A new cocktail program in downtown L.A. would have to be pretty spectacular to stand out in what is considered ground zero for the city’s cocktail renaissance. In fact, a new downtown L.A. cocktail program would basically have to set things on fire to get the attention of the beverage geeks who already count the area as their second home. And new restaurant Faith & Flower, by Coastal Luxury Management and Stephane Bombet, is doing just that.
Chief mixologist Michael Lay (Vegas’ Rose.Rabbit.Lie. and Monterey’s Restaurant 1833) heads up the program, which will make even the most seasoned drinker do a double-take. His cocktail menu is that familiar mix of historical drinks and signature libations but punctuated with details big and small that you don’t see every day.
Clear Milk Punch
When you think “milk punch,” you normally envision a rich, creamy concoction. But here it’s a clear, straw-colored drink, which appears in a milk bottle-shaped sidecar alongside a tumbler of ice. The restaurant’s English Milk Punch is “based on Jerry Thomas’ recipe. It’s cognac, a bunch of rums—mostly Jamaican, the funky stuff—bourbon, pineapple, citrus and absinthe,” Lay says. “We’re using an Oleo Saccharum, lemon oil base, and pineapple to flavor it.” After crushing up the baking spices and adding the alcohol, pineapple, and citrus, Lay lets the concoction marinate for a day or so. He then strains the concoction, adds boiling milk and more juice and watches the whole thing…curdle? “What happens is, all the lactose and whey protein is left behind, and then you strain it and strain it and strain it,” Lay says. “It takes about a day and a half til it gets clear again. The end product won’t taste like milk, but it will have that mouthfeel like a buttery Chardonnay.”
Russian-Style Absinthe Service
Apparently this elaborate style of enjoying absinthe is big in Sochi. Restaurant director Tobias “Toby” Peach brought the show elsewhere, like Restaurant 1833 and Sage in Vegas, but you won’t see it in any other bar in L.A. However, it’s more about the pyrotechnics than the resulting cocktail—which here is simply absinthe and root beer. But once it’s performed tableside, everyone else in the room wants it, too.
The fern syrup, a.k.a. Capillaire syrup, is used in the restaurant’s Oxford cocktail, a drink recipe from 1862. According to lore, it was a popular way to treat coughing in children about 100 years ago. They syrup is made from maidenhair fern, which is native to California. “I think Dead Rabbit in New York City is the only other place that has it on their menu,” Lay says. “I get my organic ferns from Marina Del Rey and make my syrup out of it.” The result is a “woodsy” tasting simple syrup.
This might not seem consequential, but for those who see a lot of ice programs, it’s eye-catching. Of course it makes sense to use a long piece of cylindrical ice in a tall drink instead of a long rectangular one. Not only does it fit the glass better, but it’ll melt even more slowly because of the rounded surface area. “As far as I know, we're the only company using the cylinder,” Lay says. They get their ice from a company called Ice Bulb and use three different styles: large cubes, cylinders, and smaller 1.25” cubes.
Tableside Amaro Cart
This combination amaro/absinthe cart is another place to see the fire show. “The Amaro cart will feature as much good Amaro as we can obtain,” Lay says. “Certain staples like Fernet Branca and Amaro Nonino will be there, but also ones newer to our market like Amaro Lucano and Braulio Amaro Alpino.” Lay says it was his idea to make Amaro more commonplace among his guests. “It's popular in Europe to have an aperitif or digestif with your meal, but still uncommon here at home,” he says. “There are so many choices and few know what they all taste like. Hopefully it will be an experience that people will enjoy when they come here to eat.”
All photographs by Caroline on Crack
Faith & Flower, 705 W. 9th St., Downtown, 213-239-0642.