Big Bar Celebrates Five Years of Being “Stupidly Awesome”

Big Bar interior in the afternoon.

One of the stalwarts of the Los Angeles cocktail community is celebrating a milestone this month. Since opening on Oct. 8, 2010, Big Bar has become a vital part of L.A.’s thriving bar scene. A favorite of Los Feliz locals and traveling cocktail cognoscenti alike, Big Bar is as well-known for hosting endlessly inventive events as it is for serving expertly made drinks.

Big Bar is located in the same 1916 Spanish duplex as Alcove Cafe & Bakery, the beloved neighborhood spot that’s housed in two historic bungalows off Hillhurst Avenue. The duplex and the 1897 Craftsman cottage in the back were acquired and restored by Tom Trellis, who was inspired by European cafe culture when he opened Alcove in July 2004. An urban oasis with garden patios and Parisian-style bistro decor, Alcove Cafe features a menu of updated American classics, artisan baked goods and hand-roasted coffee.

On a recent afternoon, three bartenders that have been integral to the Big Bar story got together to look back on its five-year run: opening Bar Manager Juan Sevilla, who currently bartends a couple of nights at the new Everson Royce Bar; former Bar Manager Dan Long, Bacardi Portfolio Ambassador; and Eugene Lee, the heart and soul of Big Bar.

Juan Sevilla at Big Bar

Juan Sevilla at Big Bar | Photo by Eugene Lee

Sevilla got involved with the project through current Big Bar bartender Florence Hartigan when they were both at The Edison. ”We’d been friends for several years,” says Sevilla. “I was working at The Edison and we had a mutual friend that worked there as well, and we became friends through that. Flo and I lived down the street from each other and she mentioned that there was talk of a bar opening at the Alcove.”

At the time, Sevilla had no idea where the bar was going to be or that the space was even there; it was previously the Village Gourmet cheese shop. “I was this hungry bartender at The Edison, learning a bunch, wanting to do something creative [and] wanted to go to the next level. If I could somehow get the job to help open this bar, it would be such a fun little project – scary of course, because I had never done anything like it. I asked Flo if she could get me a meeting with the management and ownership here. I ended up meeting with Tom several times; I’m sure he met with several other people. Everyone probably saw the potential this bar had, because it’s always so busy on the cafe side. It has that built-in business already that helped make it successful.”

At first it didn’t look like Big Bar was going to happen for Sevilla, who had already left The Edison to help open Soho House in West Hollywood. He had been there a few months and then took a job to work with Erick Castro at Rickhouse in San Francisco. Before Sevilla left for S.F., Trellis reached out and asked if they could meet just one more time. “He asked me if I was still interested in this, then we could do it. And I said yes.”

Big Bar during the buildout

Big Bar during the buildout | Photo by Eugene Lee

Looking back at how things worked out, Sevilla says, “I’d loved to have gone to San Francisco and learn whatever I could learn at that bar. I’m very into learning, like everyone I think that does well in this business. You always want to go out and whatever job you take, you want to make sure that you’re constantly learning. But I saw this as a much better opportunity for me because it was scarier, it was something I really had no idea how to do. I don’t regret it at all, it’s been a great springboard for my bar career.”

Sevilla was given free rein to build his bar team. “They didn’t give me any guidelines on ‘this is how we want the staff to look.’ They let me do it however I wanted. I knew it would be a mistake to bring in a whole new, veteran ‘bar crew’ and big names and this and that, I didn’t want to do that at all. I thought we would miss something very important if we didn’t see what the potential was, what the talent was from the Alcove side. And there happened to be a few people that wanted to try out and had some kind of bartending experience.”

“When you walk into this Alcove world — I’d spent less than week just working in this little office and I got to not only meet so many fun people, but I got to see a very interesting culture. They’re like family here. I’ve never worked at a place where everybody’s got each other’s back so much, everybody’s so supportive of each other. I knew right away that if you’re good over there [on the Alcove side] you’re going to be good over here because they’re dealing with so much traffic all day long.”

Rich Andreoli at Big Bar about one month after its grand opening.

Rich Andreoli at Big Bar about one month after its grand opening.

