Welcome to Cocktail Hour, the Friday afternoon newsletter from Bar\Heart author Amy Haimerl. Each week I offer drink suggestions, book recommendations, smart reads about dumb things, binge-worthy shows and even a little advice.
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It’s Friday, so it must be Cocktail Hour! And this week I’m in a Los Angeles state of mind.
I just got back to Detroit from L.A., where I basked in the Malibu sun and accompanied my friend Joanne Gerstner, who writes Open Court, to the BTS concert. I’m still a bit shell shocked from the experience of being in SoFi stadium with 50,000 other people. I haven’t felt that much combined energy and joy in so, so long.
Overall, it was a great trip. We saw pelicans and had amazing drinks (more below)! But I’m also so happy to be back home with Lovey and the creatures.
All right. Let’s get to Cocktail Hour!
WHAT WE’RE DRINKING: La Brea Rose at Bacari
Our first night in L.A., Joanne and I visited Bacari Silver Lake, which has the most magical garden filled with twinkling lights, fire pits, bougainvillea and a spectacular ficus tree that is more than three-quarters of a century old. You just know this patio has seen some things. And, in fact, when I texted my friend and former L.A. resident Amilea our location, her response was perfect:
“I’ve been very wine drunk in that courtyard.”
But that was when the restaurant was called Cliff’s Edge. This summer Bacari took over the space and started offering a Mediterranean menu under chef Lior Hillel.
Joanne and I shared a delicious array of tapas, from stuffed mushrooms to an Asian pear and brie pizza. But, for me, the real standout was the bar program run by Erin Earl.
Joanne, who is a Malbec aficionado, was surprised by the remarkably good vintage that the bar had on tap. Yes, literally, Malbec flowing from a tap. Meanwhile, I ordered the La Brea Rose, a tequila, agave, lime and rosewater pairing with a Lillet wash.
Earl invented the drink for Valentine’s Day 2020, and it proved so popular she’s kept it on the menu. I can see why. The La Brea Rose is delicate but not cloying, thanks to the Lillet, and has a nice tartness. It was also beautifully presented, with the liquid glowing in the dim light and a rose petal floating on top.
When I shoved the drink at Joanne to try, she hesitated. Usually I'm forcing an overly-sweet old fashioned upon her demanding to know why it so bad. But she sipped and immediately shared my delight.
I needed to know more about this drink and why tequila and rosewater work so well together. So I emailed Earl and she told me that her favorite flavors “all live in the land of ‘margarita.’” So when it came time to develop a Valentine’s drink, she didn’t want traditional chocolate and strawberries; she wanted a “fun” cocktail for dates of all kinds.
“I incorporated my cocktail with the scent of romance and voila!,” Earl says. Plus, she adds, “the La Brea rose gardens are very close to Bacari’s West Third location, and I’m an L.A. native and have great pride in my city, so in all of our cocktails there’s a little story about where you are enjoying it.”
Earl recommends Cortas rose water, which Lebanese grocers stock. But if you don’t have that in your town, Amazon also carries it. Earl’s other tip for home bartenders is to incorporate fresh-pressed juices, which has been her signature at Bacari this year. For example, she says, carrot juice is a great sweetener.
“Fresh is everything,” Earl explains. “Ingredients like kale, beets, carrots, turmeric, tomatillo, etc. are all amazing in cocktails if you find the right spirit. Cocktails are recipes; play with what you love. Just make sure you have a balance of each aspect: Sugar, acid, spirit, creativity = great cocktails.”
Earl didn't divulge the recipe for the La Brea Rose, but I suspect Friend of Bar\Heart Shana, who made us milk punch and The Tears of a Colonizer for Thanksgiving, will help me recreate it! Updates soon.
I like to be helpful, and my natural mode is problem-solving. But it turns out, Lovey doesn’t always want my solutions. Sometimes, he just wants his wife, not the editor, to listen.
So when I saw this cross-stitch (I love Shannon Downey and her Badass Cross Stitch!) I felt so seen. It is such a good question that allows the person the space to tell you how you can best support them. I might have to get this tattooed on my wrists, along with my other mottos: Trust Yourself and Don’t Be a Girl.
Being able to look down and remind myself might help Lovey and I avoid a lot of ridiculous squabbles. 🥰
It’s that time of year when everyone comes out with their “best books” lists. NPR has its mega list of 360, organized by genre, and 12 staff favorites; NY Times has its top 10, as does the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post and even Amazon. Oprah has her top 20 and Esquire offers its top 50. And this list of lists could go on!
I reviewed the lists, and while each publication has its own spin and preferences, there are a number of titles that appear repeatedly. Below I've compiled some of the most compelling in the Bar\Heart Top 13 of 2021. I’m not saying these are the best books of the year since I haven't read them, but rather they seem to be some of the most popular books on the best books lists.
Last year Lovey and I started a tradition of exchanging a book on Christmas Eve. The goal is to give a title that we think the other would love but wouldn’t necessarily have found for themselves. This year we’ll be in Knoxville, and I’m hoping we’ll pop into the delightful Union Avenue Books to make our selections and then enjoy a cocktail at the Peter Kern Library to exchange our gifts of ideas and words.
Bar\Heart Top 13 of 2021 (in no particular order)
Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fannone Jeffers (fiction)
Crossroads by Johanthan Franzen (fiction)
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (fiction)
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed (memoir)
Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner (memoir)
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (Non-fiction)
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (fiction)
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (fiction)
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (memoir)
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (fiction)
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Blue (fiction)
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (fiction)
All In by Billie Jean King (memoir)
Thanksgiving was a huge success at our house. I’m still thinking about Lovey’s turkey! What I don’t love is the state of my sheet pans after the big holiday. No matter how much we scrubbed, they still look rather … used. So I was thrilled to find this guide from The Kitchen on getting them sparkling clean.
The Kitchen tested five methods and determined that your best bet is baking soda and peroxide or cream of tartar and vinegar. Pour it on, let it sit and then wipe it off and you get the clean gleam. Just in time for all that veggie roasting and cookie baking that Martha, Instagram and societal programming tells women we're supposed to do again in a few short weeks.
I’ll be in Knoxville and New Orleans for the holidays with Lovey, so our pans won’t be getting a second work out. And, in all reality, I’m not going to take the time to clean my pans to a perfect silver sheen. But I feel better in the knowledge that I could if I wanted to. Maybe you will, too?
1. Old Trucks for New Money via the New Yorker. The booming market for certain vintage vehicles is driven by a particular vision of authenticity. Or, why I can't afford the Bronco of my dreams.
My week has been all BTS. So I offer you their "Permission to Dance" video.
I went along for the ride with Joanne, knowing zero BTS songs. But, thankfully, she schooled me about the Korean seven before the show to ensure I didn’t dismiss them as just another boy band. Even though they have a pop aesthetic, BTS' lyrics can be very political and subversive, addressing everything from the Korean education system to depression and mental health during Covid. That helped me really appreciate the music even if I didn’t understand the lyrics. You can read about the experience, and why they were even better than she dreamed, in Joanne’s newsletter.
Met these guys on the beach this week.
That’s all for this week, friends. See you next Friday for Cocktail Hour.
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Do you want to contribute to Cocktail Hour? Got a great drink with an even better back story? Book you can’t wait to recommend? A piece of advice we all need now? Something to delight us? E-mail me at email@example.com!
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