Thursday, April 21, 2011

Villainy Springs Forth at Villains Tavern

The new Spring Menu at Villains has arrived and be prepared to be scandalized by the dastardly deeds the menacing mixologists have planned for you there.  Even Lemony Snickett would approve of these libations.  Head bartender and partner Dave Whitton developed seven new cocktails and a new large format punch.  In addition, there is now a signature burger developed by former Comme Ca chef Michael David.

I was recently invited to sample the new menu, along with several compatriots including Helen, the founder of Gastronauts LA, Daniel from ThirstyinLA, Caroline of Caroline on Crack and several other criminal elements.

The Athena (above) is a Junipero Gin Martini with muddled cucumber.  It is clean and crisp. Extremely simple with no extraneous ingredients or flavors.  Whitton said that he loves Junipero Gin and that "the cucumber brings out the flavors in the gin." It is a very warm weather cocktail and the namesake goddess would have been lucky to have such nectar to drink.

The Geryon is made with Makers 46, kumquats, fresh grapefruit juice, lemon juice and bitters.  Whitton noted that kumquats go well with lighter fruits.  This is a well balanced cocktail that is simply delicious.  Grapefruit juice is another of my vices and it is a pleasure to sin with a drink like this.

The Osiris Punch comes in a vessel that can hold 15-20 glasses of punch ($125), which should sate more than a handful of your devilish companions.  There is something dramatic about such a large punch service, which is made with two bottles of Champagne, Rye Whiskey, hibiscus, mint, citrus, spices and bitters.

Osiris Punch being stirred by the hand of the Devil himself
Whitton mentioned that several ingredients on his new menu, such as kumquats and peaches are Spring fruits, which add an element of seasonality to the cocktails.  As the cocktail menu at Villains has evolved over the months, he said that he has earned the trust of his customers to have them try new things and so these cocktails play with your palate more than the previous offerings.

La Barbie, named after a Mexican drug lord, not the doll, is made with Hacienda Tequila, Aperol, citrus, red pepper, lemon juice, cranberry juice and Tapatio sauce.  Whitton told us that he used the Aperol to reduce the sweetness from the juices.  There is a spicy element to the cocktail, but it doesn't dominate and there is also a pleasant boozy undertone.

Many green teas were experimented with to find just the right one to add to the Loki, which is made with Haute Vodka infused with green tea, sage, house-made honey peach syrup, citrus and soda.  This was a rather mellow cocktail.

The Isis, made with Pisco, basil, cucumber, lemon juice, lime juice, egg whites and sugar sounded liked a very frothy cocktail but was not.

For a cocktail on the sweeter side, the Astarte is a good option.  Elijah Craig, cucumbers, strawberries, flower water, cane sugar and citrus are combined in one goblet.

The final new cocktail on the menu is the Ma'at, named after the Egyptian personification of truth and justice.  You can have your soul measured against the goddess's feather or you can simply sip the drink named after her, made with Sagatiba Cachaça, canteloupe, citrus, and chile salt.  Note that the menu says "Chilean salt" but what is meant is chile salt, not salt from the country of Chile.

Former Comme Ça Executive Chef Michael David created a "Great Burger" for the food truck Great Balls on Tires, who take over the Villains Tavern kitchen several nights a week.  The Great Burger is made with a half pound of coarsely ground Angus beef, bacon onion jam, cheddar cheese, grainy mustard aioli, raw red onion on a toasted brioche bun.  I sampled it without the bacon onion jam and it was rather tasty.

However I was surprised by the Great Balls on Tires Ballywood chicken meatball dish.  It is made with Garam Chiken Masala with saffron Basmati rice and several chutneys.  This dish (below) is now in my top two or three food truck dishes, along with the Buttermilk Truck's Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches.  The Ballywood so exceeded expectations that I am plotting when to try it again.  Fortunately for me, they cook at Villains frequently, so I know where to get these amazing chicken meatballs.

The Geryon is the highlight of the new cocktail list for me, although if I was with a group I think the Osiris punch is irresistible and a great value.  The new cocktails are $12 each, although the Athena is $13.  After all, she is the goddess of wisdom.  The patio space at Villains only gets more appealing as the weather gets nicer. With live music every night they are open, the patio is a comfortable spot to while away an evening drinking cocktails, enjoying the food, listening to music or buying souls.  Tuesday night is trivia night.

Villains Tavern: 1356 Palmetto St, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 613-0766.  Website:


  1. I was totally blown away by the Bollywood Ball when I had it at a recent DomaineLA wine tasting. Probably the best thing I've had from a truck ever! Definitely something I'd chase after again!

  2. I know. Simply amazing. I had no idea that they would be so delicious. The flavor was great, not too spicy but not bland at all. And chicken could have easily been dry, but these were juicy.

    We should plan a Ballywood meatballs and drinks expedition!

  3. the Geryon was definitely my fave cocktail of the night and the punch wasn't too shabby either