Beau du Bois at The Corner Door

Since its opening on a quiet stretch of Washington Boulevard in June 2012, The Corner Door has become a neighborhood favorite and a destination for cocktail enthusiasts, who make the pilgrimage to Culver City for the inventive, classically driven drinks offered by Beau du Bois. The accolades for du Bois have been a constant from Day One, including being named to the Zagat 30 Under 30 in 2013, and Eater LA’s Bartender of the Year in 2014.

During a lively brunch service at Eveleigh, du Bois talked about his favorite L.A. bartenders, an unforgettable trip to Oaxaca, and his latest Corner Door menu, which was inspired by a beloved 80s summer blockbuster. “Obviously there’s always going to be a need to do seasonal, refreshing menus. From an administrative standpoint, with the popularity of cocktail programs and seasonal menus in Los Angeles, I wanted to make [the current menu] seasonally driven but also kind of put some talking points on it, so I decided to choose something that would really inspire me and also inspire people to be at tables and start chatting about it.”

“The memories of The Goonies – I think 95% of people have some sense of nostalgia towards [it] and it’s a timeless classic,” du Bois continues. “It’s such a beautiful ensemble of cast and characters and events, and it’s a great adventure story – there was plenty to pull from to build a well-balanced, versatile cocktail menu. But also have some spring, seasonal and summer influences as well, so that people can feel a transition from L.A. ‘winter’ to L.A. spring and summer.”

Truffle Shuffle at The Corner Door

Truffle Shuffle at The Corner Door | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

Du Bois is pleasantly surprised that the breakout drink from the Goonies menu is the Truffle Shuffle, made with Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, house-made hazelnut liqueur and cacao nib bitters, served with house-made trail mix. “What’s really interesting this time around is the standout cocktail is the one ultra-premium cocktail that I put on the menu,” says du Bois. “I knew it was a great cocktail [with a] beautiful presentation, but at $18 I was like, ‘We’ll see how this does,’ you know? I think it’ll sell here and there, but only for groups that are looking to celebrate or really cap out their night together and share it. It’s really encouraging and incredible to see at $18 apiece, nobody’s batting their eye.”

The hazelnut liqueur is made from a Laird’s base with some hazelnuts. “Then I make a hazelnut cordial, a few different spices that elevate the hazelnut flavor. And then I did an infused cacao nib bitters, which is a combination of some aromatic bitters that I let sit with a bunch of cocoa nibs.”

“Just stir that together, so it’s basically a Japanese whisky Old Fashioned. Japanese whisky is so delicate and subtle in itself that it even boils down to how many times the bartender can stir it, which is significantly less than an Old Fashioned.”

The Truffle Shuffle is served with a hedge of house-made trail mix that’s made exclusively for the cocktail. “I bake hazelnuts and pistachios in honey, butter, cinnamon, garlic, brown sugar and salt. It’s served with dark chocolate bits and dried mandarins. Delicious, very smooth, very approachable. The whole presentation comes out very beautiful – you have your drink and your snacks.”

Du Bois adds, “The trail mix is addictive. Oh my God. Right now… it’s only for the cocktail, that’s it. People are like, ‘Let me just buy a plate of it, PLEASE!'”

During a recent trip to Oaxaca, du Bois’ feed started blowing up. “Who is this ‘Jeff Cohen‘? I realized, that’s the actor that played Chunk. He was tweeting about the Truffle Shuffle at Corner Door! That’s all I could hope for. He’s been a very outspoken, big supporter of the fanship around Goonies. He’s a retired actor and is now a lawyer representing child actors, but he always seems like he’s had a warm spot for Goonies and the fanship around it, which is great.”

Mama Fratelli at The Corner Door

Mama Fratelli at The Corner Door | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

“The other stirred cocktail is a rye-based cocktail called the Mama Fratelli, which I think is one of my favorite cocktails I’ve ever done. It’s Rittenhouse Rye with espresso infused Carpano Antica, a little coconut liqueur, and salt. Not really an archetype there, you can kind of say it’s a Manhattan variation, but there’s so little vermouth in it – and also the coconut liqueur and the salt. It’s very rye driven but I’ve never tasted anything like it, and honestly without the salt it would be half the cocktail it is now.” 

