Contemplate — as one may for St. Patrick’s Day — that humbly scrumptious and eminently basic cocktail, the Irish espresso.
It’s a deceptively easy drink, but its kind belies a sequence of small decisions yielding a cocktail larger than the sum of its elements. Nowadays you will discover what could be the fashionable splendid of an Irish espresso cocktail at Tom Bergin’s, the historic Irish pub on Fairfax Avenue open since 1936. Brothers Dave and Francis Castagnetti took possession of the bar in late 2019, after the constructing was designated as a historic monument by the Los Angeles Metropolis Council and saved from demolition. “In case you have a neon signal out entrance that claims ‘Home of Irish Espresso,’ you’ve obtained to come back appropriate,” laughs Francis Castagnetti.
And are available appropriate they do. Irish coffees have been served in a single kind or one other at Tom Bergin’s for the higher a part of a century, however its present kind is a grasp class in thought of construction, constructed for repeatability and complexity with delicate trendy updates. The essential components embody espresso, Irish whiskey (Tullamore Dew is the usual pour), a contact of sweetener and textured cream — not fairly whipped however not fairly liquid, and thick sufficient in order to kind a form of layered, sealed float on the high of a tulip glass. Tom Bergin’s serves a number of hundred of the drinks each day, however on St. Patrick’s Day that quantity explodes into the hundreds.
The Irish espresso’s historical past has Californian roots. Although its origins in County Limerick are the topic of a lot historic disagreement, few would dispute that the drink was popularized on the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, which serves a number of thousand Irish coffees a day from a recipe that has not modified because the early Nineteen Fifties. The Buena Vista depends on sugar cubes as a sweetener, and makes use of a proprietary “aged cream” method involving a lot stirring and spooning to realize the proper texture.
At Tom Bergin’s they’ve made a few key tweaks to the tactic, utilizing turbinado easy syrup as a substitute of cubes (“It’s a bit of richer and holds onto the espresso taste higher,” says Castagnetti), and shaking contemporary heavy cream in condiment squeeze bottles for ease of use. The espresso is taken into account as properly, sourced from Pasadena’s Zona Rosa and introduced in a medium roast, permitting the distinctness of the espresso to shine via. These little touches add as much as one thing ambrosial: The high-quality espresso sings, the darkish, candy syrup melds with the brogue of the whiskey, and the cream seals all of it collectively in a form of dualistic jig, concurrently mild and darkish, cold and warm, candy and dry, and gone in a gulp.
“We’re stewards of one thing that will likely be right here lengthy after us,” says Francis Castagnetti of his octogenarian bar. “If my brother and I’ve this place for even simply 10 years, that’s a flash within the pan for what this place means to the town.” The bar practically closed earlier than the pandemic, and sat vacant for 2 years earlier than the brothers took it on. Most weeks it’s a pleased hub of regulars and curious guests, however on St. Patrick’s Day it blooms into one thing extra like a municipal vacation spot.
There aren’t any advance tickets to e-book or reservations to make for St. Patrick’s Day at Tom Bergin’s, however there may properly be a line for those who arrive after 3 p.m. or so. Any wait is price it for an Irish espresso this good, so achingly easy and pure, but subtly up to date and up to date too, befitting the residing historical past of this exceptional bar.
“The Irish espresso is already good,” says Francis Castagnetti. “We simply let it’s what it’s.”