Here's an installment of Cocktail Confidential, a look at one bartender's favorite places to drink when he or she is off the clock. First up, Dan Sabo at the Ace Hotel in Downtown.
Barman Dan Sabo is a creature of routine and consistency, having spent years in New York on the opening team at Brooklyn’s Five Leaves, working his way diligently up to beverage director and general manager. Now on the West Coast, Sabo holds the overall beverage manager title for Ace Hotel property in Downtown Los Angeles, which includes L.A. Chapter (a Five Leaves sister restaurant) in addition to the Mezzanine bar and rooftop lounge, dubbed Upstairs.
That steady approach applies to Sabo’s work behind the bar at the Ace as well, where he’s responsible for running three different cocktail programs at once. "I think the interesting thing about Los Angeles is how collaborative the city is," says the transplanted New Yorker, who only landed in late 2013. "We've all banded together to take things more seriously as a city. And as a microcosm, that’s how we run things at the Ace."
"All of our bars have their own identity. They’re each able to do their own thing and run their own programs, but we’re all readily sharing information because there’s such a desire to keep the Ace, and all of us individually, moving forward."
It feels like New York to me.
Such even-handed communalism works well for Sabo and the Ace team, who turned heads and won plenty of acclaim at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. It’s also the sort of creature-of-habit quirk that keeps barstools warm for Sabo at his favorite few haunts around town. "The Normandie Club is probably my favorite bar in town right now," says Sabo. "It feels like New York to me. That’s where I grew up, so it’s always nice to go there and feel at home."
But then, just when you think you’ve got Sabo’s routine down, he shows you that he’s spent enough time behind the stick to know when to innovate. "I just went to The Walker Inn, and it changed my entire concept of beverages. It’s the most engrossing experience I’ve had in a very long time."
See? You can still teach an old bartender new drinks.