Data Plan at The Corner Door

Data Plan at The Corner Door | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

Some of the shaken cocktails are doing really well, says du Bois. The Data Plan is made with strawberry infused Altos Tequila, falernum, Miracle Mile Bergamot Bitters, lime juice and Dolin Bianco Vermouth. “Light, bright, lush, jammy, refreshing, beautiful presentation. That’s a big standout for sure as well.”

Astoria Country Club at The Corner Door

Astoria Country Club at The Corner Door: green tea-infused Pisco Porton, Chareau, honey, cantaloupe, lime, prosecco | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

Rich Stuff at The Corner Door

Rich Stuff at The Corner Door: saffron-infused bourbon, Cynar, Creme de Peche, lemon, egg white, orange bitters | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

Du Bois says, “Whenever you can do a seasonal menu like this and put a theme around it, it also demonstrates to your guests: here’s the rest of our cocktail menu, here are some of our house classics – the French 75, the Mezcallin, the Taco Truck – but this little subsection down here, this is really where we cut the cord to the brakes and get nerdy and creative without alienating anybody at the same time.”

Taco Truck at The Corner Door

Taco Truck at The Corner Door | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

Speaking of the Taco Truck, it remains a favorite of imbibers near and far and has continued to win new fans since its debut at Art Beyond the Glass II in 2013. “Such a great story with that cocktail,” says du Bois. “I was told that I was going to be doing a mezcal sponsor, La Niña del Mezcal. I came up with this really, really overly contrived cocktail during the week leading up to Art Beyond the Glass. I was doing all my mise en place, getting my prep together and batching the cocktail. And literally the night before, I’m like, ‘I hate this cocktail.’ I hate this drink, it’s way too heavy on the mixology, it’s way too contrived, and it’s dumb. I’m showing off way too much. So I decided, I’m just going to do a Negroni variation. I’ll infuse the Campari with flavors that complement and elevate mezcal. And that’s it.”

Du Bois continues, “It’s an event that is bartender driven, bartender attended and friends of bartenders. Such a great event. Everybody’s doing X, Y and Z, and I’m just making this Negroni, which was super easy. People were loving it, and regulars at Corner Door were there – ‘You gotta put this on the menu.’ I put it on the menu at Corner Door, took it off the menu, and there were riots in the streets. I put it back on the menu and I’ve never taken it off. gaz regan reached out to me and said it was one of the best cocktails in the world, a few other people [said it was] the best Negroni variation in the U.S., Imbibe has featured it a bunch. It’s just a perfect example of how the simple stuff, the stuff that doesn’t get overthought, sometimes tend to be the best.”

Du Bois is also rolling out the latest iteration of The Other List, his “secret” menu designed especially for regulars and cocktail enthusiasts. “This one is going to be a hyper-focused vermouth edition of The Other List. We’re going to do some vermouth based cocktails – Vermouth Panaché, Fifty-Fifties. I’m really going to try – easier said than done – to make L.A.’s best Manhattan. I want to do a nice, beautiful proprietary vermouth blend, maybe with a few infusions here and there. Have a lovely menu [with a] Fifty-Fifty, Manhattan, Vermouth Panaché and a dry vermouth Daiquiri. Feature some of the house vermouths.”

“If you hang out on the Westside and talk to any bartenders on the Westside, they will always tell you – with a smirk on their face – if I’m walking into your bar, you have to get your dry vermouth out. [laughs] That’s all I drink, is dry vermouth.”

Asked if he’s been to Moruno at The Original Farmer’s Market, du Bois enthusiastically answers, “The second I saw [info] about their vermouth program, I went straight there. Had some breakfast at [The French Crepe Co] – which is always delicious – and I tried their vermouth.”

“I had expectations as an old, bitter, cynical bartender that I was going to taste something that was really good but not great – ‘I see what you’re trying to do and I think that that’s fantastic.’ WOW, I could not have been more wrong. It was amazing. It was seamless and it was beautiful.”

