WOOD & VINE
HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD BAR DELIVERS DAZZLING DRINKS
While Hollywood Boulevard’s Wood & Vine is a definite favorite with the Pantages Theatre pre-show dinner crowd (early evening dinner reservations are highly recommended show nights), it’s also a favorite with the late night happy hour crowd.
At Wood & Vine, Beverage Director Justin Stidham has created one of the city’s best late night happy hours where every Monday through Thursday from 10pm to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from midnight to 2am, guests can sample a selection of Stidman’s cocktails for just $5 a piece.
Serving Seasonal and Classic cocktails, Stidham has a little bit of everything to satisfy all kinds of drinkers.
“We want to make sure [our] cocktails pair well with our New American dinner menu, utilizing the freshest ingredients the season has to offer,” Stidham explains. Our ingredients come from the Farmers’ Market, local vendors and distributors, but our inspiration comes from the markets, the Internet and what is going on around us. Even if we do not use every product we see at the market, we let the experience of being there and seeing what is happening there influence the list.”
The cocktail list is broken into two sections: W&V Classics, offering classic cocktails that we have all come to know and love, as well as some of Wood & Vine’s original cocktails that have become classics in-house over time and are now considered the restaurant’s standby drinks, and the Seasonal section, which is a new collection of Stidham’s original cocktails highlighting the market-driven offerings of the season. No matter what you order, you’ll definitely be getting fresh made, handcrafted cocktails.
“We make everything in-house, from our syrups to pressing our juices, and we do a lot of prep on the back-end to be able to make our drinks really quickly,” Stidham assures. “We set everything up ahead of time, so that when a guest comes in and orders their drink, they can get it in two or three minutes. We don’t want to rush the process, but we work hard on our preparation and execution to ensure that guests get served quickly, and that they walk away from the bar with an awesome product in their hands.”
During our recent visit to the bar, we started with the Accomplice, which is a blend of organic vodka, strawberry, champagne, and lemon juice. This one proved a little too sweet for my liking. Next was The Bee’s Knees—a nice and refreshing simple sip with a kick, featuring Nolet’s gin, organic honey and lemon juice.
If you want a more potent cocktail, go with the Zocalo, which features Azul tequila, citrus, cilantro-infused agave, and babanero tincture. This one is stiff and is filled with tequila goodness. Sticking to the stronger side of things, you can’t go wrong with a good Penicillin cocktail—it will always cure what ails you. This one is a mix of Bank Note Scotch, ginger, honey, lemon and a Laphroaig spritz.
A Wood & Vine original that made its way to the Classic section is the Magnolia, a blend of Rain organic vodka, cucumber, lime, ginger and honey. This one is very cucumbery and may play better with the wine crowd than serious drinkers.
If you’re in need of some sustenance while at the bar, there are several delightful choices to fight off a quick buzz, including Hand Cut Fries (perfect bar food); Crispy Pig Ears (daring bar food); Chipotle Hummus, and Smoked Salmon Rillette (upscale bar food); and Fried Chicken (much needed bar food to soak up the alcohol).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these days, I’m over the Old Fashioned and Manhattan drinks, but I do love new variations on them and kudos for Stidham and the Wood & Vine bar team for coming up with the 5 Points Manhattan, which uses smoked Buffalo Trace bourbon along with a Guinness reduction, Punt e Mes, Angostura bitters and an orange peel as garnish. There’s also the Black Manhattan, but I’m not a big Maker’s Mark fan so I passed. But I love the idea of smoking spirits.
“Our chef had purchased a smoker, and we started smoking meats, bacon, wings and charcuterie in-house,” Stidham says. “One day we threw a half bottle of whiskey in there to see what would happen, and then made a cocktail with the results. I wanted to do a play on a Manhattan and I was inspired by the movie Gangs of New York, as it just seemed like that era of drink where gangsters from the 1850’s were hanging out in Five Points. It’s a thick, heavy, and smoky drink that we put on the menu because we thought it was unique and fun, but also delicious.”
For me, not all the drinks are winners as I’m not fond of the Thai Town (Nolet’s Gin, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, vanilla, honey, mint leaf, and lime) as it’s too minty and sour for my taste. I’m not a mint fan to begin with and I would definitely want more balance. Likewise, the Southern Sour, made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Laird’s Applejack, tangerine, rhubarb syrup, egg whites, and Peychaud’s Bitters, was too sour for my liking.
My favorite cocktail on the list is probably the Ancho Rancho, made with Pierde Almas mezcal, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, red bell pepper, lemon, honey and chipotle smoked salt on the rim.
“I really dig the Ancho Rancho,” Stidham agrees. “The Ancho Reyes chili liqueur is very new and fresh on the market, and it has a great heat to it, but it’s also well balanced. We use an artisanal mezcal, so together the spirits complement each other. Then there is the bell pepper and the smoked salt, which makes this a very ‘in your face’ cocktail, but at the same time refreshing.”
Likewise, the Above the Clouds, which uses Ron Zacapa rum (a rum that Stidham says is aged at 8,000 feet of elevation in Guatemala), along with a blood orange-cinnamon reduction, Demerara, Angostura, fresh lime and ginger foam, is an easy going drink to really savor.
Whether you’re grabbing a bite and drink before a show, coming in just for a good time at the bar, or making a real night of it during Late Night Happy Hour, I like the vibe at Wood & Vine amidst the craziness that is Hollywood Boulevard. This is a place to enjoy a cool cocktail, bold bites in a sleek, posh setting.
Wood & Vine is located at 6280 Hollywood Blvd. Happy Hour: Mon-Thurs 5pm to 6:30pm and 10pm to midnight; Friday and Saturday midnight to 2am. Call 323-334-3360. Valet parking available.
Story by Jose Martinez
Some photos courtesy of Wood & Vine