GRANDPA JOHNSON’S COCKTAIL CLUB
DARING & DYNAMIC DRINKS TO COME CLUBLAND
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of cocktails. While I do love my spirits neat, there’s something extraordinary about sipping on a fine, handcrafted libation. It’s getting harder to find new quality watering holes around town that aren’t all hype; overtly douchey; or just pretentious as all hell. I find that the club scene bars never seem worthwhile to imbibe. They open with a bang and then become a place to be seen (or gawk) but not to drink anything worth a damn. But sometimes, like with trendy Grandpa Johnson’s in Hollywood, a gem emerges from the chic pile.
From L.A. nightlife veteran Johnny Zander comes a "Gatsby"-esque cocktail lounge that really pulls it together. Get beyond the red velvet curtain and you’ll find yourself in posh clubby world where the drinks are stellar.
"It's my version of Art Deco, with a nice twist, and modern meets the Stanley Kubrick bar," Zander told the LA Times. "I wanted to create something different, something you don't really have in town."
Named after Zander’s grandfather, the bar is Zander's first solo project. Known for conceptualizing, designing and opening hipster havens such as Green Door, Hemingway's and Teddy's, every inch of Grandpa Johnson's décor came from Zander’s own vision.
Now, you may not want to drink in a trendy hotspot—I get that. Sometimes it’s a scene and not easy to get inside, other times it’s just plain packed with the jet set, but if you can get past all that noise (maybe show up early before the party people arrive) you can rest assured you’ll be drinking cool cocktails, albeit at $12 a pop, which is actually a good deal these days. And with the exception of one or two other bars in the immediate area, you won’t be drinking this good in Hollywood.
During our recent visit for drinks, we did arrive early, so much so that we were the first ones in the joint, which meant we got head bartender Serena Herrick all to ourselves and didn’t have to deal with the any scenesters.
We started with the Kubrick made with Nolet’s Gin, fresh carrot and ginger juice, Darjeeling Tea and fresh lemon juice. Right off the bat, I was impressed with how well balanced this cocktail was as I’ve had some awful drinks with carrot juice before. We immediately knew we were off to a great start.
While I usually tend to skip vodka drinks, as I prefer more bold and daring tastes, the Lorraine with Russian Standard Vodka, Chareau, fresh cucumber juice, mint (not a favorite of mine) and fresh lemon juice, really impressed, especially for a vodka drink. I can see the club folk who may not be so well versed with proper cocktails loving these—that is why vodka drinks are on menus.
The Albra, mixed with pisco, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, sparkling rose and fresh rose water is very refreshing and comes across as a pisco-based French 75. I liked the adventurous take on a classic drink.
Continuing to keep things interesting, the Fast Eddie with Rum Agricole, fresh pineapple juice, egg white, fresh lime juice, Green Chartreuse and pineapple bitters was frothy fun. This was a boozy drink yet came together as a tasty treat. And the MHC with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, China China Amarro, Aperol, fresh lemon juice and orange zest is a great take on an Old Fashioned.
My favorite drink on the menu was the Blade Runner with High West Rye, caramel, coffee tincture, absinthe rinse and Luxardo cherry. This was just delicious. While I’m not a big coffee person, this cocktail really worked.
Another favorite of mine was the T-Bizz with Vida Mezcal, Aperol, Cocchi Torino, orange bitters and orange zest. Think of this one as a terrific Negroni. And lets not forget El Jefe, as the drink of the evening really packed the night with a bang. Made with Tequila Ocho, fresh lime juice, agave, fresh basil leaves and Serrano chilies this drink was loaded with flavor as there was a lot going on here.
These aren’t your typical club cocktails. Most clubs want to keep the drinks simple and bland as they’re faster to make and they don’t challenge people. There’s nothing simpler than a gin and tonic, or vodka cranberry, etc. But these drinks are daring and dynamic, and lead the way for what cool clubs should aim to serve. Now if you can get in without reservations or past the doorman when the line is down the street (if you would even want to) is another story, but at least you can be confident that Grandpa has your back once you’re in and you’re thirsty.
Grandpa Johnsons is located at 1638 N Cahuenga Blvd. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9pm to 2am. Call 323-467-7300.
Story by Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy of: Grandpa Johnsons