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How LA's Top Bars Are Using the Spice Trade to Their Cocktail Advantage

The spice trade meets the cocktail.

The Express Yourself at E.P. & L.P.
The Express Yourself at E.P. & L.P.
Esther Tseng

Los Angeles has recently had an influx of restaurants highlighting flavors first imparted from spices that originated in lands far from Western civilization. Centuries ago, the historic spice trade made such spices, including turmeric, cardamom, anise, ginger, and even pepper accessible to Europeans.

Here in Los Angeles, a variety and combination of these spices have begun to find creative applications in cocktails found at restaurant bars, whether to complement the cuisine or to usher in new tasting notes in drinks.

Here are four great options for experiencing the flavors of the old spice trade routes.

LA Chapter at The Ace Hotel

Day Walker by Daniel Sabo

Daniel Sabo at the Ace Hotel has crafted an unlikely libation with turmeric, which is known to reduce inflammation. He uses Green Bar vodka and Veev açaí liqueur as the base of this drink, and adds turmeric, lemon, ginger and even absinthe. We won't tell anyone that the real reason why you're drinking this is because it's delicious.

Sāmbār

East Indian Pimm's Cup by Clare Ward

Leave it to Akasha Richmond's hot new Indian place to craft a bar menu that includes multiple spice trade-inspired cocktails. The best of the bunch is bartender Clare Ward's Pimm's Cup, which begins with muddling curry leaves (which are great for your liver & blood sugar), Persian mint, and a bit of cilantro into Pimm's No. 1 liqueur. Fresh ginger syrup, fresh lemon and a pinch of salt are added before a splash of club soda. It's a great, subtle variation that turns the normally fruity day-sipping classic slightly savory, and goes great with all food on the menu.

Birch

#3 by Gaby Mlynarczyk

This delicious gin and Aperol drink by Gaby Mlynarczyk features carrot and cardamom for a unique mix of ingredients and a drink that is pleasing to the eye and palate. This savory cocktail is surprisingly complex, with the sweet-bitter Aperol melding with the carrot juice but the cardamom spice bringing a fantastically herbal aroma. You'll barely remember that cardamom is great for your digestion.

E.P. & L.P.

Express Yourself by Adam Nystrom

This brand new cocktail at E.P. & L.P. is destined to be a favorite. House-spiced espresso is infused with a spice bouquet of star anise, cinnamon, coriander and Thai chili, then combined with Genever and Cognac, before being finished off with a dash of bitters. It's not your normal coffee drink, but an extra special, aromatic digestif that's perfect for a pick-me-up. The star anise? Great for its antioxidants and antifungal properties. Then again, this cocktail is so delicious thanks to that special espresso, you'll want it any time of day, no matter the occasion or health goals.

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