The opening bar team included Eugene Lee, Mia Sarazen, Rich Andreoli, Dan Long, Rosie Ruiz, Matt Schaefer and (briefly) Khelsy Raymond. Sevilla’s friend Florence Hartigan wasn’t on the opening team, but came on board a couple of months later.

Mario Tecuapacho at Big Bar

Mario Tecuapacho | Photo by Eugene Lee

Sevilla emphasizes the importance of the opening barbacks: Matt Nikita (who is still at Big Bar), Mario Tecuapacho, Mark Skeens and Sean McBride. They all later became bartenders, mostly during Long’s tenure, and were instrumental to Big Bar’s success. “I would much rather grow someone as a barback than hire someone off the street,” says Sevilla. “They’re homegrown, you teach them everything that you want them to learn and they do things the way your bar does them.”

“As far as the opening crew, Dan was actually the last person that we hired. I needed one more bartender; I had a good mix of that side and this side. I was going to go either way – someone not classically trained at another bar, or get someone from the community. I knew Dan from First & Hope, and then we ran into each other and stayed in touch.”

Sevilla subsequently talked with Long at Sporting Life, the informal, quarterly gathering of L.A. bartenders and cocktailians that takes place at different bars across the city. In addition to an afternoon of socializing and imbibing, Sporting Life is also a networking opportunity for bar managers and those seeking jobs. “I was kind of feeling him out, I’ve always done that,” says Sevilla. “I’ve never just called someone up, ‘You want a job?’ I always want to see where they’re at, what they’re doing.”

“Part of starting something new, you can’t just look at a resume and look at what they’ve done and what they can do,” continues Sevilla. “It’s more what’s going on in their life right now, especially in this community because as you know, bartenders in this city and a lot of cities move around so much. This bar to that bar, two bars at once. I didn’t want that per se.”

Eugene Lee and Dan Long: Day One or Day Two at Big Bar

Eugene Lee and Dan Long: Day One or Day Two at Big Bar. | Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

Long was originally brought in to help Sevilla train his staff with Sarazen and Andreoli. When Big Bar opened, Long was a bartender at Cole’s and later moved over to The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. “It made sense to me to see if it would work out [with Dan],” says Sevilla. “Obviously it did, he ended up taking over the bar with Eugene and giving it a real presence in the community. I’m very impressed with what it’s become. It’s a really cool bar and it’s always busy. I mean, it looks like this every day and night. There’s not one seat available [at the bar].”

“At first when the bar opened, in that year we were just stoked to see people come in here,” says Lee. “Juan would say, ‘Hey Eugene, that’s so and so’; Dan would say, ‘That’s Zach Patterson, he’s doing really cool things at STK’ or wherever he was at the time. I’ve gotten to know a lot of really nice people in the community who are just awesome in their own right and run really cool programs. I hope that vibe and spirit of camaraderie and community still pervades not only the cocktail community but obviously our Los Feliz community.”

Dan Long launches the 2012 Midsummer Cocktail Menu at Big Bar.

Dan Long launches the 2012 Midsummer Cocktail Menu at Big Bar.

“It’s part of what inspired this guest cocktail board,” adds Lee. “Dan had thought of the idea of the Featured Cocktail Board and we had some bangers up there.” Lee singles out one of Long’s creations from the 2012 Midsummer Cocktail Menu called the Thorn in My Side (“Just a crusher, my God”), made with Knob Creek Rye, Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth, fresh ginger and Blackthorn cider.

Tequila Lifeboat at Big bar

Tequila Lifeboat: the secret ingredient is “Juan’s Disapproval.” | Photo by Eugene Lee

Every cocktail has an origin story, and one of my favorites is the one for Lee’s Tequila Lifeboat (or as Long calls it, “Eugene’s tequila mic drop”), which goes back to Big Bar’s earliest days. Sevilla sets the scene. “We’re trying to find our identity. The cocktail scene in L.A. was very young, and we really tried hard to not do things too crazy, just do simple stuff. And then I have this new bartender, Eugene, who came from [The Japanese Restaurant Bar That Shall Not Be Named] and starts peeling garnishes and making them [into] boats and making fancy cocktails – I’ll admit, it’s a delicious drink – but I remember I was like, ‘Eugene, tone it back a little bit and don’t make things too gimmicky,’ in so many words.”

