I make it a point to use this space to recommend places to go for well-made cocktails. I've yet to call a place out—until now.
I had high hopes for the Gaslamp bar Frauds and Swindlers. It's owned by L.A. cocktail all-star Aidan Demarest and I'd heard only good things about the place.
My husband and I were the only customers there at around 7 p.m. on a Thursday. It was quiet—no music, no loud chatter. "Quiet is good," I told the bartender. I ordered a gin drink, and my husband ordered a whiskey drink. Both were topped with a significant amount of crushed ice.
The first sips were nice—the cocktails had honey syrup in them and I'm a big fan of honey in cocktails. It sweetens things up just a bit and adds depth.
Then two things happened, almost simultaneously: Someone turned on the music—loud, bad post-grunge grunge—and my husband leaned over and said, "My drink's turning into a slushie."
Mine, too. Cocktails that would have been lovely with a single large cube were turning into mush. Crushed ice can and does work in cocktails—like Sycamore Den's Dovetail Julep—but it didn't work here. Blame the ice machine; blame the music. We paid the tab and left without finishing our drinks.
Hello, Great Maple (1451 Washington St. in Hillcrest). You were on the way home. You serve food—really good food—and strong drinks. I had the N.S. Wolfhound (Tullamore Dew whiskey, clove syrup, lemon and Cointreau Noir), a delicately sweet, boozy concoction beautifully garnished with an orange slice, sprig of mint, cinnamon stick and whole cloves.
The husband's Raspberry Old Fashioned was a solid take on a classic with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, muddled raspberries, Regan's orange bitters and a splash of soda, garnished with a sugar-fried orange slice.
For dessert we split a "mini" (a smaller, $5 version) of the Sweet Pamplemousse (Uncle Vals Botanical Gin, grapefruit liqueur and lime, garnished with a grapefruit twist). Served straight up in coupe glass, the drink was flawless—just how I like it.