If a zombie apocalypse comes, I know where I’m seeking shelter: bartender Joseph Brooke’s Mid-City home bar, the Barage. Stocked with power tools, custom weaponry, and booze it’s the place to pass the end of days.
The polar opposite of the last home bar I wrote about, Rachel Furman’s Whiskey and Smoke, this is a dude’s workshop. Tools hang on pegs on the wall alongside cocktail strainers and Red Solo wine glasses. There’s a champagne saber, a custom-made ax, and a Woodford Reserve wooden mallet serving as a sort of 3-D coat of arms at the Barage entrance.
And it’s not tidy here. Bags of unroasted coffee beans as well as home brewing paraphernalia are strewn about. The bar stools, rescued from the very first bar Joe worked on for Bar Rescue, are an explosion of vinyl and stuffing. The coasters are made from roughly hewn squares of peg board. “The margin for error here is pornographically wide. It’s not for perfection,” said Joe. But Barage is so awesome. Joe built track lighting over the bar, a full-size refrigerator keeps vodka and gin chilled for Salvatore’s Martini, and the bar even has purse hooks. Three years in the making, it’s the best use of garage space ever. I mean, the car can live on the street anyway.
“I lived in apartments in New York and we never had entertaining space,” said Joe. “It’s so nice to have a dedicated space and you don’t have to worry about keeping your voice down or paying for drinks until you’re broke.”
Plus here, Joe has a place to experiment on cocktails, brew his own beer and roast his own coffee beans. “It’s equal parts lab and sandbox. But also it’s a great place to go at the end of the night. It’s quiet, I’m not waking [my wife] Jen up. It doesn’t get cold since I’ve insulated it. It does get chilly but if you have a couple of bodies in here that’ll warm it up,” said Joe.
One day Joe would love to own his own bar but in the meantime, Barage is practice, allowing him to put into action all the knowledge he’s gained from working at corporate bars like Mixology 101 and landmark dives like Formosa Cafe. “I’m so sick and tired of pouring my all into projects that don’t pan out. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but a lot of times the failures that occur, it’s like a team thing. I’m so burnt out from all that that it’s nice to practice what I believe is running a bar. This is sort of like the home version of the game we play. It has everything a bar needs: zero pretension, which is what I loved about the Formosa, and I still feel it could have but I believe Red Med sorta pushed that.”
Future plans for Barage include turning it into a tutoring space as well as having movie nights during the summer.
Home Bar Breakdown
NAME | Barage.
THEME | Dudes’ workshop.
“It’s power tools, flexible workspace. Every dude needs a workshop. Every dude needs a home bar. You have the peg board and that was the whole theme I wanted.”
INSPIRATION | Andre Balazs. “The thing I’ve always respected about Andre Balazs with all his properties: He understands the property he’s buying, takes that preexisting theme and modifies it. The Downtown Standard isn’t the Hollywood Standard. It’s the difference between an oil company headquarters and a retirement home. He made both of them work. When we moved into this house. I knew I wanted a workshop but I also knew that I wanted it to be a bar. So I figured why not meld the two.”
MUSIC | Classic rock and hip hop. “It’s all over the place, but if we had a jukebox it’d be mostly Zeppelin. On a really hot day, early ’90s hip hop.”
INVENTORY | Everything. “All the good stuff that I really love I keep indoors because out here things disappear. I would say whiskey is what’s mostly up there since Jen has already drank all the tequila. But there’s no dominant theme, I just would like there to be a representation of everything regardless of whether or not I like it. “
DRINK DU JOUR | Beer that gets slid down the bar top. “Look at the weather, and there’s grass. You can just have a beer and kick your heels up. There’s actually more beer and wine consumed out here than alcohol.”
CROWN JEWEL | The hand-lacquered wood bar top. “You can slide a beer down it. I love mahogany, I used the right stain and then I poured this glaze on it and worked on it for six hours and made sure all the bubbles were out.”
SOURCES | Antique marts. “I found that vintage Absolut sign at an antique mart en route to San Francisco. It was this random, podunk town. The only thing I found on Craigslist is that Zima sign. $7, Inland Empire. I just wanted Zima.”