The Top New Year’s Eve Parties in L.A.

This is the cheesiest New Year’s Eve photo ever. We hope your evening looks nothing like this. And it won’t – if you attend one of these top New Year’s Eve parties in L.A. Whether you like it flashy, glamorous, foodie, or weird, we’ve got you covered. Go out with a bang, bubbly, and a good story you can share over your eggs Benedict and hash browns on the first day of ’13.

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.”

Industry Insiders: Chris Morris, Master Distiller

Chris Morris knows his bourbon. And if you drink Woodford Reserve, he knows yours too. The master distiller for the super-premium small-batch bourbon samples about 150 barrels of it a week. But while the quality of what’s in your glass is a distiller’s main responsibility, the job has evolved since Brown-Forman, the company that produces Woodford Reserve and a host of other spirits, made America’s first bottled bourbon in 1870. For example, ten minutes before the start of the Kentucky Derby, Morris, whose accent confirms his status as a lifelong Kentuckian, was on NBC showing Bob Costas how to make the $1,000 mint julep (the proceeds went to charity) using ingredients like ice from the Arctic Circle, mint from Morocco and sugar from the South Pacific.

Point of origin: I started working at Brown-Forman as an intern in the central laboratory, working for the master distiller and various jobs. I went to school here in Louisville at Bellarmine University. So, I was a full-time intern, and I worked nights, weekends, holidays just because I loved it. We had two distilleries here in Louisville; the Old Forester and the Early Times.

On what’s required to become a master distiller: It’s very much a journeyman’s type of role, like you’d have with electricians, plumbers and carpenters. You just have to do it and you have to work at the hands of the master craftsperson; the master distiller. He tells you, “This is right, this is wrong, this smells great, this is not what we want in our product,” and you learn by doing it. That’s the only way. There’s no university degree out there for distilling.

Day-to-day at Woodford Reserve: I do a lot of travel. As Master distillers, one of our job descriptions is be brand ambassadors and we’re constantly going to whiskey shows; we’re making calls on key accounts; we go to big consumer events. We’re the face and voice of the brand. That’s all built into a schedule of production. I might go to the cooperage to see how the barrel production is going and sort of knock wood with the gang out there. At the distillery, most of the work is involved in tasting the barrels. I don’t run the stills.

Favorite way to drink bourbon: I like Woodford at this time of year, especially neat. Just have it straight up; summer, on the rocks. When I’m out in the marketplace, if a bar has a signature Woodford drink, you’ve got to go with that. And in wintertime I like a nice Manhattan, primarily on the rocks unless the bartender really likes it shaken. An Old Fashioned is perfect as we get into the spring and summer.

Most bizarre use of bourbon: Bacon-infused bourbon. I’ve seen Woodford Reserve being used by the finest chefs in the nation. A good friend of the brand, Bobby Flay, will cook with Woodford Reserve, but to see bacon inserted in bottles, and left overnight or left for a couple of days, and then removed and then making drinks with it, that’s—that takes a bit of getting used to. But, they’re usually quite flavorful. They’re used in making Manhattans, for example. But, imagine bacon-infused Woodford, in a Manhattan with a little maple syrup, and this and that and all of a sudden it starts to sort of become a breakfast Manhattan.

Hobbies: I’m an amateur wood sculptor. So, I like to sculpt just abstracts; Archipenko, Jean Arp, Henry Moore type of work. Just free forms that sort of mimic the human form.

Go-to bars for bourbon: There’s a place down in Nashville called The Patterson House, and it’s an old speakeasy. It’s an old Victorian home down near Music Row and you wouldn’t know it’s a bar. They don’t even have a sign out. But, you go in, you walk into a foyer. There’s a bookcase and a couple of plush chairs, and a reading lamp, then you walk through a curtain and all of a sudden you’re in a bar. Up in Chicago, the Violet Hour – it’s a really cool place. It’s like drinking in Alice in Wonderland. Out in L.A., The Edison and Seven Grand are good Woodford friends, really cool places. I can’t even begin to describe the Edison. It’s a bar three stories deep and about a 100-year-old building, maybe the oldest in Los Angeles. It was an old power plant. So, you’re having drinks among these old generators and old coal boilers and stuff, they’ve restored everything. It’s really cool.

