Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blogger Bar Hop: I Lived to Tell the Tale

It all started so innocently with an emailed invitation from Caroline on Crack: a blogger bar hop organized by Aidan Demarest and sponsored by our host Erick Castro from San Francisco, the West Coast Brand Ambassador for Plymouth and Beefeater Gins. What could possibly go wrong with such a delightful plan?

On the night in question I met up with our crew of esteemed cocktail writers and aficionados at the Spare Room, the new bar and bowling alley on the second floor of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where Aidan is the General Manager. My fellow passengers on the bar hop included Caroline on Crack, Daniel from Thirsty in LA, Esther from E*starLA, Lindsay William-Ross, the editor of LAist, Josh Lurie from FoodGPS, Elina Shatkin of Squid Ink and Toque, HC from L.A. and O.C. Foodventures and Aaron Vanek from the Examiner.

The evening began with games of bowling on the twin lanes at the Spare Room.  The shoes available with lane rental (1 hr = $100 for up to 6) are more comfortable than any street shoes I own.  Despite ample servings of the Blogger Punch (top picture), I bowled my highest score ever.  This was an auspicious beginning to the night.  We were issued score cards to keep track of the drinks we consumed and were tasked with trying five different cocktails at each of the five bars we were visiting. Thanks to Thirsty in LA, we all got lei'd and were properly attired to hit the town.

Above, Caroline on Crack (center) and Lindsay (right) photograph the punch as it was served by the bowling lane.  Once we had all had our fill of the first round, Aidan herded us like cats downstairs and outside where we boarded what would become known as "The Trolley of Death."  In the photograph below, Aidan is exhorting us slowpoke bloggers to board the trolley.  He was his usual subtle self.

And oh what a trolley it was.  We rode down Hollywood Boulevard as some more excitable members of the group shouted at passersby.  Was there booze consumed on the trolley?  Of course.  We followed the cardinal rule of bar hopping and were never more than fifteen feet from a source of liquor.  In transit, that meant we brought beer and champagne with us.

The evening was amply recorded on many cameras, as HC (below) snaps a shot of me photographing him.  Not only did our merry band of bloggers continue onto the next bar, but we absconded with bartender Naomi Schimek of the Spare Room and somehow managed to persuade her to join us for our next stop at Big Bar.

At Big Bar, my photography began a hiatus that continued until our fourth stop.  When we arrived at Big Bar, thankfully Juan Sevilla, the head bartender, had planned ahead and arranged food as well as Plymouth cocktails to sate our hunger as well as our thirst.  The crowd was impressed by the vittles and Juan mixed some very tasty drinks.  He and Mia Sarazen then each pulled a Naomi and joined us on the trolley.  Smart move!

The next stop was 1886 in Pasadena, where Aidan and Marcos Tello had collaborated on the menu together.  Below, the Rose Parade cocktail, a drink named after one of the signature traditions of Pasadena.  Tello had opened the bar especially for our group, as 1886 is usually closed on Monday nights.

Now we had a quorum of bartenders in our trolley (including Marcos Tello) and we headed downtown to the Varnish to stop number four.  We took the most direct route, the Pasadena Freeway, at a very high rate of speed.  It was cold and wild and one bartender or friend scared me by getting too close to the door.  Luckily everybody stayed in the trolley. Unlike on the way to Pasadena from Hollywood, I figured out that it was warmer inside so rode in greater comfort.  January in California gets cold at night.  One excitable person called some of the people "cats" for riding inside, but he had partaken of too much beverage, a cardinal sin for a cocktail blogger.

As Thirsty in LA noted in his write up, the Varnish stop seemed to go incredibly quickly.  GM Chris Bostick and bartender Devon Tarby made several tasty concoctions, including some Plymouth Gin Fizzes (below) which were out of this world.  I had to drink mine quickly as it was time to go onto the next and final bar, Seven Grand.  As we boarded the trolley, one blogger got into a verbal altercation with a homeless person.  The situation was defused and we left peacefully, but our veneer of sophistication was wearing thin.

Seven Grand was hopping but we had reserved a nook at the 7th Street side of the bar.  The fizzy drinks with gin and lime juice were barely presented to us when we were told we had to leave in a few minutes.  I gulped down as much of mine as I could before we had to head for the exit.

Five bars in one night and then the trolley pulled into what would be my downfall, The Original Tommy's in Hollywood where I had chili fries and a burger. It was my first and last chili fries. We headed back to the Roosevelt minus FoodGPS who insisted on walking home from the burger joint. Back at the Spare Room there was a line to get in, but Aidan ushered us past the line and the paparazzi and we said our goodbyes and headed into the night.

After the evening of excess I was in no condition to drive home and was preparing to take a taxi when Elina Shatkin graciously offered to drive me home in her car. I took her up on this generous offer and before I knew it was home. Next time I see her, I owe her a drink!

So much of the night is a blur and it is remarkable how many bars we hit in such a short time. I was neither the most sober nor the most inebriated and had a great time from start to finish. The night would not have been possible without the organizing skills and energy of Aidan Demarest. A big thanks to Erick Castro and Plymouth Gin, both for sponsoring the evening and for coming along the ride. I'm sure he got more than he bargained for. Lastly, thanks to Caroline for inviting me to join in the festivities. What little I remember of the night, I will never forget.

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