Drink Up: Pour Vous

Pour Vous is at its core an elegant French cocktail salon. But it couldn't be more Los Angeles. This stunningly gorgeous destination bar is tucked on an unremarkable swath of Melrose in the shadow of the Paramount fortress, lit with the neon glare of the neighboring Astro Burger.

Entering the space feels like stumbling into a full-size diorama, meticulously constructed to mimic Europe and toy with your sense of time. Acquired four years ago by brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston -- owners of La Descarga and Harvard & Stone -- the building has undergone a grand makeover and an early-April re-opening, in a space that was once the burlesque joint Forty Deuce. Because in Hollywood, even women peeling off their bras gets old.

Pour Vous is cozy and forthright in its Francophilia: a recessed rotunda in the center of the bar features a glowing, domed ceiling which nods to Parisian architecture. Burgundy velvet booths, tassled lamps, and a glimmering copper espresso machine (repurposed to dispense not coffee, but beer) all suggest the opulent interiors of a French parlor. It's as if movie magic transformed an empty set into a luxe, breathtaking reality. But all that backdrop would be silly without talent. Under the management of L.A. cocktail icons Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix -- of Harvard & Stone, Blue Cow, La Descarga and Plan Check -- Pour Vous has stocked the bar with some of the best mixologists on this coast. Harvard & Stone's Dave Fernie is head bartender, joined by Lindsay Nader (of Harvard & Stone and PDT) Devon Espinosa (of ink.), and La Descarga's Adrian Biggs.

Of the menu development, Livigni recalls, "We'd been collecting spirits and liqueurs and we had a couple of sessions where we just put everything on the bar at Descarga. For a couple of days, everyone just made cocktails."

"All of them made really nice drinks," he says. "More cocktails made it on the menu than we anticipated."

Featuring 25 signature drinks, the cocktail list is extensive -- almost overwhelming. But the menu's five-category system helps: aperitifs; fruity, floral drinks (Parfum); stirred and spirit-driven (Potion); healthy tonics (Sante); and exotically spiced cocktails reminiscent of French territories (Par Avion).

Drinks aren't cheap -- you won't be scoring a double Long Island Iced tea for $8 -- but at around $14 per cocktail, it's a relatively affordable way to get transported to Paris.

We asked for a "manly drink" and Lindsay delivered a Menage a Trois, which was delightfully well-balanced: the Calvados apple brandy and cognac spirits weren't too overpowering, as the demerara gave it a nice sweetness and the zest brightened it up. As a gesture of health, we followed up with the "Sante" cocktail, Lapin Fou. Made with pear brandy, lemon juice, aromatic liqueur, ginger and carrot juice, the tonic tasted earthy, tart and not-too-sweet. A wafer thin slice of cucumber as garnish lent a freshness to every sip.

And of course: there's champagne.

"We have a nice champagne menu," says Livigni. "But the majority of the cocktails are made with three French brandies: cognac, Calvados and Armagnac."

Rum, gin and whiskey make appearances as well, but you won't find much tequila. You will however find light French fare. Last week, Pour Vous launched a small program that includes oysters, cheese and chocolate. Known aphrodisiacs, yes, but Livigni says that a few sophisticated snacks are all part of the vibe.

"It's very apropos for a lounge setting; it sets the tone that it's not a nightclub," he says. "If people come in and see nice cocktail glasses and oysters, they're probably not asking themselves 'When is this going to turn into a crazy dance party?'"

"There's not going to be any dubstep," he adds.

Essentially, Pour Vous is not that kinda party. It's best to show up dressed well -- and admittance is at the discretion of the door staff. Livigni notes with a light chuckle that the less-formal Harvard & Stone tends to see clientele in "two styles: hipster witches, and post-prospector guys."

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave, 323.871.8699

[Photo of champagne wine stems from Flickr user dps; photo of mini Eiffel Tower from Flickr user Aih.]


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About the Author

Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark are best friends, TV shows hosts, and cocktail experts.
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