The 1933 Group’s new West Hollywood bar Harlowe (formerly dubbed Clementine) opens up to the public this Friday. Even though the space was still in disarray with disassembled furniture and unhung paintings when I sneaked a peek last week, it’s easy to see the glamour beneath the sawdust. Designed by 1933 Group partner Bobby Green, the bar—which took over Crown Bar on Santa Monica Boulevard—is meant to evoke the soda fountain shops of old Hollywood, with cozy wooden booths, white tiles, marble countertop and housemade sodas on draft. Maybe the next Lana Turner will be discovered sitting at the large circular bar, which takes center stage in the main room.
Cocktail geeks are sure to flock here with a bar program consulted on by Dushan Zaric (Employees Only NYC), who is making his West Coast debut, and a kickass bar staff of L.A. bartenders–Chris Amirault (Eveleigh), Una Green (Sotto), Jared Mort (Oldfield’s Liquor Room, Sassafras) and Kyle Ackley (Drago Centro, Bigfoot Lodge), to name just a few.
With that craft cocktail crew, no doubt the drinks will be thoughtful and high-caliber. “We want to circle back to cocktails as part of the gastronomical experience,” says Zaric. “We’ll train the staff to guide the guests with an aperitifs experience and then to the long drinks.”
This food-focused approach is apparent in complex cocktails like the savory Greenacre Martini made with Kalamata olive jus, and the Rye the Long Face with its “flavor explosion” of pickled rhubarb. “I wanted to give people an option that is really complex yet savory and that can be perfectly paired with food,” said Zaric. Both those cocktails will get you salivating for consulting chef Eric Greenspan’s Southern fried onion and open-faced bologna sandwich.
If you think this will be just another whiskey bar (not that that’s a bad thing), you’d be wrong. “We want to avoid being heavily whiskey-oriented,” said Zaric. “It’s like when a young chef discovers pork or truffle butter and wants to put it in everything. So making drinks with whiskey is pretty easy. Making drinks with pisco, vodka or gin, making them complex, and fitting them into the overall vibe is a bit more difficult; It requires a different skill set and more experience.”
Not to say there won’t be whiskey drinks. There’s an Old Fashioned on tap and a Sazerac in a jar. “We’re going to make our house Sazerac with a gomme syrup so it has a nice, silky body to it,” said general manager Kyle Ackley. The perfectly executed Sazerac will be pre-diluted to proper stir and ready to go. “We’ll pop this jar open, spritz it with absinthe, express our peel, and that’s it.”
Drinks, although well-crafted, will be quick not just because of the draft and bottled cocktails but the staff. “You don’t have to be slow to make good cocktails. You can make high-quality cocktails and execute really fast,” said Zaric. “The geekiness has its point but we have shifted as a community to paying attention again to the guest and making sure they have an experience. What we do is great but it will not guarantee we survive. What guarantees we survive is if the guests come back. And we do everything we need to make sure they have a customized experience, and that includes great drinks and friendly staff.”
Harlowe opens to the public this Friday and will be open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Harlowe, 7321 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, 323-876-5839