The first, and pretty much only thing I really wanted to do during my short stay in Los Angeles was to go to Trader Vic’s. As you undoubtedly have noticed, I’m a huge fan of Trader Vic’s drinks, and his overall bartending philosophy. So I begged and pleaded with Sarah and Jenny to take me to the place where modern-day cocktail culture was spawned in 1934, Trader Vic’s.
The first thing I noticed about the bar was that it was classy. Sure, there are lots of palm fronds, the bartenders are in Hawaiian shirts, and they’re serving drinks out of mugs shaped like human skulls, but with the low lighting and the overall professionalism about the place, it gave an air of class.
We sat at the bar so I could watch the bartenders working. There’s a restaurant attached, and the bar was pretty full – there might have been about 40 people in there – but what struck me immediately was they had four bartenders working. That’s a big staff. At Vaquero, we must do double the business with half the staff. But what you’ll find at Trader Vic’s as opposed to most places is a sense of calm behind the bar. They’re heavily staffed. Nobody ever stressed out, you never had to wait for a drink, there were four older gentlemen back there to make sure the drinks came out well and that everyone was taken care of well.
Jenny and I started with Mai Tais, and Sarah grabbed a Maui Fizz. The drinks were, in one word, amazing. Absolutely incredible. The Mai Tai was the best I’ve ever had, way better than mine. I’ll print the recipe here when I get home to my Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. They came with crushed ice and we gulped them down in two seconds. The Maui Fizz was light, refreshing, and flash-blended.
Next, we ordered a Singapore Sling, a Hot Buttered Rum and a Tahitian Coffee. The Singapore Sling left something to be desired, it was a little syrupy for my tastes. The Tahitian Coffee was incredible, Sarah went crazy for it. I’ll have to say that Jenny’s Hot Buttered Rum didn’t have enough flavor. We used to make one at Red Agave that was incredible, I’ll print that recipe as well.
Next we ordered a Brandy Alexander and a Piña Colada. They were both superlative, the best versions I’ve had from another bartender, ever.
In short, the drinks at Trader Vic’s are the best I’ve ever had, anywhere. And as you all know, I’m really hard on other bartenders. The professionalism employed by the staff was top-notch. I highly recommend making the journey.