Los Angeles: Top 10 ‘Entourage’ Hotspots

Entourage is back for the sixth season, and Vince and his boys do Los Angeles like no one else can. While not as concerned with flaunting their reservations (that’s so New York), the LA backdrop plays an integral role in the show, proving that they frequent the newest and hottest joints that La La Land has to offer. Between business lunch bites, and late nights, here are the latest, if not greatest LA hot spots, approved by Vinny, E, Turtle, Drama and the rest of his entourage.

Season 6Millennium Biltmore (Downtown) – After the boys attend the premiere for Gatsby, they take their date to this ritzy, gloriously preserved hotel for the after-party. ● Sidebar (Beverly Hills) – Mrs. Ari takes Marlo Klein out to Wolfgang Puck’s latest addition, and sidekick to steakhouse Cut in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. ● Sofitel (Mid-City West) – Kerry Simon’s Angeleno wing serves appropriate American food for Turtle’s birthday at this trendy, tech-friendly hotel, creating the perfect backdrop for Turtle to announce that he’s going back to school.

Season 5The Grill On The Alley (Beverly Hills) – Careers are made while you destroy the not-to-be-missed or messed-with garlic cheese bread course at this grill known for hefty portions — which makes it the perfect place for Vince to meet with Carl Ertz to talk about the project, Danger Beach. ● Urth Caffe (West Hollywood) – This organic latte-loving cafe is as trendy as world conflict. The caffeinated works of art are a favorite of all the pretty people, which is why Urth gets so much screen time in Season 5. Ari pitches Benji to Vince here, Vince and E meet with Josh Weinstein and Frank Darabont to talk shop, and later, Vince bumps into Justin Chapin, the virginal pop-star played by Gossip Girl’s bad seed, Leighton Meester. ● Nate ‘N Al (Beverly Hills) – Vinny knows his sandwiches. Perhaps it’s his New York roots that lure him to this pastrami haven; it is, after all, known as the best Jewish deli in LA. It’s an easy spot where Marvin, Vince’s accountant, begs the actor find some work. ● Cut At The Beverly Wilshire Hotel (Beverly Hills) – Wolfgang Puck’s overpriced chophouse sets the scene for the bidding war between Amanda and E over Ed Norton in the Smokejumpers project that Vince is attached to. Amanda pulls Ed Norton. I wonder if they split the $120 Kobe? ● The Edison (Downtown) – The former power plant is now a hotspot with a laboratory noir setting. Vince and his entourage celebrate closing the deal on Smokejumpers, and Jamie-Lyn Sigler throws a drink in Turtle’s face for gossiping about their hookup. ● Harold and Belle’s (Artesia) – Moguls and Euros craving gumbo have this place packed. A BlackBook favorite and also a fave of Jamie-Lyn Sigler, who takes Turtle here for the jambalaya. ● Whiskey Blue At W Hotel (Westwood) – In this white-hot bar — boasting tons of candles, an open atmosphere chock full of voyeurs on beds and sofas — Vince meets model Natasha to continue their amorous chats after Natasha is fired from Vince’s advertising campaign.

Recessionista Barhopper’s Delight: Soup Kitchen @ Edison

imageTough times call for tough measures. Like toughing it out in Los Angeles five o’clock traffic going from the West Side to the East Side. For those of you who live somewhere else, this is a painfully dull, slow-moving slog wherein you lose an hour of your life trying to get 11 miles away. Why suffer? Well, we decided on a whim to try out recessionista happy hour at ultra beautiful retro bar The Edison. From 5 to 7 p.m., “Friday Soup Kitchen” offers a 35-cent cocktail and complimentary grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (25 percent of the proceeds go to local food banks and charities).