Sevilla adds, “To this day, I’ll admit I’m not a super creative dude. I learned the classics and to be honest with you, I stuck with them. I don’t veer too far off.” He references this quote from Castro in an Imbibe article: “I’m a believer that the more ingredients you add to a cocktail, the more likely it’ll be good, but the less likely it’ll be great.”

Describing his own drink ordering preferences, Sevilla says, “Even when I go out, when I get a drink I’m very vanilla in that sense. I’ll order an old-fashioned Negroni just because those are the ones that I like. Dan’s a lot better at that, getting super nerdy and making cool infusions and all that stuff. Anyways, I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to get ourselves known for having a great bar before we started getting too gimmicky with cocktails. We got fun. We still do, obviously, with tons of events.”

Lee picks up the Tequila Lifeboat narrative. “It’s month one. I just learned how to make a Mojito. They’re delicious, crush ’em all the time. We had some habanero agave in the house for the Summer in Martinique, which was one of my favorite cocktails. I’d just finished [the Tequila Lifeboat] that night and we’re ten minutes to close. Kirsten Dunst walks in and she’s like, ‘Hey, can I get a drink?’”

It was just before last call and Lee obliged. “Actually, I’ve been working on this drink. ‘What’s in it?’ Well, tequila — ‘OK fine. Done. I love tequila.’ I’m like, great. So I made it for her and her friend, they drink it.” By this time the lights are on, Lee is cleaning up and Dunst came back to the bar. “‘This is the best tequila cocktail I’ve had in I don’t know when. I drink a lot of tequila, I should know.’ And I’m like, WHAT?! That’s amazing. ‘I know you guys are closing, can I please have another one?’ Cool, man. That’s awesome. So I made her another one and then we close. And I was super, super stoked on it. I’d never had anyone compliment me on anything I made.”

“A week later, our fearless bar manager Juan was working a Friday night shift. I was on the patio enjoying an early dinner with my roommate. And who should walk up to our table, Kirsten fucking Dunst. ‘Hey, I know you’re not working right now. I tried to get your drink from the other guy inside. He can’t really make it.’ So I wrote it on a napkin and gave it to her.”

Oh, to have seen Sevilla’s expression when he was handed the napkin. “He made it for her and she came back and said, ‘He didn’t quite make it right.’ I’m like, that’s my boss, I can’t go in there. I can’t make it. ‘Really? Can you just make one really quick?’ Err no, I’m not working today. That’s my boss, I can’t do it.” (Ever the good sport, Sevilla is laughing louder than anyone as Lee tells us this story.)

Cut to the 2014 winter menu, which included the Tequila Lifeboat. “I had to give [Juan] props,” says Lee. “Flo had a copy of his passport photo from when he was in the Air Force. He looked like Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka meets a Samoan guy – he had a big, thick neck and curly hair. I got that photo photocopied and wrapped it around a bitters bottle, which was filled with nothing. I wrote that the final ingredient was ‘Juan’s Disapproval.’” So along with Partida Tequila, habanero agave and orange juice, the bartender was supposed to add dashes of Juan’s Disapproval.

Dan Long at Big Bar

Dan Long at Big Bar | Photo by Eugene Lee

A little more than a year after opening Big Bar, Sevilla decided it was time to move on. “Once that happened, they approached me to partner with Eugene to run the bar, initially as a consultant,” says Long. “It kind of started out that we were both assigned to do it. ‘We’d like to hire you to be a cocktail consultant.’ OK, sure. All along knowing that I was going to slowly wrangle this bar away from whatever they thought it was going to be and really put a rocket ship on it and try to make it go high and go far.”

“One of the things we haven’t mentioned,” adds Long. “Alcove’s been here 11 years, Big Bar’s been here five years, Eugene’s been here nine and a half years. He’s as much of a fixture as anything else that goes on around here. He has such a rapport with everyone who’s ever been here, not just who’s working now. They wanted him to manage the bar and I would manage the direction of the cocktail program.”

“As cool and flattering as it was, to me it was kind of an insane idea because you don’t have a student teach the class,” says Lee. “Dan Long was my teacher, so there’s no way in hell I was going to do this without him. No way. To this day I’m way more comfortable in the role of a student. The fact that I got the opportunity to help guide the ship with Dan was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. I think it goes back to that old school apprentice-master model. It was an opportunity I jumped at, because I was honored to have the offer, but moreover to be able to work with someone who was at that level and my teacher.”

