SHERMAN OAKS UPS ITS BOOZE GAME
It’s always fun when you have to work a bit to find a new drinking spot—I don’t mean I want to jump through hoops so I can eventually pay for drinks—but when you head out to Tunnel Bar, located just off Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, look for the blue light in the alley behind Tipple & Brine.
The pay off is entry into a small speakeasy with the look of a New York City subway station. While “smart, casual dress” is required, meaning no T-shirts, shorts, sandals, hats, jerseys or baggy clothing, the feel is relaxed and comfortable at Tunnel Bar and the cocktails are stiff and tasty.
The first thing I noticed when I looked at the drink menu was an Alabama Slammer, a drink I haven’t had since I was underage. I dare you to find a handcrafted cocktail bar that is serving this drink—supposedly first made in 1971 at the Playboy bar. But according to Adam Weisblatt of Tunnel Bar and Tipple & Brine, it’s a fun throwback made with better spirits.
“An Alabama Slamer calls for Southern Comfort,” Weisblatt, says, “and we want to do drinks that are fun, and take time and work on these drinks. We can impress people by surprising them. We serve drinks with real recipes.”
A mix of Amaretto, Sloe Gin, House SoCo, OJ and lime, this Alabama Slammer is a fun throwback if you’ve ever had one before. I thought it was too sweet for me to finish but it was nice to revisit, even just for a few sips.
While the drinks cost $11, you may not want to order one just for a few sips so let’s get to the rest of the stiff and stellar lineup. We started with the Sister Ray, a really nice and potent mix of rye, rum, sherry, velvet falerum, and bitters. Think of this as a pirate’s Manhattan served up.
The Cuba Reforme is a refreshing and easy to drink mix of Sloe Gin, Coke, lime and bitters. It’s simple and so satisfying.
And just like the Alabama Slammer, Tunnel Bar’s other surprising cocktail is their Hurricane, which you usually find at less than polished national chain bars where college kids without refined palettes drink just to get drunk. This version includes rum (times three), passion fruit, orange, lime, and grenadine. There’s a maximum of two per person. I found it a little sweet, stiff and somewhat hard to finish.
A favorite of mine is the Gimlet, a delicious mix of gin and lime—simple and pure. It’s one of the best Gimlets I’ve ever had. I also found the French 75, a mix of cognac, gin, lemon, bubbles, and lemon twist, refreshing and perfect for day drinking, which you won’t be doing at this bar—but it’s great nonetheless.
A specialty at Tunnel Bar is their handcrafted boozy punches, which Weisblatt is a huge fan of. These are perfect for a big group to share and enjoy. Oversized and serving four to six people, these punches are pricey and potent. Punch actually predates cocktails, so needless to say these are no joke.
The Zeinie punch is made with cognac, maraschino liqueur, pineapple and lime and is strong and packs a mean punch. The Red Lemon Branch is a stiff blend of bourbon, Campari, lemon, grapefruit and champagne. Tunnel Bar also serves the classic Fish House Punch, which can be traced back to 1732 at Philadelphia’s fishing club, the State in Schuylkill, also known as the “Fish House.” This one is a delicious mix of cognac, rum, more rum, peach liqueur, lemon and seltzer.
Tunnel Bar is a definite go-to place for anyone in the valley looking for quality drinks in a cool, rock & roll environment, but it’s enough of a good time that it should be a destination for anyone in town, just make to order car service or have a designated driver as these drinks are no joke.
“We’re a serious cocktail bar without being a serious cocktail bar,” Weisblatt says. “Tunnel Bar is a little back alley hideaway so let’s just throw down.”
Tunnel Bar is located in the alley behind 14633 Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks. Open Thurs-Sat from 8pm to 2am.