After trudging our way through Venice Boulevard, we landed Downtown just in time to sample the special menu. Upon entry in the cavernous club, we were given two tickets: one for the drink, one for the cheese and soup. Though the drink they were serving for that particular week — the gin daisy, made with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and grenadine syrup — was probably stronger and tastier than we were anticipating, let’s just say in terms of size, you get what you pay for. The drink was served in a tiny glass, and was barely half full. The cheese and soup combo was even tinier … thimble-sized tasting of admittedly delicious soup, and thumb-sized bits of sandwich. It was a great way to get us really hungry and thirsty, and was more like a sampling than an actual portion, or even a half portion.

So we ordered some more food, which failed to come 30 minutes later, and more drinks, which also failed to arrive, and finally, after complaining, an employee nicely hurried everything out and comped us, which was a fair trade. Some places just pout when you complain.

The amazing thing about the Edison is that it’s this gigantic, overwhelming space that still manages to preserve a semblance of intimacy. We scored a two-top table in one of the side rooms, surrounded by lush curtains and feeling cozy under the low light amongst dark-colored wood and Tiffany lamps. When the girl with the butterfly outfit and the absinthe cart rolled by, we were a tad tempted.

We’d do Soup Kitchen again if we were already near downtown, but we’re not sure anything is worth that drive. Still, timed right, we could hit up a couple of other cheap drinks Downtown: The Edison’s Thursday-night special (also from 5 to 7) features a 1910 martini at a 1910 price; pair with Ciudad’s happy hour (Monday through Friday, 4 to 7), where you get mojitos, sangrias, beer, and wine for $4.50 a pop. That would get you just fuzzy enough to shake the work day.

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The Return of Michelle Carr & Queen Latifah

imageDon’t Sleep On It: When the new burlesque movement was at its peak, Velvet Hammer creator Michelle Carr reigned supreme. After a two-year stint in Berlin, Carr’s since put her titty tassels away (having just finished working on a Velvet Hammer retrospective book) and reemerged in the City of Angels. She’s about to make a mini-comeback of sorts as the opening act of a newish night called Telekinesis: The Magic Cabaret, a monthly event that runs next Tuesday and Wednesday evening at the Celebrity Theatre.

She promises her opening piece will be “verrrrry dramatic” for the show, which also features Jer Ber Jones (creator and host), Ann Magnuson, Anna Homler, The Lady Tigra, Diamondback Annie, Prince Poppycock, and Leila Bazzani.

You’re forgiven if you think you’ve wandered onto the set of Alice In Wonderland after reading that line-up. “Robbie (Daniel, the show’s co-creator) just has a fantastic way of pulling together a cast of talented, weird, out there characters,” says Carr. “He just puts together this delicious stew of performing madness.”

As for Carr, she’s long been bored of burlesque (“Ten years of burlesque is pretty much enough,” she says). She’s working as a creative director of The Edison (casting for dancers right now!) and has been causing a ruckus with her guerilla dance troupe, Hot Flash, formed with Ryan Heffington (of Sweaty Sundays fame). “We go to random, mundane places and break out in full choreographed routines on unsuspecting crowds.” She giggles. “We’re doing Madonna’s ‘Burning Up,’ right now.”

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You Slept On It: All Hail the Queen! No, not that frosty British one over yonder. We’re talking about Queen Latifah. The rapper-turned-actress celebrated her birthday last weekend at Club Light with the help of a few friends, some of whom you might have heard of. Guests included rapper royalty: Heavy D, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, and Lil Kim, as well as some peeps from her movie-star world (Harvey Weinstein and Vivica A Fox), and most importantly, her parents. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to her, “Stevie Wonder style.” The Queen returned to her roots and performed a 45-minute set of songs solely off her next album (album! remember when she made those!) called Persona, due out on July 7. Strangest attendee? Paris Hilton is her new number-one fan. She spent the entire show rocking out in the front row, taking snaps.

