There’s a new bottle service that’s trending in bars, and I’m not talking punch bowls or large-format cocktails. Rather, more cocktail bars are taking hospitality to the next level by allowing guests to purchase a bottle of booze to be stored at the bar for future visits. Darabar Secret Thai Cuisine in Thai Town has been offering a dirt-cheap version of this for years, but the service is starting to gain momentum, popping up everywhere from your neighborhood bar to high-end watering holes.
But why pay a premium to enjoy a bottle at a bar when you can get it for so much cheaper elsewhere and drink it at home in front of the TV, watching your stories? Besides the fact that it’s always nice to walk into a place and have a bottle waiting for you, bars and restaurants have access to bottles that the average consumer doesn’t. And even if they don’t presently carry exactly what you want, they know the right channels to go through to obtain it. Here are a few of the places in L.A. where you can partake of this “bottle keep” service.
Now Boarding in West Hollywood has many fun ways to appease its guests, whether it be packets of peanuts at the bar or a punch service presented in mini suitcases, and it also offers to store bottles for members of its Fifty50 Club. For $600 a year, the member is entitled to perks like the private liquor locker to store their favorite bottle. The first bottle is free, and anything after that is half off the list price. So far 25 of its 50 lockers are spoken for, mostly by whiskey drinkers like Tom Felton (a.k.a. Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series) storing goods like Glenfarclas 21 and Michter’s Single Barrel. You can buy a bottle from the bar’s shelf or put in a request for something else. One of the strangest requests it has had so far is for a Chinese “Three-Penis” liquor—made from seal, deer, and dog penises–which, unsurprisingly, is believed to impact male potency. Unfortunately, the bar is having a problem sourcing it but wants everyone to know it is in the market for some.
At Chestnut Club in Santa Monica, there aren’t any lockers, but you can purchase a bottle, which then gets tagged and stored. And whenever you come in, you can enjoy your special booze neat, on the rocks, or even as an Old Fashioned. The bar offers rare and discontinued spirits for this service. “We also take special requests. No matter how rare or hard to find…I find it,” swears co-owner Pablo Moix. Some examples of what people have stored include EH Taylor tornado-surviving whiskey, High West Bourye batch #1, and Macallan 12 (from 30 years ago). Recently, Moix sold a $3,000 Original Coffin Box 1942 Seagrams, and bottles can get as cha-ching as $10,000.
Steak & Whisky in Hermosa Beach has only 10 whiskey lockers available to rent for $1,000 a year. Guests can choose from the restaurant’s inventory of 80-plus whiskey bottles, purchasing at a 40 percent discount. Such rarities include the limited Orphan Barrel Whiskey Company’s Barterhouse 20 year Bourbon—lost barrels of whiskey found in forgotten distilleries and hand bottled in Tennessee.
What was formerly known as dive-y St. Nick’s on 3rd Street is now swanky Mexican restaurant Toca Madera, complete with 24 liquor lockers, which can store up to four bottles each. Guests can purchase what’s at the bar or make a special request. But, they won’t hold just any kind of spirit here, it’s agave all the way. Select from premium tequilas like Clase Azul Extra Anejo ($400 a shot) or other agave spirits like mezcal, bacanora, and raicilla.
Bar Jackalope, a Japanese-style whiskey bar in Seven Grand, has completely embraced the “bottle keep” service and offers a whopping 500 lockers. Prices start at $250 a bottle, but having a locker comes with the perk of being able to make reservations in advance and get priority seating on the wait list. If you’ve ever tried going there on a whim on a Saturday night, you can appreciate this. But on top of that, you also get to enjoy your bottle with your very own bar cart stocked with ice, glassware, and mixers. Since Bar Jackalope specializes in rare whiskeys, carrying about 120 American and Japanese varieties, you’ll be able to find such rarities like the Royal Salute 38 Stone of Destiny and the original release of Laphroaig Cairdeas.
Jeremy Lake’s Lost Property isn’t as fancy-pants as the above bars with guests storing not-so-rare bottles of Buffalo Trace and Bushmills. “We do it as a way for our guests to feel a sense of ownership. They can know that something of theirs is here waiting for them whenever they want it,” says Lake.