LOCK & KEY
OPENING THE DOOR TO SPEAKEASY HEAVEN
These days, the handcrafted cocktail scene is really getting crowded and extremely competitive, which is a good thing for fans of fine drinks. Amid the myriad of great speakeasy bars from the beach to Hollywood, Downtown, and don’t forget Pasadena, is Lock & Key—where an unassuming facade along Vermont Avenue gives way into a sweet speakeasy spot serving first rate libations.
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 next door to a food stall. But that doesn’t get you in just yet. Then, walk inside and try to find the right doorknob to really give you access into a cool setting serving divine drinks.
“A gentle pull on the correct knob will grant you passage into a world of incomparable wonder,” a simple sign reads.
Since its opening, Lock & Key has quickly become a favorite haunt with an extensive list of unique craft drinks paired with classic cocktails. From the Strawberry Mule, to the Rum Old-Fashion, to the Aviation, they make all the classics but with a Lock & Key twist.
Located in Koreatown, Lock & Key is a 1920's inspired speakeasy developed by entrepreneur Cyrus Batchan and serves innovative and unique craft cocktails created by acclaimed mixologist Christophe Namer. The bar/lounge also serves food from their attached food window Stall 239 with favorites such as the Lollipop Chicken Wings; The Angry Bird (Taiwanese style fried chicken breast served on a buttery Hawaiian roll topped with house made spicy coleslaw); “BG Fries” (butter garlic fries); and a deep fried PB&J for dessert.
After opening in late February 2013, Lock & Key has proven to be a hidden gem. Billed as your favorite neighborhood mixology bar serving specialty craft cocktails, amazing wines and craft beers, this is a go-to place to chill, see and be seen, and, most importantly, drink some damn good cocktails.
When the joint is jumping, there can be up to six bartenders working (there’s a long bar inside and another in the outdoor patio), but even then, these drinks are time consuming. Hence the sign: Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. Please be patient while our mixologists craft something special for you.”
A favorite, and one handpicked by mixologist Christophe Namer as our first cocktail during a recent night out, was the Beau Carré —bourbon whiskey, cognac, yellow chartreuse, Benedictine, Angostura bitters, and lemon peel. The drinks at Lock & Key run the gamut from stiff, to sweet and sassy. None were overpowering or too saccharine; instead they’re savory and made with fresh ingredients. You call tell by watching Namer and his staff at work that they take their cocktail making serious, which I appreciate and greatly enjoyed.
Some classic cocktails, like the Whiskey Sour, Negroni, Blood & Sand, and Aviation all feature traditional ingredients but Namer has slightly changed the pours, creating extremely balanced cocktails that are so very pleasant.
Another winner is the Secret Coalition, made with rye whiskey, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, Pastis Rince, and grapefruit peel. The Mazical, features mezcal, Genever Gin, Lillet Blanc, artichoke liqueur (that’s right, artichoke liqueur), sherry, and lemon peel. And the lovely Pomme Pressée made with Calvados, cognac, Amaro, pomegranate liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and an apple slice.
Drinks range from $12 to $14, except for the special Barrel Aged Cocktail, which changes from time to time, that one goes for $15 but it does pack a punch.
I can’t say it’ll be easy to get in, these days it’s quite the mob scene to drink, and places like No Vacancy, Dirty Laundry, and Lock & Key are popular and really do make cocktails that are worth the time, money and energy to put down the remote control and venture outside. But rest assured, you’ve opened the door to good times.
Lock & Key is located at 239 S. Vermont Ave. Open Tues-Sat from 7pm to 2am; Sunday 4pm-12am.