Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where to Drink: Speakeasy Libations @ The Varnish

Often times when I go out drinking, I want somewhere excitingly exhilarating. Otherwise, I could save $50, pop a 40 at the crib and call it a Saturday night. But watering holes like The Varnish exist, forcing me out of my PJs and into my toe-stabbing stilettos and designer denims.

The Varnish isn’t just a bar; it’s an experience. First of all, in order to even access it, you have to walk through Cole’s, the historically restored French dip restaurant in the heart of downtown (pictured to the left). Stepping into Cole’s is like stepping back through time: dim lighting, rustic burgundy walls, low tin ceilings, worn wooden tables. It's a place you’d expect Conrad’s Charles Marlow or Camus' Mersault to haunt. When you finally reach the threshold to The Varnish in the back of Cole's, it's not exactly...easy to find. Nondescriptly, the door blends into the wooden wall with no signs and barely a doorknob to mark it. I hesitated the first time I ever so slightly cracked open the door (seen in the photo above), as nothing but thick blackness seeped out from the space.

Once inside of this speakeasy, you're immediately enwrapped in an encompassing darkness, the faint flicker of candles glowing in corners. It’s a small room, scattered with wooden tables and chairs, a bar area, a piano and antique knick-knacks at every level. No flat screen televisions, no windows, not even Cole’s infamous menu. The only thing that reigns supreme here is alcohol.

Cocktails, which come in all sizes, shapes and forms here, are serious. No matter which one you choose – whether it’s the Eastside or the Mexican Firing Squad (pictured above, to the right) – it’s going to be strong and aesthetically appealing. From the selection of ice – crushed, or in perfect rectangular squares – down to the assortment of glassware – from stem to highball glass – these bartenders craft brilliant drinks that demand you to sip, not chug.

In fact, posting up in front of the bartenders (pictured to the left) is where I recommend starting off the night, because while there's a menu of roughly eight drinks, there really are hundreds of cocktails that aren’t even listed that might spark your interest. So watch these master of the spirits mix, stir and brew in order to see which libation might tickle your fancy next.

The next time your looking for a good cocktail, whether with a group of friends or a casual date, you know where to turn!

For more information:
The Varnish (Inside of Cole’s)
118 East Sixth St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014


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