A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more. Hosted by John Rabe

Want a date? Learn to make classic cocktails!

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

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Off-Ramp host and Classic Cocktails moderator John Rabe, Javier Cabral, Krista Simmons, Daniel Djang, and Naomi Schimek at The Virgil in Silverlake. Lindsay Foster Thomas

"That's how I test my dates. If you can't make an Old Fashioned, you ain't getting a date with me. It's the ultimate classic cocktail. It's really easy to make, but it's really easy to screw up, too." -- Krista Simmons, food editor and culinary host, LAist

The Crawford Family Forum is the perfect venue to talk about most things, from politics to movies to health care. But when it comes to classic cocktails, the Forum lacks a few essentials ... like actual cocktails. So when we wanted to explore the rise of classic cocktails in LA, and how to make them, we convened at The Virgil, a cocktail bar in Silverlake, with just the right combination of lack of pretension, devotion to craft, and comfortable grittiness.

I was joined on stage by Krista Simmons, LAist's food editor and culinary host; food and culture reporter Javier Cabral (LA Times Food, KCET Food, Saveur, etc.); Daniel Djang, who founded the blog Thirsty in LA; and Naomi Schimek, beverage director at Spare Room Hollywood and VP of the LA chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild.

RELATED: 5 LA bars with the best Old-Fashioned. What's your favorite?

First, we learned that LA lagged New York City in the renaissance of classic cocktails ... by 20 years. That while Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail, was crafting cocktails in NY's Rainbow Room in the 1980s, it wouldn't be until the mid-2000's that Providence and Comme Ça brought the trend here, and dragged us out of the Dark Ages of Sex on the Beach, Cosmo's, and Long Island Ice Teas, not to mention hyper-dry Martini's, too-sweet-Old Fashioned's, and other concoctions too vile to mention, consumed while wearing Member's Only jackets.

We also compiled a list of the go-to classic cocktails:

  • Old Fashioned
  • Manhattan
  • Sazerac
  • Fresh Margarita
  • Martini
  • Negroni

... and if you'll listen to the audio, you'll not only learn that EVERY ONE of our panelists — drink experts all — put a shocking amount of good vermouth in their Martinis, from 1:4 vermouth to gin to 1:1 vermouth to gin.

Naomi recommends a jigger of fresh vermouth (kept refrigerated and corked, and for no more than 2 months) and a jigger of good gin, stirred over ice, with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist.

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