There’s a long, lingering quality to the end of summer in Southern California, especially since triple digit temperatures typically persist even as we haul the holiday bird out of the oven, and hideous Christmas sweaters proliferate in spite of soaring mercury.
But we’re not talking about that kind of heat. We’re talking about the warm rush of new romance that seems to pop open the cherry blossoms at Descanso Gardens before our very eyes. And now, moving toward the autumnal equinox, it’s all a torch-song, fast-falling shadows, crisped and Cajun-blackened by global warming, or the mere fickleness of love itself.
Well, it ain’t over til it’s over. Enjoy the few last official days of summer by drinking properly at The Flintridge Proper, a “local” which at 464 Foothill Boulevard in La Canada – Flintridge, 818-790-4888, may seem as elusive as a summer romance—be careful or you’ll blow right by it. If you miss the first time, flip a U-ey and go back: The Flintridge Proper, the creation of craft cocktail/pub culture power duo Brady and Mary Elizabeth Caverly, offers the world’s largest selection of gin.
Plus S’mores. Trembly-wriggly fresh raw oysters. Farm-to-table local fare. Wicked, wicked, XXX-rated adult S’mores—did we say that already?
Perhaps relive the bloom that’s just about off the last rose of summer with five signature cocktails to recall the anatomy of a romance in the Foothills, from start to finish:
THE CURIOSITY: It always begins like this, doesn’t it? Breathless. You want to know just everything about each other. Every single thing! This thought-provoking cocktail adds intrigue to Bulliet Bourbon with a crush of dusky sage leaves and pucker-inducing cranberries. This cocktail was supposedly dreamed up for and about the engineers at JPL. Well, they are pretty dreamy.
THE BEE’S KNEES: Forget those dire reports of colony collapse. When you’re newly in love, extinction is the last thing on your mind. This nostalgically named quaff is little more than superb gin and local honey, suggesting giddy romps through Maxfield Parrish twilights.
THE SECRET GARDEN: Ah, yes. Okay, this drink is named as an homage to nearby Descanso Gardens, but we’ve all felt those blossoms and buds straining against the white-picket fence one way or another. Here, gin is touched with housemade elderflower syrup, peach bitters, bitter orange and rhubarb notes—perhaps signaling deeper messages to come.
THE INDIAN SUMMER : Those last few glorious days are always the cruelest. The name is politically incorrect, but we’ve all been there. We seem to give, then we take it all back. Earthy notes of Caorum Small Batch Scottish Gin lay down the law with Bourbon Pear Liquor, Cinnamon and Apple Puree. But don’t you wish it could go on forever, as they sing in “Oklahoma”?
THE DEVIL’S GATE: Of all the gin joints in all the world, and she (he) has to walk into mine. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Yes, it’s named for the local geology, but it may seem a bit metaphorical when faced with a diabolical romance. Gin gets fired up by Serrano pepper, sparked with lemongrass, purpling into high-desert sorcery with blackberries and basil leaves.
Here at The Proper, The Gin’s the thing. Caverly describes himself as an Anglophile, and his interest in pouring literally hundreds of gins is part of this allegiance to the Crown. Among the offerings: gin that famously goes for $80 a shot, and another original blend crafted here from the distinct botany of the Foothill area.
His idea with the Flintridge Proper, which has been open for two years, is to create the convivial vibe of the Brit gathering joint where gin is not so much about misery (with a nod to Merle Haggard) but much more about making merry with your mates, no matter the weather, no matter the natter, no matter the chatter, no matter the latter.
He describes La Canada – Flintridge as an “oenophile community”, explaining that he sometimes encounters people who (clutch the pearls) think they don’t like gin. “There can be three reasons. A bad experience with a bitter gin when they were young, a dislike for the quinine flavor of a conventional G & T, or not liking the piney taste of juniper in their parents’ bar stock. Now there are exquisite, subtle, interesting gins with herbal and floral notes. Today there is truly a gin for every taste,” he says. For example, Nolet’s Reserve, which is lilac-flavored—a far cry from the bathtub gin which our grandparents may have swilled during Prohibition, when the verboten beverage was tinged with turpentine and sulphuric acid. No wonder bartenders were called “Professor” back in the day.
So retire those played-out plaid shorts, put on a pair of real shoes and hoist a few proper cocktails to the ending of all things, whether a fair-weather frolic or just the last official weekend of summer. The Proper will have savory twists and more in store, long after you’ve ditched your boogie-board for the year.