The glory days of the three martini lunch may be over, but there are plenty of good reasons to drink your calories. Dessert cocktails, for example. Whether you prefer something that’s as close to a rich, creamy, plated slice of indulgence as possible, or an old-school after-dinner digestif, there are watering holes up and down SoCal to cater to your desserty dreams. These are a few of our favorites.
The Golden State
426 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
While not exactly a cocktail, no true list of LA dessert drinks would be complete without a mention of the beer float at The Golden State. A dark and delicious pint glass of Old Rasputin beer with one scoop of Tai Kim’s SCOOPS gelato (my favorite is the brown bread – a vanilla/caramel flavor). The result is a cold, creamy concoction with a milky/cool attack and bittersweet hops on the back end. You’ll feel like a kid again… you know… if you happened to be a kid who drank beer…
The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90028-7304
It’s impossible to talk about Los Angeles cocktail programs without talking about The Hungry Cat. Helmed, at various times, by chef/owner David Lentz, Matthew Eggleston and the ubiquitous Steve Livigni, the bar changes its menu seasonally, and anyone would have to work hard to find a bad drink. The “After 8” cocktail is currently anchoring the sweeter section of the beverage menu. A blend of Curenta y Tres 43, Prunier Axel Gay Grande Champagne Cognac, a bit of milk and mint and lemon, it’s almost like a melted ice cream, with a warm kick of alcoholic heat at the end. The kick balances the sweet; how sweet it is.
Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
If you’re aware of the wave of high quality cocktails hitting adult watering holes across America – the ones that ban Red Bull from the bar, in favor of farmer’s market produce and house-made bitters – you have Matthew Biancaniello to thank. He’s turned the Library Bar – a small alcove tucked away in dark wood and warm leather, off the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – into a veritable green house of boozy infusions. His “Last Tango in Modena” is made with 25 year old Balsamic vinegar from Modena – the birthplace of Balsamic. This isn’t salad dressing vinegar, it’s thick, it’s sweet, and Matthew blends it with fresh strawberries, Hendrick’s gin, and a lime-kissed St. Germaine foam. The combination brings out the sweetness of the strawberries, while playing down the vinegar tang. The result is a sweet/sour combination that’s impossible to put down.
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
It seems as if Julian Cox has satisfied more thirsty drinkers than Sparkletts. With stints at Comme Ça, Test Kitchen, Rivera and now at Playa, he’s left his mark all across the libatious LA landscape. At Playa, Cox tempers his “An Andalusia” cocktail to where the diner is in her meal. Just starting? He adds Fino sherry to the reposado tequila/Cocchi Americano/Perucchi Vermouth combo. The mid-meal sherry selection is Amontillado. But, for dessert, it’s all about East India sherry: Light, bright, nutty oxidization, with a touch of sweetness, braced against a swift spray of lemon essence. Andalusia is, indeed, a land of joy…
PF Chang’s China Bistro
Whut whut? Yes. After all, what round-up of dessert drinks could ignore those glasses of sweet indulgence one melts into, like so much whipped cream on an Irish Coffee? The “Key Lime Pie Martini” from PF Chang’s is everything a dessertivore could wish for: Layers of that vanilla-tinged favorite, Curenta y Tres 43; combined with key lime juice and cream; and finished with a graham cracker rim. It tastes so much like a slice of real key lime pie, you’ll swear you ordered the lettuce cups from a sweet little 60’s dinette.
The Tar Pit
609 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
With a brand-spankin’-new cocktail menu recently introduced, Tar Pit continues its reputation as one of the city’s best go-to locations for libations. Bar manager Douglas Williams mixed me up a “Post Prandial,” with a smile on his face – Bols Genever, Cognac Prunier, Crème de Cacao, and a touch of both chocolate and orange bitters. It’s a slightly malty, orange concoction with a satisfying chocolaty finish. The Prunier provides a warm cognac kiss – especially fitting, since this dessert drink for grown-ups will leave you feeling light’s out by the time you’ve drunk yourself down to the bitter end.
1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291-3744
Justin Pike anchors the small-but-powerful bar at the back of The Tasting Kitchen restaurant with the grace of a ballerina and the brain of a Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails guide. As he grabs a small apothecary jar of this and a rind of that, he takes imbibers through the history of the modern-day pick-me-up, sometimes stopping to apologize to his rapt listeners for taking them back in time. I’m pretty sure no one has ever actually complained. Justin’s take on the dessert drink – a classic after-dinner digestif, the kind of thing you can imagine sipping while sitting in an over-stuffed club chair, while smoking a deliciously contraband cigar – is appropriately called the “Bourbon General’s Warning.” Bourbon 100, house-made Kola syrup, Fernet Branca, Torani Amer and a splash of Pedro Ximenez. This tonic might not be good for your diet, but it’s certainly good for the soul.