photos by Lena Watanabe
To promote the debut of its latest Nuovi Classici (“new classics”) cocktail menu, Drago Centro recently offered the entire list at $8 per drink (compared to the usual $12 price) for one day only. Never one to pass up a great deal, I met the crew at Drago on a crisp Thursday night.
By the time I arrived, Noelle had already ordered a 5th e Fig (Bertagnolli grappa, fresh fig, orange juice, lemon juice). A sip of her drink gave me a hint of the grappa’s fruit and floral notes, as well as the sweetness of the fig. It was a tasty beginning to a great cocktail session.
I started with the Superstizione, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Kahlua, dry vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters, and orange bitters. The Kahlua’s distinct coffee taste hit first and lingered, complemented by the Woodford’s subtle vanilla and spice notes. The bitters provided a nice floral and citrus finish.
For her first cocktail, Lena went with the Espatriato: Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh ginger, Thai basil, orange juice, and lemon juice. The big, smoky taste of the Buffalo Trace was offset by the ginger’s bite and a hint of anise from the Thai basil.
Amy began with the Fumo e Fuoco (“Smoke and Fire”), made with Dewar’s scotch, bird’s eye Thai chili, honey, and lemon juice. While the cocktail had the fumo (no doubt from the Dewar’s), we agreed it could’ve used more fuoco. Still, it was a surprisingly smooth and balanced cocktail. (Click here for the recipe.)
As we enjoyed our drinks, we met Michael Shearin, Drago’s Sommelier/Beverage Director. He was eager to hear our feedback and justifiably proud of the cocktails. He also made sure to credit bartender Jaymee Mandeville as his collaborator and co-creator of the new menu. My first drink, the Superstizione, happened to be created by another bartender, Mark Blackhart.
Next up for me was the Pozione Magica No. 2: Death’s Door gin, Aperol, Martini Bianco, and lemon juice. Michael dubbed this one an Italian version of the classic Corpse Reviver No. 2, and I thought it was a winner. The juniper from the Death’s Door, the bitter/orange of the Aperol, and the Martini’s vanilla played very well together.
Round Two for Lena was the Arancia Meccanica: Sombra Mezcal, red bell pepper, cilantro, agave nectar, lime juice, and smoked salt. She really enjoyed this one, declaring herself a fan after just one sip. With the wonderful, smoky Sombra as the base it’s no wonder she liked it.
Amy’s second cocktail was the Violetta: Belvedere vodka, Crème de Violette, shiso, vanilla syrup, and orange juice. Striking in color, floral and sweet in taste. The shiso added an intriguing basil/mint finish. Of all the drinks we ordered, the Violetta was probably the consensus favorite, if requests for more sips from the group were any indication. I wouldn’t place it at the top of the Drago list (that would be the Pozione Magica), but it’s a great cocktail nonetheless.
Also on the menu:
- Api e Rose – Plymouth gin, Poli Miele, rosemary, honey, lemon juice
- Oro Bianco – Oxley gin, chamomile syrup, oro blanco grapefruit
- Pera – Belle de Brillet Poire cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice
- Two Classics, the Americano and the Negroni
In addition to the Nuovi Classici menu, Drago Centro offers a Small Bites Menu, available at the bar all day, every day. Select beers are $4, wines by the glass are $5-6, and four classic cocktails are $5: Aviation, Hemingway Daiquiri, Vodka Collins, and Ward Eight. Also available are Chef Celestino’s Bar Food Favorites, an assortment of small plates that pair nicely with the drinks. Standouts include La Bruschetta di Mare (marinated anchovies, onions, tomato, crostini), Gli Arancini Siciliani (saffron risotto fritters, bolognese), and La Pizza all’ Anatra (duck confit, rapini, mozzarella pizza).
Drago Centro’s original cocktail menu was created by Copa d’Oro‘s Vincenzo Marianella. Michael has subsequently overseen the creation of new, seasonal drinks and has worked diligently to establish Drago as a cocktail destination in its own right. Being included in Jonathan Gold’s Where to Drink Now list certainly helped, and Michael’s latest menu is another confident step towards that goal.
525 S. Flower St., Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA
Follow Drago Centro and Michael Shearin on Twitter.
For another take on Drago’s cocktails and more pics, check out this post from e*star LA.