Craft Cocktails Join the Rotation at Dodger Stadium

Take me out to the ballgame…I need a drink
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You’ll soon be able to have an Old Fashioned with your Dodger Dog.

While several new food options, including a fried Dodger Dog, debuted at Dodger Stadium on opening day Monday, a craft cocktail menu by barman Dave Whitton (Villains Tavern, Sunset Marquis) will hit the club areas of the venue next week. But we’re not talking crazy mixology drinks with liquid nitrogen or even housemade bitters. Rather, Whitton is presenting simple, recognizable cocktails–twists on classics–made with fresh and quality ingredients.

Why would Dodger Stadium care about bringing cocktails like this to a baseball crowd who’s traditionally enjoyed pairing beer and Dodger Dogs? “I’m a big fan of giving the option,” says Nick Wolfe, assistant director of operations at Levy Restaurants, which runs the concessions at Dodger Stadium and several other ballparks like Wrigley Field. “If you want it, it’s there. We need to be able to have a nice balanced portfolio of beverages and food options. You can get a Dodger Dog, you can also get couscous, you can get tacos. You can have that variety.”

A good thing considering Angelenos love options–vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, healthy options. “There are still different niches in Dodger Stadium who don’t want a Dodger Dog, who don’t want a beer,” Whitton adds. “How many people are there who are just watching what they’re eating? How many people don’t want a 20-ounce beer?”

Dodger Stadium is one of the first baseball complexes where one can get a decent Margarita (Seattle’s Safeco Field has drinks designed by Rob Roy’s Anu Apte). Many others already have the capability to do a craft cocktail program but instead favor ease over quality when it comes to ingredients and drink-making, especially since they are working with union bartenders–most of whom have been doing the pour-and-dump method of bartending for nearly a decade.

Whitton plans to start things off easy with six light and approachable cocktails. The bartenders aren’t going through multiple-step recipes with jiggers and mixing glasses but rather combining Whitton’s pre-batched three-ingredient cocktail mixes with alcohol, adding a dash of salt, and a garnish. Simple.

Previously, the cocktails were more about imprecise measurements and ingredients like bar syrup made from 100 percent corn syrup. But now, he’s recruited the kitchen staff to make the simple syrups while training the bartenders to use tools like salt and bitters to add depth to the cocktails with a couple of dashes.

So far, it’s been three weeks perfecting this program. But unlike many cocktail consultants, Whitton says he’ll stay and work with the crew until they get it. “You’re going to just make sure you can keep it consistent. Make sure it’s easy and fool-proof. Keep the list small,” he says. Eventually, when the bartenders do get the hang of things, he plans to increase the degree of difficulty by introducing a seasonal cocktail menu.

For now, you can get the cocktails, which are $14 each (about as much as a large beer there), in the Stadium Club, the dugout clubs, and the first-base and third-base Ketel One clubs. (The upper-level concession bars only serve a spirit and a mixer.) In a few weeks, Whitton will launch a different, more complex menu in VIP, complete with more delicate glassware, unlike the rocks glass and Collins he uses for the clubs.

But for now, he recommends pairing the Old Fashioned with the Dodger Dog. “I think an Old Fashioned fits in with anything,” he says. Not unlike a Dodger Dog.

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