If you haven’t already been to Koreatown cocktail bar Walker Inn, it’s the one in the back of Normandie Club that features one of the most unique cocktail programs in L.A. The drink menus here aren’t inspired by the usual go-to of seasonal ingredients but rather concepts not related to cocktails at all, like the movie Wet (Hot) American Summer and the Pacific Coast Highway.
And now through the end of July, the Walker Inn’s new eight-option menu is completely based on…Climate. But beyond boring ol’ fifth grade science climate. Think: the rice paddies of Japan, the corn-lovin’ Great Plains of America, and even the desert mirage from your favorite classic cartoon.
“Climate is such a cool concept because it’s so much more than weather,” says Devon Tarby of Proprietors LLC, the consulting group who co-owns Walker Inn. “We could pull from a lot of global inspirations. In some cases the drinks are inspired by ingredients that grow in a certain climate and are interesting for that reason. And in other cases the drink is more inspired by the way the climate makes us feel.”
The bar team expresses the diversity of a climate through flavor profiles as well as with visuals like using dry ice to evoke the rolling fog over a rice paddy. And no, this menu isn’t a political message about global warming. “We didn’t want to make people have to deal with that while they’re out having fun,” says Tarby.
Here’s a look at every single drink available on the new menu. They’re $20 each, except for the flight which is $30.
Rice Paddy: Inspired by dew on morning grass, the Rice Paddy cocktail combines nigori, cachaca, and tequila for a clean and grassy flavor. Crisp, green notes are added with lime, green apples, and mint. It’s presented in a wooden box with one ceramic container for the cocktail and the other container filled with dry ice that hot sencha jasmine tea is poured over. “So you get the visual of rolling fog over the drink and you get the aromatics of jasmine and green tea as well as the grassy drink on the palate,” says Tarby.
Alpine: The Alpine is meant to evoke that sensation of drinking a dry riesling in the Swiss Alps. It resembles a mere glass of wine but it’s actually an Alsatian riesling supped up with armagnac and Swiss Alps botanicals like chrysanthemum, chamomile, and elderflower. Tarby explains, “It tastes and looks like a riesling but there’s something deeper to it where you have all the beautiful botanicals on the nose. It really helps transport you to that part of the world.”
Great Plains: Because the Great Plains itself is a mix of dry and arid as well as cold and snowy wanted to create something that was both dry and rich. “We take Absolut Elyx vodka and infuse it with toasted wheat and then we make a house cream soda which is pretty dry,” says Tarby. “And then on the side we serve sweet corn ice cream which is so dense and thick but evocative of the humid summer mixed with dryness.”
Desert Mirage: Remember in your favorite old cartoons when the character who was lost in the desert found salvation in the form of a beautiful mirage of palm trees and cool pool of water? This is what that blue water probably tasted like, at least according to the Walker Inn bartenders. With a mix of clarified lime and pineapple juice, coconut water, blue curacao, and pisco, the stirred blue drink showcases the flavors of Tiki in a clean, tropical, and refreshing way.
Mediterranean: This spritz-style cocktail not only uses ingredients indicative of the Mediterranean climate but is inspired by the significance of sustainability in these regions. The strawberry vodka by Ventura Spirits is actually made from strawberries that weren’t pretty enough to sell while grappa is a byproduct of wine. “So it’s two products that would normally be turned away but someone figured they could make booze out of it,” says Tarby. “It was interesting especially given our current climate issues in Southern California with the drought. Because it’s a warm climate you need to use everything you have because water is not abundant.”
Black Forest: For those who grew up reading Grimm Fairy Tales, the Black Forest is a dark and scary place. But Walker Inn interpreted it as a beautiful scotch Old Fashioned with Bavarian chocolate notes courtesy of brown butter washed apple brandy with cacoa nib tincture. “It’s one of the richer drinks on the menu but it also has bright, woodsy notes that make it a lighter Old Fashioned,” says Tarby. “The result is a cool fusion of the actual Black Forest mixed with the mythology of the Black Forest.”
Tropics: The Tropics isn’t your usual “tourist-friendly” Tiki style cocktail. Rather, its funky rums, overripe fruit flavors (passion fruit, banana, apricot), and sherry put it on the richer side of the Tiki drink spectrum. “This flavor profile is what we imagined you would drink as a local,” explains Tarby. “Kind of like layered, deep, and rich. And the overripe thing really gets me. If you’ve ever been to that part of the world it’s so sweaty and hot.”
Water Cycle Cocktail Flight: This flight would probably win first place at a science fair for its boozy depiction of the water cycle. The Earth cocktail is a toddy with mezcal, cognac, Bosch pear juice, raisins, and dry chili. “It’s served warm so it’s really earthy and rich, what we would imagine sun hitting earth would taste like if it were a drink.” The Clouds is a super fluffy Ramos Gin Fizz-style cocktail of white rum, white tea, blanc vermouth, lime juice, and coconut milk. “We keep it in an iSi whipper and it comes out really fluffy and we add a little bit of seltzer water to it to make it even a little bit fluffier.” And lastly, the Rain is a clean and light stirred drink with sancerre wine, Sipsmith gin, pear brandy, and black lime zest. It’s then topped with pink Himalayan sea salt for a minerally finish.
If this climate menu is too “high concept” for you, just wait for the next one in August. The Walker Inn team likes to keep things varied so nothing ever feels same-samey. “This one was a little higher concept so the next menu will probably be fun like a pop culture reference,” promises Tarby.
The Walker Inn, 3612 W. 6th Street, 213-263-2709. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 9 p.m-2 a.m.