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There is fierce debate in Los Angeles over whether Cole’s invented the French dip sandwich, but there is no doubt that an unmarked door in the back of the restaurant is ground zero for the city’s cocktail revival.
Behind that door you will find the Varnish, a dimly lit, slightly underground bar run by Sasha Petraske and Eric Alperin, of New York’s famed Milk & Honey. Two months ago, they brought their brand of civilized, artisanal cocktails to the city of the Rat Pack.
“We’re here to fight the vodka–Red Bulls of the world,” says Alperin, with handcrafted drinks like the Palma Fizz, with vodka, lime, ginger juice and a spray of rosewater. True to their credo, Good Drinks Take Time, all cocktails are made to order, often with a specific patron's preferences in mind, so the bar can only accommodate 50 people at a time. But if you get hungry while waiting for your drink, you don’t have to skip the restaurant’s famed sandwich.
“You can bring in your French dip,” Alperin says. “But you have to get it in a bag to go.”