On a recent fact finding mission to Los Angeles, I stumbled upon an article in LA Weekly proclaiming a bar in La Cañada Flintridge as the greatest gin bar in Los Angeles. Admittedly I had just googled “The best gin bar in LA”, but upon further investigation another article proclaimed that this bar, just north of Pasadena on interstate-210, as being in possession of the largest Gin selection in the known world. This was indeed a bold claim and too good to miss, and the only encouragement I needed to hail a taxi and get myself to La Cañada on a Friday evening to embark on some much needed potation.
Welcome to The Flintridge Proper.
The bar itself is situated in strip mall off the main drag, Foothill Blvd, and from the outside it was not really what I expected. I guess I was thinking large Victorian gin palace, purchased in the 1960’s and transported brick by brick from Southwark High Street to Los Angeles by a dedicated but slightly Ginebriated Californian oil man. Instead its rather prosaic appearance belied a veritable agglomeration of Gin within. This was nothing less than a California-style Gin Palace of the first degree.
I propped myself at the bar, in the traditional manner and gazed across the expanse of Gins proudly displayed behind the bar like trophies to be won in a shooting gallery; and this was some shooting gallery. I scanned the names on the bottles, some familiar, some unfamiliar, and some written on with a sharpie marker pen. They spoke of Gins like, Cap rock, Desert Dry and Deaths Door, produced domestically across the US to the more familiar European Gins, two Monkey 47’s, three Bathtubs, some classic Genevers, vintage Spanish and Italian Gins like a 1970’s Milton & 1960’s Bosford. I even spotted a bottle of Lighthouse from New Zealand. The Proper also produces it’s own Gins, which i will come to later.
Luckily I was joined at the bar by The Gin Club’s west coast ambassador, the aptly named Mr Necessary, a connoisseur of Gin and a full time tonic enthusiast. Where should we start?
Why not start with a local Gin, well, sort of local, the St Georges, Dry Rye Gin, brewed in Alemeda, San Francisco. This is not a purists Gin by any means, but I am all about variety and was intregued to see how the rye flavours worked with the juniper. We threw some fevertree into it with some ice and the result was quite pleasing. It had a subtle sense of whiskey mixed in there and strong nose spiced with peppers and oak. Slightly reminiscent of a bold DRJ’s. Definitely a man’s gin.
Next up was a local bathtub type gin, this had been made from locally foraged botanicals found in the Seco, Arroyo Valley in the nearby Angeles National Forest. This was quite a raw affair, but had a distinct nutty flavor when taken neat, but is probably best consumed in a Tom Collins. A little too raw for a martini or a ricky, but certainly distinct in a G&T.
The drinks continued and as I made my way through a Dessert Dry, a Navy Strength Old Tom – The Professor C.A., a Distillers Cut Monkey 47, some Old Raj 110proof, a Jenson Old Tom, and an Uncle Val’s Botanical in a Martini. The guys behind the bar really knew their Gin, introducing me to knew cuts, and helping me navigate my way through the 200+ Gins on offer.
The clientele of the bar was as eclectic as the Gins themselves; possibly because the NASA JPL facility is a short distance up the road, this appears to be the go-to place for space scientists.
It took me a while to realise this, as i tried fruitlessly to purchase some actual Apollo Moon Buggy wheels that a guy sitting adjacent to me in the bar had in his office. And then in astonishment and wonder at the coincidence when I found that the quiet reserved chap I was sat next to was an actual legend from the Apollo space programme!
If you find yourself in Los Angeles, and you have an interest in Gin and space travel, then you really must pay a visit to the Flintridge Proper.
*many thanks to Ross Necessary, the Gin Club’s west coast correspondent, for his assistance and support at the Flintridge Proper.