A Farewell Letter to L.A.’s Bartender Extraordinaire Julian Cox

Paying homage to the liquor maestro before he moves to Chicago

Dear Julian,

I can’t believe you’re leaving L.A.! I’m excited for the new direction in your life and Chicago is lucky to have you. ::Shaking fist at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises who stole you from us:: But, honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the cocktail scene in L.A. Not that it will stop—I know it won’t—but you have/had such a big hand in moving it forward, drawing attention to it, legitimizing it to all those outside of our city who say we’re not a serious cocktail town.

Thanks to you, hundreds (thousands?) of bartenders learned the importance of skill, quality, and hospitality through your classes and cocktail programs. And the bartenders who came out from under your wing have also gone on to do great things in our city: Karen Grill, Nick Meyer, Jeremy Lake, and countless others.

Thanks to you, restaurants realized that a well-crafted cocktail program is not just valuable to the business but to the guests who come in. It’s now considered as critical to a restaurant’s appeal as a wine program. And thanks to you we all saw how beautiful the relationship between a bartender and chef could be, where you collaborated with chefs like Walter Manzke and Tim Hollingsworth to create cocktails that not only complemented the restaurant’s concept but the food and ingredients.

In the 11 years you’ve graced our city, you’ve changed the way we drink when we eat. I seriously can’t go to a restaurant unless I know it has a compelling cocktail program. Rivera, Las Perlas, Playa, Petty Cash, Short Order, Picca, Circa, Acabar, Bestia, Barrel & Ashes, BrilliantShine, Redbird, BS Taqueria, Fiscal Agent, Otium, Rose Cafe—that’s all you and your team. 2015 saw you opening eight concepts! Throughout it all you managed to maintain that high level of quality while always offering something new and interesting. Always challenging our palates and minds. There was never just an OK program out of you.

And through it all, you were so humble. Even when the spotlight shone brightly on you, you made sure to always credit all the people you worked with. Even in your first ever email to me, sent on March 6, 2009, you simply introduced yourself in the subject header as “Pablo’s friend.”

> Hi Caroline, This is Julian, Director of beverages at Rivera. Pablo had told me to get in contact with you. I’d love to catch up whenever you have the chance. You can reach me by email or call thank you so much –
> Julian

You were always my favorite bartender to interview. I remember sitting with you outside Barrel & Ashes talking about your then-new cocktail program and being amazed how every word that came out of your mouth was a perfect sound bite. Concise, interesting, eloquent.

We, the drinkers of L.A., owe you a debt of gratitude, Mr. Cox. You’ve raised the bar and our expectations. I know we’ll continue on but your departure will leave a big hole in our hearts.

You will be greatly missed.