Freddy Smalls in West L.A. is one of those places you want to succeed. It’s located on a dusty stretch of Pico Boulevard near a strip club and an old saloon, an area with few places that offer both tasty drinks and food. Unfortunately, however, the cocktails at Freddy have been inconsistent. Until now. Gabriella Mlynarczyk (Ink, Cadet) has taken on the cocktail program and is creating libations inspired by Freddy Smalls’ new chef, Frank Pinello.
Taking her cues from the red-sauce Italian menu, Mlynarczyk decided to elevate drinks that were popular in the ’80s. “I’ve got friends and family that live in Philly, so I took my inspiration from [the chef] and South Philly in the ’80s,” she says. Think a Tom Collins with preserved lemons and chili flakes, and a Stinger made with Branca Menta.
The result is really fun, gorgeous takes on cocktails we all might have turned our noses up at in the past. And her secret for making notoriously sweet drinks balanced? Salt. “A little bit of salt and a little bit of bitter. Makes them more drinkable. We want to actually finish the drink. You don’t want to sip half of it and then leave it,” she says.
Here’s a look at some of the cocktails on the new menu, with notes from Mlynarczyk.
Tequila Sunrise: “A Tequila Sunrise has grenadine in it. I put Aperol on the bottom for the sun. The body of the drink is Strega, pineapple, orange juice, lime, touch of smoked salt just to stop it from being too sweet and then finished with blood orange. It has the layered effect with the Aperol on the bottom that gradually blends into the rest of the drink.”
Harvey Wallbanger: “Green tea-infused gin, it’s a jasmine green tea, so there’s a flower element that plays well with the vanilla in the Galliano, a little bit of lemon, blood orange, and the Fanta on top.”
Tom Collins: “Lemons are preserved in salt and they ferment. The guys in the kitchen were using Middle Eastern flavors to preserve lemons. So I used preserved lemons as a complement to the food they have in the kitchen. It’s got a little bit of spice, too. Chili flakes.”
Martini Arrabiata: “It’s like a dirty Martini with tomato water, ras el hanout, Firewater bitters, a little liquid smoke, and finish with spicy black olives. A spicy dirty martini. They have calamari arrabiata on the menu, so I figured it would be nice with that.”
Parsley Gimlet: “Why parsley? Because everyone does basil. I wanted to pull out one of the herbs they were using [in the kitchen]. And they use parsley a lot. No one really makes parsley drinks, and I juice parsley a lot. It’s really aromatic and herbaceous. The parsley makes it slightly bitter as well, so it’s got this garden-fresh, slightly bitter finish. It’s really refreshing.”
By the way, be on the lookout for the off-menu drink, smoked bourbon and Coke that she’ll serve in 8-ounce Coke bottles.