Liquor flights are the answer to the curious drinker. Variety Weekend set out to prove that good things come in small glasses.
How to order: Request the “top shelf bartender’s choice,” a flight of three select rums served with simple syrup, lime wedges and ice for mixing your own cocktails. $10-$15 per flight
How to drink: From the young, light, dry and acidic to the aged, dark, sweet and smooth
Standouts: Flor de Caña 7 Year, spicy with a toffee and vanilla finish. Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year, caramel and oak pairs perfectly with flan
What you might learn: “Venezuela, Nicaragua and Guatemala are the ‘new world’ producers,” says resident rum expert Cesar Flores. “The rich South American soils are producing high quality rums.”
Arroyo Chop House, Scotch
How to order: Sample each of the five Scotch producing regions (Campbeltown, Islay, Highland, Lowland and Speyside) to get a sense of each distinct terroir. Single malts from $11-$35 a glass
How to drink: Before dinner, try the lighter, peaty Islay Scotches like Laphroaig and Macallan; after dinner, go for aged and complex like Balvenie, Springbank 10 Year and Dalmore.
Standouts: The Balvenie 12 Year, aged in both whiskey oak and sherry barrels, imparts a sweet, woody complexity and a light sherry finish. Dalmore 1973 Vintage, smooth with light smoke–it’s hands-down the best Scotch we tasted.
What you might learn: It’s all about the water. Says GM Patrick Kirchen: “The most important part is fresh water from a local creek or river; it’s where the whole Scotch-making process begins.”
The Vodbox at Nic’s Martini Lounge, Vodka
How to order: Reserve 20 minutes in the 20-degree Vodbox (coats and hats provided). $21 for two shots, or rent a vodka cubby inside the Vodbox for $2500/year, includes 4 bottles of your choice
How to taste: Start with the stolid Russian vodkas and then sample a few infused varieties. Or sip by gender–rye and potato vodkas are considered “male;” rice and barley are considered “female.”
Standouts: Imperia from Russia, distilled six times (the maximum) for a smooth and crisp taste. Reyka from Iceland, distilled through lava rock and ice, crisp and slightly sweet.
What you might learn: “People think that vodka doesn’t need to taste or smell to be good,” says resident vodka maestro Leopold Nunan. “But real connoisseurs are looking for grain taste and complexity.”
How to order: Try different ages: Blanco (aged minimum of 1 year), Reposado (aged a minimum of 2 years), Añejo (aged a minimum of 3 years). $8-$20 per shot
How to taste: Youngest and lightest to oldest and darkest
Standouts: Herradura Añejo, a rich, caramel flavor and smooth finish. Don Julio 1942, a spicy vanilla nose and a silky sweet finish
What you might learn: True tequilas are made from 100% blue agave grown in the Jalisco region of Mexico. Tequila was North America’s first distilled liquor.
Ciudad: 445 S. Figueroa Street, 213-486-5171, ciudad-la.com
Arroyo Chop House: 536 South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, 626-577-7463, arroyochophouse.com
Nic’s Martini Lounge: 453 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-550-5707, nicsbeverlyhills.com
Frida: 236 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-278-7666, fridarestaurant.com