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Manny's Cocktail Taste-Off

Bars all over L.A. may be embracing more traditional drinks, but Manny Aguirre has been mixing in this town for more than 50 years—the last 20 of them at Musso & Frank Grill. We sampled some of the city's "throwback" libations with Manny one night. Here's what he had to say:

Seven Grand
The drink:
The setting:

“Lemme tell you something, I’m very impressed. Right away I can tell by the way he mixed it—that’s the way you’re supposed to make it. A lot of places skip the bitters. It’s an excellent manhattan. It has a bite. The balance, everything. When you try, you’re going to say that I’m right. Even the cherry is excellent.” » 515 W. 7th St., downtown, 213-614-0737.

The Edison
The drink: 19th Century Cocktail
The setting: Weimar-infused Blade Runner garnished with a hot pants-clad woman dancing on the bar

“It’s good. I bet you anything that they only put one ounce of alcohol in here. But that’s good for women or if you don’t like a strong drink. I like it better than the Brown Derby drink. More flavor. That dancer’s very strong. It’s dangerous to dance on the top of the bar. Forget it.” » 108 W. 2nd St., downtown, 213-613-0000.

Mandrake
The drink: Sidecar
The setting: Faux dive served straight up

“It has good flavor. Not too strong, not too light. Everybody does it a little differently. Like a chef. You can be a chef, I can be a chef, but yours is never going to be the same as mine. But you can drink this drink. The bartender probably forgot to put in the sugar, but sometimes people don’t even care for the sugar. It’s traditional in a sidecar.” » 2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310-837-3297.

Photograph by Lisa Romerein