THE COPPER STILL
TINY KTOWN BAR WITH GRAND DRINKS
I first stumbled upon Koreatown’s Copper Still Bar on Beverly Boulevard by happenstance. I was out celebrating my cousin’s birthday and we wanted to hit just one more bar for one last drink. The tiny watering hole with a knack for playing silent movies (i.e., this ain’t no sports bar!) adjacent to the El Salvadorean Jaragua Restaurant—a thick, black velvet curtain actually separates the two spaces—delighted with its carefree vibe and affordable, boozy drinks.
Since then, I’ve gotten to know and admire bar director Nancy Kwon, a perfectionist behind the bar, who happens to be crafting the best cocktails in the Hollywood and Ktown area. A tiny bar serving big, grand drinks, this is more than a just place to eat pupusas and drink beers or your run of the mill Old Fashioned or Manhattan. After promising for months to unleash a brand new cocktail menu, Nancy has come up with 14 drinks (from classics to originals) that should make all cocktail lovers take notice.
During a recent visit, we started our boozy adventure of working our way down the new menu by ordering the Salvadoran poutine, a Nancy Kwon creation, that features fried yucca topped with Carne Guisado, Salvadoran pot roast shredded beef and gravy, and crumbled Cotija cheese—only the perfect snack to help soak up the booze. From there, we started with the Classics side of the menu and the Japalac (a rye whiskey drink first introduced in 1895) made with Bulleit Rye, Maurin dry vermouth, orange, and raspberry syrup. Served chilled this is a refreshing yet subtle drink that runs from strong to sweet upon tasting.
I was a big fan of the Widow’s Kiss, another classic drink that also dates back to 1895, made with Christian Drouin Fine Pays d’Auge Calvados (a new spirit to me), Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse, and aromatic bitters. This one is very nice and boozy, yet subtle. Think of this as your new favorite winter drink. Just sip and enjoy.
Classic drinks also include the Moscow Mule, Bourbon Old Fashioned, and the gin-based Aviation, which we skipped, but we finished our classics journey with the Twelve Mile Limit, which takes its name from the U.S. law that banned the consumption of alcohol a dozen miles beyond its shores. This version is made with Caña Brava Rum, 1776 rye, H by H VSOP Cognac, lemon, and house made grenadine. This Prohibition era drink has a slight tart with a nice sweetness to it.
Finally ready to try Nancy’s very own original cocktails, we started with her Sage Advice, a great mix of St. George Terroir gin, Art in the Age Sage spirit, lime, and fresh sage. Watch out, as pleasant as this one tastes, it does pack a punch.
My favorite of the originals is the Rhythm & Booze, a drink Nancy has been making for me for a while now. Made with Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Bulleit Bourbon, chocolate bitters, and dried Arbol Chile, this lovely cocktail has a very spicy kick to it. You first taste the bold bourbon goodness, followed by the heat from the chiles. This one is a winner and great alternative to a boring Old Fashioned.
A different kind of cocktail, The Root of It All with Atlantico Reserva Rum, Art in the Age Root spirit, Demerara sugar, and sarsaparilla bitters is so well balanced. It’s sweet but in a good way and absolutely delicious.
Another impressive drink is the Viva La Vida with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Luxardo Triplum, lime, agave nectar, and Salilsh Alderwood smoked sea salt. Think of this as a fantastic margarita. It’s the way a margarita should be made if it were in fact a margarita. In the same vein, the Spicy Mamacita is made with Reposado tequila, house made tamarind juice, and extra hot cayenne pepper. This bad girl has some kick!
And give Nancy props for the wholly original Rum Tum Yum with Atlantico Platino Rum, Kalani coconut liqueur, lime, Thai bitters, lemongrass, and Thai chile. This is Nancy’s “Thai food fix” for Tum Yum Soup. There’s a lot going on in this drink as it’s filled with spice and flavor. Also similar, My Sweet Summer is a mix of Avuá Prata cachaça, Yellow Chartreuse, and Clément Créole Shrubb. This one will definitely sneak up on you.
The perfect nightcap to a night of drinks is the Hot Brown Took Me Down with Hot Irishman coffee liqueur, 1776 bourbon, maple syrup, and Memphis BBQ bitters. Served cold and up, this drink proves that coffee liqueur + BBQ bitters = goodness!
It’s never a dull night at The Copper Still watching Nancy Kwon in action; working like a mad scientist getting every ingredient just right to make the best drink possible. For such a tiny bar that most people would miss, even if they were looking for it, the new drinks are on bar with the best cocktail programs in town—think 1886 Bar in Pasadena and Melrose Umbrella Co. Get to know Nancy Kwon and The Copper Still, enjoy some creative and cool cocktails…just don’t take my seat at the bar now that the secret is out.
The Copper Still is located at 4485 Beverly Blvd. Hours: Wed-Sun 7pm to 1am. Call 323-661-1985.
Some photography Courtesy of: The Copper Still
Story by Jose Martinez