The Tiki bar, and Tiki culture in general, holds a very special place in my heart. Theme bars in general are my favorite; they transport you to a new world, hidden from the normalicy of pedestrian life and issues license to become someone else for the length of a drink (yes I was big in the swing dance movement of the late 90’s). Tiki however, takes this escapism to a new colorful level, and those that choose to coat themselves in a thick polynesian coat of cool tend to be the laid back friends you always wished you had.
Which is why when I drove half way into the desert to meet a complete stranger I knew that we were going to be fast friends. Adrian Eustaquio (who goes by Polynesian Pop on youtube) has built perhaps the most elaborate and beautiful home Tiki bar I have ever seen.
I found Adrian through another home bar lover, Caroline Pardilla (AKA Caroline on Crack) who wrote a series of articles about LA’s most exuberant home bars. After contacting her she said I just had to hit up Adrian, and “experience” first hand what taking a trip to Polynesia is like … 10 feet from his living room.
The rest is as they say history … Beside experiencing his amazing hand-crafted workmanship Adrian also pours a mean drink. He is the complete package.
As I delve into this amazing new world with a cold one in hand I look forward to meeting all sorts of new friends, and explore how the nectar of life makes socializing in your own home that much more amazing.
That title may be pretentious but I’m a sucker for alliteration like most drunk poets (I’m looking at you Seamus Heaney). After a not-so-dry January, I’ve decided to take a look back at my long and wonderful love affair with alcohol.
My first drink was probably a drop of J&B on the gums as a teething baby. Although not Irish but Italian, no one puts grappa on a kid’s gums because that would be insane. Whiskey is the correct drink for a baby, this is a well known and documented fact. My real career in drinking began like most in college at UCSB (U Can Study Buzzed was thrown around often), where I was an avid reader of Hemingway because I loved the idea of making a living by writing drunk, boxing, and travelling the world. My drink of choice was a Rusty Nail, the drink my father called his favorite, a man who to this day claims he has never been intoxicated, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen him drunk. That said a Rusty Nail for me is 2 parts Scotch Whiskey to 1 part Drambuie and not to be messed with unless properly trained. I remember going to the legendary ancient jazz dive Arthur’s Tavern in NYC when I was 22 and asked the salty waitress for one. She paused giving me a hard look over and said plainly “you’re too young for a Rusty Nail, I’ll bring you a rum and coke” and proceeded to do so. Pure NYC.
From humble beginnings beautiful booze has brought me as many fond memories as it has clouded. I remember 50 cent giant cold Touborg beers on the veranda of a 16c. villa turned youth hostel just outside of Florence, falling in love with an Australian girl named Eva Toussaint. My parents, both airline employees, and Eva, just being an Australian, made a career of being a professional backpacker at very early ages, and like two international jet setters that didnt have two dimes to rub together between them, we would meet up in far-off places around the world in a blink of an eye for a shot and kanpai. Eventually I would move to Brisbane to be with her, fall in love deeper, be introduced to the true Dark and Stormy while watching the State of Origin on the tele, and ask her to marry me, all because of a cold Tuborg beer in Florence.
Unfortunately I was just turning 22. Man, writing that makes me laugh.
The proposal didn’t work out, I had to go back to the states and finish my degree and become a human. I left, heartbroken, unsure if I did the right thing, and confused about the future. Obviously I made a beeline for my local; Tom Bergan’s, the only real Irish bar in all of Los Angeles.
Tom Bergin’s was hallowed ground. It’s where I would go after a grueling day of work and school. My friends would pour in and we’d drink Guinness and Jameson all night, and when “Sweet Caroline” would come on the juke we would all pound the bar “Da Da Da, good times never seemed so good SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD” like a drunk soccer chant (is there any other?). After 2 A.M. they would do a “lock in” with the regulars, and I would smoke cigs while my best friends Dave Hanson would talk about the plays he was writing (and later become a fantastic playwright) and Chris Sullivan would talk about the parts he would want to play (and become a famous actor) and I would talk about the places I wanted to go. We sat under the South-West corner of the U-shaped bar, beneath three green shamrocks cut out of a Mickey’s case of beer that had each of our names on it; a badge you were awarded if you were a true regular, and not easy to earn.
It was in Tom Bergin’s that my life would change forever over a drink.
I was there, crestfallen from recently breaking up with the first true love when I heard over the already rowdy bar the distinct intonation of an Australian. It’s an accent that is immediately recognized anywhere in the world, like the sound of a leaf blower or a glass breaking in a restaurant. In my semi-sauced state I saddled up to this nearly 7 foot lanky Aussie and made fast friends, as I knew I would with anyone from the great Oz, presumably to tell him of my woes and tales of love lost. Predictably our conversation turned to drinking at which point I made a startling discovery.
“You never had an Irish Car Bomb?”
There are few accolades I take true relish in. One is having a film in the permanent collection at the MoMA. Two is meeting Anthony Bourdain. Three is teaching an Australian something about drinking.
