Like it or not, it’s possible to credit the eventual emergence of a number of retro-drinking trends to the popularity at the beginning of this century of the Apple Martini. It’s been 15 years since the famed Lola’s, known among other things as the home of said Apple Martini, opened in West Hollywood, and owner Loren “Lola” Dunsworth is marking the occasion with a themed pairing menu, as well as a newly revamped cocktail menu honoring Hollywood landmark hotels including The Ambassador, the Hollywood Roosevelt and the Hotel Bel-Air (special guest master mixologist Brad Stanton developed the cocktails with Lola’s bar manager David Shoham). Fifteen years is an eternity in the nightclub and bar business, so we thought it smart to check in to see what Dunsworth does to keep things fresh
Mix: Cocktail and food pairing menus can be difficult to compile for the average customer and hard to market — what ideas informed yours?
Loren “Lola” Dunsworth: We did not find the cocktails to be difficult to compile or market — the idea of a "Martini or cocktail pairing" is a bit out of the normal realm of Lola’s usual "wine pairings." The cocktails are fun and delicious; they work perfectly with the food items we have teamed them with.
Mix: How important is working in tandem with the chef to get the flavors right?
Dunsworth: Working with the Chef is key. We wanted to make sure that the cocktail flavors worked well with the meal. We did a lot of tastings to make sure the flavors worked with, and not against, the meal.
Mix: Besides the pairing concept, what are the things you need to keep in mind in offering a new menu at an iconic place like Lola's?
Dunsworth: Anytime we make changes to the menu at Lola's it is very important to keep true to who we are and what we do at Lola's. These new menu items fit in perfectly as they have been crafted with the legends of Hollywood in mind — hotels in this case.
Mix: Does being the place considered to be home of the Apple Martini make building more craft-oriented menus easier or harder, or was that too long ago to have any impact today?
Dunsworth: The Apple Martini is definitely the stuff cocktail legends are made of and clearly has secured a much deserved spot in "the history of cocktails" that most drinks can only hope to achieve. These new cocktails may reside in the same house but stand completely on their own. Each cocktail has its own personality.
Mix: Southern California still seems to have a sweet tooth when it comes to cocktails — did that affect the new menu?
Dunsworth: Angelenos and Southern California natives definitely love the sweet cocktails, particularly that 20s and early 30s crowd and especially the ladies. Although a couple of these new craft cocktails are for the bit sweeter palette, these are a step up into a more grown up drink for our customers. So far they have all been very well received!
Mix: Has the recent boom in cocktail-focused bars in LA had an impact on what you do?
Dunsworth: Lola's has always been a trendsetter in LA, especially when it pertains to cocktails and even more so when dealing with Martinis. Although there are lots of great bars doing lots of amazing drinks, I feel our cocktails are a reflection of our personal tastes and those of our customers.
Mix: What are your favorite cocktails right now?
Dunsworth: My faves of the new cocktails would have to be The Georgia (Plymouth Gin, egg white, lemon juice, orgeat, sprinkle of nutmeg) and the Chateau Marmont (muddled jalapeno and strawberries, Stoli Strasberi, rock candy, orange juice and cranberry juice). Both very different but both super stars!