Faith & Flower
is kind of like the Audrey Hepburn of the food and drink scene here in LA. After only a few years since opening in 2014, the DTLA restaurant is already a tried and true classic. Entering through those grandiose doors, the high-ceilinged interior—complete with chandeliers, plush booths, and elaborate woodwork—takes you back to the glamour of old Hollywood with a refreshing modern twist.
For when you're feeling classy, but also want to get toasted on gin. Image courtesy of Faith & Flower
Before we get too carried away with looks, we must remember what Audrey taught us: exterior beauty isn’t everything—it’s also about talent, compassion, character, and, of course, a taste for the finer things in life. And while we could drone on and on about the efficient but warm service, the infamous deviled Jidori eggs, the buttery Atlantic cod, the tableside cocktail cart and even the bathrooms so suave your experience would be incomplete without paying them a visit, we’d like to direct you to the bar.
Image courtesy of Faith & Flower
Image courtesy of Arden Shore
Behind said bar, you’ll find Darwin Pornel, Faith & Flower’s lead bartender. Darwin will drink just about any spirit if it’s made right, but we all have our preferences—his is gin.
Admittedly, the botanical-infused spirit is polarizing. Its herbal notes, derived from juniper berries and other herbs, spices and fruits, are like a pleasant visit to a garden party for some. For others, it’s like sucking on a pine sap. Darwin falls into the former camp, so in his humble opinion, the perfect martini is made with gin.
“Gin is a great spirit because of its flexibility in terms of the flavors some gins possess and how you can use them with other ingredients in cocktails. Aside from the obvious juniper essence that most London Dry style gins highlight, other London Drys are more citrus heavy, or focus on flavors like coriander or cardamom. Some New World style gins focus more on mellower botanicals than juniper (though the juniper is still present), such as herbaceous or floral ingredients,” the eloquent young barman tells us.
For gin cocktails, Darwin often finds himself turning to brands like Bombay Original, Beefeater, Ford's, Sipsmith, and the Botanist. However, he believes that any gin is perfect if used properly. In other words, it’s not so much about the gin, but rather who stirs it up.
Below, Darwin guides us to bars and restaurants all over LA where the bartenders and their gin cocktails have his seal of approval. We’ll kick it off with his own stomping grounds, of course, and end with a quick detour down to San Diego. Sit back and relax, he’ll do all the ordering for you. It’s gin o’clock, Los Angeles!
Faith & Flower
Darwin Pornel: My favorite gin cocktail to make for guests is currently on the menu and has been one of my favorite gin cocktails since I started bartending. The Poet's Dream is a riff on a classic gin martini with the added richness of Benedictine, and is always well received.
Beverly Grove, $$$
DP: I love coming to Terrine because I always, always learn something here. Watching Ryan Wainwright make drinks and listening to him talk about spirits and their history is a valuable experience. I'm always in good hands when ordering anything there. He's also a stickler for a great martini, so he's definitely an excellent source for one.
DP: Scopa offers a Bramble during their brunch service, and since I live super close, I often find myself there for brunch on Sunday mornings. I go for the Bramble because it's light and refreshing—the perfect brunch cocktail.
DP: This is an amazing place to go for great food and drinks. The bartenders here are all highly trained and great at what they do. I would just ask for a gin drink "bartender's choice" and let them take care of the decisions for you.
The Normandie Club
DP: I love the vibe of this place every single time I go. The cocktails are great, but if there's one thing I really love about this place, it's how genuine the bartenders are in their devotion to hospitality and the craft. Everyone on the staff loves being there, and it shows in both the drinks and the atmosphere. Order anything, you'll love it.
San Diego, $$
DP: I'm from San Diego, so every time I drive down to visit my family or friends I end up at Polite Provisions. Frankie, Elliott, and the rest of the guys there are awesome and are great examples of bartenders who really enjoy what they do. I always lose track of time when I'm there, and end up staying til the lights come on. Such a great place!
Arden Shore is a writer, dot connector and sock collector from Los Angeles who believes if everyone wore more yellow, we would be one step closer to world peace. Follow her meanderings @ardyparty.
Header image of Darwin Pornel at Faith & Flower courtesy of Arden Shore