Drago Centro’s New Bar Manager & Spring Cocktails

The Diplomat

The Diplomat

Sometimes I really hate change. But you always want what’s best for your friends. Recently bar manager Jaymee Mandeville left Drago Centro to take an opportunity with Barcadi. This left my “home bar” scrambling to find someone to fill Jaymee’s creative shoes. They ran with her old Winter list for a while and the first new bar manager didn’t work out. And then all of sudden, a new guy was announced. I haven’t met Kyle Ackley yet. I went in this week to try the new drinks which rolled out a week or so ago but the restaurant was crazy busy. They had a buy out the night before and the evening I went was packed with private parties- on a Tuesday. Wonderful for the restaurant, horrible for a regular trying to get a drink at the bar.

Fortunately when I really want something, I make sure I get it and pounced on a couple of just vacated seats before the ladies could even take two steps away. Sure, it can be stressful but I needed to try this guy’s stuff. I want to make sure the cocktails match the always outstanding food from Chefs Celestino and Ian. I can’t help but feel territorial about Drago since I watched this restaurant being built and was in the first week it opened. Then I was in almost every couple of weeks since my office was across the street. I don’t make it in as often these days since I’m on the other side of Downtown but I still like coming in and especially like bringing new people with me to try the wonderful bar menu.

All Dolled Up

All Dolled Up

I ordered the Diplomat based on the advise of Chelsy, one of the bartenders at Drago Centro. She was now my front woman to the bar as I lobbed cocktail ideas at her. Would I like this drink or that? Then she said the magic words, “it’s like a whiskey sour.” Oh really? Must try it then.

The Diplomat (bourbon, honey syrup, apple balsamic reduction, lemon, fennel ice cube) took a bit to get to me. They apparently had to remake the ice cube with featured pretty bits of fennel fronds. Chelsy was right, this did taste like a whiskey sour minus the egg white). It’s a good starter drink.

My friend had the All Dolled Up (Karlsson’s vodka, Campari, vanilla rhubarb shrub, grapefruit, lemon, egg white). It’s interesting to me and hard not to think of it when I read the cocktail list to think of Jaymee. She favored certain spirits like Karlsson’s, Casa Noble, Bulleit which all show up on this menu. I wonder at what point is this list really Kyle’s or is he trying to use up the stock left by his predecessor? In any case, my friend did like her drink. The Campari balances the tartness of the other ingredients. It’s basically a wonderful vodka sour. It’s fairly radical for a vodka drinker and I hope this drink will hook them into trying new cocktails.

Il Cocciuto

Il Cocciuto

The bar wasn’t getting any less busy and it was a bit stressful for me to look at as the new guys worked like mad men to get drinks out. I decided on one more drink and come back another night to try the rest. I ordered the Il Cocciuto (Bulleit rye, Cynar, ginger syrup, lemon, bitters, pickled artichoke). Chef Celestino just happened to walk by when I got this drink and I got a personal Italian pronunciation lesson from him. Il Co=chu-toh. But of course I’m not as charming when I say it. I only took 3 semesters of Italian after all.

I loved this drink but I have a peculiar fondness of Cynar and artichokes. I would recommend though putting a cocktail stick through the artichoke because if you didn’t eat it right away, you might lose it to the bottom of your glass.

The cocktails I’d like to try next are the Nicolina (Casa Noble reposado, plum jam, rosemary, Cabernet Sauvignon), The Merchant (Smith & Cross rum, Velvet falernum, lime, chocolate bitters, Pilsner) and Old Flame (mezcal, bourbon, wood syrup, spice, citrus oils).

I’m looking forward to meeting the new bar manager Kyle who I understand used to work at Lexington Social House, XIV, Gordon Ramsay West Hollywood and is featured on the Domain de Canton site.

Drago Centro

525 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071(213) 228-8998

© The Minty 2013