“Putting it on tap is one of the most genius things you could do from an administrative standpoint,” he continues. “And as I’m drinking it, geeking out over this dry vermouth on the rocks, served with a orange wedge and olives, I look around and I’m like, ‘I’m probably the only one drinking this.’ Not the case. Once again, wrong. I look around and everybody is finishing their meals with dry vermouth or sweet vermouth. And I was like, ‘OK, so this is what heaven looks like.’ The balance of the dry vermouth was way beyond what I expected. Amazing. I can’t recommend it enough.”

El Silencio Master Mezcalier, Pedro Hernández and Beau du Bois

El Silencio Master Mezcalier, Pedro Hernández and Beau du Bois | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

During the second year of The Corner Door, du Bois began a fruitful relationship with Mezcal El Silencio. “Marcos [Tello] and I have known each other for a long time,” says du Bois. “He’s always been such a great resource. We just got to talking. I don’t know how long they had been doing their Espadin. I tasted it, it was a great product for what we were looking for. It just made a lot of sense to fit into a place like Corner Door. I think the Corner Door brand and the Silencio brand just seem to work really well with each other. I’ve always loved the flavor of the mezcal, so the rest is history.”

“They’ve been nothing but great – it’s such a supportive, family driven, bar community based mezcal. They never cease to meet my standards by any means when it comes to my needs for support for events or anything like that.”

Mezcallins and Taco Trucks at the

Mezcallins and Taco Trucks at the “Get Lost in L.A.” launch | Photo courtesy of Beau du Bois

In March 2016, El Silencio helped sponsor a media event in New York to promote the launch of the “Get Lost in L.A.” campaign for L.A. Tourism. [Full disclosure: I’m the Content Manager for Discover Los Angeles.] The event featured cocktails by du Bois, tacos by Guerrilla Tacos and a live art installation by street artist Colette Miller. “We made the Mezcallin and the Taco Truck and featured El Silencio. I think they had just activated in New York so it was perfect for them as well. The event was such a smash hit. It raised awareness for Corner Door and obviously for Los Angeles, but definitely for Silencio as well.”  

“So [El Silencio] approached me, ‘Hey, we’re taking 80 people to Oaxaca to visit our palenque, see Oaxaca as a city, do a little cocktail competition and all that. We would love to have you.’ It was one of the few times where my schedule opened up and I could actually go on a trip, which was nice.”

Du Bois was talking to Alex Day two days before leaving for the event. “I really thought it was going to be a nice, relaxing trip to Oaxaca – get some sunshine, stay under the radar, sip some mezcal, lay by the pool, have some amazing Oaxacan cuisine. And then I found out Zach Patterson was going.” [laughs]

“Silencio absolutely smashed this trip out of the park,” says du Bois. “There wasn’t a minute of this trip that wasn’t planned, orchestrated and beyond fun, enriching and educational. There was a parade for us in the streets in Oaxaca. Just to go to dinner, there were 80 people in the streets with bottles of Silencio, and floats, dancers and mariachi. We’re walking in the streets and I don’t even know where we’re going. I think I’m eight shots of Silencio in. We go to dinner in this huge what feels like an army bunker of some kind. There’s fire, live music and all this stuff, great food.”

Beau du Bois and Josh Goldman at the El Silencio palenque in San Baltazar Guelavila

Beau du Bois and Josh Goldman at the El Silencio palenque in San Baltazar Guelavila | Photo courtesy of Mezcal El Silencio

“We painted the town red and the next day we visited the palenque and got to meet the master distiller, Pedro Hernandez, who is a ninth generation mezcal maker. And finally, the owner of Silencio, Fausto Zapata – such a lovely, charming, lively individual that it’s hard not to have a really incredible time anywhere, let alone Oaxaca, if you’re hanging out with Fausto.”

Du Bois continues, “Just getting ready to learn about the brand and the story behind it, seeing the agave fields – very family driven production behind Silencio. I think the best part of my night was after things kind of winded down, getting to meet the rest of Pedro’s family, all his daughters and his sisters. Introducing me to I think his second oldest daughter, ‘This is the next generation of mezcal makers.’ Lovely, very charming young lady who probably at this point in her very young life knows way more about mezcal than maybe all the bartenders in this room combined.”

“Getting to meet her and dance the night away with Fausto and Pedro’s family underneath the tents in the agave fields. There’s a worse way to spend your Saturday night in Mexico!”

