1933 Group (Bigfoot Lodge, Thirsty Crow, Oldfield's) brings the barrel-aged cocktail front and center at Sassafras, their latest throwback to another time and place: the Old South. Though in the middle of Hollywood (on Vine and Fountain), once inside, it’s easy to imagine Tennessee Williams as a regular here. Walk past what looks like a patio on the Bayou—weeds creep out of the ceiling above the wicker chairs—to the long bar framed by odd family heirlooms—a bust of President Lincoln, scratchy mirrors and patriarchal portraits on brick walls—and dangling bottles of barrel-aged cocktails in constant rotation (literally, on an ancient dry cleaning rack). Behind the bar sits a Savannah townhouse—an actual building that was dismantled in Georgia and reconstructed down to the moldings and fireplace. If the scenery is too much for you, focus on the menu—seven premixed and oak barrel-aged cocktails ($14), house-brewed ginger-beer drinks ($12) and concoctions inspired by the bar’s namesake (as in the plant, used for root beer). To eat, there's Southern grub like jambalaya ($10) and sweet potato pie ($5).
Good for: The imagination. Writers, artists and modern-day-thinkers should grab a seat inside the reconstructed townhouse to sip and scribble, etch or brood the night away. Blanche Dubois could come wailing out of at any moment writing herself into the pages of a hit play.
Drink this: Start with a barrel-aged Vieux Carre ($14) made with Sazerac Rye, Hardy VS Cognac, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and Peychauds and Angostura bitters. Then, for fun comparison, ask for the same drink mixed fresh—see how the barrel aging mellows out the spirits and adds smoky character. If you like egg in your drink, you’ll love the Sassafras Royale ($12)—like a rye whiskey milkshake, it's shaken with Templeton rye, housemade sassafras bitters, egg, malted milk powder and house-brewed sarsaparilla. There's also the option to Build a "Buck" ($12): choose a spirit and add housemade ginger beer.
The scene: Just far enough from Hollywood Blvd, the crowd here is less tourists and more craft cocktail-seekers from the curious Westsider to the Eastside hipster. Depending on the band, the crowd sways in age. And make sure to get your heart-to-heart chats in before the live music drowns out your sorrows (and enlivens the mood). Groups can reserve a large, private room complete with a full bar and bartender, while couples should cozy up at the bar and patio.
The playlist: From the Big Easy-inspired balcony, live music fills the space with blues, ragtime, boogie, brass, Americana and rock.
The bartender says: GM Jared Mort and head bartender Aaron Stepka experiment with the pre-Prohibition practice (and modern-day comeback) of aging gallons of batched cocktails in barrels, which softens the alcoholic edge while imparting flavors of spice, vanilla, toast or smoke.