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Photo of Queen Latifah and Paris Hilton: Michael Simon
Queen Latifah Tickets Gelredome Tickets Arnhem Tickets

Industry Insiders: Christian Frizzell, Redwood’s Swashbuckler

The native Angeleno and self-made nightlife poobah shares his thoughts on downtown business, celebrity joints, and his movement into the art world.

What do you do? Well, this is a question I ask of myself a lot lately. I used to describe myself as a bean counter because of my consulting business for bars. In the cash-happy, alcohol-lubricated business, I was the checks and balances guy. Now I’ve become more of a glad-hand — a lot of meeting and greeting. People have been calling me a trendsetter, though I see myself as just having a healthy work ethic. If I have to sum myself up as one thing, it would be an ambassador of the service industry.

Besides your own Redwood Bar & Grill, where can you be found in the evenings? If I have to say one restaurant in Los Angeles, it would have to be Musso & Franks. Whether it’s some hipster investor I’m trying impress, my relatives from out of state, or a nice dinner out with my wife, it is always in the top five.

I am not a club guy. So my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. However, The Edison has the right vibe and music for me. Add the historical element and knowledgeable bartenders, and I’m satisfied with my club experience there. My favorite bar right now would be Sean MacPherson’s Bar Lubitsch. I am not a vodka person — I love scotch, scotch, scotch — but the vodka drinks I’ve had there have converted me. The vibe is pre-WWII, Parisian parlor with a flair for the Bolshevik.

Many people seem to admire MacPherson. Sean MacPherson is the person who taught me the importance of the little details without forgetting the big picture. And Keith McNally is someone whose talent is only transcended by his success.

What’s one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry? It seems to me that franchises are out, and kitsch is in. Inspiration and creativity are two of the most attractive qualities available.

Negative trends? Celebrity-driven hotspots drive me crazy. They are never what they’re hyped up to be, and they crash and burn almost as fast as they open.

Do you think Downtown’s renaissance will continue if the economy continues to go downhill? I do. I grew up in Los Angeles, and Downtown always had a majestic quality to it. There is something about the poorest of the poor being next to some of the wealthiest of the wealthy that nurtures dynamic creativity. That’s one of the esoteric reasons I believe in Downtown’s growth. Another reason is that Los Angeles can’t grow out anymore — we have to grow up, as in height. Downtown already has the infrastructure for that.

Would LA be a better nightlife town if it had reliable public transport, or are we car people no matter what? Absolutely. More trains, cabs, and buses, and later hours too. We work hard, we play hard. We should all have access to safe, reasonable transportation.

What is something that people might not know about you? That I’m shy and don’t like crowds.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I am having a dinner meeting with my first featured artist, William Herron, for the gallery I’m opening in February 2009. The gallery will be downtown on 2nd Street and is called the “Federal Arts Project.” Willy and I are going for noodles in Little Tokyo. After that, I’m going to try and catch Mike Stinson’s set at the Redwood. Ahoy!

How to Mix the Best New Year’s Eve Cocktails

Sure, you’ve been following the fun on our Mixology site, where BlackBook and Grey Goose recruited the best bartenders from New York and Los Angeles to whip up their signature drinks on camera, all while relating their own ideal New Year’s experience. But perhaps you really just want to see those recipes demonstrated point by point, shake by shake? Then check out the collected bonus clips above, which describe and demonstrate each drinkmaking experience in exacting detail. On tap: Cielo, Campbell Apartment, Hudson Bar, and Larry Lawrence in New York; and Ecco, The Edison, and Saints N’ Sinners in Los Angeles. Click the “MENU” button on the video player to access all seven clips. And don’t forget to thank the skilled shooters at Two Penguins Productions for making all this holiday cheer possible in the first place. Chin-chin.