offer up cigarettes and a variety of cigars for that prerequisite “after I kill” smoke. However, as a public service, I think it should be said that cigars, being smoked by a 21-year old hipster in order to appear, I don’t know, worldly, is ridiculous. If you don’t have enough class to NOT blow the smoke directly into the crowd when you’re standing on an open patio, the odds of you not looking like an ass doing it is pretty slim. The moral of this drawn out story is: If you’re not a fan of cigar smoke, you may want to avoid the small patio off the side of the main room.
108 W. 2nd St., #101, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Our next stop on this modern speakeasy tour found us trekking our getaway sticks (aka legs) to the Edison. Emphasizing the bootleg feel, the entrance to this flapper-era monument is located in an alley. Though not your typical downtown addict-infested alley, it’s well lit and well populated, especially with the line of unfortunates who, not being on “the list,” were forced to wait behind that infamous red velvet.
Located in the Higgins Building, and designed around the mechanical guts of LA’s first power plant, it’s huge—no, seriously—it’s really, really big, with two levels, three bar areas, plenty of ‘20s memorabilia, vintage black and white movies, and no shortage of dark nooks and crannies for that alcohol-induced make-out session…of which we witnessed more than enough. (Seriously, people…enough.)
Okay, the badly executed ‘flapper’ show needed about a million more rehearsals, but, all in all, it’s a mighty impressive joint. Weekend nights are packed, so it’s best to get on the guestlist. You should also know that in order to hang out and imbibe a full glass of the Hemingway (champagne and Absinthe), you must dress for the occasion. Sneakers or flip-flops will have the bouncer giving you the old heave-ho.
417 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
If giving up your I’m-so-cool-I-haven’t-washed-in-weeks hipster gear is not an option, there’s always that “other” 213 venture, the rock-n-roll stand-by the Golden Gopher. This extensively remodeled, gallery-style bar does emit an ambiance of Prohibition-era retro-glamour—however, it also reeks of a seriously archaic stench in the back of the bar, from what could have been an equally Prohibition-era plumbing situation.
Okay, the location is a little sketchy, and all the red neon really does bring to mind some seedy, back-street brothel, but if you can see past that, and manage to squash yourself into the packed room without getting inappropriately fondled, then the cheap-ish drinks, late-night hook-up probability and smoking patio might be worth it. But after a night of a ritzier type of juice-joint, we were ready to roll right after I got elbowed in the boob by some chick, who may or may not have been of age, overemphasizing the fact that she was “wwwaaaayyyy druuuunk…”