Drink Up With the Best of Los Angeles

The People Behind the LA’s Best Bars Share Their Secrets to Success

Written By: Priscilla Ng and Diane Armitage Drink in Los Angeles
Photographed By: Michael Oliveri, Shane Radacosky, Patrick Martin & Olivia Bush

 

Greg Bryson, Director of Beverages at Guest Room

Q: What makes a great drink?

GB: Having a pallet and understanding when it’s balanced.

Q: What makes a great restaurant owner?

GB: A great restaurant owner listens to the people that they hired to do their job.

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to create?

GB: My favorite drink to make is what the guest prefers. I enjoy hospitality.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

GB: I like to add a modern culinary twist to classic American drinks.

Dave Keenan, Bar Manager at Steak & Whiskey

Q: What makes a great drink?

Dave Keenan: Balance. A cocktail that’s balanced well is always going to be good. You start to lose the individual flavors of each ingredient when you have too many.

Q: What makes a great restaurant owner?

DK: A great restaurant owner is someone that’s dedicated and hires the right management team to assist executing their vision.

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to create?

DK: My favorite cocktail to create is a plain and simple margarita because you can go so far with it. There’s something beautiful in the simplicity of it.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

DK: I like the challenge of creating custom cocktails for guests especially with ingredients they thought they didn’t like before. For example, if a customer tells me they don’t like gin, I’ll give them a cocktail that will change their mind.

drink in Los Angeles 

Wil Figueroa, Co-owner and Bar Manager at Now Boarding

Q: What makes a great drink?

Wil Figueroa: Fresh ingredients and great spirits.

Q: What makes a great restaurant owner?

WF: At the end of the day, someone that’s approachable and cares about everyone’s experience, both staff and clients.

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to create?

WF: For myself, a shot and a beer, because it’s easy. But for a customer, what I like to make is what someone wants and something they can’t get anywhere else.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

WF: I don’t take myself too seriously, one of my least favorite things about bartenders nowadays is pretension. This community can have an arrogance about what someone drinks or how they want it made. At the end of the day it’s their drink, they should get what they want. I am all for trying to offer a guest something new, but belittling them for their choice ain’t cool, and it’s definitely not good customer service.

Nikki Sunseri, Bar Manager at Las Perlas

Q: What makes a great drink?

Nikki Sunseri: A really great drink is always the most simple and balanced with the presence of sweetness, acidity, and bitterness. It’s fresh, aesthetically pleasing and is served with grace.

Q: What makes a great bar owner?

NS: A great bar owner makes sure the employees are treated as family. Your business is only as good as your bar family. This culture should also be carried onto your guest, and your patrons should be treated as if they walked into your house. Respect and hospitality start from the top and trickle down.

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to create?

NS: I really love using seasonal fruits, vinegar, nuts, flowers and homemade preserves. I am always revising and perfecting as I go, and I love using old recipes and taking all the new things I learn to try to learn something new every day and look at that recipe with new eyes.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

NS: I love to play with texture since that is a big part of a cocktail that I believe hasn’t been focused on as much as I would generally like. Texture allows me to play in another dimension besides flavor.

Dominique Harris, Barkeep at Hotel Angeleno

Q: What makes a great drink?

Dominique Harris: For me, a great drink is having a well-balanced cocktail, whether it’s shaking and refreshing or stiff and stirred, all while enjoying a west-side view of Catalina Island.

Q: What makes a great restaurant owner?

D: An exceptional restaurant owner utilizes the staff’s creative ideas, our chef’s blend of West coast and international cuisine, our regionally varied wine selections and weekly live jazz bands. I think this is very unique because he or she trusts that his people are passionate and qualified about what they do.

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to create?

D: My favorite cocktail to make is something I recently came up with. It’s called the Penthouse Suite, and it’s made with vodka, fresh lemon juice, crème de Yvette, Luxardo and fresh ginger. Although I’m a whiskey guy, after this drink, I might just be a vodka guy. I came up with this drink while speaking with a guest when they requested an aromatic but strong drink, yet still something they’ve never had.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

D: I try to integrate what I’ve had in my past experiences to create a drink that’s memorable and distinctive to the culture. For example, in Brazil I had a cachaca rum for the first time, along with some really spicy food, so when I got back, I had the opportunity to create a spicy cachaca cocktail that was refreshing, herbaceous, and had a kick.

Devon Randall, Head Brewer at Arts District Brewery

Q: What makes a great drink?

Devon Randall: Beer makes a great drink!

Q: What makes a great head brewer?

DR: Passion for beer.

Q: What is your favorite beer?

DR: It changes all the time. I’ll spend time enjoying scotch ales, Saisons, IPAs, etc. I never really settle on just one beer or even style of beer.

Q: What is your signature that differentiates you from everyone else?

DR: I don’t feel a need to be incredibly different from everyone else, I do feel the need to make the best beer I possibly can in a variety of styles and for a variety of tastes.

Drinks in the City of Angels are on us.

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Priscilla is a Southern California native who is studying English and Literary Journalism. Some of her favorite things to do are archery, traveling, and trying out new foods. Aside from school and writing for Locale Magazine, she is working on a young adult fiction novel and hopes to achieve her dream of publishing a book series.

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