A good bar name is hard to come by. Most are either Google search nightmares like The Bar or The Pour House or evoke the same breadth of emotion as someone introducing himself as Bob. (Sorry, Bobs.) Rarely are they ever anything that makes you smile because either bar owners think on it too much or not enough. But for the team at Hatchet Hall, when it came time to name their backroom bar, the name just came to them: Old Man Bar.
When they were first setting up the restaurant and bar, after a complete reconstruction of the old Waterloo & City space, the staff would always refer to that space as the Old Man Bar, a nod to its former incarnation during its Crest House days as a hangout for old men. “All the old guys would hang out there and hide from the wives. At 4 o’clock this would be filled with old guys smoking and drinking $4.50 Martinis,” explains bar manager Cappy Sorentino. “We played with names for awhile and started joking and calling it the Old Man Bar and it kind of stuck.”
The theme isn’t carried out to the point of cigarette smoke fog. And yet, you kind of expect there to be that tell-tale grandpa aroma thanks to the hunting lodge-esque decor of wingback arm chairs, old oil paintings and, of course, taxidermied animal heads. Thanks to the vibe and bar program created by Sorentino, instead of old men leaning up against the bar, it’s cocktail geeks, visiting bartenders, and restaurant patrons.
The Old Man Bar—dark, boozy, and intimate—is the perfect counterpoint to the Hatchet Hall restaurant which is light and airy. Sorentino made sure to contrast the differences in the two menus too. Hatchet Hall has the food-friendly cocktails with ingredients inspired by the kitchen as well as fancy garnishes like edible flowers. The Old Man Bar’s offerings are more conducive to shots or sipping, and its fanciest garnish would be the strip of country ham hanging over the rim of the glass in the In Fashion—an updated, ham-washed riff on a whiskey classic.
However, the use of vintage glassware gives the cocktails their “ooh” factor upon presentation. Sorentino took it upon himself to hunt down delicate vessels throughout Los Angeles, cleaning out about nine Goodwills in the process. But he only picked out those fitting the style he had in mind, specifically Japanese-style rocks glasses.
“We wanted to make this room special,” he says. “They’re fancy but they’re all what your grandma probably had. It has a timeless feel.”
Old Man Bar is a dealer’s choice driven bar, drinkswise and musicwise. Instead of DJs or piped-in satellite radio, the bartenders man the record player themselves. Guests will also be encouraged to bring in their own vinyl as long as it works with the room. Think: Sly and the Family Stone, Bob Dylan, the Kinks. Leave Taylor Swift at home. The most current record they have is D’Angelo’s last album, Black Messiah. “Neo-soul—I love it,” says Sorentino.
Right now the drink list for both Old Man Bar and Hatchet Hall are short but will continue to grow in the coming weeks, according to Sorentino. “We’ll add drinks two at a time for the next couple of weeks. We’ll probably end up with eight to 10 cocktails back here and 10-15 in the restaurant.”
You can look forward to a housemade pechuga mezcal cocktail at Hatchet Hall while Old Man Bar is getting its own clarified milk punch, one with a Southern influence to complement Chef Brian Dunsmoor’s food.
The Old Man Bar opens at 8 p.m. on weekdays, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and closes at 2 a.m. every night. “People have their drinks at the restaurant and then come here after. It’s a really good bar to finish the night. It’s darker, you just had a big meal so have a Fernet cocktail and relax in a dark room,” suggests Sorentino.
The Old Man Bar at Hatchet Hall, 12517 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; 310-391-4222