Just like food, I love it when bars and restaurants take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce to make tasty and innovative cocktails. Of course, it's also great to know an experienced set of hands are making those drinks - so I am especially delighted with the recent opening of Copa d'Oro in Santa Monica, bartended by pros like Vincenzo Marianella and Damian Windsor.
I'll admit to coming with a bias, when I first heard of their "build-your-own-drink" menu I thought it was kind of hokey, 'cause really -- can't you do that at just ANY bar? Then I read their menu and realized that they featured many farmers-market-fresh ingredients that not so readily available at just any ole bar -- and the concept made more sense. Tell them what base spirits you prefer (with a regular and an upscale option, for $9 and $13 respectively) and the fruit / herb / vegetable flavors you want - then sit back and let the bartender take care of the proportions and other ingredients as needed to make that delectable drink.
On my first trip here with Caroline and Esther, I felt like something refreshing and fruity - so I asked Damian for something with 10 Cane rum, strawberry and ginger. He made a drink with just that, balancing it with agave nectar and a dash of Angostura - it was sensational! Definitely a more summery drink, though I expected that already when I ordered it, it was fruity without being too sweet, with nice caramel-grassy-sugarcane undertones from the rum and rounded out with the bitters and spicy ginger.
My second custom cocktail is "something with Sagatiba, raspberry and sage" - which was then combined with lime, simple syrup and kumquat. This came out delicious as well, and considerably more complex with the fruit-sage contrast and the zinger from the 'quat. Tasting this, I don't know if I can go back to just an ordinary capirinhia again!
Finally, I decided for something off their pre-built menu -- "Pablo's Tuesday" (though w ewere there on a Monday) made with applejack, Aperol plus freshly squeezed lemon and orange juices (see? I'm being healthy!) Nice and punchy, I can easily imagine myself batching this up for a party! And believe or not, the inventor of this drink - Pablo Moix of the One Group - happened to be there at that time, so we had a nice chat about his upcoming cocktail creations.
Three drinks later, Caroline and I (Esther left earlier) reluctantly closed out our bill -- only to find many of our drinks comp'd! The bill that did came out was $14 for each of us -- of course, we tipped generously. But even at full price ($9-14), it's still a very worthwhile experience -- and I can't wait to return to taste a few more delights while munching on their fancy seasoned bar mix or maybe even order a panini.
What Do Others Say?
My drinking compadre Caroline loves the "pick your poison" concept
LA Times considered it a "quiet-yet-still-hip bar" on the Westside
A full five stars from four Yelpers
Alli411 had a nice small sip here, also looks forward to return trip
Santa Monica, CA 90401