Jimmy the barkeep was always listening and without having to ask two half filled pints of Guinness and a shot of ice cold Baileys slid before us. We dropped our shots in the pints and opened our gullets to let the elixir slide down our throats. I can’t say it’s a drink I enjoy often, but I’m always amazed how much it taste like cake to me. Justin, the Australian, must have enjoyed it too because he never forgot this interaction, which would end up making my dreams come true.
A few years later I get an email from my long lost drinking buddy Justin saying that he runs a travel magazine in Australia, and remembers me telling him (somehow) that I was a writer and traveller. He was wondering if I would be interested in writing a local piece about NYC (where I was living at the time) for the mag. Boy was I.
Booze has intoxicated me more then just physically in my life and I would have it no other way. So here is a moment to look back at some of the finer moments I happened to document were a good drink has made magic happen.
3A.M. Shanghai Bar Tattoos
You know any video with me screaming “LET’S GET TATTOOS!” as I drinking snake infused baijui at 3 A.M. in a very dimly lit back alley Shanghai bar has to top a list somewhere.
Belgium is the Beer Capital of the World
Most every country makes a form of beer, from Makgeolli in Korea to Kvass in Russia, but in Belgium people’s viens run with barley and they bleed Lambics.
5 Oldest Bars in NYC
Good history only makes drinking better. NYC is rife with watering holes that precede the countries formation, and which is the oldest is seriously debated. One day in June I decided to get to the bottom of the debate and visit each one to hear first hand who could claim the crown.
Amsterdam might be best known for its smokable delights, but for me it was it’s rose colored ambrosia that stole my heart. Boat culture is something that many travellers overlook when exploring Amsterdam, which is a shame, because there is nothing more fun than cruising the canals with chilled rosé making new friends.
It’s hard not to think of drinking when you hear New Orleans, and for good reason because the streets run with rum down there. Fortunately I was with a Bywater local that showed me all the back alley spots locals wet their whistles at, letting me go full Bourdain in one of my favorite love letters to an amazing drink-centric city.
Spain Loves Monday Nights
Barcelona and Madrid both hold special places in my heart. Barcelona’s dolce far niente (or I guess dulce hace nada?) attitude rivals Madrid’s deep tradition of good living (they do have one of the best, and oldest, restaurants in the world). They also love a good party, and choose Monday as their day to let loose. Between Madrid’s “Fucking Monday” and Barcelona’s “Nasty Monday” it’s hard to choose where to be hung over on Tuesday (Hint: it’s Barcelona;)
5 is a magic number for beers it seems, so when WOW airlines (remember WOW?) chose my friend and I to be travel ambassadors, the first exotic location they sent us was … Boston. I joke but Boston is one of my favorite towns, and if you even remotely like beer, you gonna love Boston, so we curated a brewery tour that took us to our favorite places and learn every variety the beer-centric Boston has to offer.
Jakarta’s Illusive Smokey Negroni
It’s usually pretty easy to find a drink anywhere I go in the world, save for one place: Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, which means no demand for alcohol (which is largely illegal), so to find a bar, let along a booze temple that boasts a magical smoky Negroni, was a very unique find indeed and required on the spot documentation.
Edinburgh’s Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
In Leith, on the waterfront of Edinburgh, if you are fortunate enough to meet someone that is a member of “the secret vaults of the Scotch Malt Whiskey society”, you might be asked inside, and if you ever so gently ask to interview their caskmaster, he might be willing to talk casually over a delicious dram. Lotsa maybe’s went into this. (on a side note, I have to add in Flokí, the Northernmost whiskey distillery I visited in Iceland, who flavors their mash the old style, that being, with sheep dung. It’s … impressive)
Liquor in LA
Let’s get one thing straight. The greatest bar ever to grace Los Angeles is Tom Bergin’s. That said I would never make that information public on a YouTube video. I would offer three more elaborate pics to show off the flair and pageantry LA is known for. A stripmall speakeasy, a NYC dive in WeHo, and a rooftop looker should do the trick.
Lastly, a blast from the past, and one of my first videos I ever made. Back when craft beer culture began to explode I thought it would be a great idea to make a beer variety show called The Brewhaha. It had beer news, skits, some history, contents, and a reference to the Snooki on the Jersey Show (this was like over 10 years ago, give me a break). I produced, shot, and cut together a pilot episode, and learned a lot about beer in the process that I have a hard time remembering.
This has been so much fun to write, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m lucky I made films of some of these experience, to keep the memories sharp and the colors vibrant in my mind. Alcohol has provided so many interesting experiences in my life, from professional ones like doing commercials for Belvedere, Absolut, and Guinness, to drinking parking lot “tuba” wine in Mindanao and driving from LA to Hyder, Alaska in a straight shot, only to get “hyderized” at a bar and drive back (I failed that midterm). It was never about getting drunk, it was always about learning and connecting with people and places through something that is rather universal. There are so many styles, techniques, and varieties of drink out there that stretch back to the beginning of human culture, and is such a part of the human existence.
