When your waitress puts on a pair of surgical gloves and wheels over a smoking cart, don't be scared: Just brace yourself. The Nitro caipirinha—frozen before your eyes with liquid nitrogen to sorbet consistency—is potent. Yes, Bar Centro, in the Philippe Starck-designed Bazaar restaurant at the SLS Hotel, is that kind of spot. Mojitos are poured over tufts of cotton candy, and the manhattan contains a “cherry spherification.” What else would you expect from Lucas Paya, the barman who trained at El Bulli, Spain's—if not the world's—capital of molecular gastronomy? These out-there concoctions also happen to be delicious, and the bar— a few table-and-chair combos, two communal tables with embedded video screens, and some bona fide bar stools—is psychedelic, to say the least. Time warp: Have you seen??Twin Peaks? Ultimate swill: The gin and tonic (really), with a choice of two artisanal tonics. Secret ingredient: Science.
Best Manhattan, August 2009
Until Los Angeles has its own city-themed drink that doesn't involve Hpnotiq or sour apple schnapps, we'll have to steal from other towns. This year our theft of choice is the manhattan. Cocktail menus citywide have embraced the old-time blend of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry. While we're all for the traditional recipe (we've sipped more than a few at Seven Grand, and the Mixville bar at the Edendale Grill pours a nice one), the spruced-up manhattan at Bar Centro at the SLS Hotel in West Hollywood made us giddy—and not from the booze or Philippe Starck's psychedelic decor. Bartenders expertly stir Michter's rye with the usual fixin's and drop in a cherry spherification: a cherry juice bubble that bursts in your mouth. Just try not to laugh.