Apothéke: The Cocktail Scientist & His Secret Garden
“I watch people enter what seems like an industrial wasteland, and ask themselves — what the hell are we doing here?” Nicolas O'Connor, head mixologist, spirit mastermind, and harnessing what one would imagine the energy of a young Doc from Back to the Future would resemble, adjusts his white lab coat beaming over the secluded nirvana. “We witness faces enter and transform from confusion to opulence, I f*cking love it.” This is Apotheke LA, arriving graciously not just to provide each aspect of its inclusive cocktail intention, but also to take a deep breath and reflect on what it means for intelligent drinking to meet the fresh produce of LA.
In Nick’s opinion, the days of being pretentious on purpose are over. “It’s no longer who did it first, it’s been done before. Now, it’s about having fun.” After spending eleven years in Manhattan, Nick was ready to return home. He aimed to lead the cocktail program of Apotheke LA, the reflection of its NYC location. The aesthetic within shocks the soul with sophistication, a true diamond in the rough. A chandelier glows like a massive crystal hive while sounds align in a craft cocktail symphony. The new location has an extension to embrace an Angeleno lifestyle, and calling it a patio would be criminal — it’s a utopia. Proprietor Chris Tierney had the vision of his masterpiece existing in open-air form. After he scoured far corners of LA, a location was found in an unassuming corner of Chinatown, now cocktail bliss — mission very accomplished.
The outside marble bar is lit underneath exuding orange amber, as if a California sunset was frozen solid. Holly Mattson, the sharp styled manager appears out of thin air to admire the view, “amazing, right?” Lights of the urban hill merge with stars and just when observance starts to float the conscious away, a train roars under the graffiti sprayed North Spring Street Bridge. Train watching over a wide-open sky, it’s as if there’s a button behind the bar to initiate it every time it thunders through.
Nick sneaks down into a hidden door revealing his sourcing garden, where the cocktails produce is grown. “I’ve taken parts of this area I love, like the San Gabriel Mountains, the sense and smells in my mind” the beam returns as he recalls a Manzanita Tree, “The tree reminds me of camp, and these sensory aspects of life inspire the cocktails.” The garden is a powerful tool. It gives way to cocktails like the Greensear, made with eucalyptus infused Tequila, Mezcal, honeydew, spirulina, lime, habanero bitters and bulls blood. What’s bulls blood? A micro that explodes in mind-altering flavor. Nick devours an edible flower, “I don’t believe in nonfunctional garnishes, there should be a purpose for all parts.”
Once you discover Apotheke LA, you’ll understand what it means to now have it a part of our city. And with cocktail scientist Nicolas dreaming of boundless creations to transport you to a feeling, place or memory — you’ll truly travel through time within its sublime atmosphere.
Written by Travis Platt | Photography by Robiee Ziegler