Anatomy of a City - When you visit a city, it’s large and prescribed. The places to go, the sights to see. Most of those are defined. You spend the days at a shops and museums...
Saturday, February 6, 2010
La Descarga: The Hottest Spot West of La Habana, LA's First Rum Bar Shakes and Swizzles.
La Descarga, LA's first rum bar unloads its mystery, and lusty scent as you slowly descend into its clutches. La Descarga, the "discharge", oozes the jazz of the cabarets, bars, and clubs in La Habana, both past and present. The daiquiris at El Floridita, the mojitos from La Bodeguita del Medio, the raw undulations of the Tropicana, the rumba guaguanco(dance) of the malecon, the Afro-Cuban sounds of club La Zorra y El Cuervo, and the all night party of La Casa de La Musica.
La Descarga,a transparent speakeasy, operates on a reservation system which keeps this instant scene bar a place you want to be, where service and style are foremost. The vintage dressed beauty greets you and eases you into the bar through a secret entrance where there is a crowd, but room to drink, dance, and mingle. An attentive staff keeps an eye on everyone and even if you are not for want, the enchanting Deandra may ask you how you're doing. These people want to ensure that your time at La Descarga is special.
A quartet perched on a balcony above the main bar starts to play and a curvy babe starts to dance, "ay no ma'", yells the conga player blistering out a cumbia beat, which is Cuban for "that's the spot girl!" "Baila,mamasita!"(dance,hot mama)
At the bar, Pablo Moix makes heritage rum classic cocktails. Pablo is the portfolio mixologist for Bacardi, and has put his passion for rum and a good party into this place, along with Steve Livigni from the Doheny.
The short list of cocktails exists for know as they properly train staff these straight-forward classics. The mojito,made just as as Hemingway would have requested at La Bodeguita, is so refreshing and balanced.
A recipe for Papa's daiquiri, from La Cuna de Daiquiri(the cradle of the daiquiri), El Floridita, calls for white Bacardi rum, Maraschino Liqueur, and fresh squeezed grapefruit.
The Cuba Libre is given an added sugar rush from Mexican Coke.
We all enjoyed the Tropical Holiday, made with rhum agricole,a fresh sugar cane juice rhum exclusive to Martinique. Velvet falernum(an indispensable liqueur in rum mixology),lime, sugar, soda and bitters comprise the balance of the ingredients.
There is a house daiquiri, a favorite drink of Pablo's, and other quite reasonably priced rum cocktails, between $9 and $13.
On opening night the club was in full swing. this is a place to drink but don't forget to buy a round for the welcoming eyes across the bar, celebrate with your set, or strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger. Dolled up beauties in vintage clothing reach in their purses for a cigarette, a guy with in a bow tie knocks back a drink, and the adult amusement park that is La Descarga stirs in the rhythyms and spirit of Cuba and rum.
It didn't take long, but by the first weekend the dance floor began to take shape. The various cultures and flavors of Los Angeles began to swoop, twirl, and step to the sounds of son, cumbia, and rumba.
But La Descarga is first and foremost a rum bar, and if you aren't diving into the hand selected rums from Pablo and co. then you are missing something unique. The rums are from all over the world of this legendary spirit. The selection of rums will expand as Pablo carefully adds bottles, not to just litter the bar in unfamiliar booze, like other places around town, but to deliver excellence.
There are the rums for all like Ron Zacapa from Guatemala, that will charm both novice and rum fanatic. It's as sweet and smooth as Salma Hayek's curves, which were a fine addition to the smoking lounge this past weekend at La Descarga.
Ron Zaya, another charming Guatemalan will also do just fine in anyone's glass. The rhum agricole, le Favorite, from Martinique has wonderful earthern flavors and that delicate sweetness from the distillation of fresh sugar cane juice. Or, try a Pusser's rum, famed as the British Navy's daily ration of courage until the practice was abolished in 1970.
In the cigar bar, you will find only neat spirits, well......you can bring your cocktail if you must. Here, quality hand-rolled Dominican leaf cigars for all tastes from mild to wild are provided. The presidente figurado(torpedo), is an excellent full bodied smoke, and already a favorite. The slender lancero is an elegant sight to behold, and of a medium flavor. This rum and smokes bar is part boys club and ladies den of iniquity where nymphs fashionably drag on cigarettes. A Marlene Dietrich styled blonde rattles of her keen knowledge of rhum agricoles, yes she adores Le Favorite.
I wend my way back to the bar for a more bold adventure, Trinidad and Tobago's Scarlet Ibis($16), a strong and spicy small production rum made in copper pot stills, blended with 3-5 year old vintages.
From Barbados, the 12 yr. Cockburn evokes fruit and orange peel flavors with a luscious mouth feel. The folks at the rum bar are getting to know their selection of rums, but instead leading you on, they kindly offer to give you a taste, don't mind if I do.A rum paired with a nice cigar is about as good as it gets.
The executive treatment continues as the cigar attendant cuts and attentively lights your stick.
When it's show time you are ushered into the main bar to get a glimpse of a night at the Tropicana, where Cuba's racy cabaret show became legend.Eva teases and provokes the crowd with her hot moves and long stares.
The percussionist draws nearer, trading bongo breaks for rump shakes, while the band stops time. Some "Salt Peanuts, Salt Peanuts" rings out from the skins, and the dancer obliges with pelvic thrusts.
Later she slinks down to the floor, then walks the bar to hoots and hollers from both sexes.
The show is becoming the talk of La Descarga and has a deeper vibe than the forced burlesque scenes that have come and gone in recent years around LA, LA Descarga feels like you've left the country.
A much as we admire her form, the grace and heat in her dance intrigues.
This is La Descarga,a little bit of Old Havana, New Hollywood, but all-American. A bar that celebrates the heart of Cuba in song, dance, and backdrop, but the drink, rum, is afterall the drink of the American Revolution.
La Descarga is LA's first rum bar, for both aficionados and newcomers. Explore the Caribbean's kill-devil, the pure classic rum cocktails of Pablo Moix, K-Town's modish speakeasy, in an ambiance of style and correct service.
There are other bars around town that are known for their spirits lists, but when you arrive, you feel as they never really intended for you to actually enjoy them. Tequila bars with shelves of fluff that mostly sell average margaritas, a whiskey bar that's more pool hall with the dull tone of a frat party.
Steve Livigni and Deandra Miranda of La Descarga.
The real "rum junglers", Julia and Samantha on Opening Night at La Descarga.
La Descarga is a serious bar that has as much pulse as it does substance. The cocktails around town have been fun my friends, but enough already, give us a sip of unadulterated spirit, and let's indulge in sweet vice, latin rhythym 'n heat, and consort amidst luxurious rings of smoke.
1159 Western Avenue
Hollywood, California 90029
(reservation strongly suggested)
(323) 466-1324 or
at their website