THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS

Luau bar

— gold agricole rum, that is, and it’s flowing freely at the new Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills (bar pictured above).  Owner Andrew Hewitt had fond childhood memories of the legendary original Luau (1953-78), which inspired him to resurrect the joint for a new generation.  Aimed squarely at the glitterati — as was the previous Luau, where Howard Hughes and Liz Taylor were among the celebrities pampered by proprietor Steve Crane, himself an ex-husband of Lana Turner — the new Luau features modern “Zen Balinese” decor and contemporary pan-Asian cuisine.  But it does look backward in one department:  the drinks.

Around this time last year, Andrew’s right-hand man, Doug Major, contacted the Beachbum with some questions about tropical drinks.  The next thing we knew we were planning the new Luau’s bar menu.  The Bum’s assignment was to resurrect the best “lost” recipes from the original Luau and retool them with all-natural ingredients; we were also charged with inventing original cocktails for a more contemporary “Martini” section of the menu.

If anything could conquer the Bum’s aversion to work of any kind, it was work of this kind.   Already in possession of Steve Crane’s original recipes (courtesy of Crane’s former bar manager Bob Esmino), we presented Andrew with an authentic vintage Navy Grog, Pearl Diver, Mai Tai, and Bo-Lo, among others.  While awaiting the response, we prepared for the worst:  the Navy Grog required three expensive rums and a labor-intensive ice cone; the Pearl Diver demanded house-made allspice and cinnamon syrups; the Mai Tai called for a hard-to-find gold Martinique rhum agricole; and the Bo-Lo was even more high-maintenance, since it simply must be served in a cored fresh pineapple.

Much to our surprise, the boss didn’t even blink.  He sampled the drinks, he liked them the way they were, and that’s the way they stayed — higher ingredient cost and longer prep time be damned.  The result:  Luau patrons in 2008 can now sip exotic drinks as they were originally served to Luau patrons in 1958.  Turns out there is something happier than a Hollywood ending — a Beverly Hills beginning.

L.A. TIMES ON THE NEW LUAU

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