One of the most anticipated bar openings of the year took place this past Tuesday, preceded by a forever-long (two weeks) soft opening and scads of social media buildup. The result of a partnership between hotspot-makers 213 Ventures (The Varnish, Seven Grand) and Proprietors LLC (NYC’s Death & Co), downtown L.A.’s Honeycut is a disco-dancing cocktail nerd’s dream come true.
If you’re on Instagram, chances are you’ve already seen all the pictures of Honeycut’s fabulous interior—that Saturday Night Fever disco dance floor steals the show. Proprietors LLC’s David Kaplan and Alex Day used social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to entice an antsy audience with teaser shots of the bar coming together, from wallpaper to boxes of liquor bottles. But I've been hearing rumors about a 50-cocktail-long menu—so what about that?
The cocktail program here is a work of art. Not just a list of drinks, the menu constructed by Proprietors LLC beverage director Devon Tarby and Day takes into consideration Honeycut’s polar opposite spaces.
On one side the cocktail bar showcases an intricate bar program and that 50-cocktail-long menu, the work of 10 bartenders which include Dave Fernie (Pour Vous) and Josh Lucas (The Writer’s Room). Drinks here are $13 and best enjoyed at the bar where you can watch them be made.
“We always envisioned this as the gentler, quieter complement to the disco,” said Day. “But this room has proven itself to be about on par, volume-wise to what’s going on over there. The room is set up to be more sit down, enjoy time with friends, have a more group dynamic as opposed to over there which is more one-on-one dynamics with mostly standing in it so that’s why this room has this giant cocktail menu because we see it as the cocktail heart of the entire property. But it’s going to be cranking in here.”
Go through the door to the discotheque and a tap system (featuring five cocktails at $11 each) instantly accommodates your thirst so you can grab and boogey? Twerk? your way to the multi-colored dance floor right behind you. The drinks in the disco are priced a bit lower since they aren’t as labor intensive to make and contain less alcohol. (Turns out people tend to slurp down the effervescent draft cocktails so the drink makers thought it would be wise to decrease the potency.)
But back to that epic craft cocktail menu. For easy perusal it’s divided up into seven categories which David and Alex broke down for me. In some categories a line separates the shaken drinks (top) from the stirred drinks (bottom).
“The ‘Pick Me Up’ section is comprised of cocktails that could also called ‘revivers’ or ‘aperitifs.’ They are ultimately refreshing, light, and great openers for the rest of your evening,” said Day.
“‘No Regrets,’ drinks we considered classically oriented. They’re variations on other drinks," explained Day. A Chinatown Daiquiri is a close variation on a daiquiri. From light and refreshing aperitivo spritz style, Pins & Needles, down through to a tiki style swizzle Sorbet Breeze, which is one of Dave Fernie’s drinks. Then to the Wolfpack which is a variation on a classic gin martini.”
“‘Classy as Fuck’: A little bit more in indulgent, a little bit more decadent with flavors and ingredients,” said Kaplan. “The ‘Classy as Fuck’ section are drinks that are so sharp and focused in their message that they evoke the same sort of things that in the best classic cocktails we find so much inspiration from,” added Day. “Can we ever improve on a classic martini? No, you’re never going to beat that but what is so special about that is it knows exactly what it is and is very articulate in that when you drink that. They’re very streamlined in their flavors.”
“‘Left of Center’ are us playing around and are very much about unexpected flavors and unexpected combinations, surprise and intrigue and oftentimes joking in there,” said Day. “The idea of the Snap Judgment cocktail, banana gin is just ridiculous and to pair that with an amazing cognac is also ridiculous.” But Alex’s current favorite cocktail is from this section. “Toucan Sam by Josh Lucas, he just wanted to make something that tasted like Fruit Loops. And most people don’t know that Fruit Loops taste like Kaffir Lime and lemongrass, that’s exactly what they taste like. It’s so good, maybe my favorite cocktail on the menu now and it’s so bizarre.”
“‘Deep Thoughts’ we thought, ‘Hey, let’s just be honest and call out bartender drinks,” explained Day. “It’s a funny circumstance of cocktails becoming a big presence culturally and bartenders getting very excited about ingredients and sometimes you’ll see a cocktail menu and all the drinks have amaro in them. You’re talking about deeply intense flavors and deeply bitter flavors at that. These are drinks you sit with for a little while.”
‘A Few of My Favorite Things’ is my favorite section out of the whole menu,” said Kaplan. “It’s some really silly shit that we just love. And we think it’s demystifying the whole process. At the end of the day it’s supposed to be fun, like some bitchin cognac, a split of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, a Stinger with two straws. Most of the menu is indulgent from our perspective, it’s the way we think about drinks, the way we talk about drinks. And extending that to the customer is a way to include them in the bartender lexicon, sort of industry world, in a way that’s slightly confusing but in a way kind of fun.”
The “Group Format” cocktails are for four to six friends to share. “It’s a sort of starter, it’s not like a single serving cocktail you can spend 20 minutes on,” said Day. But definitely lots of fun. For instance the “Nightly Companion” is made then bottled in a champagne bottle to be popped at the table.
On the disco side, in addition to the five draft cocktails there are three housemade sodas ($6 each)—Honeycut tonic, strawberry cream, and ginger birch—which you can also mix with liquor for an additional $5. The cocktail is built in the glass with 2 ounces of booze, the syrup and the soda.
Beer drinkers will find relief from the other taps which feature craft beer—like Taps Cream Ale and Eagle Rock Brewery Populist IPA—handpicked by Honeycut’s general manager Adam Weisblatt.
Honeycut’s hours are 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily in the bar, while the doors to the disco open at 9 p.m. Entrance to the venue is actually in the alley behind the O Hotel.
Honeycut, behind 819 S. Flower St., Downtown, 213-688-0888, honeycutla.com