Bathtub Gin Debuts a Swanky LA Outpost
Remember when Milk & Honey first kept itself a really good secret in post-Millennium NYC, and the term “modern speakeasy” felt like a reasonable description of what was really just a deft attempt at wanting to “curate” one’s crowd? And then remember when suddenly everyone knew about it, and it was no longer the secret on which it was literally founded?
Then…remember when twenty or thirty (or eighty?) other bars, which were all very publicly written up by BlackBook and Time Out and everyone else, were also calling themselves “speakeasies,” often based on nothing more than the lack of a sign out front and a three-step descent from the main sidewalk? Still, it was all in good fun, the drinks were aces, and the decor was generally suitably extravagantly done.
Into that mix in 2011 came the decidedly unromantically named Bathtub Gin, from a Prohibition-era term used to describe the homemade hooch being produced at that time out of necessity/opportunity. It was a little less flouncy than some of the others, served up some mean truffle fries, and actually had an old copper bathtub in the middle of the room. It quickly became everyone’s favorite, because it never seemed to be trying too hard.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary (where did the time go??), and flying in the face of this seemingly intractable pandemic, BTG founder Dave Oz has at last opened an LA outpost, just above the new Stone Street cafe on a busy stretch of Melrose. The overarching ’20s vibe is carried over, but this version is decidedly less sleek, more vintage – with even a bit of a Victorian-era gentlemen’s club aesthetic about the place (or perhaps a posh Mayfair hotel bar, if you will). There are ornate wall coverings, glittering chandeliers, Chesterfield style sofas…even the liquor bottles – lots of speciality gins, specifically – are artfully arranged within an antique cabinet, rather than on glass shelves, to further the overall effect of standing athwart the contemporary world.
The Butterfly Room – whose walls are indeed covered in very anthropological looking butterfly wallpaper – is a private space for up to ten guests, and boasts the namesake clawfoot copper tub that also carries over from the original. So it’s just waiting to be booked for your first big post-Omicron-surge party.
But yes, obviously, you’re coming for the drinks – and here they’re cheeky, classy and even perhaps a bit mad. To wit, The Pandemonium, a sazerac with the tropical plant pandan added to make it feel more…beachy. The floral Fiore Negroni is notably made with gin, amaro, rosé vermouth, lemongrass, sage and violet – as romantic a tipple as we could possibly imagine. There’s also a S’mores Old Fashioned (available as an actual food, as well), and G&T’s flavored with lavender/pear, pineapple/cardamom, aloe/lemongrass…the list goes on.
Of course, to properly live up to the “speakeasy” classification, there is no sign, and there’s a peephole, a password, and a strict “no photography” policy – so all that snogging in dark corners can be accomplished with the utmost discretion. And even impromptu live musical performances – perhaps Perry Farrell or Slash suddenly taking up at the piano – will be have to be carried out sans Instagramming.
So yes, expect to find us at Bathtub Gin LA often, mercifully not being documented.