HBO Explores The L.A. Speakeasy


HBO kicked off the first night of its Boardwalk Empire promotion on Tuesday with free drinks and goodies for customers.

From 7-9 P.M. every person who walked into the Varnish in downtown Los Angeles received a free drink, salt-water taffy, and the really lucky ones also got a flask. The promotional staff only had five flasks to give out so they were eyeing customers to see who was really enthusiastic about the experience. The flask itself was a plain tin flask with “Boardwalk Empire” engraved on the front.

Most customers didn’t notice the flask; they were there for the free drink. There wasn’t a specific drink menu for customers to order from, but all the drinks had to have Canadian Club whiskey in them. Since many people didn’t know what kinds of mixed drinks to get with whiskey, they went with the bartender’s recommendations. The most popular drink of the night was the Ward Eight. It was small, but strong and still had a semi-sweet taste to it. The drink was made with whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, and pomegranate grenadine. Other great drinks were the Cobble Hill and Brown Derby.

Besides great drinks, the bar itself had a great ambiance. It was small and dark, a great place to bring a date and just hang out. All the servers were dressed in 20s style clothing and a pianist was on hand serenading customers. He sang and played upbeat ragtime and jazz tunes. Because it was a Tuesday night it wasn’t very crowded either. The location was really the only negative of the event. The Varnish really is a speakeasy style bar. It is a bar within a bar, so a person who has never been there before would not be able to find it from the street. Parking was also difficult. Most of the metered parking was taken and the lots were deserted and unattended—not the type of place a young person would want to walk through alone at night. Overall the event was a great homage to the past.

Overall rating: 8/10

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