COCKTAIL REVIVAL COMES TO HOLLYWOOD
I’m a big fan of dining and drinking in hotels. Most of the time they’re swanky hot spots that hip travelers and locals in the know haunt to dine on fine cuisine or drink stellar libations. I wouldn’t necessarily think that a Best Western would be one of those places, but Hollywood, which is all about facades and reinvention, can often be a misleading leading lady. A perfect example is MiniBar, a lovely retro bar located on the group floor of a Best Western on busy Franklin Avenue.
Hipsters have long been familiar with this Best Western ever since its café was featured in the 1996 groundbreaking film Swingers. Renamed Café 101 in 2001, the diner and coffee shop is considered a historical landmark and favorite go-to spot by many. In June 2015, the team behind Little Dom’s, Dominick’s, and Café 101 opened MiniBar, a charming bar for quality craft cocktails. As they like to say, “There will be no foams or flames, just unfussy drinks made by professional bartenders.”
The bar is run by Jeremy Allen, a certified sommelier, and the cocktails coming out of this little bar aren’t to be missed. According to the bar’s web site “Jeremy has spent tons of time drinking in the best and worst bars and restaurants, backstages and backyards across the world. While we do have great booze, we try not to be too precious about it. We like to have fun.”
And fun is what I had during my recent visit. Depending on when you’re at MiniBar, your experience may vary, as the vibe can range from chill and easygoing if it’s not too crowded (it only sits 32 people) to loud and lively if the locals from nearby Franklin Village, Beachwood Canyon and Hollywood are on the loose.
The cocktail menu is pretty varied, from fun and playful to subtle and stiff. Be aware that the cocktail menu only offers a playful description of each drink but not the ingredients. If you want to know exactly what you’re drinking get to know Jeremy. You won’t regret it. Fans of a good martini should definitely try The Bernard, which was named one of the best martinis in Los Angeles by Time Out Los Angeles. A mix of London Dry Gin and dry vermouth with a pickled mushroom and a salt-cured olive, this is a great starter if you’re fan of stiff drinks, otherwise it may be one and done for the night.
Fun drinks include the Regal Beagle Twinkle Toes made with a Three’s Company of royal bloodlines—think Greyhound, Sloe Gin Fizz, and Kir Royale all in one. And the Three’s Company comparison is pretty good description of MiniBar if that Santa Monica bar was known for serving first rate, handcrafted drinks. Likewise, another fun cocktail is the Alpine Hippie Juice is a mix of herbal liqueur and cassis and is served shaken cold and strained.
And speaking of fun, get to know the Fuzzy del Navel made with Singani and Orchard Apricot. It looks tiki cute served with a colorful umbrella. This one took me back to my days of underage drinking. Good times!
Fans of a classic Harvey Wallbanger will appreciate this version made with gin, Galliano and OJ. It’s pretty rad.
Stiff drinks that wholly satisfied include The Melvin with 101 Rye and Manischewitz vermouth. Think of this one as a kosher Manhattan. And not to be outdone, This Old House is a Rusty Nail made with rosemary and an absinthe rinse, while the Godfather 101 is a potent punch of scotch, aged rum, amaretto and aromatic bitters. Those last two bad boys definitely get the job the done.
A great neighborhood find, as well as drinking destination, start your night at MiniBar or just make a festive evening out of it enjoying bold and pleasing drinks in the heart of Hollywood.
MiniBar is open Sun - Thurs from 5pm to 12am and Fri and Sat from 5pm to 2amand is located inside the Best Western Hotel at 6141 Franklin Ave. Free valet parking available. Call 323-798-4939.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: MiniBar