Behind the Bartender: Devon Espinosa of The Church Key

The best night to sit at Espinosa’s bar is…

There are some bartenders that when you see them behind the bar they bring a huge smile to your face. And The Church Key‘s Devon Espinosa is one of them. Exuding a genuine warmth whether you be friend or guest, he’s a bartender in the best possible sense of the word providing quality hospitality and drinkmaking skills. Makes sense since Devon’s run and tended bars at only the best places in L.A., like Ink (which he helped open), Tasting Kitchen, and The Church Key.

At the Church Key he kickstarted a canned cocktail trend and took liquid nitrogen cocktails to a whimsical level as Odd-er Pops delivered via in-flight-style drink carts. And things keep looking up what with the West Hollywood barestaurant celebrating its one-year anniversary (with an invite-only party tonight) and participating in Bravo’s “Best New Restaurant” show in January. On November 24, Espinosa is kicking off a new Tiki happy hour for Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to replace the restaurant’s current Rat Pack-themed one.

I had a chance to ask him some questions as part of our recurring Q&A series with L.A. bartenders. Here are his very quick answers.

What’s a popular drink at your bar?
“The Pink Lips, this cocktail has made its triumphant return to The Church Key this winter by popular demand. Grey Goose Le Poir, lime juice, champagne, pomegranate seeds, topped with a pomegranate juice espuma and a dash of nutmeg. It’s what the women request and the gentlemen call a pantydropper.”

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
“Inspiration starts with the season. Then with guidance from my chef, Steven Fretz, and GM, Joey Sabato, we brainstorm what produce is at the peak of its flavor and how we can utilize its full potential via libation. Fretz with his finger constantly on the pulse of current culinary techniques and Sabato’s discerning palate, together they inspire me to create and top my last seasons menu. Plus, they also come up with the best double entendre cocktail names!”

What’s the best night to go to your bar and why?
“Thursday through Saturday will always be a fun, vibrant night at The Church Key but I love the Sundays, Mondays when the bar is not so hectic and my bartenders really get the chance to shine individually and really cater to our clientele.”

The next big thing in cocktails is_____?
“Tequila, no longer a celebratory shot requiring salt and lime to mask the after taste. The demand for tequila cocktails and sipping tequilas in general have caused me to double my inventory within the tequila realm.”

If you could have a superpower what would it be?
“I’m such a control freak that if I could multiply myself I would. A bar full of Devons is either a party or a disaster. Not quite sure….”

Where do you like to drink in L.A.?
“If there are good friends to my left and right then it’s anywhere.”

Where’s your favorite place to eat in L.A.?
“At home. Where I know my money’s safe.”

What do you like to drink when you’re not working (doesn’t have to be cocktails)?
“Shot of tequila and a beer.”