Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bar Keeper

Bar Keeper, the legendary barware shop in Silverlake, began selling liquor in October of last year.  It already was known for its selection of bitters, shakers, vintage glasses etc.  Joe Keeper, the founder/owner, was able to get permission to sell bottled liquor, on the condition that he does not hold tastings, so alas there will be no gin, whiskey or absinthe tastings coming your way soon.  I checked in with him recently, to see how the first six months went.

Joe (pictured above) has a philosophy of stocking unusual and small production liquors where possible and has a vast array of vermouths for example (below, bottom).  He does not seek to be exhaustive but looks for the best variety of each type of spirit.  It is a curated selection, in the best sense.  You won't find anything you can get at places like Trader Joes.

The wall of liquor is impressive, with multiple shelves of bottles and an old fashioned library ladder to reach bottles on high shelves (for employee use only).  Knowing that the liquor display only took up a small percentage of Barkeeper's floor space (another condition of the license) I hadn't expected the selection to be so large or so prominent.  Keeper mentioned that sales have exceeded expectations and he has had to reorder bottles on a weekly basis.

In addition to individual bottles, Bar Keeper sells boxes with all the ingredients needed to make a particular cocktail.  The Manhattan box (above) retails for $100.  Both classic cocktails and signature drinks from some of the top bartenders in Los Angeles are represented in the gift box selection.  In addition to liquor, Bar Keeper still maintains the largest selection of cocktail bitters in Los Angeles, with everything from grapefruit, Angostura and Peychaud's to more unusual varieties including chocolate and chili pepper.

Welcoming customers to the store is a "cocktail shaker" a mannequin set to "shake" cocktails when Keeper pushes a button.  Bar Keeper's selection of barware, both new and vintage is a primary reason that the store is sought out by bartenders and cocktail afficionados both near and far, but the liquor selection is a welcome addition to the selection, making it a one stop shop with everything from shakers to metal straws to liquor to the glasses to drink out of.  Keeper's knowledge of liquors is deep; it is like going to a bookstore where the clerk seems to have read every book in the store and just a few clues from you can lead you to exactly what you are looking for, except with booze, which is more fun.  So get on down to Bark Keeper in Silverlake and shake it up!

Bar Keeper: 3910 West Sunset Blvd, Silverlake. Phone: (323) 669-1675.  Website:

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