Kumo's Cocktails Had Me On 'Cloud 9'
I recently popped into Kumo in West Hollywood to try the black vinegar cocktail I’d been hearing about. I tried such cocktails in London’s trendsetting libational landscape and was intrigued that such forward-thinking ideas were taking root in L.A., which is not yet recognized as a drinking destination of note in cocktailian circles.
Sitting at the all-white bar, in the all-white eatery (Kumo means “cloud” in Japanese), the first thing that struck me was the energy and excitement behind the bar. James Bobby is Kumo’s head barman and responsible for most of the inspired drinks. The bartender working alongside him, Fred, shared his enthusiasm for a quality tipple. A rare but exciting thing to see in La-La-Land.
Of course, it helps that both of these guys are from Chicago – a town whose cocktail bars have been recognized for innovation and a place where (unlike AA-saturated Los Angeles) a good drink goes hand-in-hand with a great night out. To me, a bartender is integral to that experience, something that Bobby understands. He recognizes that sometimes a guest will want to connect with the bartender, and have a friendly chat or air the grievances of the day. He jokes, “Sometimes even a bartender needs a good bartender.”
Kumo is also a Japanese restaurant and if you go in for a sushi fix, make note of the dramatic digital artwork by Chiho Aoshima (see photo above). His piece, titled “City Glow” spans five plasma TV screens, and the piece is one of only five in existence. It gives the space a joyful sort of Jetsons-meets-Harijuko feel. I did not experience the food but was not disappointed by what I came in to try…
The Black Margarita blends Patron tequila, Citronage, homemade sour and a splash of black vinegar. The whole thing is shaken and served on the rocks with a lavender salt rim. I love the balance of acid against the sweetly sour citrus notes, and tequila is a distinctive enough spirit not to get lost in the mix. Bravo. That’s one I’d have again.
I also enjoyed the Kumokaze, which James says he dreamed up while chatting with the chef, one night. They both agreed that the restaurant needed its own namesake on the cocktail menu. This drink is blue and white as an homage to clouds, and it tastes both spicy and sweet. The spicy kick of chil-infused vodka is softened with a little honey syrup, and leaves your tastebuds in orbit. Until you float back down to Earth, and order another, anyway...
2 ounces Japanese Takanotsume peppers steeped Ketel One Vodka
1 1/2 ounces Blue Curacao
1 ounce homemade sour mix (lemon, lime, and orange juices sweetened with honey)
1/4oz Honey Syrup to taste
1/4oz Blueberry Puree
Served with a large sugar rim
Shake all ingredients, strain into an ice-filled , sugar rimmed rocks glass.
Photos: Claire Barrett Photography