Back in 2010 Village Voice did a piece on bartender Alex Day’s last shift at Death & Co. in New York. Death & Co., an award-winning cocktail bar by Day and his business partner David Kaplan, was one of a handful of bars in the city that kickstarted the whole cocktail renaissance in the early 2000s. And Day was setting his sights on L.A. Cut to now and the scenemaker, along with Kaplan and Devon Tarby, have since improved the L.A. bar scene through their hospitality group Proprietors LLC by consulting on bar programs at places like Beelman’s Pub and King Eddy’s as well as opening the insta-hotspot Honeycut downtown. All this while continuing to open bars back in NYC, like Nitecap, and co-authoring the newly released Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails with Kaplan and Nick Fauchald (former editor of Tasting Table). Pfew!
We asked Mr. Day some quick questions, as part of a recurring Q&A series on L.A. bartenders. Here are his answers.
What’s a popular drink at your bar?
“My favorite thing about Honeycut is that its guests defy generalizations or stereotypes. Sure, when it’s jammin’ on the weekends, folks gravitate toward quick high-balls but they equally are curious about everything we have on offer. I thought we’d get a much bigger vodka-soda crowd, but I’m continually impressed to see how much booze and cocktails we sell. Of all our cocktails, the Disco Drafts are probably the most popular—and leading the pack, the Nobody’s Robots is killing it (vodka, sherry, orange cream soda). The perfect sherry ambassador for the world!”
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
“My peers. I’ll get stoked on a certain ingredient or flavor combination sometimes, sure, but what really gets me inspired is watching an amazing bartender own their space, or someone pushing the envelope of what a cocktail can be in a unique way. That doesn’t mean outlandish flair or flavor combinations, but inventiveness and style. It’s hard to articulate specifically; I get inspired by the amazing people in this industry in so many different ways and I’m lucky to work with the very best.”
What’s the best night to go to your bar and why?
“It really depends on what you’re in the mood for—Honeycut has many faces throughout the week. Want a chill night with great cocktails? Sunday and Monday can’t be missed. Wanna shake your ass on the dance floor? Thursday is where it’s at! Friday and Saturday are just hilarious, it’s the most fun party in the world and it happens all weekend long.”
The next big thing in cocktails is_____?
“Subtlety. We’ve been knee-deep in an era of big, aggressive flavors—you know, Jamaican rum, amaro, mezcal, etc. I love those things, but I think it’s a natural trajectory that bartenders dive into the nuanced differences between very similar things, and what comes of that may just be a renaissance in finesse. Or at least I hope so. Self-fulfilling prophecy? If I keep repeating it over and over and over…”
What’s your hidden talent?
“It’s not much—and I know it drives my partners crazy sometimes (hi, Dave and Devon!)—but any talent I have in anything is only because I’m a tunnel-vision obsessive. If I’m interested in something, I can’t not learn as much as possible about it and then make everyone listen to me as I bounce off the walls. Sometimes this is put to good use, and sometimes it just makes me distracted mess.”
Where do you like to drink in L.A.?
“My living room. No, seriously, I drink more Negronis sitting on my couch than anywhere else in L.A. Oh, that’s not helpful to your readers? Let’s be honest, we all know where I drink when I’m out and not at Honeycut: the Varnish. It’s simply the best.”
Where’s your favorite place to eat in L.A.?
“I gravitate toward neighborhood joints, and in my eyes, Barbrix in Silverlake is one of the best. The food is great, the wine is always delicious, and the staff is on point. I eat there more than any other restaurant when I’m in L.A., and it’s not only because I’m lazy and it’s near our house. Well, maybe a little, but it always hits the spot. When I venture beyond the ‘hood, I’m a huge fan of Jesse Barber’s Barnyard in Venice. There’s an honesty and cleverness to Jesse’s food that I find so comforting and inspirational, but there’s that pesky 405 between us…”
What do you like to drink when you’re not working (doesn’t have to be cocktails)?
“Apple…everything. I’m really interested in cider in particular at the moment, which came about after a long-standing obsession with apple brandies. It’s a bit trendy, and not all ciders are great (or even good), but there’s something magical about a crisp, dry Norman or Spanish cider that hits the spot.”