By Charly SHELTON
It’s fall everywhere else, but in L.A. summer rages on. It’s not time for jackets and pumpkin beers yet, but it’s time for sunglasses and cold gin with lemongrass. That’s why Ombra Wine Bar is perfect for right now.
This new outdoor wine and cocktail bar located at the Americana at Brand is part lounge, part restaurant, part vacation. Andrea Scuto, the mixologist behind the amazing bar program at Trattoria Amici, designed Ombra with L.A. weather in mind.
“This is a very California place,” Scuto said. “You can’t do a restaurant like this anywhere else because everywhere else has rain and cold. We only had like six days of rain last year.”
The outdoor setting surrounded by palm trees and sunshades, on the lawn of the Americana plaza, is a great way to cool off between stores while shopping. Ombra invited me to try out some of their offerings and in the span of just over an hour, I saw three parties come in with bags from Nordstrom, Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters, and even Victoria Secret bags from the Galleria across the street. It was over 90° while I was sitting there for lunch, but it really didn’t feel that hot.
Between the salads and the chilled cannellini bean dip, I was a happy camper with cool, light foods to beat the heat.
The cocktails were the real star of the show, however. With drinks like a cucumber basil gimlet and the vodka-blackberry-mint “Purple Haze,” these are not only good when it’s hot but anytime. I had the Smoke & Fire, which is Monkey Shoulder scotch, honey and barrel aged bitters. The scotch was smoked with hickory using one of the coolest machines ever invented, which burns the wood quickly and blows the smoke into a little globular bottle of chilled whiskey so when it pours out, it looks like Mana pouring from a potion bottle with dragon smoke. That would be enough to please me, but it gets better.
There is a full page of make-your-own gin and tonics, using gin from around the world, and flavored tonics, combined with fruit and herb garnishes. In the mood for The Botanist Islay Dry Gin from Scotland with cucumber lemon tonic, garnished with orange peel, blackberries and sage? How about the Anchor Distilling Old Tom Gin from San Francisco with coconut lemongrass tonic, garnished with flowers, basil and black peppercorn? There are endless combinations – more than any human can or should try at one time. And the knowledgeable staff can help you choose based on what you like if you get stuck.
Ombra Wine Bar is located across from its sister restaurant Trattoria Amici in the
Americana at Brand. Prices range from $13 to $21 for cocktails and lunch runs from $8 to $19, with most cocktails and bites in the $14 range. I definitely recommend this when you’re on the go and need a quick reprieve from the doldrums of shopping in the heat. Ombra is located at 783 Americana Way in Glendale. Visit ombrawinebar.com for more info.