The agave fields of Oaxaca are a long way from Ball State in Indiana, where du Bois was finishing his sophomore year in 2004. “My birthday is late in the year – May 2nd – that’s finals week, all that stuff. I was celebrating my 21st birthday that week. The Martini lounge in my college town was the fancy place. So my professors were like, ‘After you’re done with your friends, meet us at Motini’s and you’ll have a proper cocktail with us,’ which ended up being a gin Martini with Boodles. At 21 years old, I can say with great confidence I did not have the palate for it.”

“I overheard the owner talking to one of the professors, ‘If you know of any students staying over, I need bartenders.’ I had no bartending experience, so I’m useless. I’m waiting in line for the bathroom, and there are three beautiful blonde girls waiting in line as well. And I was that right amount of drunk to be that right amount of charming for that five-minute window. Apparently I made a joke that got them all laughing and giggling right as the owner walked by. He thought the girls were with me. Here’s this guy, he’s got three girls with him, we gotta hire him. So he’s like, ‘Are you staying over the summer?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Do you have any bartending experience?’

‘No, not at all.’

‘OK you start tomorrow.’ [laughs]

“Started the next day, learned everything – making Cosmos, gin Martinis, even Colorado Bulldogs if you’re old enough to remember what those were. It’s a White Russian with a splash of Coke on it. Actually, pretty good.”

“Fast forward, consulted on a few bars back in Indiana because I found this rich, American heritage to cocktail making. Just really started to get into it. Was gonna move to Chicago, decided to come to L.A. because the weather is … the weather. The L.A. cocktail scene was just starting to get the engine going. Took the better part of a year to find a job. [I was] the last bartender hired at the Hyatt in West Hollywood, which was the infamous ‘Riot Hyatt,’ just as they were getting ready to be renovated to the Andaz. Just kept studying, working, building my knowledge of classic and modern cocktail making.”

“I was reading a lot of Dale DeGroff, which was a perfect blend of approachable cocktail making, real serious classic standards and presentation focused as well. Try to imagine, nobody teaching you how to flame an orange peel, and trying to figure it out from a book. ‘I’m supposed to snap the orange wedge in half?’ Because he doesn’t look like he’s breaking it in the picture, you know? I was at home burning the shit out of my fingertips.”

Du Bois continues, “Hyatt closed and I used the in-between time – I went to New York for a little bit, and all I was doing was looking at books, memorizing how to make for instance a Vieux Carré, a Manhattan and a Gimlet. And then going and sitting in front of bartenders that I knew were established: Eric Alperin, Marcos Tello, Damian Windsor, Jason Bran. I don’t think they knew it at the time, but I would order a Vieux Carré from Eric and I would just watch him make it. I would study his technique and take notes. I would watch Marcos shake a Gimlet, watch Damian interact with guests and navigate Bartender’s Choices.”

“So there’s a handful of bartenders in this city – I don’t even know if they’re aware of this, but they’ve actually secretly sort of mentored me. I used that to become the head bartender at the Andaz and – aside from Eveleigh – doing one of the first farm-to-table cocktail programs in the city. I was way underqualified and I had to work really hard to make that work.” RH at the Andaz was du Bois’ breakthrough in the L.A. cocktail community and a harbinger of drinks to come.

After RH, du Bois helped David LeFevre open MB Post and consulted on a few other programs behind the scenes in L.A. “Then four years ago, the owners of Corner Door found me. ‘We like what you do, we just want more of it. We want it to be neighborhood driven, we want to have the same caliber of cocktails as some of the best places in the city, but we still want it to be approachable.’ The owners just wanted a place [with a] good burger, good beers and great cocktails. And that’s what we set out to do and it’s definitely been that and then some.”

The Fiscal Agent opening team: Dave Kupchinsky, Kristina Howald, Julian Cox, Nick Meyer

Du Bois recalls meeting Julian Cox for the first time, which surprisingly didn’t happen until last fall. “Julian is one of the people that – for myself, my situation is a little different than some bartenders, not having had a mentor. And having to study these people, like Eric Alperin, Marcos Tello, Damian Windsor and Julian Cox. Reading about them as they’re building this revolution and cocktail awareness in Los Angeles.”

