"Well, show me the way/To the next whiskey bar/Oh, don't ask why/Oh, don't ask why."
- "Alabama Song"
Plaid is the word. Well, no. Really, whiskey is the word at Seven Grand, a cigar-friendly bar in downtown Los Angeles (there's another in San Diego). Still, plaid is the prominent décor feature, along with deer heads on some brick walls. When you enter, you must climb two flights of stairs carpeted in plaid. The floor of the long bar is covered with the same carpet. With low lighting, the ambience is reminiscent of bars on the extreme west and east sides of Manhattan that friends and I used to stop at before and after hockey games at the Garden. Drinking places. Gather with friends and make a night of it. Or, as a few of us did recently, stop by on the way to a hockey game at the nearby Staples Center.
Seven Grand, whose motto is "Whiskey for the people," has some distinct advantages over those watering holes I used to frequent. The selection of whiskies—more than 375—is provided on nearly eight pages of a menu that is regularly updated. The first page inside the cover features "The Old & the Rare." Under "American Whiskey," the first listing is Pappy Van Winkle 23 Years Old at $197—for a drink, not the bottle. This is a reserve bourbon, 95.6 proof, that is very rare indeed. A bottle in a Kentucky liquor store would run you about $200 and in a city like Los Angeles, if you can find a bottle, it would sell for $400 and up. Still, that's not the most expensive on the list at Seven Grand. A shot of Last Drop 1960, a blended Scotch, is listed at $389. A bottle would take more than $2,000 out of your budget.
Don't fret. Seven Grand has another seven pages of far more reasonably priced pours, including "West Coast Whiskey" and a boatload of Scotch to pair with your cigar. Take your own or buy one there. Among the smokes sold at Seven Grand are a Casa Magna robusto ($18), Cigar Aficionado's 2008 Cigar of the Year, a La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor belicoso, the 2011 No. 2 cigar of the year, and a La Aurora 1495 ($25), the 2010 No. 25 cigar of the year.
You'll have the opportunity to sit on the terrace and light up. This area is technically not an indoor space, as the outer wall is not floor-to-ceiling and affords a view, through some metal bars, of a not-yet gentrified building next door. It's unclear whether anyone lives there, in this part of downtown that is mostly changed, but not fully developed. The booths in this cigar-friendly space are covered in plastic. Well, mostly covered. Some of the plastic is ripped. There is no table service in this area. You need to order at the bar and take your beverages yourself.
Happy hour is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., daily, with $5 cocktails and $4 beers, a dozen on tap. Seven Grand also offers a way for the true whiskey lover to learn and enjoy more. The Whiskey Society offers monthly seminars and tastings ($120 to join for the year; $15 per event for non-subscribers). Seven Grand has live music Sunday to Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
As mentioned, Seven Grand is located in a part of downtown Los Angeles that is still making its way back. There are good restaurants nearby. There's also a lot of construction going on. Seven Grand might serve as a way station to quench your thirst before or after dinner or a game. It could also be a perch to see, from "plaid-colored" carpet, how things shape up in this most urban section of southern California.
515 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA
Monday through Wednesday: 5 p.m - 2 a.m.
Thursday through Friday: 4 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Saturday: 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Sunday: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m.
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