MELROSE UMBRELLA CO.
WHERE THE HOUSE SPECIALTY IS COOL, CREATIVE COCKTAILS
The L.A. cocktail culture scene is always changing and morphing. Rarely does the landscape ever stay the same—what with new bars opening and closing and cocktail programs adapting to new seasons and trends. I used to swear by 1886 Bar in Pasadena but its last “greatest hits” drink menu proved nobody is perfect, which gave way to upstarts in my opinion like The Copper Still and Melrose Umbrella Co. to really up ante on the local drinking game.
The Melrose Umbrella Co., which opened in early 2014 in the former Foundry space on Melrose Avenue, pays homage to the history of the post-prohibition era and in particular the almighty cocktail. The brainchild of childhood friends (since the age of ten) Austin Melrose, yes, this real surname is Melrose, and Zach Patterson, Melrose Umbrella Co. is a daring, forward-thinking bar built by bartenders.
Walk into the bar on trendy Melrose Avenue in daylight and it feels like you’ve walked into a Havana bar—it also feels like what I envision a cool South Beach watering hole to be like although I’ve never actually been to Florida. But this is what I would like it to be like. The vibe is just apt for day drinking, a favorite past time of mine. Walk in later in the evening and its sleepy vibe will sneak up on you giving way to an unpretentious gem to imbibe some really dynamic drinks.
Since its opening, the cocktail menu has been divided into several savory sections, from classics, including modern and old school, to staff creations and even draft drinks. While the menu does change with each new season, old favorite always remain as each new menu is actually an updated “volume” building on previous volumes. So in a few years, you’ll have a pretty hefty book to peruse to choose your cocktail.
The brand new Volume III menu is ambitious, featuring 14 new libations and is arguably one of the better selections in town for cool cocktails. During our recent visit, we bellied up to the bar, made ourselves comfortable and went on a joyous journey tasting several of the new offerings. We started with the Pinkerton, a proper starter, made with Carpano Bianco, Osbourne Manzanilla Sherry, Saler’s, and Pechaud’s Bitters. Light bodied yet complex, I liked its coffee/chocolate taste and I’m not a coffee guy or a fan of sweet drinks. I knew right away we were in for a good time.
While the name for the Pie cocktail may be simple, yes, it’s actually called Pie, there’s nothing ordinary or simple about it. Prepared with Brown Butter Altos Repo, lemon, Sweet Potato Syrup, Black Walnut Bitters, and nutmeg, this is a uniquely decadent drink. These aren’t your typical cocktail ingredients and that’s what I like about it. That and the fact that they make somewhat sweet tasting drinks so well balanced that sweetness is not even an issue.
Likewise, the I Dream of Greenie, made with plum-infused El Silencio Mezcal, avocado (yup, avocado!), Matcha Green Tea, lime, and Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur made from citrus and fruit juices) is tasty and just plain comforting. I never expected to have a cocktail made with avocado and I didn’t think I’d be a fan, but it does make sense as avocados really bring smoothies to life, so why not cocktails?
If you thought a green drink with avocado was thinking outside the box (and it is), then give the Hop Scotch #2 made with carrot juice, cinnamon brown sugar syrup, lemon, Combier, Earl Grey Crème, Atlantico & Chivas 12-year a try. Previous to this drink, I had only tasted two drinks made with carrots—one simply awful that I thought would scar me for life (thanks Warwick) and the phenomenal Gin n’ Roots from 1886 Bar. This one fell somewhere in between. I thought it was too bland while my drinking partner for the evening thought it was too acidic, either way it was more base on balls than a homerun.
While I hate the term “chick drink” because I know some ladies who can throw down when it comes to drinking, that’s how my bar buddy described The Peach of WeHo, which even the bar describes as “a lady’s best friend.” Made with La Diablada Pisco, lemon, Crème de Peche, and Mumm’s Rose Champagne, this drink was simply too sweet for me, but then again, I don’t like sweet in my cocktails.
If you find yourself in need of sustenance while drinking, the bar offers fine pressed sandwiches, as well as a wonderful poutine courtesy of Chef Eric Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese next door. The poutine break was a welcome respite, which gave way back to our liquid sojourn and the Endless Summer, made with Rock Nigori Sake, Grey Goose Melon, Borion Melon Puree, lemon, Velvet Falernum, and vanilla sugar. Again, while I don’t embrace sweet, I must confess that I do love Velvet Falernum (just a shot is heaven!), and that goodness mixed with sake offered a nice balance creating a cool California cocktail.
Former volume classics like The Martinez (the original martini), and Patterson’s Nap are still highly recommended but have a ball working your way down the new menu. And be aware of the bar’s Specialty Hour from 5-7pm Monday through Thursday.
With so many concept bars around town, and I’m a fan of many of them with their elaborate entrances, it’s great to find a simple bar (in vibe and attitude) to relax and indulge and appreciate some dandy handcrafted drinks. To me, that’s what it’s about when I venture out for cocktails and Melrose Umbrella Co. delivers—daily and on a rainy day.
Melrose Umbrella Co. is located at 7465 Melrose Ave. Open: Mon-Wed 5-11pm; Thurs & Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 12pm-2aml Sun 12pm-11pm. Call 323-951-0709.
Photography Courtesy of: Melrose Umbrella Co.
Story by Jose Martinez