Not only was Faith & Flower just chosen by Esquire as one of the best new restaurants, their “Chief of Booze” Michael Lay was awarded 2014 “Cocktail of the Year” for his innovative English Milk Punch. We were invited Wednesday night to a cocktail party to sample the Milk Punch, along with a special seasonal cocktail menu. The cocktail menu, which is Farmer’s Market driven, is divided into three sections, “Highballs,” “Stirred, Spirited, Evocative,” and “Shaken, Citrus, Refreshing.”
The Berry-infused Gin and Tonic, which comes on draft, is all alone in the “Highballs” category. It is made with Martin Miller’s Westbourne Gin and Small Hand Foods Tonic. There is also a touch of bergamot to round it out. This is a drink for people who really like gin. A lot.
The “Stirred, Spirited, Provocative” cocktails are what I normally classify as “intense” and which General Manager Tyler Dow referred to as “Spirit-forward.” They are perfect for anyone with a high tolerance for alcohol. The Dundorado is inspired by Kappeller’s “Modern American Drinks'” published in 1895. Ingredients include Arette Blanco Tequila, Calisaya (an herbal liqueur made from flowers, botanicals and bitter orange), plus Bittermens Burlesque Bitters. The Witch of Wilshire is made with Jensen Old Tom Gin, Strega (An Italian herbal liqueur), Geijer Glogg (a liquer infused with traditional baking spices and botanicals), and Bittermens Tiki Bitters. These two drinks arrive in the same style of glass with the exact same garnish — a wide lemon peel — but that’s not all they have in common. These are some serious drinks. You can really taste the quality alcohol, but you do need to be into the current bitters fad.
Although English Milk Punch is under the banner of “Stirred, Spirited, Evocative,” It really needs its own paragraph. The best cocktail of 2014 was inspired by 1862’s “How to Mix Drinks” by Thomas. It mixes 4 rums, Bulleit Bourbon, Pernod Absinthe, Pineapple, Sencha Tea and Milk Clarification. Let’s discuss this milk for a minute. It is as clear as water. They mix together spirits and lime, then add the milk. As the spirits and citrus cause the milk to curdle, the curdled bits are skimmed off the top. After three days you are left with is a clear milk essence that is still viscous like milk. The rums and pineapple are reminiscent of a New Orleans Hurricane. It was absolutely delicious and we can understand why it won “Cocktail of the Year.”
Under “Shaken, Citrus, Refreshing” we find the Pio Pico, created with El Silencio Mezcal, Blanco Tequila, Pineapple, Ginger, Serrano Chili, and Lime. The chili gives it a kick without overwhelming the cocktail, which is a little like a ginger margarita. Roxie & Cameo was right up there with English Milk Punch. It is an outstanding cocktail. It combines Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka (That’s right, bison grass), St Germain, Nardini Aqua di Cedro (A fancier Limoncello), Fresh Lemon, Egg White, and Peychauds Bitters. In spite of the bitters, this drink was light and smooth. The St. Germain elderflower liquer makes everything better; the citrus and egg white make it truly memorable. It felt like a special New Year’s Eve cocktail.
Continuing down the “Shaken, Citrus, Refreshing” side of the menu, we find Cameron’s Kick, inspired by Craddock, Hotel Savoy 1930. It mixes Jameson Black Barrel, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Amantillado sherry (Poe fans should be cautious drinking this with Montresor), lemon, and Small Hands Foods Orgeat syrup. Although there was some citrus, it may belong over with the “spirit-forward” drinks as the whisky burn was potent. Orchard Smash was perhaps the most seasonal of all the cocktails, with Clyde May Alabama Whiskey, Lemon, Ginger, Mint, and Baked Apple Bitters. With a strong kick of ginger, it was very drinkable and thirst quenching.
You will notice a large number of ingredients on the autumn menu were in vogue at the turn of the previous century, as are several of the original cocktail recipes. We discussed the philosophy of Faith & Flower with General Manager Tyler Dow. Between the 1880s an 1920s, Downtown LA hit a peak. It was Southern California’s center for theater and entertainment. At the time, three parallel streets were named Faith, Hope and Charity. As the city became more secular, Faith and Charity were renamed. Faith is now 8th street, where the restaurant sits on the corner of 8th and Flower.
Now, in modern times, it seems that during the recent turn of the century Downtown LA is hitting a renaissance. In the 90s many empty offices and lofts were transformed into apartments and condos. There is now a resurgence of upscale bars and restaurants. Faith & Flower strives to marry the two eras, with art deco designs, immense candelabra and classic chandeliers. The theme is continued at the bar.
As Michael Lay explains, “At Faith & Flower, the cocktail program aims to be continually fresh and creative, with a tip of the hat to vintage cocktail greatness and evoking the early 20th century golden era of downtown Los Angeles. I have tried to create a menu that has a bit of something for everyone, and hopefully, a few twists for the more adventurous at heart.”