Ordering a spirit-focused sipper feels like a pretty safe bet when you’re trying to look cool at a bar. You’re worried that anything with too much juice and syrup will make you seem like you hate the taste of booze and if a cocktail has an elaborate garnish, that you’ll be judged like a kid who got a cereal just for the toy at the bottom.
While I’ll never say there’s anything wrong with loving Sazeracs and Vieux Carrés, if you characterize all drinks that involve pomp and spectacle as superficial and trivial, you’ll be missing out. Complexity, sweetness, and flash doesn’t imply a lack of depth any more than simplicity equals it.
Josh Suchan’s cocktail menu at Skylight gardens proves this point. His enthusiasm for the aesthetic experience surrounding the taste of his drinks is infectious, and as he assembles his jars full of cigar smoke, spins up violette clouds, and releases cyprus-bergamot fog, it’s hard not to get excited. All these flourishes make sense for his audience too– Skylight Gardens is in Westwood, and some of his UCLA crowd probably needs something extra to get them to do anything other than order the cheapest shots and beer they can find. In other words, the drinks need to be accessible– but just because they have something for everyone doesn’t mean they have nothing for you. The Westside Julep with it’s roasted sunflower seed bourbon, honey peach gastrique, mint, and bee pollen and his twist on the classic Stinger (brandy, sherry, fernet menta, toasted pecan bitters) are a testament to his thoughtfulness when it comes to substance.
TL;DR: a drink doesn’t have to look boring in order to have depth. Here, all the sensory experiences complement each other and come together to create something integrated and memorable. These college kids are going to be so spoiled.
Skylight Gardens is located at 1139 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024
All photos (unless otherwise specified) taken by @SpiritedLA.