By Kathryn Romeyn | October 9, 2017 | Food & Drink
Modern-day movie guys/distillers/mad men Walton Goggins and Matthew Alper go on an LA pour/tour de force.
It’s a boozy Friday night, as we set out on a DTLA bar crawl with an intoxicatingly interesting pair: actor Walton Goggins and biz partner and former cameraman Matthew Alper, who over decades of drinking have honed their palates, becoming experts on the finer points of spirits, as well as launching their own made-in-LA label, Mulholland Distilling. mulhollanddistilling.com
The duo’s Cheers is Cafe Stella, a clubhouse with a bistro twist, where they hang at least weekly and “the bartenders have created a bunch of really ridiculous cocktails for us,” says Alper. Everybody knows their names, and the drinks—like the Eastsider and an impeccable riff on the Negroni—are always waiting for them. Goggins embraces owner Gareth Kantner, describing their first meeting, when he came outside to complain about the bright production lights as the actor filmed The Shield outside the Silver Lake classic ages ago. Today, the conversation under vibrant bougainvillea toggles between the movie biz—Goggins currently stars on HBO’s Vice Principals—and travel, including arty hot spot Todos Santos, Mexico, and Goggins’ indelible experience as a good Samaritan not so long ago doling out cash and a micro loan in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh! 3932 W. Sunset Blvd., LA, 323.666.0265, cafestella.com
The guys love iconic establishments like Musso & Frank and the ’20s-era Biltmore, where Alper proposed to his wife in the aughts. Here, Goggins orders a Sazerac from the old-school barman, while Alper’s call is a 50/50 gin and vodka martini with olives—both featuring Mulholland, naturally. The duo’s distilling business began with Alper’s desire to be home more, an epiphany that came in Albuquerque while shooting The Avengers, “drinking, blowing shit up and smoking cigarettes with Scarlett Johansson—but then FaceTiming my child and she’s learning to walk!” Later came the lightbulb moment: “LA has one of the biggest drinking cultures in the world, but there was no LA-based spirit,” says Alper, adding that he searched the country for the best whiskey, gin and vodka, “like the small-town girl who wants to be an actress and comes to LA—we brought it from everywhere to reinvent it, to tell this story.” His longtime buddy Goggins, then starring in the whiskey-heavy show Justified, got involved. The result is a tribute to Alper’s hometown: the place where, Goggins says, “you can walk into a five-star restaurant with flip-flops!... We’re going to give people high design and more bang for their buck in taste.” As the boys muse about drinking gin in the summertime and their 100-proof American Whiskey in dimly lit spaces for fall, B.B. King comes on, taking Goggins on an impassioned tangent about the legend that reveals the Atlanta native spent his 14th birthday on tour with the bluesman, a seminal figure throughout his entire life. 506 S. Grand Ave., LA, 213.624.1011, millenniumhotels.com
Alper and Goggins sashay into Redbird, inside the former cathedral Vibiana, talking scuba diving and lucid dreaming, and snag a classic whiskey sour along with a new cocktail called Green With Envy (yogurt, Mulholland New World Gin, mint, cucumber and lemon juice) that makes Alper declare the creator “truly a genius.” Adds Goggins, “I am so in love with [this decade] and everything that’s happened with food and drinks and art and television.” A conversation about current and past decades’ issues, including riffs on global warming and avocado shortages, follows, with pauses for bites of potpie and burrata with beets, which leads Goggins to declare, “I’m going to eat all the peaches!” upon returning to Atlanta this fall to film Ant-Man and the Wasp. But before that, the guys will open Mulholland’s first space, initially private, where, Alper says, “you text me and come hang out, shoot some pool, drink a good drink and chill with cool people—artists, writers. I wanted to create a space that embodies the brand, with great art on the walls and good whiskey on the bar.” 114 E. Second St., LA, 213.788.1191, redbird.la
We pass the future Mulholland Distilling space a block from Manuela, where, in the gratied Hauser & Wirth community garden over a Stone Fruit Sour, Alper talks about the booze in it, their gin, which is blended with high-grade aromatics—Persian lime and the aphrodisiacs Japanese cucumber and French lavender—“so it’s a roller coaster of avors, and even before you taste it you’re predisposed to feel happy.” He personies their whiskey as “young and pretty,” adding that the vodka “has a gure, character.” en we’re at the bar, toasting with mezcal all around, and talk turns back to their highly anticipated digs down the street, which Goggins describes as “a mini Soho House for our friends—a gathering space for people we know and people we want to know.” Adds his partner of their vision: “Best of all, they’ll leave and spread the spirit of LA!” Cheers to that. 907 E. Third St., LA,323.849.0480, manuela-la.com
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA D’AGOSTO