VENICE BEACH FAVE GETS FULL BAR
Venice Beach is known for its local flare and charm—it can be scenic and carefree one moment and in your face the next. And like any rousing neighborhood it needs its local watering hole that has equal character, and that’s where Larry’s comes into play.
The brainchild between the folks at nearby hipster Hotel Erwin and Waterloo & City in Culver City, Larry’s is a casual local fave that aptly captures the creative energy of Venice Beach—it’s literally a stone’s throw from the famed Venice Beach Boardwalk. Named after longtime friend Larry Bell, recognized as a pioneer of the California minimalism movement, the bar recently was bestowed with a full liquor license and wasted no time in creating a fine cocktail menu crafted by Jennifer Lane Oakley of Waterloo & City, and Black Market in Studio City, to go along with scrumptious bites courtesy of Chef Brendan Collins.
“I was drawn to the atmosphere, open air and great food that Larry’s had to offer,” says Oakley about creating her new cocktail menu. “With Larry’s right on the beach, I really wanted to include some tiki inspiration.”
But don’t think that means sickeningly sweet rum drinks; instead Oakley has created an eclectic and fun list that also adheres to the artistry of the current cocktail craze.
During our recent visit to Larry’s for a fun night of libations and bites, we bellied up to the bar, took a gander at the bar and specialty cocktail menus and started with a Dark & Stormy—a fresh and gingery mix of Gosling’s Dark Rum, Gosling’s Ginger Beer and lime. A friend once told me a Dark & Stormy is always a great way to start any evening and that mantra has stuck with me years later.
With the party started right, we split the Shrimp & Lobster Tacos, prepared with Green Curry Aioli, Thai basil frisee salad, and tomato—a divine bar bite.
Determined to make our way down the cocktail menu we ordered the Sun Poison next, mixed with gin, falernum, passionfruit, lime, orgeat and orange bitters, which we found to be sweet and fresh—a great option for day drinking.
We also had the Emeryville, made with vodka, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit, lime and basil. Think of this one as a sweet Greyhound.
“I really love the Emeryville,” Oakley explains. “The grapefruit pairs really well with the cinnamon, which adds warmth and spice. The basil also gives a nice herbal note, while the orange twist adds bright citrus. We wanted to find something in the Greyhound family and pay homage to it. We picked the name Emeryville, because that’s where the first professional dog racing track was launched back in 1919.”
Another round of drinks called for another round of bar bites and the Mini “BLT” Sliders with crispy bacon, confit pork, lettuce, tomato and BBQ sauce (think of these bad boys as Sloppy Joes with bacon, tomatoes and fresh lettuce), along with the Crispy Cauliflower, prepared with Burrata cheese, basil, and sweet Thai chili sauce, did not disappoint. I dare say the Crispy Cauliflower was our favorite. You’d swear you were eating coconut shrimp instead of veggies. Way to fool and delight us Chef Brendan!
Round Three brought the Chapman’s Ruin made with Apple Cinnamon Bourbon, orgeat, lemon and apple bitters. Using infused Makers, which I’m not a big fan of to begin with, this drink is so flavorful. First it’s sweet then spicy. Nice trick!
In need of more sustenance, we went with the Deviled Duck Eggs, made with duck salami and pickled ginger, which was simply delicious! Feeling brave, we also had the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Liver Skewers, which brought back bad memories of running away from my mom when I was a kid whenever she made liver. Sure, the bacon helped but it is still liver and I couldn’t push the plate away fast enough.
The only way to rid the foul taste of liver was to order another drink, which meant #Delicious to the rescue. Yes, this super tropical drink is spelled with a hashtag and it’s a sweet mix of rum, coconut cream, lemon, pineapple with a red wine float. This is probably the most tiki drink on the specialty cocktail menu and it’s another great day drink—just perfect for a day of drinking at Venice Beach, as is the Sleepy Jean, made with vodka, Crème De Banana, lemon and simple syrup—think sweet Lemon Drop.
Feeling brazen we stepped up our game with The Field Trip, made with rum, angostura bitters, orgeat, lemon and root beer. While I’m a huge A&W fan, I did find the soda too overpowering. Growing up I always felt in the minority as a root beer guy so if you’re not a fan, this won’t be a drink for you.
Serious drinkers should get to know the Epitaph, a rousing mix of tequila, roasted red pepper, lemon, agave, cucumber with a habanero-chipotle salt rim. This one, with its spicy rim, will make you say, “Wow!” If not “Damn!” It’s one mean margarita.
While working our way down the cocktail menu isn’t akin to heavy lifting, we still needed (wanted) some hearty fare so we split the Brussel’s Pizza from the dinner menu, which was a fine and fresh creation of brussel sprouts, parmesan, bacon, and chili vinegar. It goes well with Laetitia Chardonnay from Arroyo Grande, CA. Yes, we switched to wine to keep the party going. Likewise, the hearty Short Ribs were terrific and tasted even better with a glass of Malbec.
An Oakley creation that has a lot of people talking is the Real Voodoo Stuff, inspired by Larry Bell. It’s a great mix of El Dorado 12-year rum, tobacco brown sugar; a Laphroaig scotch rinse and lime zest.
“If you walk into Larry's, you'll notice the emblem on the logo is the outline of Larry Bell’s face and hat, with a cigar hanging casually from the side of his mouth,” says Oakley. “There is also a photo of him with his friends on the beach that hangs on the wall right by the bar, where he’s smoking his trademark cigar. I decided to use tobacco brown sugar to give this drink a nice, full sweetness with just a trace of that nicotine burn. The brown sugar gives it a unique depth. I also added a bit of Islay scotch, because Larry says he's never met a single malt he didn't like.
“Secondly, I wanted to add smoke to play up the tobacco flavor. When asked what he used to like to drink, Larry said Guyana rum is ‘real voodoo’ stuff and it tastes a bit like bourbon from sugar cane, but is absolutely amazing. El Dorado is actually from Guyana, and I loved the way he spoke about this rum. I wanted to make the ‘voodoo’ the center of this sipping cocktail, and use a traditional bourbon Old Fashioned as the template.”
As if Venice Beach wasn’t enough of a party destination, now Larry’s is another reason to head west for killer bites and bitchin’ drinks—these well-rounded, beachside-inspired cocktails really take the lively spirit of Venice Beach to a whole new level.
“When you come to Larry’s we hope you’ll enjoy yourself while having a great cocktail and indulging in some great food,” Oakley says. “Larry’s is a place that you will always get great quality, and a really diverse and fun crowd. I think this new cocktail menu paired with Brendan’s new bar menu will keep guests coming back, and that’s what we look forward to!”
Larry’s is located at 24 Windard Ave in Venice. Open Sunday through Thursday from noon to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 12pm to 2am. Call 310.399.2700.
By: Jose Martinez.
Some photography courtesy of: Larry’s