Cocktails Maximus at the Roger Room

Not an actual Roger Room monkey.

Not an actual Roger Room monkey.

After a solid cocktail session at 8oz Burger Bar, we were ready for more and headed over to the Roger Room. Located next to Largo in the space formerly occupied by the Coronet Pub, the Roger Room is the latest from the Bar Lubitsch team of Jared Meisler and partner Sean MacPherson. When it opened last month, much ado was made about the Roger Room’s “media embargo” and strict no photography policy. Blogs, Twitter, and Yelp have since posted freely about the Roger Room, though taking photos still isn’t permitted as far as I know.

Although there’s no Roger Room signage (shh…it’s a speakeasy), the Largo’s “THEATRE” sign next door is easy to spot, as are the storefront fortune teller neon signs. You’ll also notice the friendly neighborhood bouncer monitoring the Roger Room’s entrance. A black curtain separates the front door from the main room, and upon entering you actually feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret watering hole, frozen in time. Throughout the dimly-lit room, circus-themed painted panels, stained glass windows, antique fixtures and yellowed photographs set a playful yet vintage mood. The colorful menus, decorated with whimsical polka dots, also stick with the theme. Thankfully the music breaks out of the circus, opting instead for a nice old school funk/soul vibe.

While Scot ordered our drinks, I snagged one of the small booths lining the wall opposite the bar. Other tables on the far end of the room were continuously occupied. A couple of water tumblers magically appeared, a nice touch and very much appreciated on this night.

Reversing our 8oz plan of attack, I ordered Roger Room signature cocktails (created by Meisler and the ubiquitous Damian Windsor) while Scot mostly stuck to classics. First up for me was the Thug: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, lemon juice and spicy habanero bitters. It’s aptly named; I was knocked for a loop by the Thug’s wicked mix of smoky, spicy and sweet flavors. While not overpowering, the Thug certainly packs a punch.

Meanwhile, Scot left his cocktail choice in the expert hands of Tai, our knowledgeable and amiable bartender. Tai’s refreshing take on a Bourbon Smash was very close to a Mint Julep (which is technically a Smash, after all), omitting the berries seen in more traditional Bourbon Smashes. For both of us, a great first round.

By now the noise level had risen considerably, to the point where we were shouting across a very small table. After our 8oz experience, we were starting to sense a theme. Considering the Roger Room’s “speakeasy” pretensions, you’d almost expect a “quiet, please” policy, but even if there was one I doubt any of the bartenders could be bothered to enforce it. Not to mention the hipster crowd would probably revolt if there was such a rule.

On to Round Two, and for me that meant an Old Sport: CapRock Organic Dry Gin, black tea-infused SOHO lychee liqueur, cucumber juice, and lime juice, served up. Another great cocktail, with a flavor mix that started with the bitterness of the black tea and moved onto the clean, fruit/floral notes of the CapRock,  balanced with the lychee and juices. Returning to the circus theme, a cucumber slice was playfully hooked onto the glass by a plastic monkey.

Speaking of monkeys, one of the busboys could have been Brad Pitt’s younger brother. Or Pitt himself, circa “12 Monkeys.” These are the things that come to mind after a Thug and an Old Sport. But I digress…

Scot opted for an Old Fashioned, his go-to classic cocktail, for his second round. This time he specified Buffalo Trace, a mutual favorite of ours. Once again, perfectly executed by Tai; we were feeling good and two for two.

For Round Three, I had a Spiced Mule (Saylor Jerry Spiced Rum, ginger juice, lime juice, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, club soda, rocks), an outstanding drink that offers a flavor grab bag of spice and ginger, with a tart finish. This was the consensus drink of the night, and that includes our previous cocktails at 8oz.

Scot finished with a Scarlet Aperol Fizz (Scarlet Ibis Rum, Aperol, lemon juice, egg white, crushed ice), a frothy creation with nuanced floral and caramel flavors, offset by hints of bitter and tart notes. Both Round Three drinks were top notch, a fantastic way to end an excellent session.

The cocktails at the Roger Room are up there with the city’s best, placing it in the top tier of bars alongside The Varnish and Copa d’Oro. Cocktail enthusiasts have already made the Roger Room the worst kept secret in town, but if you plan ahead crowds shouldn’t be an issue. As with the best things in life, it’s worth the effort.

The Roger Room
370 N La Cienega Blvd. (@ Oakwood Ave.)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 854-1300

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