Are you watching closely?
This Friday, a new bar will open at the intersection of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Beverly Grove, with all the magic of Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film The Prestige and all the genius of the brains behind some of the city’s best cocktail establishments. The 80-seat Bibo Ergo Sum—"I drink, therefore I am"—is the second marriage of Tait Forman of Arclight Cinemas and Proprietors, the lauded cocktail consultants and entrepreneurs behind the Walker Inn, the Normandie Club, Honeycut and others. The Forman family hired Proprietors to overhaul their upscale theater chain’s beverage program, and now, for their second trick, Tait Forman enlisted the group to build the menu for his first bar.
Bibo Ergo Sum is somewhat of a pioneer in Robertson Plaza, a mixed-use development set to also house a restaurant, and on Sunday, a Blue Bottle Coffee. But more immediately, the plaza’s first concept will open Friday in a neighborhood that’s relatively uncharted territory for high-concept cocktail bars. To help craft a bit of something for everyone, the team—especially Proprietors partner Devon Tarby—decided on an unusual concept: a three-part menu that corresponds to the three acts in every magic trick, as popularized by The Prestige.
The pledge—the simple-seeming beginning of each trick—here translates to a list of one non-alcoholic drink and five cocktails, all riffs on classics. This is where you’ll find the basics made a bit more interesting, such as the Throw Some C’s, a spin on a margarita made with cinnamon reposado tequila, lime juice, Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao and cinnamon; and the Garden Blade, a fairly straightforward daiquiri, albeit one made with Plantation 3 Stars rum, lime juice and a vegetal “garden” syrup that gives the cocktail an almost savory edge.
The turn—the point of the trick where the ordinary becomes extraordinary—is a procession of four cocktails built to wow; this is where Bibo and Proprietors showcase the capabilities of their excellent teams: clarified concoctions, smoke-encapsulated cocktails, the beverage equivalent of showmanship. Look for the Sleight of Hand, made with cold-brewed tea, Seedlip (a flavorful “non-alcoholic spirit”), wine tannin and cherry wood smoke; and the Dr. Julius, a bubbly easy-drinker of vanilla milk-washed Plantation rum with Crystal orange cream soda.
But, in the immortal word of Sir Michael Caine, making something disappear isn’t enough—you have to bring it back. That’s why the third section of Bibo’s menu builds upon the first two, using the basics of the pledge and the techniques of the turn, but with even more finesse. “Essentially we’re taking the lessons we’ve been learning here and over the last few years, and applying them in a way that the cocktails won’t feel so in-your-face,” says Tarby. “Really layered, complex flavors, but it still feels like a cocktail.”
Tempting as some of the introductory drinks may be, there’s no need to start with the pledge and progress, unless you’d like to. “I think the idea here was, in the spirit of hospitality, have something for everybody,” says Tarby. “We needed to make sure there was something approachable, but also offer something for people who are a little bit more accustomed to this. Maybe if you’ve never had something like this before, maybe you’ll eventually make your way to the back of the menu.”
The space, which looks like an Art Deco dream but a bit like dream had by someone in the early ’80s, arrives by way of Home Studios, the design firm also responsible for the modern-Deco aesthetic in Hollywood’s Gwen. Inspired by new-wave French film posters, Vienna architecture “and the innocence of the Mike Nichols film The Graduate,” among other influences, it’s a mishmash of aesthetics that still manages to feel comfortable. Though the aesthetic doesn’t cite The Prestige as one of its inspirations, the glowing bulb lighting feels oddly reminiscent of Bowie-as-Tesla’s experimentation field, and the velvet touches certainly feel of the film’s Victorian era.
You don’t have to clone yourself—spoiler alert (c’mon, the movie’s 11 years old)—to enjoy Bibo’s menu concept, but you should at very least bring a friend—or your magician twin brother—to help tackle all three parts.
Bibo Ergo Sum opens in Robertson Plaza on Friday, November 17, and will be open from 5pm to 2am, daily.