Over the past few years, pop-up concepts in the food world have been picking up steam. Our very own Blogger and Bartender Christina Russo alongside Bartender Mark Moehle created The Traveling Speakeasy to bring craft cocktails into LA pop-up scene. I recently had the pleasure of checking out their first bar takeover at Pedaler’s Fork in Calabasas, CA.
First off, Pedaler’s Fork is a conceptually a unique restaurant to take over. In addition to being a restaurant with a full bar, they also have a coffee shop, bike shop, and a large outdoor area perfect for live music. When The Traveling Speakeasy takes over, they offer their own personal cocktail menu in addition to the restaurant’s drink and food menu, sort of like how The Bartender Company always offers their own spin on things when they take over the bar. Anyway, the regulars of Pedaler’s Fork get to try something new and a customer like me, who’s never been there, is exposed to both menus. I see the concept of a bar takeover being a fun way for a restaurant/bar to get new customers.
The Traveling Speakeasy takeover on this night was teamed up with Kilbeggan Irish Whiskeys, so many of Kilbeggan Whiskeys were incorporated into their original cocktails. There was a fantastic acoustic, female led band, Pretty Polly, playing on the patio and there was a brand ambassador for Kilbeggan sampling all their Irish Whiskeys. Can this night get any cooler? See video here.
I’m a bit of lightweight when it comes to whiskeys, so I stuck with small tastes (I’m sure my Irish relatives are rolling in their graves). My favorite was their 2 Gingers Whiskey, and not just cause of my strawberry locks. 2 Ginger whiskey is very smooth, has that malty taste I expect from Irish Whiskey but has a slight sweetness. I could tell it would be great in a cocktail (I need mixers… I’m a total chick drinker). The Traveling Speakeasy then put that theory to the test, and I tried their O’Reilly’s Remedy.
The O’Reilly’s Remedy is 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Traveling Speakeasy’s own organic ginger black pepper honey syrup, fresh lemon and topped with Connemara caviar. I couldn’t resist a unique take on the classic Penicillin cocktail and was super intrigued by the idea of a whiskey caviar. As you can see above the Connemara is made into little gelatinous-like circular shapes, and that is the topping. It definitely met my girlie cocktail loving expectations, and I loved the smokiness from the black pepper honey syrup.
I parked at the bar, ordered Hand Cut Kennebec Truffle Fries (with garlic aioli instead of ketchup) and got to know The Traveling Speakeasy a little better. It started as an idea of Mark and Christina’s when they were working together in a certain -ahem- nameless restaurant. This brainchild grew into a vision of cocktails and the culture surrounding them, without forgetting what bartending is all about; the customers. These two and their staff, make everyone feel welcome kick back and learn more about craft cocktails. They send out a very positive energy, not that stereotypical “LA Bartender and too cool to talk to you” vibe.
Mark comes from Louisville, Kentucky, the heart of bourbon country. After starting in the cocktail scene as a bartender at Giardina’s restaurant in Greenwood, MS, he worked his way up into management, implementing craft cocktails into Giardina’s. Some cocktails were so popular; they are still being served at the restaurant today. He then worked his way into the world of bar consulting. Now that he is in the LA market, you can find him creating cocktails at Pedaler’s Fork and also with The Traveling Speakeasy. Mark told me “seeing a trend of cocktail driven bars with zero personality, other then the libations makes us want to shake it up. The Traveling Speakeasy is about reinventing the modern bar experience, bringing back the old school neighborhood bartender who has a quick wit and tongue and marrying it with cocktails that innovate and push the envelope.”
We all know Christina (two-time regional finalist for Diageo World Class, btw) cause she blogs with GOF but upon this visit, I learned how tough it is for a bartender coming from a corporate chain to get her foot in the door with a San Francisco craft cocktail bar. Chains do teach you organization and efficiency, which has certainly paid off, but it took her years of training with the best bartenders in SF before she could even work in a nicer bar. She and I are on common ground with the somewhat lacking LA scene. There are fantastic cocktails being created here, but a lot of the bartenders are lacking that in that personality that keeps you coming back to them. I can totally see Christina owning her bar some day and having innovative drinks and a rad staff. And I will be at this bar. Drinking. Maybe heavily…
The Traveling Speakeasy is available for bar takeovers, private events, consultations and looks to create their own products for bartenders by bartenders. Keep up with them on their Facebook page or their Instagram for their next event.