In case you’ve been living under a rock (or Orlando), hand-crafted cocktails are all the rage these days. It’s all about mixology, and Los Angeles (as well as San Francisco) seems to be at the forefront of the whole movement. Whether it be a speakeasy (Roger Room), a hideaway (La Descarga), a restaurant (Hungry Cat), a hotel (The Standard), or a club (Supperclub) — anyplace that can serve booze seems to be churning out inventive drinks that go far beyond the typical Rum & Coke or Sex On The Beach. In fact, there are so many options that what used to seem intriguing (ie. a basil gimlet) now feels pedestrian (but still delicious). Nothing, however, has been as wildly creative as the offerings at Library Bar, housed in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel (not to be confused with the bar of the same name in downtown Los Angeles).
I had first gone to Library Bar about two years ago after having read about it online. I only tried one drink, loved it intensely, and then for some reason never returned, despite living down the street. There’s no accounting for my strange behavior. Anyway, on Tuesday my dear friend Sly requested that we MUST grab a cocktail, and since I had just been bailed on for dinner plans, I decided I would most certainly love a beverage to ease the sting of rejection. Just one drink…
Spoiler alert: there were many drinks.
Crafted by master mixologist Matthew Biancaniello, these cocktails were insane. I mean, amazing. Pics of our libation odyssey after the jump…
Sly and I took a seat at the bar. These were some of the many, many ingredients in front of us. The options ranged from herbs to spices to veggies to fruits to berries. It was like a miniature farmer’s market. Sly was already moaning with delight — not a terribly difficult task though, I should note.
More ingredients. Again, I’m missing about half of what was actually on display.
The bar, etc..
Sly’s first cocktail arrives. It’s the Walk In The Garden, which features fennel-infused gin with fresh celery juice. It’s pretty damn amazing. I’ll be using that word a lot.
Another view. Sly was not happy that I delayed her drinking with my incessant picture taking. I’m shocked she didn’t chuck my camera out the window.
My first drink. It’s called the Roquette, and it’s a wild arugula gimlet (get it? Roquette / rocket?). Anyway, this beverage was — here’s that word again — amazing. The herbal quality reminded me of the snap-pea-irinha that I once made on this blog. The idea of arugula in a drink is so bonkers, and yet that’s what I loved about it, and that’s also where Library Bar separates itself from the pack.
Interspersed with our cocktails, Matt also gave us tastes of different things he was working on: a drink with stinging nettle-infused gin (or was it vodka? Sorry, Matt). I really liked it, but Matt and Sly both felt it needed work. Another involved a rhubarb infusion that was so tasty it could have been enjoyed on the rocks like Aperol. Yes, this was turning into a good night.
Additionally, one of the great qualities of the experience was that Matt designed each drink based on our individual preferences. He asked us about our tastes, our likes, our dislikes, and what we were in the mood for, and he used that information to craft spot-on drinks each round. I really wanted to have just one drink, but quite frankly, he seemed so excited to make stuff for us, and we were so excited to try the cocktails that we just sort of… stayed… and drank… for three and a half hours…
Sly’s next beverage features my mortal enemy: BERRIES. It’s called the Sage Heaven, and it consists of raspberries, sage, lemon, ginger, and gin. More moans, etc.
It was a night of adventure; so I did something I never thought I’d do: I tasted this raspberry cocktail. Here’s what’s crazy: I liked it. Yes, Matt managed to make something with an ingredient that normally makes me dry heave (I know, I’m crazy). If that’s not a testament to his skill, I don’t know what is.
My Roquette is finished. Note the sizable ice cube.
Continuing the green theme, the next drink Matt chooses for me is The Melonette, which features kiwi, basil, rum, and jalapeÃ±o — four ingredients I never would have thought to have mixed together. In general I don’t love fruity cocktails, and this one certainly was fruity, but the jalapeÃ±o and basil totally undercut the kiwi-ness of it. I enjoyed it greatly. Sly enjoyed it even more, wrestling it from my hands and finishing it. I’d like to note that this was the WORLD PREMIERE of the cocktail. We felt special. Although, we always feel special once we start drinking.
Sly’s next drink is The Last Tango in Modena, a cocktail that Gayot ranked as one of the ten best in the country. It features fifteen-year aged balsamic, Hendricks gin, a St. Germain foam, and… strawberries. Doh! Sly nearly fainted upon her first sip. Despite the strawberries (I know I’m weird, but I’m trying to overcome it), I tasted the drink anyway. The flavor balance was excellent. My only problem was that I just really dislike strawberries. Ignore my craziness though and order this cocktail in a heartbeat.
And now my next concoction: The One and Only, which features curry leaves, lime, agave nectar, and Genever gin. Wha-whaaaa? I wanted to give this drink an Oscar. I know that doesn’t make sense, but when in Hollywood, give out Oscars. It was simply wonderful.
As long as I’m going with a cinematic thing, I’ll just say this beverage right here is the Meryl Streep of cocktails. And you can quote me on that, Matt. Basically, it doesn’t get better than this drink, called The Whole Enchilada: morita pepper-infused tequila, mezcal, blood orange, and edible borage flowers.
Smokey, spicy, sweet, bitter — this was a real show stopper, both in flavor and presentation.
Sly delicately presents two edible flowers.
A silly photo of me with The Whole Enchilada.
It would have to take a mighty, mighty drink to top this one…
Enter Sly’s next drink — the Mother Mary: a seventeen step Bloody Mary with herbs, beet horseradish, Aquavit, and Hangar One Mandarin vodka.
I’ll just say it: this is the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had.
Lost in Laos: cilantro, cayenne, pistachio simple syrup, green Chartreuse, ginger, coconut milk, Hendricks gin, and kaffir lime zest. Super tasty, flavorful, and aromatic. However, compared to the last round, it just wasn’t in the same league. But still awesome.
Sly’s grand finale: the Never Let Me Go, which I can assure you was how she felt about this drink. With tepin pepper-infused Ramazotti, Cynar, Cassis, blood orange, and grapefruit, this cocktail was another big time winner.
Are you thirsty yet
And what, pray tell, is that pale yellow vision floating in the darkness?
It’s the Nutty Monk: Benedictine, walnut oil, lemon juice, and cacao nibs. Talk about a finale. This cocktail ended the night on a decidedly nutty note, which is always a good thing.
Overall, the two best cocktails of the night were The Whole Enchilada and the Mother Mary. The latter blew my mind by reinventing and elevating a classic to a place I didn’t think it could go. The former was a standout for its bold, creative flavors. But truly, all the cocktails were homeruns. Grand slams, even.
I want to go back.
Thanks Matt for an amazing evening.
Library Bar at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028