Sevilla notes, “We always have to give credit to Tom Trellis, the owner of Big Bar and Alcove Cafe. Tom and I had developed this very respectful relationship where he gave me so much freedom – and probably to Dan as well when he took over – and he was always very willing to trust in your ideas and give it a try on so many levels.”

After Sevilla announced that he was leaving Big Bar, he took an active role during the transition period. “Naturally when you’re leaving a bar, you’re supposed to hire your replacement and I was very involved in that. You go look and see what’s out there. I gave it about a week and a half, two weeks of looking. I didn’t present anyone to [Tom]. We threw some names around, none of which I can remember.”

“I didn’t know if Dan or Eugene had ever managed a bar, but I proposed it [to Tom]. ‘I think Dan and Eugene would kill it.’ Dan is obviously a very talented bar guy and Eugene’s been here almost from day one. It was part of maintaining that culture, which is so important. I’d feel bad about leaving it to someone I didn’t know and trust. Not like it’s my bar, but still it’s meant so much to me, it’s done so much for me. I’m really happy that [Tom] said, ‘Let’s do it.’ He was all about it. And again, he’s willing to trust his people.”

Morrissey at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on May 10, 2014.

Morrissey at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, May 2014 | Photo by Eugene Lee

With the strong foundation that Sevilla and the opening team had built, Long and Lee took the baton and really ran with it. “I believe we were quite the left-right punch,” says Lee. “Holy crap. [Dan] was the alchemist and the artist in one person. And I was the really badass secretary who also picked up a camera for the first time when Big Bar opened. That’s when I started shooting.” Lee has since become an accomplished live music and special event photographer, exhibiting at Art Beyond the Glass and capturing images like the above photo of Morrissey, which has a fantastic backstory.

“The combination of being able to work with Dan in that regard, I thought we were just such a lethal team. We got things done, we had fun and man, what a crash course in event production. We got to really do some cool things. [Dan] and I are both romantics and dreamers, we’re born two days apart from each other. It’s really nice to be working with a creative – one has a little more left [brain] and one has a little more right, it’s such a good connection.”

The elephant at Big Bar's Bollywood Prom in 2013

The fabled elephant at the Bollywood Prom | Photo by Eugene Lee

Big Bar’s events are by far some of the most fun and memorable cocktail parties in the city. You have to admire the creativity and effort that the Big Bar crew puts into their special events, which are consistently outstanding and produced on relatively shoestring budgets. Your local has theme nights too? I’ll see your 80s cocktail menu or disco playlist and raise you a giant, 30-foot inflatable elephant watching over the Bollywood Prom in 2013.

The Bollywood Prom King and Queen with their Court

The Bollywood Prom King and Queen with their Court | Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

That year, a newlywed couple was named the Bollywood Prom King and Queen. “They came in with a friend,” says Long. “I was working the day shift, [it was] slow. They were the only people who came in. Essentially they had just gone down to City Hall and eloped. They were here for their post-ceremony cocktail. They hadn’t even told their parents yet, because they were supposed to have this family wedding. ‘We couldn’t wait anymore so we just went Downtown and got married.’ Funny, here’s a Prom Court nomination.” Sevilla adds, “They told Dan before they told their parents. That’s gotta tell you something about the trust they have for the bartender in the community.”

Rich Andreoli and Mia Sarazen at "Enchantment Under the Sea"

Rich Andreoli and Mia Sarazen at “Enchantment Under the Sea” | Photo by Eugene Lee

Dan Long as Napoleon and Eugene Lee as a Musketeer

Dan Long as Napoleon and Eugene Lee as a Musketeer | Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

The annual Valentine’s Day prom is one of the events that really brought Big Bar to the attention of a wider audience, debuting in 2011 with the Back to the Future-inspired theme, “Enchantment Under the Sea.” To promote the following year’s prom, “Midnight in Paris,” Long and Lee walked into a Sporting Life at Black Market Liquor Bar dressed as Napoleon and a Musketeer, respectively. Lee says, “Showing up dressed like Napoleon and the Musketeer actually was a perfect way to show the command structure at that time. ‘We have a general, his name is Danpoleon.’ And I’m happy being Korean D’Artagnan. [It] felt like the first moment that [Dan] and I got the jitters away, and we’re feeling good and saying, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ This is relevant. This bar will be greater than it was the previous year and continue to do so. I just love seeing pictures of that time, because we looked so stupid but we looked so awesome, too. And that’s how I felt about the direction of this bar, I felt like this is gonna be stupidly awesome.”

