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The new Wolves downtown bar is making all its amaros, vermouth, liqueur and bitters

The new Wolves downtown bar is making all its amaros, vermouth, liqueur and bitters
The Wolves bar in downtown L.A. (Eden Tyler)

The Wolves bar and restaurant is now open on Spring Street in Downtown L.A., and lines for a seat at the bar are already routinely an hour and a half long. Drinkers are queuing up to sample cocktails from Kevin Lee, the co-founder of Orange County cocktail destination Puzzle Bar.

At the Wolves, Lee is making each and every amaro, vermouth, liqueur and bitters that are served to customers or employed in one of the current menu’s 27 cocktails.

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It is a defiance of the standard practice of using the same consistent, commercial products found at bars all over the world. The results are cocktail recipes that not only change with the seasons, but drinks that will taste different from week to week, as the fruits, vegetables and herbs used in the preparations change or undergo subtle transformations with the passage of the time and weather.

“I want it to feel like our back bar is alive and breathing,” Lee says. “I want our cocktails to feel affected by terroir and atmosphere. I like to say we are inconsistently natural, as opposed to being consistently unnatural. We want things to be constantly changing and evolving. I want the cocktail world to be more affected by terroir. It’s a concept that restaurants have embraced everywhere.”

Each guest arriving to the Wolves, which purposefully eschews standing room, receives a complimentary welcome drink of vermouths once seated.

Food is overseen by Matthew Poley of Heirloom LA. The dishes are classic-ish: an open-faced beef Wellington sandwich;, chitarra pasta with white wine and seafood; garlic-rubbed polenta bread with whipped avocado, labneh, and basil blossoms.

In the months to come, an upstairs mezzanine will be opened as a connected but distinct bar called le Néant (French for “nothingness”). It will overlook the elegant space—outfitted with Batchelder floor tiles, antique Argentine lampposts, stained glass, mahogany booths and a breathtaking, Belle Époque-era ceiling sourced from a Lyonnais train station.

The lounge plans to feature live entertainment and a cocktail menu that Lee says will be influenced by Japanese omakase. Downstairs you order drinks off a traditional cocktail menu; upstairs the the bar will feature a list of market ingredients, from which the drinks will be conjured.

519 S. Spring St. Los Angeles, (213) 265-7952, thewolvesdtla.com.

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