After they parted ways with 213 Hospitality last year, the couple moved to Las Vegas to see what they could do about the craft cocktail situation in Sin City. Katz and Crouch still live in Vegas but came back this summer just to consult on Here's Looking at You's drink program: building the bar, creating the cocktail menu, training the staff.
And time away from Los Angeles hasn't dulled their instincts about what we like here. Their new 13-drink menu, which is inspired by the evolution of Lien Ta and chef Jonathan Whitener's restaurant, features a wide range of flavors and formats. They even worked with the kitchen for many of the ingredients and techniques.
Treat yourself to the $26 Mai Tai, history in a cocktail glass. Or toast to Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister with a Lemmy-inspired Old Fashioned sweetened with tobacco-smoked Mexican Coke syrup.
But here are my thoughts on a few of the drinks I tried.
Whitener didn't really want to exclusively offer Tiki drinks on the menu, but Katz and Crouch snuck in this one with a bitter angle. The Psychic Reader, one of my favorites, is a twist on a Trader Vic's classic, the Angostura Fizz. But they swapped out the grenadine with mango nectar in the recipe, as well as the cream for coconut cream. And yet it's not a syrupy drink thanks to the extreme dryness of the Angostura bitters. If you wondered where the cocktail's name came from, just look to the neon "Psychic Reader" sign hanging on the exterior over the bar window. Yup, there used to be a psychic reader booth there.
There's really no better way to start a meal here than with this very wet and summery martini. The strawberry 50/50 variation is made with navy gin, sweet white vermouth, blood orange bitters, and garnished with a house pickled strawberry. It's then served in a vintage glass with a sidecar of excess, just like you'd get with a martini at Musso & Frank's in Hollywood. But what I really needed was for this to be served in one of those 750ML wine goblets. So light, it quenches your thirst and primes your palate for the night ahead. One is simply not enough. Every seasonal cocktail menu at HLAY will be kicked off with a wet martini variation, and starting in the fall, they'll make their own vermouth.
How could anyone say no to a Tiki version of modern classic, the Penicillin? For this genius variation known as Tropical Medicine, the kitchen roasts pineapple in a Big Green Egg Grill, then uses it to infuse Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition. The now tropicalized scotch blend is then shaken with fresh lemon, ginger, and a splash of Islay scotch. If you thought the Penicillin was refreshing, this is exactly what you'd want on a desert island. That pineapple touch works beautifully with the smoky scotch and ginger heat.
Time Card Special
I hate pickles and consider myself a beer snob. So the fact that this pickleback sorbet paired with Miller High Life counts as one of my favorites on the drink menu says a lot about how skillfully this was put together. The sorbet actually tastes more like a melon with some jalapeno heat, but I'm not complaining. And you really do need the maltiness of the "champagne of beers" to soothe the heat of the frozen treat. The extra bonus comes from the 50 proof sorbet, so you can totally get a buzz from this. "We worked with Chef to put alcohol in the sorbet so it's absolutely boozy," says Katz. By the way, this Time Card Special comes with an actual time card that has your name on it and a stamp. After 10 visits (10 stamps), you'll get to have dinner at the employee rate.
I really wanted to like this cocktail. After all, it was inspired by a yuzu chocolate doughnut. The drink is made with a dark Venezuelan rum, chocolate rum, coconut tea, yuzu, lemongrass, and fresh lime. Unfortunately I'm not a fan of mixing fruit and chocolate and this union ended up tasting like a Tootsie roll. Not my favorite flavor profile.
This is an ambitious first menu for a new restaurant/bar but Katz, Crouch, and their team mostly pull it off. Fingers crossed that when the couple's consulting days are over in a year that HLAY will continue the momentum of unique and tasty culinary-inspired cocktails.
Here's Looking at You. 3901 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Headline photo by Shant Kiraz