How’s the saying go? When one wall closes, another cigar lounge is discovered? Yeah, that sounds right, and it’s certainly the case with the cigar-friendly Bar Jackalope in the ever-developing downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).
In 2013, we told you about Seven Grand, the whiskey bar that had a side terrace with no windows, which made it legal to smoke cigars there. We wrote that the open wall allowed a view of a building next door. Now that building is the new, ever hip Nomad Hotel that opened earlier this year, and the next thing you know, no more smoking at Seven Grand. The story floated out that the smoke from the terrace was annoying hotel guests, but the truth was simpler: Seven Grand had live bands and the loud music went right across the narrow alley into the walls of the new hotel.
So, now, while you still have the delight of entering Seven Grand, the place you go to enjoy your cigar is the hidden bar-within-a-bar: Bar Jackalope. You walk the gauntlet of patrons standing three-deep at the Seven Grand bar, or those gathered around the pool tables, to get to a fairly nondescript black door on the right with no handles. There’s just an old-fashioned push button doorbell to alert the management inside Bar Jackalope that you want in. Get there early. The bar is open to all, but the cigar patio—with open windows—seats 16 and standing is discouraged.
The first thing you see inside Bar Jackalope is that the bar top is covered with bottles of whiskey, and behind the bar it seems more bottles are climbing the wall to the top. There are no stools or chairs at the bar. Inside there is seating for another 16. Turn left and there is ample wood paneling that evokes speakeasy décor. And yes, there are stuffed “jackalope” heads on the wall. But mostly, it’s a little bit dark, and that’s fine.
Bar Jackalope’s tranquility is starkly different from the party atmosphere at the bar outside at Seven Grand. If you’ve been able to score a table on the brick-walled Bar Jackalope terrace, you’ll be guided through the small, cluttered main room and seated at a dimly lit table that already has a wood cigar ashtray on it, with matches.
A 13-page menu appears, listing all the usual and many unusual, rare or just hard-to-find brown spirits. No Tequila, vodka or gin. You’ll have to go back to the bar at Seven Grand for those. This night, the opening beverage is a Toki cocktail made with Japanese Suntory Whisky Toki, house-made soda water and a big orange peel, on the rocks in a highball glass. This is so refreshing that drinking it sets you and your palate up for stronger libations and your cigar.
You can choose from any of the more than 300 brands on the menu. You should definitely study the list. It’s alphabetical and begins with “American Blend” offering only Charbay R5 whiskey, but then explaining the grain in it (hops, two row barley), what kind of still it’s made in (pot) and the barrel in which the booze is aged (French Oak). Prices are then listed by flight and full pour options.
This night, Nathalie Eckert, the knowledgeable manager at Bar Jackalope, rolls out a small table with a bottle of Four Roses Bourbon that is made in a single-barrel especially for Seven Grand and aged in American oak. Spirits are poured in proper tasting glassware and served with an eye-dropper in a bottle of branch water.
The Bar Jackalope cigar menu, in place since May, is not as robust as the liquor list. Perhaps the class of the cigar offerings is the My Father No. 1 Robusto at $22. The Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne is available at $19; a Gran Habano No. 5 Corojo at $12; Laranja Reserva Toro at $19, and a non-Cuban Cohiba Toro at $31. Of course, you can take your own cigar. No restrictions there. Maybe take at least two cigars.
There’s so much good stuff on this spirits menu that you’ll want to spend a long night at Bar Jackalope (keep your rideshare app handy) or visit many more times. Go back for that Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old 2017, which is $105 for a full pour. Pappy Van Winkle is available, but only in flights and, as you might imagine, the price is high. The 15 Years is $63.
But there’s so much else that you might try. Japanese whiskies take up more than a page and they’re all the rage in L.A. these days. You could splurge on a Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky ($93 for a full pour) and discover something new and delicious. So many single-malts to choose from, so little time!
Bar Jackalope, like Seven Grand, is a place to get educated about spirits. “My favorite guest,” explained Eckert, “is the one who wants to learn about whisky.”
One piece of advice, have a little to eat before you arrive. Bar Jackalope offers a limited snacks menu of “Chocolates & Jamón,” as in jamón ibérico, the Spanish acorn-fed ham made from the pata negra (black foot) pig. It’s one ounce for $15.
It’s difficult to avoid the desire for education at Bar Jackalope. The best way to acquire knowledge, it turns out, is by drinking in all the learning you can.
515 W 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Hours: Saturday through Tuesday: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Wednesday through Friday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.