For the better part of the last decade, Julian Cox has waxed poetic with liquid tributes to America, Italy, Mexico, Peru and Morocco, constructing compelling cocktails to complement menus by some of Los Angeles's culinary best. But on October 21 the tune will change when Cox opens The Fiscal Agent, his first solo bar with longtime collaborator/restaurateur Bill Chait (Sprout LA), and one in which chef Michael Kahikina (Barrel & Ashes) will craft bar bites to fit Cox's libations.
Down an unlit side alley and up a set of stairs, The Fiscal Agent sits perched above Barrel & Ashes on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, and at the ready one will find an all-star cast. In addition to Cox, Dave Kupchinsky (previously responsible for Eveleigh's excellent intoxicants), Nick Meyer (Sotto) and Kristina Howald (Bestia) preside over the bar, and together the team has crafted a happy potpourri of drinks that celebrate tipples from the past remade using contemporary innovation and flavors inspired by their individual worldwide travels. But listen up. While the menu at the bar lists just around 10 libations, those in the know will ask for "the secret menu," which expands with another 20.
Those in the know will ask for "the secret menu"...
Toward the end of the 19th century, a cocktail called the Fiscal Agent fell into vogue, and while its recipe has since been lost, the drink is believed to be related to the Julep. So, The Fiscal Agent is Cox's ode to vintage, forgotten drinks remade in a modern way, and of course he will be offering up his own speculation of what the Fiscal Agent could have been.
Upon grabbing a seat at the bar or a chair in the rear lounge (designed by Ricki Kline who conceived The Varnish, The Normandie Club, among other LA evening haunts) and placing an order, each imbiber will begin the night's cocktail journey with an amuse, perhaps a mini coupe of Champagne or a small aperitif cocktail.
Need a vitamin fix? Order up Howald's Silly Rabbit, a white rum-based drink flavored with carrot, caramelized bananas and topped with kaffir lime and coconut foam. Most drinks ($12 to $18), like this one, are less sweet than they sound and, in fact, lean on the side of savory. As is also the case with Flight of the Concords, a Ramos Gin Fizz-inspired egg white drink with Plymouth gin, violet, Concord grapes and anise hyssop. In fact, Cox notes that his menu incorporates salt in tipples beyond the margarita.
It's worthwhile to note that two other Sprout chefs, both Rory Herrmann (formerly of Bouchon) and Tim Hollingsworth (forthcoming Otium), consulted on Fiscal's food menu, but Kahikina really lead the charge of globally-inspired cocktail-friendly fare. Think Peruvian scallop crudo with lime vinaigrette, and duck breast with pistachio gremolata served on vintage mismatched china.
With a guaranteed audience from years worth of drink-making, The Fiscal Agent is poised to make waves not just in Studio City (an improving but still under served locale for food and drink), but the whole of L.A. Finally, Cox's cocktails get the star billing they deserve.