As Los Felizians, it takes a lot to get us to the Westside for a happy hour. In fact, it takes two of our favorite bartenders making seriously good whiskey cocktails for eight bucks each. Oh, and duck sausage pizza:
Areal opened in October in the space that was once the World Cafe, a decades-old restaurant, and institution, on Main Street in Santa Monica. Areal offers up locals (and Eastsiders willing to make the trek) a swank patio for people-watching and a sophisticated menu by chef Mette Williams, with a separate, under-ten-buck bar menu.
Another perk? Whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey. So much so that bar manager Rich Andreoli, also of the Edison and an alumnus of Harvard & Stone, dedicated Wednesdays to the spirit.
"I really wanted to make this place a place that the people who live around here would love to come," says Andreoli of his whiskey-bent bar program. "The entire driving force was to create a palate for the great team that I have to work with."
Mia Sarazen, formerly of Harvard & Stone and Soho House, develops beverages alongside Andreoli. The two make a strong team. We stopped in on a recent Wednesday with the intentions of trying just one cocktail each, but their menu of bourbon and rye-based creations made it hard not to order a third to share.
Tip: if the specials list includes the option: "Bartender Choice (...Dooooo it!)," trust them. Andreoli mixed us up an off-menu signature drink he calls a Sarazina -- created in homage to his bar partner. A rye-based take on a Sazarac, with dandelion and burdock infusions, this favorite of ours was sweet, spicy and strong. If he's behind the bar, get one. Dooooo it.
"I've got fantastic bartenders and I get to give them all the tools possible," Andreoli says. "I'm constantly learning, they're constantly learning and we're trying things that are new and original and unique."
We've noticed a wave of cocktails with a healthy angle cropping up around town, and Areal represents this trend well with their beet-based cocktail, aptly named Just Beet It. Buffalo Trace whiskey mixes with house-juiced beets, their own ginger syrup, lemon, and a little soda water. The beets add a nice sweetness, but the earthiness pairs well with the whiskey and the spice of the ginger. You almost forget that you're having a cocktail at all. Almost.
We asked Andreoli which if the 50+ whiskeys on hand was his favorite. Not surprisingly, he couldn't decide on one.
"My favorite is the Ardbeg Uigeadail, of the scotches. My favorite rye is Old Potrero. My favorite bourbon is..." Andreoli surveys the bar. For a lengthy period time. "I really love bourbon." He turns back to the bar and finally decides, "Four Roses? Probably?"
If he keeps building up Areal's whiskey reserves, we suspect this decision will get harder and harder to make. Which is fine by us.
Areal, 2829 Main Street, Santa Monica; 310-392-1661
[Photos by Leah Hardstark.]
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