Long says, “That was one of the things that I really loved about being here, the amazing collaboration that we would do together with all of our hair-brained ideas. Just throwing it against the wall and making it all stick, you know? And really just saying that there’s nothing we can’t do, we have all this great space, this great neighborhood where people come in and they trust us to show them a good time. Between the staff, the neighborhood and the freedom like Juan said that the ownership gave us, there was really no better job to have. It was just an incredible experience.”

Learning about all things Bacardi at "Alcove's Alcove."

Learning about all things Bacardi at “Alcove’s Alcove” | Photo by Eugene Lee

There are plenty of Big Bar events that are more low key than the annual prom; many of them take place at the Craftsman cottage in the back of the property. Nicknamed “Alcove’s Alcove,” the cottage is primarily used for private parties, meetings and special events. Numerous cocktail events, industry tastings and educational seminars have taken place there, including the Plymouth Gin Breakfast of Champions, Bulleit Kentucky Derby House Party, St. Germain World’s Slowest Bike Race, Hudson Whiskey dinner, Sipsmith Gin tasting and many more. Lee says, “I just love that the cocktail community can get together in a nice, cool, air-conditioned space and get some education on, or a tasting, dinner or breakfast. It’s a good space for that.”

And speaking of the L.A. cocktail community, Lee gives a special shout out to two members of the extended Big Bar family. “We absolutely have to give love to Joe Keeper and Bar Keeper. What a wonderful ambassador for our space. I know the Keepers don’t really go out and drink much, but when they do and they come here, everybody gets jazzed because it’s such an honor to have Joe and Anna sit here. They’ve been such a great supporter of our bar. It’s like the Velvet Underground, if you listen to a live recording and hear eight people clapping in the audience, those eight people ended up forming really relevant bands. Those eight people that were in the room at Bar Keeper that started Sporting Life are the kind of people that came to support us – we’re totally indebted to and grateful for [them]. We have to be good, because of them.”

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the Big Bar patio

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the Big Bar patio | Photo by Eugene Lee

Another signature Big Bar series is the outdoor movie screenings that take place on the Alcove patio, featuring a 17-foot screen and themed food and drink menus. Seating is first come, first served and the events occasionally feature special guests – a recent screening of Rocky was followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, John G. Avildsen. The film series began in 2010 as an Academy Awards viewing party. “The Oscar party seems like kind of a blur,” says Lee. “Funny enough, that’s actually when I met my wife.”

“I was back here bartending with Eugene,” says Sevilla. “There were two blondes sitting right here in the corner, and I see Eugene totally trying to chat up this girl. I ended up leaving for the night, and Eugene confessed to me later on, saying, ‘I gotta admit, I left my post.’ Mario (or whoever the barback was) kinda took over, ‘cause I had to go talk –”

Lee quickly adds, “Listen, full disclosure: I have never, even back in my sordid history of working at a Japanese restaurant bar that shall be unnamed, I have never asked for anybody’s phone number. That’s never been my thing. I think it’s kind of unprofessional and all that stuff. But the one time I break, I ended up marrying her. So I feel like that’s cool. I’m good now.”

“It’s really nice that part of my personal story is woven into the history of this place,” says Lee. “There was a very big, spirited cocktail component to my wedding and my life. Dave Stolte did our His and Hers cocktails, we had all of our guests from all over the states, and some from around the world enjoy craft cocktails for the first time at our wedding. This place is very special to us.”

