L.A.’s burgeoning speakeasy bar scene is becoming rather ubiquitous and, in more recent years, it’s been roaring louder than the Roaring 20s. In a city the size of L.A., with a high-level mixology culture, it’s only a handful of niche bars that reign supreme. New players aren’t given much time or space to prove they can cut the mustard in the speakeasy bar stakes.
As your Splifficated Specialists, (or speakeasy bar aficionados for those of you who aren’t up on your 1920s lingo), we always await ‘the revisit’. The hope is that the new bar has meritoriously secured a worthy stature in the upper echelons of prohibition bar prestige. So, with an invitation to sip like scofflaws, and try their new cocktail offerings, we revisited Koreatown’s Lock & Key. Lockily (yes I said lockily), in less than a year, they’re still holding the keys to a magical speakeasy kingdom.
Turn Right. Turn left. Don’t make a wrong turn.
For speakeasy bars like Lock & Key to be bone fide it means being inconspicuous; just look for an unmarked red door adjacent to food window Stall 239. Then knock to enter an incongruous Victorian antechamber that’s governed by a striking black wall of multiple antique doorknobs and keys. Just use guesswork to select the right doorknob and enter the bedazzling booze palace. Go on, have a turn.
Bedazzling Booze Babylon
We first visited Lock & Key in March 2013 when they unlocked their doors to reveal a swanky speakeasy space - think Alice In Wonderland meets The Great Gatsby. Situated on Vermont Avenue and 3rd, in a rather low-key locale, they have solidified themselves as the speakeasy bar in a pocket of rapid gentrification. You’ll completely forget you just stepped off that stretch of Vermont Avenue by 3rd Street.
Step inside to an opulent 1920’s style bar with lots black and green which is illuminated by brass and beams of golden light. With hunter green cowboy style cushioned barstools, reclaimed dark wood, Calacatta marble walls and intimate forest green booths, the interior is clearly cut from a finer cloth.
The key player in their success is cocktail sommelier, Christope Namer, (formerly Grey Goose’s brand attache), who crafts fresh twists on classic prohibition-era libations. Christophe’s alchemistic acclaim is verified by Lock & Key’s drinks list, which tends to be on the sweeter side, defying the rather harsh current of some mixology menus in town.
Blood & Sand. Rum Old-Fashioned
We were thrilled
inebriated as we managed to try 80% of the cocktails on the list. 80% proof is what later ensued but that’s another story. Since they opened, we’ve been fans of their signatures like The Torpedo, (pear vodka, pear nectar, lemon juice, egg white, maple syrup grade b, fresh ginger juice, black pepper, toasted sesame seed oils), and The Grape Gatsby, (cognac, walnut liqueur, sherry, lemon juice, demerara syrup, egg white, red grapes, nutmeg), as well as classics like their Rum Old Fashioned and Blood & Sand. It’s great that they’ve expanded their selection with worthy additions.
Their selection of new libations are twists on classics like the Beau Carré (a take on southern classic Vieux Carré), with bourbon instead of rye whiskey, and with cognac, yellow chartreuse, benedictine, angostura bitters and lemon peel.
Lock & Key’s Cocktail Men-new
The other half of Under Raidar was in liquid-love with the Strawberry Mule (vodka, strawberries, mint, lime juice, ginger juice and ginger beer), which definitely hit the all-illusive sweet spot.
In case you haven’t been, or even if you have, we highly recommend (re)visiting Lock & Key. They’ve quickly proven themselves to have peerless prohibition cocktails firmly on lockdown.
Lock & Key
239 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Cockney won’t do you nah good in a speakeasy bar. Picking’ up the ol’ dog n’ bone ain’t gonna get y'in tha door. If you visit speakeasy bars you need to know how to speak speakeasy.
Today’s Slangger: Whangdoodle
How to use it: “They’re getting pretty brassy with all that Whangdoodle down there.”
Before you get all jazzed up, a word of note from the 1920s is Whangdoodle, which means jazz or a jazz band. Bet you didn’t know that now did you?
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