DTLA: Onyx and LA’s Cocktail Scene
A few weeks ago, I visited Pattern Bar and the Vixen and I were less than thrilled by the minuscule discount for happy hour. We hightailed it to Onyx, another new bar in DTLA. There we happily discovered all the well-made cocktails were $6 for happy hour and an interesting bar food menu. The specialty cocktails normally range from $9-11.
I didn’t know anything about the cocktail list at Onyx when I first walked in but after reading it, I realized there was some serious thought to it. It wasn’t a slap-dash list using horrible club booze with an expensive price tag. Then I saw the list was by Douglas Williams. The name sounded familiar so I inquired if Douglas Williams was Liquid Douglas as I know him on twitter. It was!
Douglas recently moved to LA from SF where he was tending bar at Rye. He co-owns a cocktail consulting business with a partner in San Diego and it just made sense to move south. Recently he worked at Tar Pit. Now he consults at Onyx and 10 Pound at the Montage. He also tends bar at Cana once a week, usually on Mondays.
We are in a cocktail renaissance and have been for a while with lots of great bars in LA. Some would say we’re not quite at the point of New York or even San Francisco but I know it’s just a matter of time. With bartenders like Douglas who has studied with King Cocktail Dale Degroff and went to the very first Tales of the Cocktail ten years ago, it’ll be interesting to see where the cocktail scene goes in the next couple of years in LA.
I was invited back to try some new cocktails for the upcoming new cocktail list. We started out with the smoked peach Mint Julep. Douglas had smoked the white peaches himself. After tasting them, he may go to red peaches for the future cocktails.
Douglas used Berheim wheat whiskey, Leopold Brothers’ Georgia Peach whiskey, Cardamaro for his mint juelp. Onyx will be getting the more traditional copper Moscow Mule cups in soon. Douglas says he plans to also do a ginger foam on top.
We happily nibbled on some caviar (American sturgeon) with corn blinis. As Onyx says, salty, sweet, warm and soft.
Tournedos Rossini named after the Classical composer is normally made with foie gras. At Onyx, they bring the liver flavor in with chicken liver pate, roasted shitatakes as well as a veal stock. Really great beef. I had fun eating the salad with truffle essence.
While talking about savory cocktails for brunch, I mentioned I preferred Bloody Marys over Belinis. Douglas has brought in the FIDM Cup as his answer to brunch’s new libation. Onxy will be serving brunch soon. Their current hours are 4:30 to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday (Happy Hour is 4:30 to 7 p.m. and they have a reverse happy hour as well).
Originally the FIDM Cup featured muddled celery but now uses celery bitters in addition to dandelion and burdock root bitters. The drink is made with No. 3 gin, lime, fresh cucumber and the two bitters. I really liked this drink. It’s the perfect daytime cocktail.
When I first went to Onyx, I had the Padrino (Pisco, sherry, maraschino, bitters) but had thought about the Trickster (Kirsch, Maruin Quina, bitters) first. The bartender Scott declared I liked obscure drinks. No, just a booze nerd in search of her next cocktail.
Douglas upped the ante on the Padrino by switching it up. Now it’s Encanto Pisco, Barolo Chinato Cocchi, Maraska maraschino and bitters. He’s playing with different bitters. We tried Bitter Tears’ Lucille and Regan’s orange bitters. It was interesting to hear Douglas talk about SF bartenders preferring orange bitters while LA takes after NYC in using Angostura bitters.
On the bar menu, you’ll find some standards like spicy garlic fries, a few different salads, pork sliders and quite a few different seafood options. We locked in the mojo marinated pork sliders which weren’t basic at all. They were juicy and tasty. We were surprised by the fish and chips which was a bit of a misnomer. Instead of your typical English beer-battered cod, we got shrimp ceviche. We probably should have read the description. Perhaps we should have ordered the Old Man & the Sea which are habenero-scented conch fritters and plantain chips. It’s been a while since I had Haitian style conch fritters. Onyx recommends theirs to be paired with the Papa Doble cocktail (rum, Maraska maraschino, lime, white grapefruit).
On our first trip the Vixen had Spring Street Smash (bourbon, blackberry, basil, lemon, Sambuca) and the Bitter Muse (mezcal, sour cherries, Gran Classico). I liked the Bitter Muse.
I had the aforementioned Padrino and Leonora’s Fizz (gin, applejack, raspberry, lemon, egg white). Next time I’d like to try the Lost Angel. Douglas showed me a saffron infused gin and I believe the Lost Angel is made with it (gin, saffron, lemon, Maraska).
I’ve been on a Manhattan kick lately and Douglas made me one final drink. His Manhattan had Michter’s rye, Barolo Chinato cocchi and bitters. Stirred and boozy, just the way I like it.
For a taste of what’s trending in the cocktail world, visit Onyx and check out their cocktail list by Douglas Williams.