One of the most anticipated aspects of the NoMad Hotel Los Angeles opening up in Downtown has got to be its four bars with three cocktail programs by James Beard award-winning barman Leo Robitschek, the man behind the third best bar in the world this year. Just around the corner from the other cocktail-loving hotel, Freehand Los Angeles, and steps away from, well really, all the best bars in the area, the NoMad Hotel helps Downtown claim the title of best barhopping area in town.
But, how will a very New York program with booze-forward classics translate to the laidback, endless summer vibe of LA?
It’ll have to be a waiting game for Robitschek’s frozen cocktails and poolside sippers at the pool and roof bar, which won’t be open to hotel guests until March. However, in speaking with Robitschek, he’s adapted his cocktails and bars to suit Angeleno tastes while still fitting them into the NoMad template of classics.
A NoMad team had set the groundwork a year before the hotel’s opening, visiting local farmers markets, befriending farmers, and working with forager Kerry Clasby to learn about the local produce. The microseasons in California introduced the barman to whole new offerings for seasonal cocktails.
“Right now we have persimmons and you also have strawberries and you have corn — all items you would never find in New York during this time,” says Robitschek. “So that’s the biggest part to me, finding the produce here that does actually taste drastically different than the produce back home. Not necessarily better or worse. There are just some items that are incredibly delicious and different.”
He also found that SoCal’s temperate winter is more conducive to easy-drinking, lighter cocktails as opposed to the robust, spirit-forward ones New Yorkers cozy up to during single-digit weather.
The bar team includes Bar Manager Dave Purcell (formerly of Melrose Umbrella Co.), Assistant Bar Manager Adam George Fournier, as well as head bartenders Charlotte Porter, David Bonateseta, Shaun Dunn and Guillermo Bravo. The dark-walled Giannini Bar, named after Bank of Italy banker Amadeo Giannini, is adjacent to the main lobby and offers additional seating among taxidermied birds in the high-ceiling Lobby and Library.
The Mezzanine restaurant bar affords a gorgeous view of the Lobby/Library below for enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail, but only has eight bar stools with three two-top tables. The narrow space, which would be perfect for a first date, is primarily for reservations.
Both Giannini and Mezzanine will share the same core cocktails like classics, NoMad classics, dark and light spirited cocktails, and mocktails. But the Giannini Bar will also offer those infamous large format “cocktail explosions” (each serve about up to eight full cocktails). The lofty Mezzanine will have reserve cocktails showcasing vintage and rare spirits, like a Jungle Bird made with a 1960s Campari. Groups of friends looking to indulge need not worry, though. Robitschek says he plans to someday offer the vintage drinks in the lobby bar, too.
Another first for NoMad is the Coffee Bar, which is situated to the right of the lobby off Olive Street and opens at 7 a.m, transitioning to a standing aperitivo bar in the evening. The ornate bar is modeled after a 300-year-old cafe in Venice, Italy, and inspired by Robitschek’s favorite aperitivo bars in Europe.
The cafe will feature wine, beer, and a low ABV draft cocktail til 5 p.m. Evening imbibers can choose among coffee- or aperitivo-based martini, sour, and spritz variations, which will change seasonally. Keep the party going with coffee-inspired drinks, like an espresso martini with cacao nib-infused cognac, a cafe con leche sour with cold brew and aged rum, or a coffee vermouth and amaro spritz. Or chill out with low ABV cocktails. Think: a Gibson variation, an Aperol Sour, and a highball spritz with grapefruit tonic, elderflower liqueur, and Barolo Chinato.
The coffee/aperitivo bar, although limited in its offerings, will stock a 25-bottle amari selection to start. But Robitschek says the limited space prevents them from serving cocktails outside of simple classics and their menu. “Our back bar is going to predominantly be amaros and aperitivos, different vermouths and different fortified wines.”
For the hotel’s opening cocktail menu, Robitschek says that 75 percent of the cocktails are ones that have previously appeared at Eleven Madison Park and NoMad. But as the team gets more settled, familiarizing itself with its farmers and purveyors, the original LA cocktails with seasonal ingredients will come to dominate the menu. As for pricing, it’s what you’d expect for the NoMad, with cocktails ranging from $16 to $18; mocktails $10. Large format cocktails for two are $32 and those serving six to eight are $125.
The New York hotel’s bars are no doubt a welcome addition to the cocktail scene downtown. But with such a rarefied vibe and upper-tier cocktails, it feels more reserved for special occasion drinking and a splurge rather than just another barhop stop.