So nice to look back at a life well drunk, and here’s to the next round. Here are some pics … each has a special story … all have a drink to go with them. Salute!
Los Angeles is unlike any city, and there are a ton of fantastic places to drink, eat, brunch and party in the California sun. Lots of people forget that LA is so much more then just amazing beaches and the glam of Hollywood; it has a killer downtown scene that if you make the journey you will find a unique world waiting for you.
From Angels Flight head cross the street to Grand Central Market to get your gastronomy going strong. Next walk off your food baby at the Bradbury Building, home of the legendary original Blade Runner … the atrium is open to the public, free, and awesome. Next, its been 15 minutes since you have eaten so time to chow down on some insanely good hand rolls at Kazu Nori. Now time to head to the Last Bookstore, sad but true, which is part art house, part museum, part boutique and pure book heaven.
Just a few cool places to show you some of the best LA’s Downtown has to offer.
The amazing Museum of Selfies is the one place you can go where you can feel absolutely zero shame about taking duck lipped photos of yourself. This kitschy, fun and strangely informative museum in Hollywood takes you through the history of the selfie (yep, that’s a thing) and then injects you into several perfectly curated selfie scenes where you can go just nuts with the props. It’s a lot of fun, and will definitely up your instagram game 💯.
Come on down to the ultra cool museum of neon art located in beautiful downtown Glendale and be simply electrified by the colors and shapes that this one of a kind temple to signage can offer. Basking in the glow of our noble gas offered some amazing instagram opportunities at this revolving showcase of all things that glow in the dark. Not to be missed is the killer gift shop which really had some amazing gifts to brighten up anyone’s day.
The Los Angeles Museum of Failure is a huge success in our books, with an in-depth albeit cheeky look at some of the worlds worst products throughout time. Located in the Hollywood and Highland shopping complex, this pop-up museum was created and curated by Psychologist and innovation researcher Dr. Samuel West, who was tired of success stories and wanted to share with the world the joy of pure failure.
It was an absolute pleasure walking through and laughing at the insane ideas that we’ve come up with as a society to try to make a buck, and you will not believe what takes the prize for “worst idea of all time” …
The 20th century birthed for us as civilization many a great innovative contribution. The advent of advanced medicines allow us to live longer, scientific mental explosions allow us to travel to far away planets to know more about us here at home. Perhaps the greatest gift modern times have given us is combining the world’s greatest food with the automotive industry, that is, the taco truck.
While it certainly cannot be argued that this is by far the greatest scientific advancement in our time on earth, people may argue as to which of the many taco trucks in Los Angeles is the “best”. While it is estimated that there are as many as 30,000 of these trucks slinging disks of delights in the greater LA area at any one time, there is only one that we can claim is the best. Mariscos Jalisco.
Just off the corner of Olympic and Dacotah (I guess a guy from Long Island tried to spell Dakota) in the Wyvernwood section of Downtown LA, you will find a simple white truck surrounded with bright red stools, and usually a happy crowd waiting for the best hand food this city has to offer. Dont be fooled; MJ truck has lots of delights to choose from, but they are known for one particular dish that is sure to delight, Tacos Dorado de Cameron, or, Golden Shrimp Tacos.
The golden comes from the deep fried color of the lighter then air taco shell, or perhaps from the richness you feel as these savory morsels enter your mouth hole, either way they got the Midas touch when it comes to authentic and fantastic Mexican street food.
Grab yourself a wedge of fresh lime, a cold Mexican coke with real sugar, and a place in the shade to throw one of these huge tacos back, and I guarantee you will not be sorry.
Find them at 3040 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023
In a forgettable micro strip mall under a freeway tucked away in deep Hollywood in the shadow of the Capitol Records building, you will find the best donuts we think on the entire west coast. Kettle Glazed donuts are a category onto their own, not entirely desert, and definitely not a simple fried piece of dough, these sophisticatedly sweet mouth gifts will stun and amaze you.
Kettle Glazed are masters of the traditional staples like your maple, sugar glazed, and cruler, but the real magic happens when they get a bit nuts. We’re talking bacon blueberry, or even lemon poppyseed saffron to start. Half work of art, half a fully acceptable reason for having full blown diabetes, these donuts are worth every pound of guilt you’re going to feel afterwards.
Good God Grub is Great. This hidden little gem tucked away in a sleepy little mid-Hollywood neighborhood is an absolute delight for a perfect Californian meal. Known mostly for it’s insanely good breakfasts, Grub does you right with their killer breakfast burrito, loaded to the rims with all sorts of breakfasty delights. Good luck finishing it in one sitting friends. Im partial to their legendary tuna melt, which if you’ve never had one, you shouldn’t order it here because it will ruin all other tuna melts in the world for you, and, will be the only thing you will want to eat moving forward. That paired with a loving staff, beautiful patio, and very reasonable prices makes Grub our go to for early nibbles.