Neat your heart out

In the slanguage of the saloon, “neat” means a measure of alcohol served without ice, water or anything else.

Ordering a drink “neat” also means you enjoy the taste of a particular alcoholic beverage. And if you do, then Neat — which opened last month in Glendale — is, just like the bar in the Talking Heads song “Heaven,” for you.

But Neat isn't a place where you'll find Jack Daniel's No. 7 among the 250-plus bottles behind the 30-foot bar.

Instead, Neat's owner/operator Aidan Demarest — a Boston émigré who made his “sultan of the shaker” reputation at downtown L.A.'s Edison and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel's Spare Room — has stocked his shelves exclusively with super-premium spirits of such price and rarity that it borders on “booze porn.”

You enter Neat through a façade of river rock — longtime area residents will recognize it as the former Side Bar — into a candlelit world of dark polished woods, settle into one of the comfortable, high-backed barstools, and survey the posted “menus.”

One's a list of available libations, which extends to pisco, a South American brandy. The other explains that all mixers are “fresh juices, house-made syrups and artisanal sodas.”

You voice your choice, which is poured into a rocks glass and placed on a small wooden pallet with indentations for the spirit and the mixer's glassware, and start sipping.

As someone who bleeds Irish whiskey, I begin with something I've never seen before: Finian's, an independent distillery's blend with a honeyed aftertaste not unlike Jameson's or Powers.

My fellow Lushkateer wants a not-too-peaty Scotch, and our bartender, Arash Palczad, helps her decide by splashing a sip's worth from two bottles into a pair of glasses. She'll have the Balvenie DoubleWood, a 12-year-old, single malt aged in oaken casks that held whiskey, then sherry, which adds a sweet note.

At Arash's suggestion, we complement these with soda water — from a bottle; no bar guns in the house — and forgo mixing our own cocktails to savor the flavors and survey the scene: two black-leather booths flanking the door, cocktail chairs and tables opposite the bar, and a larger table at the back.

The laptop DJ segues from the Ramones to the Clash to the Human League, and a dozen-plus, mostly black-clad couples or small groups of best girlfriends/buddies constitute the weekday evening's clientele.

A rotating series of five beers is available on tap and, of course, you can order a standard cocktail. Inspired by a recent visit to New Orleans, I ask for a Sazerac, and Arash's deft combination of Tennessee rye, Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, Herbsaint, sugar and a lemon twist is this close to perfection.

Meanwhile, Aidan offers Ms. Lushkateer a taster's choice between defunct distillery Jewels of Scotland's Rosebank (“the only bottle in Los Angeles”) and Compass Box's Asyla blend. She prefers the latter. Aidan suggests Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock root (and ginger) soda — reminiscent of a sarsaparilla — on the side.

She pairs this with an 18-year-old Glenfiddich single malt. I switch to a Casa Noble tequila that's been aged for five years in a single barrel — woody and creamy beyond belief — with a side of soda and house-made grapefruit bitters. Our tab: $88, without tip.

It's like Heaven … with street parking.

DON WALLER has written professionally about music, TV, films, books, comedy, magic, cooking and drinking for more local, national and international publications than we have space to list here. Contact him at


What: Neat

Where: 1114 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale

When: Monday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Contact and more info: (818) 241-4542 and

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