GET TO KNOW THIS HIDDEN CULVER CITY SPEAKEASY
It’s always satisfying being in the “know” about something—from the satisfaction of knowing a secret to where to get the best deal in town or where to go for spot-on cocktails in some cool, hidden lounge. That’s the feeling you’ll have once you get to know Culver City’s Alley Lounge.
From the powers at be that brought us FIN on Washington Boulevard, an inspiring Asian-tapas style restaurant, comes Alley Lounge, a swanky and sophisticated hidden bar that offers first rate libations and artisanal sandwiches located behind FIN—just look for the lights in the walkway next door on Washington.
“When we first moved into the building and saw the space, we knew exactly what we wanted to do with it,” says Managing Partner and Beverage Director Ken Whang. “Opening a bar had always been a goal of ours, and the space had endless opportunity to become that venture.”
Inside, you’ll take in the peacock-blue lounge with raised booths draped in leather, along with wall-ornaments, like the stark white faux rhino head on the wall, as well as the plush u-shaped couch that envelops a whole nook-like corner in the lounge separated by metallic beaded curtains.
“My main priority is hospitality,” says Barman Russell Thomas. “I want everyone to feel comfortable at the bar. Questions and conversations are welcomed; ask for complicated cocktails or tell me what spirit you like and I can suggest something.”
During our recent visit to Alley Lounge, we started with the Nucky Thompson, a nice mix of gin, sweet vermouth, amaro, and orange peel. This is a great starter to any night. My game plan was to start with white spirits and work my way to darker ones so gin was a great way to begin this adventure.
Fans of gin will also want to take note of the London Calling, a mix of gin, muddled ginger, which is very unique, and Old Fashioned bitters. This drink is sour but nicely balanced. And I love Russell’s touch of muddling ginger.
Moving away from gin, we went the cognac route with the Gatsby made with cognac, Combier, lemon juice with a lemon twist. This one is very tasty.
Fans of rye will want to try the Cagney, a good mix of rye whiskey, lemon juice, sugar cube, cabernet sauvignon and brandied cherry. This one is surprisingly light and goes down easy.
Opting for another dink with the same spirit, the Smirking Rhino with rye whiskey, muddled ginger and agave is very gingery yet very refreshing. I’m not the biggest fan of ginger but I did like this cocktail.
Rum time meant the Hemingway, a mix of rum, Luxardo cherry liqueur, limejuice, grapefruit juice and a brandied cherry. This one was a little too sweet for me as I’ve developed a fondness for over-proof rum these days.
If you’re in the mood for tequila (and who isn’t?) order El Viejo made with Casamigos Reposado Tequila, bitters and agave. I really liked this one. If you prefer mescal then the Hope Burns Eternal may just be up your alley (get it?). Spicy, smoky and floral flavors converge in this cocktail named after an interested guest who witnessed the birth of this drink, crafted with Xicaru Mescal, lavender honey tea, Ancho Reyes, Serrano chile and lime.
I was told I had to try Russell’s Old Fashioned, which was very boozy. Fans of a stiff drink may also want to taste the Harlem, which is ardent and mixed with Bulleit bourbon, Averna, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and a cherry garnish.
A favorite drink of mine was the perfectly balanced and pleasing nightcap, the Bon Nuit(“Good Night”), which is credited with having a “calming effect” and is a culmination of warm flavors, including French brandy, Benedictine, Cointreau, Fee Brother's Old Fashioned bitters and a lemon peel.
If you work your way down the menu like we did of just decide to make a night out of it with however many drinks you order, you may want to try the artisanal sandwiches for sustenance. There are four to choose from and all are topped with gooey gourmet cheeses, select meats and homemade sauces on fresh-baked breads from neighboring baker, Rockenwagner. There’s the tangy and spicy, the Ham & Cheese Baguette, which is loaded with thinly sliced Black Forest ham, Muenster cheese and horseradish aioli. The Turkey & Cheese Baguette (my favorite) is prepared with peppered turkey, Muenster cheese and chipotle aioli. The Caprese Baguettemarries classic flavors of buffalo mozzarella, tomato and pesto-balsamic dressing while the Good Ol’ Fashioned Grilled Cheeseon sourdough (the most popular) is as chewy and cheesy as it gets and is just perfect to soak up the booze.
“Whether you are looking for a place to catch up with friends, be wowed by bartenders or simply try a great cocktail, Alley Lounge has something for everyone,” says Ken Whang. “It is a chameleon-kind-of bar in that essence. We want guests to know that each and every experience is tailored specifically for them.”
Now that you know about the hidden Alley Lounge, find it, wander in and get lost in this speakeasy gem that’s the perfect escape from all your worries. Have a drink or two (or more) and relish that you’re in the know.
Alley Lounge is open Monday through Wednesday from 6pm to Midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 6pm to 2am.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy of: Alley Lounge