"The Breakfast Club" Mixtape Mixology at Big Bar

Mixtape Mixology: “The Breakfast Club” | Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

The long-running Mixtape Mixology Thursday night series features guest bartenders who also select the playlist for the night. “The story of Mixtape goes back to me being a starting bartender here,” explains Lee. “I had Juan, Mia, Rich and Dan. So I was still starting out, I did a lot of daytime shifts, a lot of brunches. The one way that I got to shoehorn my way to having a night – ’cause I was begging Juan for a night – was [after Sevilla said], ‘Well, think of something cool.’ How about on Thursday nights? ‘If you can make something out of it, I’ll give you an opportunity.’ So I said fine, how about Mixtape Mixology? It’s alliteration, it’s cool. The very first one we did was…a shoegaze mix? I remember doing one with Mia, we did an international hip-hop mix which was [the second one]. The people behind the stick here, and all over the country and L.A. are very creative people. Music, it’s like the perfect language. I want to know the kind of stuff that these guys listen to, I think it’s important.”

Juan Sevilla, Erick Castro and Dan Long - "L.A. Loves S.F." at Big Bar

Juan Sevilla, Erick Castro and Dan Long at “L.A. Loves S.F.” | Photo by Eugene Lee

A subset of the series is L.A. Loves S.F., which debuted in March 2011 and featured none other than DJ Hugenius Leerectus“That’s when I unveiled the Mixtape Mixology machine that I built in our mutual friend’s backyard,” says Lee. “This was almost five years ago, we were chatting about how everybody in L.A. loves San Francisco but sometimes it does feel like a one-way street. So we wanted to continue this tradition of doing an L.A. Loves San Francisco night, and invite a San Francisco bartender to our bar and play L.A. songs and San Francisco songs and try to kind of bring it together. That first night we had Juan, Dan and Erick Castro. What an honor.”

The Big Bar crew is ready for takeoff on New Year's Eve 2014.

The Big Bar crew is ready for takeoff on New Year’s Eve 2014. | Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

Big Bar’s annual New Year’s Eve countdown is a perfect way to start off the evening’s festivities or as a standalone celebration. It starts in the afternoon and moves across time zones from east to west with ten toasts on the hour, featuring a different cocktail inspired by that region or country. Sevilla credits Lee with the concept. “People [in L.A.] get nostalgic [about] where they’re from, the East Coast people are on the phone with their friends at 9 o’clock, ‘I’m celebrating with you.’”

“The countdown was inspired by a trip to Vegas I had right out of college,” says Lee. “I had never been to Vegas on [New Year’s Eve] and starting at 7 o’clock, every time we went to the crosswalk, as soon as that thing started counting down from ‘10,’ everyone all around started chanting, ‘10, 9…’ and they would say ‘Happy New Year’ at every crosswalk.”

Big Bar New Year's Eve cocktail postcards by Dave Stolte

New Year’s Eve cocktail postcards by Dave Stolte | Courtesy of Eugene Lee

Lee continues, “We’d only been open for two or three months. Ahh, screw it, no one’s coming here for New Year’s. Why don’t we just take 4 o’clock to 9 o’clock and I’d say that’s a win. From there, the passport came about Year Two with Dan and we did the postcards last year.” With cocktail passports, stamps, progressive cocktails and playlists, and then last year’s international cocktail tour with postcards and airline costumes, what will they do this Dec. 31? Lee is only half-joking when he says they’re going to have to land a plane inside Big Bar to top themselves.

Eugene Lee at Big Bar

Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee

No matter how wild and crazy Big Bar gets with their events, the strength of the cocktail program is what keeps guests coming back. And it’s been that way from the beginning. Lee says, “My freshman class with Rosie and Matt, we got the best training one could possibly get. Before the bar was open, we were in that back house every day, hustling away, learning everything. We were trained one on one with Mia, Rich, Juan and Dan. I don’t know, maybe other bars do it. That kind of intensive, one instructor to one student, apprenticeship-style program is not only quaint, it’s a really wonderful way to learn an artisan craft. Which is exactly what this is, without making it too precious.”

Lee continues, “To get that foundational support from Juan and the team that he brought together, and to have someone like Dan take that, and add a little Technicolor to it and really start moving laterally and diagonally with how we could think about drinks while having it anchored in classics, is a truly amazing and unique experience. I just hope that whoever does take the reins in the future can bring a little piece of Juan and Dan with them. We’re all the better for it. And it’s been a pleasure being the secretary this whole time.”

