In the upstairs event space over Bad Hunter, hosted and properly boozed by Hendricks Gin and their gin-teacup-holster-sporting Ambassador, Mattias Horseman, Time Out Magazine announced their 2018 Bar Awards.
Rather than list them off (you can visit Time Out and read for yourself) I want to stay in the spirit of The Local Tourist and talk about two of the winners, Lost Lake, for Best Bar, and Todos Santos, for Best Specialty Bar and in the spirit of every article I’ve ever written, I’m going to complain.
Because these are great bars. Thank you Time Out for your list, you’re the best, thank you for pointing that out to the ENTIRE WORLD, which I wish to God you had not because I’ll never get a stool at their counter again.
Not that it was easy to get into Lost Lake. I visited last year with world-renowned Tiki artist, Rarabird. (This is not just namedropping, this is establishing cred. Rarabird lives Tiki on the west coast and her pronouncement that Lost Lake was, and I’m quoting here, “Oh My God this place is fabulous!” was crucial to my understanding of their Tiki authenticity – which is world class). We’d already done serious damage at Three Dots and a Dash where the bartenders are remarkable, affable, bearded men who wish to murder you, gently, with rum-based cocktail. So when we stumbled into Lost Lake we were three sails to the wind. It was cozy and warm and you felt like you were hanging out with your closest friends in a dive bar under a volcano. I had my first sip of their extraordinary cocktail, Tic Tac Taxi, made of aged Multi-Island Rum, Overproof Jamaican rum, coconut, passionfruit, and lime and I fell in love.
I continued to fall in love with the people behind the bar, with the people pushing in through the door looking for seats, and with the people in line for the loo. Then I had their incredible, A Lonely Island Lost in the Middle of a Stormy Sea and I cried an actual tear because how in the world can something be so good? Maybe because it’s made with blackstrap rum, aged Trinidadian Rum, Rhum Agricole Blanc, and coffee, and perhaps just the tiniest little bit of voodoo. Rarabird and I dissolved into rum-soaked idiots and finished out the night scream-singing songs from Disney’s Tiki Room which did not endear us to the locals but made my love for Lost Lake deep and permanent.
I stumbled into Todos Santos by accident. I walked into Quiote to meet a friend and their host asked me where and I said, um here? Like an idiot, as if I had never read the articles in Eater or watched Anthony Bourdain (God rest his soul) and they said you don’t mean in the Mescal Bar downstairs? Which made me vibrate in place because Mescal drives me to a joyous inability to subdue my passions and I needed to be in that place immediately. We walked out the front door, around the restaurant, then squeezed my accomplished girth down steep narrow stairs, through a nondescript door into a small room with a small bar backed by an entire wall of Mescals presided over by a bartender I was about to learn was some sort of Brujo because the drinks he delivered to our table were absolute magic.
I don’t get flummoxed much by booze. I’ve been studying it non stop for thirty-eight years so I know a thing or two about trends and recurring formats and cocktails in general and let me tell you that there is nothing – NOTHING – like the cocktails at Todos Santos. They are exquisite. They are jewelish masterpieces. They are made with the same mindset of the funky sweet flavor profile of Tiki drinkology but with mescal and chilis and salt and if I could curse right here I would insert a string of luridly colorful expletives in the hopes they might elevate my description and convey my deep appreciation of this wildly original cocktail menu and cause you to go there and enjoy the very same cocktails they probably serve in Heaven.
Try this on for size: Check My SoundCloud is made with Sotol pr Siempre, Ancho Reyes Verde, Amara Nonino, lemon juice, hoja santo salt, canela, and absinthe. Absinthe. The flavor takes a writer beyond the normal lexicon of sapidity into another language – maybe beyond language. It’s indescribable. It’s non verbal. Through Being Cool is Siete Misterios Doba Yaj espadin (which, I won’t lie to you, is a lot of fun to say out loud), Victoria beer, Hamilton pimento dram, ginger, lime, ancho chile salt and tamarind and I had to look up every one of those spirits. The drink is . . . it’s . . . see above.
Which is why I’m complaining. Because I love these two bars and I was already going to Lost Lake on their slowest nights and was keeping Todos Santos on the down low even from my very best friends (I considered taking them there if they agreed to be blindfolded) because I didn’t want these bars discovered. I mean, yes, they were already popular and already on TV and already in the pages of our hallowed periodicals. But still, I wanted them all to myself – which is horrible and selfish but after you drink there you too will lament their success and their recent awards and the inevitable five-deep bar experience they will endure for the next three or four years which I know their incredible staff will handle effortlessly but still, now . . . everyone knows.
So congratulations, Lost Lake and Todos Santos and all the other perfect watering holes on Time Out’s 2018 list where I’ll never be able to get a seat again; and thanks, Time Out: thanks for ruining my favorite bars.