Julian Cox, the influential bartender who's helped open such restaurants as Rivera, Picca, Bestia, and more recently, The Rose, is moving to Chicago in a surprise career turn. After teaming up with Sprout Restaurant group over the past few years, and helping to establish Los Angeles as one of the country's best cocktail towns, Cox is seeking a more balanced lifestyle in the Windy City, taking up a gig with Rich Melman's massive Lettuce Entertain You restaurant empire.
Cox made the announcement today on a Facebook post, thanking all the bartenders and people who've helped him along with his career. He also mentioned that opening eight concepts in the last year alone has drained him personally. The last place Cox opened, The Fiscal Agent, was his first standalone bar concept (though it was placed above Barrel & Ashes), and it was probably his magnum opus in Los Angeles.
Since starting at Comme Ça's bar back in the mid-aughts, Cox launched his own mixology career at Rivera, where such iconic drinks as the Donaji and Barbacoa found their first home. After partnering with Bill Chait on a number of other projects, such as Sotto and Picca, Cox went on to found his own consulting company Soigne Group with Josh Goldman. The duo proceeded to create programs at Manhattan Beach's now defunct Circa, now-closed Acabar in Hollywood, and finally their own setup at Brilliantshine, though the last project also closed because of partner disputes after a modest run.
Cox never stopped creating programs for Sprout concepts, developing menus at Petty Cash Taqueria and more recently at Venice's The Rose and Studio City's The Fiscal Agent. Cox helped develop so many menus and train numerous bartenders that Jonathan Gold even printed an initial error in his Broken Spanish review linking Cox to the program when in fact Michael Lay was the one who helmed the bar.
Here's a choice quote from Cox's statement:
I have been searching my soul for meaning and purpose over the last couple months. Hard work has defined my path and has brought me success in my career, but it has also consumed me. Friends, it has never been easy doing what we do in hospitality. Creativity has come at a cost. Years of dealing with the pressures and cumulative weight of politics, personalities, and forced creativity had brought me to the brink of self destruction. For the second time in my career I thought of leaving the business.
It's interesting to see a slight mention on the "pressures and cumulative weight of politics, personalities, and forced creativity," in light of the recent implosion at Sprout Restaurant Group, long regarded as the dominant force in the LA restaurant scene. While Sprout still maintains operational involvement with all of its restaurants, Bill Chait's recent disassociation with the group, plus the laying off of nearly all of the group's in-house marketing team, indicates that something was building up for a long time.
Cox's cocktail programs were always noted for their creative names, market-fresh ingredients, and genre-bending flavors. Perhaps no one bartender has better expressed what it means to portray the city of Los Angeles in a glass, and for that, we'll certainly miss his contribution to the bartending profession. That is, until he returns from Chicago.
Here's a statement from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises regarding Cox's installment:
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is pleased to announce that Julian Cox will be re-locating to Chicago to work with partners R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman and chef/partner Doug Psaltis. His first project with the group will be overseeing the beverage program on behalf of the soon-to-open Italian trattoria il Porcellino. Julian Cox, who was named one of the 10 most influential bartenders of the past 10 years by Food & Wine magazine, was most recently at The Fiscal Agent in Los Angeles.