“I think it needs to be said, [Eugene] is the king of tooting other people’s horns for them better than anybody can,” says Long. “But he really is the glue of this place from even before the bar was here. And I think that anybody who has ever worked with him, whether it’s in the bar or on an event, will say he’s one of the most giving people you’ve ever met in your life. He is the flame of this place that keeps it warm and keeps it burning, keeps all these people tied together, and keeps us happy when we were running it. It really could never have happened without Eugene. He is the soul of the whole place. Everybody will back me up on that.”

“I’ve had this conversation with Tom before,” says Sevilla. “We’ve always agreed that Eugene has been a big part of keeping this thing alive. Hopefully he stays for the rest of his life!”

“Working with these guys — it’s really awesome to sit at a bar with an incredibly talented bartender that can make awesome classics,” says Lee. “And then you get this next cut of a creative bartender that riffs on those classics and changes your perception of things. If you get all that packaged and still have fun and make things accessible, I think that’s really great. That’s what I’ve learned from Dan and Juan, and that’s what a lot of the people that come through the bar, I hope they can take that with them. This has been a special moment in time and hopefully one that bears fruit to future generations of people that sit here and work here.”

Big Bar at Alcove
1929 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90027
(323) 644-0100

Big Bar header image courtesy of Eugene Lee.

After the jump, read on for the schedule of Big Bar’s five-year anniversary festivities. Sorry Friday, you’ve been cancelled for October.

Juan Collins at Big Bar

Juan Collins at Big Bar | Photo by Eugene Lee

Big Bar kicked off its month-long five-year anniversary celebration on Oct. 1 with the launch of its “Greatest Hits” menu of original cocktails, as selected by present and former staff, locals, regulars and crowdsourced online. The menu will be featured throughout October. That same night, the Juan Collins began its month on the Featured Cocktail Board. Opening Bar Manager Juan Sevilla’s cocktail is made with Bombay Gin, lemon, tamarind syrup and soda, garnished with tamarindo candy.

Big Bar Barrel

Big Bar Barrel | Photo by Eugene Lee

Oct. 8: “The Return of the Kings”
The big night is Thursday, Oct. 8, the actual five-year anniversary of Big Bar. “The Return of the Kings” is a throwback guest night featuring Big Bar’s former Bar Managers, Juan Sevilla and Dan Long alongside some of the Big Bar family, some of whom have been there for all five years. Starting at 4 p.m., Big Bar bartenders past and present will work in teams of two, culminating with Sevilla and Long behind the stick at 8 p.m.

Big Bar will launch their own Big Bar Barrel with one of their beloved Old Fashioned variations, the Ponte Vecchio – rye whiskey, Galliano Authentico, Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters. Imbibers can look forward to a rotating barrel-aged cocktail as the barrel depletes.

Thirsty guests can spin a custom Wheel O’ Cocktails with favorites, “deep cuts and B-sides” from the Big Bar menu archives. Look for obscure selections like Dan Long’s Escandolo – “one of my favorite crushable beer cocktails,” says Lee – and the Tricelerytops from their Jurassic Park movie night.

"Too Many Bartenders" at Big Bar

“Too Many Bartenders” at Big Bar | Courtesy of Eugene Lee

Oct. 15 & 22: “Too Many Bartenders”
Big Bar welcomes back some of their featured guest bartenders for two nights of “Too Many Bartenders,” with five bartenders each night, progressive cocktails and playlists. On Oct. 15, the guests will be Alex Straus (EP LP), Cari Hah (Clifton’s Cafeteria), Dave Stolte (Home Bar Basics), Genie Gore (Melrose Umbrella Co.) and Paul Sanguinetti (Normandie Club). The guests on Oct. 22 are Aaron Melendrez (Clifton’s, Normandie Club), Chris Day (General Lee’s), Karen Grill (Sassafras Saloon), Ricky Yarnall (Henry Wine Group) and Una Green (Belcampo Meat Co.).

Oct. 29: “All My Friends Are Dead”
The month of anniversary festivities concludes with a pre-Halloween party, because Thursday is the new black. The theme is “All My Friends are Dead,” featuring special guests Randy Tarlow of Liquid Alchemist and Alex Goode (Mt. Gay Rum). Stay tuned for all of the spooky surprises TBA.



  1. […] of the best New Year’s Eve events in L.A. is hosted by Big Bar, which gets the party started at 3pm and travels through 10 timezones, 10 countdowns, 10 cocktails […]