Bartender Chris Hewes has been living under two shadows. The first belongs to his father: THE Jim Hewes, a bartender who’s worked at Round Robin Bar in Washington D.C.’s Willard InterContinental Hotel for over 26 years, where he's earned respect for reinvigorating the mint julep cocktail’s popularity in D.C. (Dad's also got a lifetime achievement award from the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild.) The other shadow is cast by Hewes’ predecessor at the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Library Bar, Matthew Biancaniello, who recently left after four illustrious years.
But Hewes—an easy-going, nice guy—isn’t fazed by any of this. After working under Biancaniello for three years and within the hotel for five, he has a good idea of how he wants to change up the bar, which has become a bucket list drink spot for cocktail enthusiasts from around the world.
Hewes plans to keep some things the same, like carrying on Biancaniello’s tradition of using fresh ingredients from the farmers' market (his favorite is Santa Monica’s) and creating cocktails omakase style. But he also wants to implement a few changes to the bar that will transform it. (Fingers crossed that the higher-ups give him the go ahead.)
Here are a few things off Hewes’ wish list for the bar:
- Bring down the prices of the drinks from their current $18 back to $15 by decreasing the number of spirits in a drink and replacing the “random expensive stuff” with inexpensive small batch spirits.
- Spearhead events like a Father-Son night where his legendary Pops flies in to guest bartend for a “classic versus gastronomic” farmers’ market drinks menu. (He’s hoping to do this in January.)
- Move furniture around or replace it to open up the space in the bar. For example, he’d like to trade out the long couch by the front wall with bar stools and open up both doors (yes, there is another door there) as well as use the lobby more.
- Batch up pre-made cocktails in mason jars and incorporate them into bottle service for the lobby where guests would only need to add ice and can shake up their own cocktails.
- Create a community cocktail program with the other bars in the Roosevelt and have the other bartenders work shifts in each other’s bars.
- Bring in different alcohols, offer more wine and beer, and build up the whiskey inventory so people can enjoy a neat or classic cocktail in addition to getting a craft cocktail. He’d like the inventory to constantly change so that every two months there will be something different on the line.
Whether any of these plans gets the OK is anyone’s guess but in the meantime you can still walk up to the bar and request a cocktail based on your mood, your favorite flavor, or even your favorite movie. One guest had even ordered a drink to remind him of the day he realized he was stronger than his father. Hewes fixed him up a tough, Navy-strength rum-based cocktail.
Former Library barkeep extraordinaire Matthew Biancaniello offered his thoughts: "I think the bar will be successful and hopefully grow if they cater to Chris' strengths." Like his knowledge of whiskey. "Make it into a really great scotch bar and have Chris develop it. That's my recommendation."
If, however, you’re the sort who’d rather have an actual cocktail menu to choose from, Hewes also just did the new cocktail program at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, which recently obtained a full liquor license. His list is comprised of simple classics and will change seasonally to complement the restaurant’s food menu.