The Spare Room Introduces Retro Gaming to Hollywood

Is The Spare Room the best new bar in L.A.? Quite possibly. The latest nightlife destination inside the tricked-out Roosevelt Hotel debuted to the public on Wednesday night after private holiday events last month, and it’s shaping up to be a hit in 2011. The curious mezzanine-level find is an early 20th century-inspired, gaming-themed lounge, far away from the hotel’s other bars (see the new Beacher’s Madhouse, Library Bar, Teddy’s, and the hotel’s Tropicana Bar). “It’s an upscale gaming parlor that recalls the private basement bars people like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers once had in their homes,” Thompson Hotels’ Director of Entertainment Med Abrous explained last year, regarding his latest endeavor inside the Roosevelt.

Formerly a storage space, The Spare Room’s most eye-catching design feature is likely the dual vintage wooden bowling lanes, which Thompson sourced from a collector in Texas. Wednesday night, the sight of beautiful people bowling brought smiles out of even the most jaded hipsters.

So how much does it cost to roll a branded Spare Room bowling ball down one of their lanes? Oh, only $100 an hour. However, according to Abrous, it’s really not that much if you split the cost with up to six friends.

But bowling is not the central focus of the bar. Most will come for the drinks, which are among the best in town, thanks to the team Aidan Demarest, formerly of First & Hope and The Edison, has assembled to mix at the warm, inviting bar.

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Wednesday evening, nearly everyone in attendance was won over by smart cocktails, like the Chilean Sunset (red wine, pisco, lime, pineapple, and egg whites). In that sense, The Spare Room mimics the craft cocktails that have proven to be a hit at the Library Bar.

But unlike the lobby-bar feel of the Library Bar, expect a real late night scene to develop at the Spare Room, although the best crowds don’t show up until after 11pm, when the night is in full swing. Late Wednesday night, everything seemed right inside the bar as Giorgio Moroder played in the background (Chris Holmes is the bar’s musical director) and pretty young things played classic games like dominoes and Yahtzee.

The Spare Room aspires to be the antithesis of the brash, modern bowling alleys nearby. Think pencil-scored games, dim lighting, leather couches, and smart wood tables. “We’re paying incredible attention to all the old gaming aspects,” said Abrous, who has been instrumental in keeping Teddy’s a top Hollywood draw over the past five years. “We’ve designed and manufactured our own backgammon boards.”

British Invasion: The Pimm’s Cup Takes Over L.A.

The Pimm’s Cup has a long and proud history in Britain, one of tennis and big hats and dressing in summer whites. A polo match practically doesn’t count if there isn’t any Pimm’s on hand to sip whilst stomping divots. Pimm’s No. 1, the liquor the drink is built around, was first assembled in the 1860s, a heady mixture of gin, a liqueur, fruit, and various spices. To make a Pimm’s Cup, one adds something sparkly (like ginger ale or carbonated lemonade) plus citrus and cucumber. Unsurprisingly, this concoction is popular in the grand hotels lining the beach in Santa Monica (aka California’s Little England). But over the past couple of months, it’s become the cocktail to order amongst L.A.’s coolest imbibers.

Perhaps it was this year’s World Cup that spurred the lust for Pimm’s on the West Coast. Such was the demand for the stuff that there was a rush for Pimm’s No. 1 at the Whole Foods in Venice Beach, where they actually sold out of the previously dusty, neglected bottles.

The traditional preparation of a Pimm’s Cup makes it an excellent day drink, perfect for quaffing on a balcony at Shutters or the Shangri-La, two hotels with tried-and-true versions. Coming into L.A.’s real summer (August to October, where nights can reach 80 degrees), it’s a perfectly acceptable evening cocktail, too. And with all the fruit and liquid additions that go into a Cup, the drink is a good match for L.A.’s current mixology obsession.

The most interesting bars in the city are experimenting with their own, updated renditions. At Varnish, the drink is called the Fruit Cup. The bar mixes its own base (gin, Grand Marnier, cherry Heering, and CarpanoAntica Formula) and adds muddled fruit, cucumbers, and Sprite to finish it. The not-quite-native When in London is Drago Centro’s contribution — their version adds straight gin to the Pimm’s-and-fruit base. Now we’re moving quickly away from sparkly drink territory and into the land of serious boozing.The Brits would appreciate the gesture.

Drago’s Pimm’s Cup, in addition to increasing the alcohol content, makes use of strained berries for a deeper flavor. At First & Hope, the barkeeps stick to citrus but make their own Pimm’s, and add ginger beer for a darker, spicier flavor.

With lingering World Cup fever, a hot Indian summer, and a city-wide passion for complicated cocktails, L.A. has made itself a Pimm’s Cup town.