Behind the Bartender: Steve Livigni of Scopa Italian Roots

The next big thing in cocktails is…

Effortlessly stylish barman Steve Livigni is responsible for some of my most favorite fancy nights out in L.A. Whether it was drinking daiquiris while taking in a burlesque show at La Descarga or sipping on Armagnac…while taking in a burlesque show at Pour Vous. I’ll gladly swap my comfy jeans for cocktail dresses any night to go to his bars.

Livigni has since moved on from managing Houston Brothers bars to co-owning bar/restaurants Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City and Scopa Italian Roots, along with his cocktail compadre Pablo Moix and chef Antonia Lofaso. Dress codes have been traded for tasty restaurant fare complemented by his and Moix’s robust cocktails. But he hasn’t stopped there. Look for his and Moix’s long-anticipated Old Lightning adjacent to Scopa) to open up soon after their new Santa Monica bar, Central.

We asked him 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?

The Bullocks Wilshire has turned out to be an incredibly popular drink, like we hoped it would.  It’s a masculine drink with bourbon, aged rum, Cynar and maraschino served over a hand-cut giant block of ice.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I think we reference a lot of classic templates and flavors in our cocktails. We find drinks or ideas from classics and then “work” on tasting them with every spirit/modifier option possible till we make it perfect. Often good ideas come from spending a lot of time with drinks we take for granted.

What’s the best night to go to your bar and why?

Honestly, there isn’t a bad night. There’s always good energy at Scopa. Naturally Thursday through Saturday are going to be busier and louder than say 5 p.m. on Tuesday so if that’s the energy someone is looking that’s when to go. With all the windows and light exposure, I think it’s really nice to have dinner or sit at the bar between 5 and 7 p.m. when it’s still calm.

The next big thing in cocktails is_____?

Brandy, I hope. Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados and Pisco should be right there next to whiskey, tequila and vodka on cocktail menus.

If you could have a superpower what would it be? 

Mind reading. That would eliminate a lot of customer service problems.

Where do you like to drink in L.A.?

Bar Stella, Tasting Kitchen, Pour Vous, Thirsty Crow.

Where’s your favorite place to eat in L.A.?

Taylor’s in Koreatown. It’s pretty hard to beat their wedge salad and prime rib. The martinis do the trick, too.

What do you like to drink when you’re not working (doesn’t have to be cocktails)? 

Sometimes wine at home, but mostly whiskey, tequila, mezcal, cognac in a glass.