Tributes to late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold keep coming, reflecting his enduring impact on L.A.’s dining community and beyond. Starting on December 12, downtown restaurant Otium will pay a particularly touching–and fittingly delicious–tribute to Gold with a full menu of cocktails inspired by his writing.
Bar manager Chris Amirault selected 13 Gold reviews of L.A. restaurants–and one amazing story about a performance art piece from early in his career–and created a drink reflecting each. There are cocktails for Baroo, Chengdu Taste, Copa d’Oro, Guelagetza, Little Sister, Petit Trois, Providence, République, Rivera, Salt’s Cure, Sotto, the Bazaar by José Andrés, and, of course, Otium itself.
We spoke with Amirault about what Gold meant to him and how he went about turning the written word into potent potables.
What about Jonathan Gold’s writing inspired you?
Jonathan Gold’s writing inspired me a great deal because he truly embodied the spirit of L.A. Watching the City of Gold documentary, the first moments are spent with Gold recounting how it’s impossible to truly understand Los Angeles as a city in one week. I feel like we’ve all had that experience, listening to someone describe their time in L.A. as going to the Grove, hiking, and grabbing a green juice for the sake of posting it on social media. But that’s not what he saw. In his eyes, L.A. was this magnificent melting pot of people from all over the world; a fusion of cultures crashing into each other in tiny pockets of the city.
I mean, that’s kind of the idea that America is built on right? It was about the little guys, the unsung heroes, the under-represented, the mom-and-pop shops. If you were to ask a hundred people on the street what they had for lunch and then had them put a pin on a map of the world, there would be pins everywhere! That’s Los Angeles. It is one of the most diverse, innovative, and delicious food spaces in the world. That’s the heartbeat of L.A. That was the best thing about J. Gold. He made me feel like L.A. was my home as well.
There is a plethora of stimulus in this wonderful city that can influence you, from seasonal ingredients and cultural fusion, to an art pop-up in DTLA, or a music show at the Wiltern. Creativity can come from anywhere. No one understood that more than him. So I wanted to share a little bit of that with people who come join us at Otium.
Can you talk a little about the process of how you channeled a specific review into a final drink?
I started by combing through the 101 lists from the last eight years or so. I used to try to hit as many of those restaurants as I could, so naturally I started with ones that I definitely enjoyed. I would find something in the review that was either a dish, a flavor, or an atmosphere that he was describing, and use that as the jumping off point for a cocktail. The reviews provided insight and I just let my mind wander from there. The cocktails are inspired by a number of things: flavor profiles, key ingredients used, culinary techniques employed, dish composition, and nostalgia components.
Which drink from your menu do you think might have been Jonathan’s favorite?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say the Guelaguetza-inspired milk punch. It’s an homage to the classic idea of Abuelita’s Hot Chocolate, a recipe many families have different variations of. Our version has a culinary twist to it, a clarified cold milk punch spiked with mezcal and a custom barrel of reposado tequila. I think it hits all the elements that J. Gold believed made a great diamond in the rough.
Otium’s Jonathan Gold-inspired cocktail menu will be available from December 12 to early March. Prices range from $13 to $18.
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