Monday, March 30, 2009

LA Celebrates One Year of The Sporting Life

Now, let me ask you a question, and think
about an honest answer...

Los Angeles is known as the center of the entertainment industry. It
is full of beautiful, trendy people who want to be part of the latest cool thing. Angelenos expect to have the best of everything – weather, restaurants, high-profile glamour. Did you really expect this town to settle for sub-par cocktails?

Long ridiculed as the “vodka / redbull” city by cocktail snobs everywhere, our fair City of Angels is making the world stand up and take notice. Not only do we have an incredibly talent crew of bartenders / mixologists / enthusiasts / writers / what-have-you in our midst, we also have the people who do it with style.

Oh yeah, I’m bias. Ridiculously so. But, I also know LA deserves to be a little cocky when it comes to cocktails. And, I’m not alone.

I first met Marcos Tello at Tales of the Cocktail in 2007, and immediately recognized that we shared a passion for both mixology, and highlighting the people in LA who do it best. I’ve been presenting some of my favorite bars and bartenders on this blog for the past 3 years so my readers can know where to find them. Meanwhile, last year, Marcos went right out and rallied our local bartenders into action.

Tello says that after returning from the “Cocktails in the Country” (Gary Regan’s former bartending academ
y in New York state), he felt “heartbroken” at not finding the kind of “secret underground” society of mixology enthusiasts that NYC has. In his words, “I vowed to at least start a society of bartenders who loved cocktails, so when someone like me came along, they would have a community to belong to.”

A year ago, Marcos founded “The Sporting Life.” The 7 or 8 of us at the initial meeting (in the back garden of BarKeeper) are still active in the group. However, the monthly meeting are now sponsored by liquor companies, and anywhere from 30 – 60 people show up, which is saying a lot for a Sunday afternoon when many bartenders (and drinkers) are usually sleeping, chilling on the beach, or waking up next to a sexy somebody from the night before. Tello also points out that because we don't have the advantage of all living right next to each other like in other cities, individuals have to make a concerted effort to attend "community" functions and competitions in order to connect. In his words, “We have to want it more!”

Marcos attributes The Sporting Life’s popularity to the great cocktail culture here, which had been long dormant. He points out, “If [New York and San Francisco] could resurrect their communities, I knew we could do
the same with ours. Plus, LA is such a great vast market, that it was received with a huge amount of support.”

He thinks that having a ‘bartender club,’ if you will, gives Angeleno bartenders a sense of identity and elevates the awareness of good cocktails, which has a trickle-down effect into bars all over town. Marcos also believes that the LA cocktail scene is just beginning to define itself, declaring , “In the next few years there will be a definite "LA Style" when it comes to the bartending world.”

It was only fitting to have The Sporting Life’s One Year Anniversary Party back at Bar Keeper. Afterall, Joe is a good friend to the bartending community, and he is one of the heartiest enthusiasts to be found. Not only was the afternoon-long event filled with happy cocktail-swigging revelers, but some of our top talent took turns manning the bars set up for the party, showing off to each other (upping the ante for awesome cocktails for all of us!)

Marcos aims to keep expanding the group in an effort to support cocktail culture in LA. He has been pushing hard for bartenders to join the USBG (the national bartender union) and he would also like to bring in a Los Angeles Cocktail Community Board that will put on The Sporting Life from now on. He says, “This way, the group builds a community that supports itself and continues to do so for many years to come.

Raise a glass to Los Angeles, and three cheers for The Sporting Life!

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