Two elevators and 71 floors later — you’ve arrived at 71 Above, “the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi.” As soon as you walk in, the city begins to reveal itself down a short hallway — a few steps later the panoramic views grab you from every angle. You immediately feel the stresses of the day drop down to ground level while you float above LA chaos. If all this sounds a little too romanticized, it’s not.
71 Above is not only sitting pretty with its million dollar views, this place is also home to critically acclaimed Executive Chef Vartan Abgaryan (formerly of Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake), a dream combo for the ultimate foodie dining experience. But there’s a third component that elevates 71 Above in the restaurant world and you’ll find him tucked away behind the bar, shaking a shaker with one hand and stirring a cocktail with the other. Meet Darwin Manahan, the 29-year-old lead bartender behind 71’s killer cocktail menu. Pull up a chair, relax and let Manahan take you around Los Angeles in a couple of sips.
Each cocktail is named after and inspired by a different hood in LA. There’s the Malibu, a tequila and Lillet Rose cocktail that tastes like Barbie’s Dreamhouse but with depth because remember, you’re dealing with a magician here. Manahan adds a trick to switch it up — he tops it off with a peppercorn foam to mimic the foam that washes up on shore in the ‘Bu and in seconds it shifts the taste from sweet to savory. He has a knack for combining flavors you might not connect to on the page but you will covet post-sip, so take a chance. There’s the DTLA, an aromatic, toasted hazelnut-infused bourbon cocktail Darwin says will “hug your soul.” Think a chilly cabin in Big Bear. This drink is the fireplace that’ll keep you nice and toasty, like an oversized sweater your grandma knit for you. The list goes on — there’s the Echo Park (pisco and mezcal), the Hollywood (jalapeno-infused vodka) and so on.
Manahan’s tirelessly committed to the beverage industry, in a very literal way — right next to his wedding ring you’ll find another ring — a bottle opener. You’ll see him use it when someone orders a beer. He credits the industry with serving him his identity, “I found myself here. It made me whole. I like helping others find themselves,” be it a customer looking to unwind or a fellow bartender looking to learn. His ease of personality and conversation will reel you into feeling at home, except this home has front row seats to the visual concert of LA’s skyline as the light slowly shifts across the city at sunset. With a perfect cocktail, a perfect view and good conversation with good people — all is right in the world at 71 Above.
Written by Linda Hosmer
Photographed by Eric Cacioppo