“One of the most heartbreaking things to me was learning that Julian was leaving the city, and he and I had never really been introduced. I went to one of his opening nights at Fiscal Agent and that was the first time we had ever met, which was incredible. He came around the bar and sat down and talked to me a little bit about his approach. I’m obviously a little buzzed, just spouting sonnets about what he was doing at Fiscal Agent – it felt like a total secret bartender paradise. Just watching somebody like him making the cocktails and explaining his creative process behind it was like fast forwarding four years of educational expertise.”

The L.A. bar community came out in force at a going away party for Cox and Kristina Howald at Petty Cash. “He was so charming at Fiscal Agent, I’m definitely going to [Petty Cash] and at least shake the dude’s hand and say ‘thank you’ for everything you’ve given to this city from a cocktail standpoint. I’ve interviewed countless bartenders who [said] ‘I took Julian Cox’s class.’ I’ve seen the difference in these people versus other candidates. You always see some kind of thematic throughline with each of the bartenders that Julian has trained, and it’s all very positive.”

“So being at Julian’s going away party, I think one of the most humbling moments for me was seeing Julian across a very packed room of some of the greatest bartenders in the city, and bar enthusiasts, writers and cocktail lovers in general. Julian makes a point to cross the room, shake my hand, and the first thing he says, ‘I can’t wait to be in Chicago and read about all the great stuff you’re going to be doing here in L.A.’ It was like a bear hug / punch right in the feels. Gave me a hug, shook my hand, we chatted a little bit. I got to meet his son, talked to Kristina and hear about all the great plans for Chicago, which is formidable. Getting to say goodbye to somebody like that, even though I know it’s not forever obviously, was probably one of my favorite Los Angeles bartending moments of my career.”

Yael Vengroff at The Spare Room

Yael Vengroff at The Spare Room | Photo by Eugene Lee, courtesy of Yael Vengroff

On the rare occasion when du Bois has a night off or has some time to go out and have cocktails (“I try to as much as I can”), who are the bartenders that he visits? “I’ve said it a thousand times, but it never loses its potency with me, sitting in front [of] or even just watching Yael Vengroff bartend is one of the most impressive things you can witness from an industry standpoint, or even a consumer standpoint. Yael is the real deal in the sense of where creativity, pedigree, speed and hospitality, all intersect.”

“Now that we’ve glamorized bartending – as it should be – we’re celebritizing the people behind these great programs, as many of those people deserve. It’s also attracted a saturated market of bartenders who are what I like to call ‘skipping steps.’ Racing, racing, racing for that title without paying their dues and learning from people like Yael.”

“Yael is a person that is – if you were to hold her hand out, it wouldn’t be a hammer, a nail, a screwdriver, a knife and a bottle opener. It would just be all knives. If each finger represented all of her skillsets, something she’s dipped her toe in at some point in her career, it’s all there. Witnessing that is obviously impressive, but it’s beyond humbling. Even for someone like myself who’s been bartending for over a decade, I still have so much to learn.”

Ryan Wainwright is one of the hardest working bartenders in the city,” says du Bois. “He’s constantly posting cocktails from a number of the places that fall under the banner of his beverage director position. He’s just a cool guy, he’s a cocktail lover – which is great – to see somebody who actually enjoys the perspective of the consumer as they’re crafting and designing the architecture of their cocktail recipes, and seeing that is unbelievable. It’s like knowing that, whether I have $20 to spare for a cocktail – I know it’s well spent – or it’s my last one on the planet, I’m gonna have a great cocktail made by somebody who is obsessed with cocktails. And that’s Ryan Wainwright.”

“I’ve always been a fan of Gaby [Gabriella Mlynarczyk], when she was at ink, Cadet and now Birch. She’s unbelievably talented, very straightforward. All of her recipes are very academic and extremely well executed. I think that’s the short list. Obviously if I can sit down in front of Damian Windsor or Eric Alperin and have cocktails, I know that they’re going to be fantastic. But Yael, Ryan and Gaby are incredibly impressive to me.”

The Corner Door
12477 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310.313.5810
www.thecornerdoorla.com

Photo of Beau du Bois courtesy of Acuna-Hansen.

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