Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tom Bergin's Irish Coffee of Dreams

Tom Bergin's reopened in May after a long closure to revamp the space, the cocktails and the food menu.  The classic Irish pub still exudes its traditional vibe, only cleaner and with better drinks and bites.  The cocktail menu was created by Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest of Liquid Assets, who included Irish whiskey in each of their signature beverages.

I stopped by when the renovation was first complete but was recently invited back to see Bergin's now that it has settled into its current comfortable form.

Not to be missed are two versions of Irish Coffee: Irish Coffee and the Sheridan Special.  The Irish Coffee is made with Bushmill's Irish Whiskey, hot coffee, demerara sugar and a generous serving of cream.  The Sheridan's Special, named after Joe Sheridan who created Irish Coffee at the local airport in Dublin in 1942 to warm up fliers, is a cold version of the signature Irish Coffee.  Their house coffee is combined with Bushmill's and Galliano Ristretto, stirred over ice and then poured into a glass and topped with hand whipped cream.  Decadent and dessert-like.  You can't go wrong with either.

Irish Coffee
When I first sampled the Cooper Union in May, I found it to be too sweet.  Either the recipe has been tweeked or the bartender is now making it properly as the current version is quite pleasing. Red Breast, St. Germain, Orange Bitters and Islay Scotch come together in this this cocktail served in an old fashioned glass.  Nicely potent without overpowering, this stirred cocktail is a pleasing aperitif.
Cooper Union
The Mascushla Manhattan, made with Black Bush stirred with Benedictine, Lillet and Angostura bitters, is a very mellow Manhattan variant.  Garnished with a lemon peel, this drink will relax quietly at the table rather than assert itself.

Macushla Manhattan
Bushmill's Whiskey, Blended Scotch, orgeat and lemon juice come together in the Cameron's Kick, a classic recipe straight from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book.  The almond syrup stands in for sugar in this take on the Whiskey Sour.  This shaken cocktail is frothy and on the lighter side.
Cameron's Kick
The Irish Maid is the Emerald Isle's answer to the mojito with Bushmill's, sugar, lime juice, mint and cucumber joining forces in an easy sipping cocktail.
Irish Maid
The Peeled Irish Buck is garnished with candied ginger and made with Bushmill's, apple juice, ginger syrup, lime juice and soda water.  Bucks are a category of cocktail made with ginger ale, ginger beer, or in this case ginger syrup and soda water, and mixed with citrus and alcohol and served in a collins glass.  If you'd like to learn more, this excellent piece by Camper English goes into detail.
Peeled Irish Buck
The makeover did not end at the bar, but continued into the kitchen, as the menu consists of classic Irish dishes, executed well.  My favorite items were the lamb stew, the fish & chips, the fried chicken skin and the fried cooleeney cheese.  The Fried Spicy Chicken Skin (below) was crunchy and lightly spiced and was served with a Cashel Blue cheese sauce.  Fried chicken skin should be on more menus around town.  It isn't the most visually appealing dish, but it is delicious.

Chicken Skin
The French Fries in the Fish & Chips were among the best I have eaten lately, with enough crunch but not too soft.  The fish is also lightly battered, and not too oily.
Fish & Chips
The Fried Cooleeney Cheese with Irish curry apple salad is an unusual dish and is recommended.
Fried Cheese
The Irish Stew is a hearty stew with lamb, potatoes, carrots and onions.  I enjoyed it very much, but wish that there had been more lamb in it.  This dish would not fill you up by itself.
Lamb stew
The corned beef and cabbage is fine but not worth crossing town for.  Langer's this is not.
Corned Beef
The Cottage Pie is another well executed potato dish, made with braised beef, so a cut above a Shepard's Pie.
Pot Pie
All in all Tom Bergins is now a winner, whether you want to get a pint or a cocktail in the main bar area or retreat to the calm of the dining room.  The prices are reasonable (entrees above were $13 - $18) and the establishment is literally an LA classic.  As Tello and Demarest trained the bar staff, they can execute the classics as well as the cocktail list, but this isn't the place to ask for an esoteric libation.

If you come often enough, you may merit a shamrock on the crowded ceiling of the bar room.  An achievement worth striving for.

Tom Bergin's: 840 S. Fairfax Ave, Mid City | 323.936.7151 |

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