Contrary to its name, Bar Jackalope is not just a bar. Rather, it has the atmosphere of what we consumers now deem as “speakeasies” – the rush of excitement when you figure out how to get through the nondescript door, the nervousness in your voice as you talk to the strange gatekeeper that stands between you and your night of excitement, the plush decorations and couches that invite you to sit, drink and revel in a night of delectable drinks.
Contrary to popular belief, Bar Jackalope isn’t a speakeasy – it is a whiskey tasting lounge according to manager Andrew Abrahamson and his partner Erik Cardona (they also run 7 Grand, which is a bar that holds Bar Jackalope in its premises).
Speakeasies have rules, and they make it more about themselves rather than the customers. Our customers (bottle-holders) are like active partners in our venture, and this creates a sense of familiarism in our bar, which is the anti-thesis of a speakeasy.
Since its inception, Bar Jackalope has been focused on the education of whiskey, has over 400 different types of whiskies stocked behind their counters, and boasts a family of over 225 bottle-holders under its name. Bottle-holders in Bar Jackalope are customers who have purchased a whiskey for themselves, and are given a locker to store their purchase for future consumption. These bottle-holders are able to drop by at any time during their open hours to enjoy their purchase (provided there is space for them to be seated).
It’s funny how sometimes the customer is the one who starts pouring their own drinks from their bottle, and asks us to have a drink with them. We never really wanted it to be a place where people sit at the bar to order, but rather we wanted it to be like someone’s parlor. The list we give customers to choose from isn’t a whiskey list, but rather a catalogue that we curate. It’s almost like a library, a whiskey library.
While most bars would probably kill for the secret formula to create this sort of camaraderie with its customers, Andrew reveals a much simpler truth. Bar Jackalope and 7 Grand was originally designed with the intent of creating a lounge where customers could sip whiskey. The education of whiskey for the masses was more important than the financial returns it could reap, which made it a polarizing bar. After all, how can a bar stay afloat, if it doesn’t sell enough, market itself enough?
We wanted people who get (whiskey) and love it. We don’t want people who don’t want it. Luckily enough, whiskey became hot, and the bar became popular.
The creative and functional inspiration for 7 Grand was drawn from Japan – 7 years ago, 7 Grand was built and the space for Bar Jackalope was originally an under-used space for private events. When Andrew took over managing the bar, he realized that the original thesis for the bar – a place for people to sit down and learn about whiskey – was slowly being eroded because the bar was getting too popular. After visiting Japan and experiencing the whiskey bars over in the Far East, he decided to bring that concept back home.
In Japan, the whiskey bars are 1/2 the size of Bar Jackalope, and they pack 8 people into a tiny area where they are able to enjoy their whiskey. Right now, 7 Grand is a bar, a bar with whiskey. But Bar Jackalope is a whiskey bar, much similar to its Japanese counterparts.
The concept of a whiskey tasting lounge like Bar Jackalope is hard to pull off, and many of its previous staff have shared the same sentiment. After all, Bar Jackalope is a Japanese-styled whiskey bar with a limited space for 14 people. On top of that, they only serve flights of whiskey (without any mixers besides water and ice – a true testament to whiskey lovers) without the accompanyment of food. This results into a very customer-centric service model, something that drives Bar Jackalope forward, yet makes it all the more difficult for the bar. Furthermore, all 225 bottle-holders have a vested interest in the bar, and act like shareholders for this little outfit. This translates into Andrew, Erik and their team having to cope with 225 different voices, and requires their team to be fluid and adaptable to any circumstance. But, Andrew, Erik and their team are happy as they see themselves building a brand of educational whiskey at Bar Jackalope, and they hope that it would hopefully build up the culture of whiskey in Los Angeles.
We came into this business not wanting to have our lives dictated by an alarm clock.
Bar Jackalope’s mission is clearly the driving force behind its success, and as a fellow whiskey enthusiast, I do hope this inspires more whiskey bars to open. And after learning more about the inspiration behind the bar (as well as their secret menu), I will definitely be making more trips back as a bottle-holder of this establishment.
Kirin on tap
Bar Jackalope’s take on an Old Fashioned
Q: Top 3 whiskies?
A: 1 – Whatever is in his glass at the moment – “The sweet sound of whiskey hitting the glass is my favorite choice”
2- Anything Japanese
3- Single pot still whiskey from Ireland
E: 1- Four Roses, Limited Edition Small Batch 2013
2- Yamazaki 18
3- Glenmorangie Ealanta
Q: What is one bottle you would absolutely have to take if you’re stranded on a deserted island?
A & E: Definitely the Wild Turkey Rye 101. It makes the best rye cocktails, perfect as a sipper, dries perfectly and quick, starts the night well if you want to pound it, ends the night well if you want a night cap. Some say that someone should have gotten the teams and corporate staff into a room with a bottle of this during the NBA lockouts. That way, we wouldn’t have had a lockout for that long.
Located at 515 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Look for the unassuming black door along the hallway to the restrooms
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 8:00PM – 1:00AM
Check out 7 Grand’s website here