LOCK & KEY
K-TOWN SPEAKEASY STILL A HIDDEN GEM
The introduction of a new season always brings about change and not just in climate but in attitude, dress and comfort. The food and drink scene does likewise as restaurants adapt and so do craft cocktail menus when a new season is introduced. At Lock & Key, a sweet speakeasy spot along Vermont Avenue serving first rate libations, a new season means new creative cocktails.
Ever since the bar opened in February 2013 it has proven to be a hidden gem. Billed as your favorite neighborhood mixology bar serving specialty craft cocktails, amazing wines and craft beers, it's a go-to place to chill, see and be seen, and, most importantly, drink some damn good cocktails.
If you want "in" at Lock & Key, the first thing you have to do is find the place. Look for the nondescript building with the red door along Vermont Avenue at Third Street next door to a food stall or the place with the really long line on weekend as fans of killer drinks are all too familiar with the joint. But getting in doesn't automatically get you in. Step inside and you will have to find the right doorknob to really give you access into a cool setting serving divine drinks.
During our recent visit, we bellied up to the bar and started with the El Chapo cocktail. A lot of drink menus these days have a drink named after the cartel boss and they usually tend to be pretty killer. I guess they have to be. This Chapo is made with with mezcal, Italian aperitif, orange bitters and orange peel and it's pretty potent. A different kind of drink is the Winter Rose made with gin, Aloe Vera liqueur, lemon, simple syrup, ginger, hibiscus flower and rose water. It was too sweet for me but it was still pleasant.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of sweet drinks as I prefer my cocktails on the boozy side, but the balance in the Lock & Key drinks are spot-on, so even the sweet ones (to me anyways) are still enjoyable, like the Up & Up made with Angels Envy and Apple Jack. And if you do like sweet drinks then the Hemingway Holiday with ginger and spiced rums, lime, caramelized pineapple syrup and candied ginger may just be your new favorite cocktail. Again it was too sweet for me but it worked somehow. The same can be said for the off menu Carl Sagan made with rye whiskey, Italian aperitif, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, orange peel and Luxardo cherry. It was sweet but definitely tasty.
My takeaway from my visit to Lock & Key was being impressed that they not only carry Hardy cognac, my new favorite spirit, but that it is also their well cognac. I've been getting into cognacs for about a year now and Hardy is my favorite and it's pretty hard to find in most bars, let alone it be the well option. So once that discovery was made it was time to move onto cognac cocktails. We started our Hardy cognac sojourn with the Beau Carre made with bourbon, cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Antica, bitters and lemon peel. Drinks with cognac aren't for the feint at heart as they are stiff. And this was a great introduction drink if you're game and adventurous.
After enjoying a Sazerac with Hardy, we let our bartender Luka Grone pick our next drink and we enjoyed the Japanese Cocktail made with Hardy cognac, orgeat and orange bitters. Think of this one as a cognac Old Fashioned. Props to Luka as he's dynamite behind the well. If you find yourself in need of sustenance, you can't go wrong with the delicious Lollipop Chicken Wings; Butter Garlic Fries; or the Ramen Burger. And consider the Decadent Deep Fried PB&J an absolute must-have.
Not satisfied with just running one of the best bars in LA, Lock & Key founder Cyrus Batchan partnered with TK Nguyen and opened Skylight, a 360-degree skydeck and rooftop beach club in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Located on the top floor of Havana Nha Trang Hotel, Skylight's 21,500-square-foot (2,000 square meters) space brings many firsts to Vietnam, including the first 360-degree outdoor skydeck with unrivaled views of the bay, city, and mountain regions; a glass skywalk on the 43rd floor where visitors can see down to the ground level; and a rooftop beach-club featuring handcrafted specialty cocktails, ice-cold draught beers served at zero degrees; international cuisine; and unparalleled live entertainment.
"We're excited to bring our experience from the U.S. to develop the growing Vietnamese market," said TK Nguyen, STW Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder. "We want to make Nha Trang a must-visit destination in Vietnam and Southeast Asia."
Skylight serves both specialty and classic craft cocktails created by the international team of skilled bartenders who made Lock & Key a world famous cocktail destination.
"We're introducing a lot of new things, but everything is inspired by the local culture," said Cyrus Batchan, STW Co-founder, Lock & Key Founder and Director Operations at Skylight. "Skylight isn't just an L.A. venue set in Nha Trang. Take our craft cocktails, for example, we're using local ingredients and flavors to create drinks that enhance the existing cocktail culture in Vietnam. We are creating a lot behind the bar and in the kitchen, from house made tonics and tinctures to curing meats."
It's because of the first rate cocktail program at Lock & Key that the principals can expand internationally. As long as the craft remains stellar, there's no keeping these guys behind any locked door, at home or abroad.
Lock & Key is located at 239 S. Vermont Avenue. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7pm to 2am and Sunday from 5pm to midnight. Cocktail attire suggested. Call 213-389-5625.
Story by Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy of: Lock & Key