G-Funk Era – a gin and tonic with a grapefruit twist.

Cocktail Culture at LACMA


Ray’s and Stark Bar, on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, creates its own collection of edible and drinkable art.

Cocktail Culture at LACMA
Ray’s and Stark Bar – a restaurant and bar to enhance your LACMA adventure. Photo by Dustin Downing.

When I’m in the mood for a shot of creative inspiration, I gravitate toward the brilliantly curated collections at The Getty and LACMA. Love to J. Paul, but there’s one architectural marvel I can enjoy only at LACMA.

Amid the magnificent art and exhibitions, you’ll find Ray’s and Stark Bar, the striking, mid-century-modern-inspired restaurant and alfresco bar designed by the gifted Italian “starchitect” Renzo Piano. Across the courtyard from the Resnick Pavilion, Mr. Piano succeeded in creating an engaging urban piazza that’s bustling with energy, inquisitive Angelenos, and fascinating art installations.

But the creativity is by no means limited to the surroundings. Resident Sommelier and spirits guru Paul Sanguinetti has designed a temporary installation of his own in the form of a seasonal, artistically crafted cocktail collection to liven up your Los Angeles winter.

Sink into a red Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair at the convivial Stark Bar and choose from inventive concoctions like the Apple Jackerac (Apple Jack Brandy, Tariquet Armagnac, rinse of absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, winter syrup) and the Far East of Manhattan (Masala-infused rye whiskey, Amaro Nonino, sweet vermouth, bitters, brandied cherry).

Or try an Original Swizzle or Maine Classic while you ponder Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Project sculptures and revel in Chris Burden’s Urban Light, an enchanting forest of 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps.

Sanguine Libations

There’s no snow in Los Angeles, but Mr. Sanguinetti’s flurry of ingenuity stirred up three hot cocktails that will warm you in style: Bobbin’ For Bourbon, Singers Vacation, and Oaxacan Holiday.

G-Funk Era – a gin and tonic with a grapefruit twist.
G-Funk Era – a gin and tonic with a grapefruit twist.

I could get cozy with the tall, dark and handsome Oaxacan Holiday all winter long: cocoa-infused dark rum, crème de cacao, chocolate chili bitters, coffee, freshly whipped cream and grated nutmeg. Decadent, and the spicy notes of the chili bitters are a genius accent.

Is your cocktail relationship on the rocks? The seasonal menu offers icy Mike’s Medicine (Tariquet Armagnac, Licor 43, freshly squeezed lime juice, egg white) and G-Funk Era (gin with garden botanicals, Fever Tree tonic, orange bitters, lemon verbena, grapefruit peel, cracked ice).

I can’t believe that I, lover of all things citrus, am about to say this, but the G-Funk Era gave me a sucker punch to the cheek. It had the most delightful, sunny nose — like Squirt soda — sweet and playful. Yet, only a few sips in, I was funked by the profusion of grapefruit peel. It’s a good-looking spin on a G & T, but taste, just like art, is subjective.

Clearly, Sanguinetti’s cocktail artistry is influenced by his LACMA surroundings … and the staff is no exception. It is pure poetry in motion as the bartenders carefully muddle, blend, strain and garnish with skilled precision.

Chef’s Perspective

Executive chef Kris Morningstar’s menu is as fresh and imaginative as a Jeff Koons balloon flower. “I focus on big flavors and looking at things from a different perspective. I like to challenge myself,” says the culinary dynamo of his Mediterranean-inspired, farm-to-table dishes.

Inside Ray’s sleek, soaring glass walls, the Oregon Albacore is slow cooked and encircled by a bold, smoky onion puree. Squid ink tonarelli is dressed with calamari, bottarga, mint and opal basil picked from LACMA’s very own herb garden.

At Stark Bar, revelers can nosh on house-made charcuterie, oil-cured olives, and flatbreads from the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. The sage flatbread delights with Sottocenere truffle cheese and Maitake mushrooms. And Paul Sanguinetti will suggest just the right glass of wine or one of his sophisticated cocktails to accompany anything from the kitchen.

So, what will it be? Culture? Cocktails? The next time you’re thirsting for either, why not go mid-century-modern in midtown and drink in a bit of both?

Night At The Museum
"Night at the Museum"

Try this one at home:

The aptly named “Night at the Museum” is one of Paul Sanguinetti’s favorites on the new seasonal cocktail menu at Ray’s and Stark Bar.

1 ½ oz. CapRock organic gin
1 oz. Aperol
½ oz. Lillet Blanc
Fresh rose geranium

Slap a piece of fresh rose geranium and place in a stirring glass. (Yes, slap. It’s a common technique used on mint, basil, or other herbs to release aromatic and flavorful oils to the surface.)

Add spirits and stir for about 30 seconds with lots of cracked ice.

Strain into chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with a fresh piece of rose geranium.


Ray’s and Stark Bar @ LACMA

5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Lunch: 11:30 – 3 p.m.
Dinner: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
The bar is open 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays.

Michelle GigonMichelle Gigon is the Food, Wine & Spirits Editor for Singular magazine and the leader of SingularCity’s Girls, Guys and Grapes group. On her list of favorite things are (A) discovering memorable epicurean experiences and (B) telling people about them. A former brand agent at CAA, Michelle is also a freelance creative director on lifestyle marketing programs for Lexus, Nestlé, TV Land and Aspen Food & Wine Classic.
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3 thoughts on “Cocktail Culture at LACMA

  1. If life inspires art…and art, seemingly, inspires a great cocktail…then any Michelle Gigon Foodie article inspires me to put on my party shoes in the middle of the week!

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