The folks who live in Culver City off Washington Boulevard are really fortunate to be able to count two-year-old wine/liquor/plant store Bar & Garden as their neighborhood liquor locker. Imagine walking down to your corner liquor store and being able to pick up a bottle of pechuga mezcal or a 1988 armagnac. That’s this place!
Co-owners Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel say things like, “We try to keep an interesting selection of amari” and “We’re going to have our own barrel of Few bourbon.” Yeah, you won’t find any jugs of vodka here. And they won’t stock just any bottle of booze. It has to fit their criteria of being all-natural (no artificial anything) and made from a small producer.
Well, they relax this criteria when it comes to whiskey, which is a popular category. “Heaven Hill is big, but it’s still independent, still owned by that same family,” says Mandel. And B&G makes an exception with big-name brands Wild Turkey and Four Roses, too, since both certify no-GMO corn and they’re the only ones who can say that.
Bar & Garden’s inventory is so specialized that even K&L in Hollywood, my own go-to for booze, has pointed people their way when they’re looking for sulfur-free wine and other niche-y bottles. And if B&G doesn’t have it, it knows where to find it.
But one can spend an entire afternoon perusing the shelves at the store. If you’re a BevMo card-carrying member, in most cases you won’t recognize a lot of the stuff here. The staff is on hand to offer suggestions, or you can read the helpful note cards highlighting certain bottles. Even recipes are displayed on some of the cards, so customers will know how to use too-geeky spirits, like Barolo Chinato and Ancho Reyes chili liqueur.
For a sample of the atypical and amazing stuff they carry, Mandel shared a few of the bottles they have in stock that she really likes and that you might not find anywhere else.
Sullivans Cove whiskies from Tasmania: “They’re crazy in demand. There’s a French oak and American oak and a combination of the two. And I think I have all three. It got some kind of crazy rating, so people would snap them up.”
Few Single Barrel Whiskey “Bar & Garden”: “In a few weeks, we’re getting our own barrel of Few bourbon that we picked. We tasted 10 different samples, and there was one that was clearly the winner for us. It will be bottled at cask-strength, so it’ll be coming in at about 102 proof. It’s coming in two to four weeks.”
Cappelletti Elisir Novasalus Amaro: “It’s an amaro from the Dolomites. It’s resin-y and herbaceous, and it’s a nice thing to have.”
Barr Hill Spirits: “It’s not necessarily rare, but it is new to this market. We are sort of responsible for it being here because we had a client who was in Vermont working and he brought some back for us. And we petitioned our guy at Wine Warehouse to carry it and he did. It’s a really good product. It’s super smooth.”
Nahmias et Fils Mahia Moroccan Fig Spirit: “It takes five pounds of figs to distill one bottle. It’s a traditional Moroccan brandy. It’s kind of like a fig grappa with a touch of anise. We really love that one.”
Darroze armagnac: “I’ll also get some armagnac from Darroze which is amazing. They have all these different years, and it goes way back to the ’40s so hopefully this week we can get the ’88, which I love. Absolutely delicious. Single-vineyard, single-varietal. Very special and cool. Totally blows all others out of the water.”