Los Angeles Magazine held their second annual Burgers Bourbon + Beer event last week in Santa Monica. Ten local restaurants gathered together in a battle of the buns with the goal of becoming the magazine’s Best Burger for 2017. Foodies and whiskey enthusiasts mingled around the picturesque grounds of The Victorian on Main Street with live music provided by local musician Aaron Durr. It was hard to resist having dessert first with Salt & Straw offering up barrel aged maple syrup and vanilla shakes.
The beautiful bar in the Victorian was lined with bottles of Buffalo Trace. The Basement Tavern, the aptly named speakeasy bar located on the premises, is known as the top seller of the award-winning Kentucky bourbon. The bartenders expertly crafted an Old Fashioned with the whiskey using a large piece of square ice that kept the cocktail perfectly chilled without watering it down. The blended tastes of brown sugar and spices brought about from the bitters lingered sweetly on the tongue making my mouth water for more.
Some of the biggest names in bourbon drew lines of people looking to sample the likes of Four Roses Small Batch, Knob Creek’s Rye, and Maker’s 46 Kentucky Bourbon. The distillers at Mitcher’s showed of their Kentucky Straight Rye, Bourbon, and American Whiskey. The latter is an unblended spirit crafted in bourbon-soaked American white oak barrels that gives a full body of dried fruit and caramel flavor that makes its namesake proud.
Another respected distillery with quite a few bottles to try was Whistle Pig. The table was lined with their 10 year, 12 year and 15 year straight ryes along with samples poured from their bottle-to-barn Farmstock Rye. This ambitious blend of 5 year, 6 year, and 12 year whiskeys is an aggressive rye with a strong oak body that begged for a second taste to completely enjoy the complexity.
Suntory and Ohishi showcased their Japanese whiskies. Although not bourbon in the technical sense, they were more than welcome and well received. The market for Japanese whiskies has been on the rise in U.S. over the last few years leading to a plethora of excellent spirits to try. Suntory presented guests with either a straight offering of their Whisky Toki or a delicious highball mixed with sparkling water which brought out the slightly sweet finish and exceptional smoothness.
The lone brewery representing beer for the evening was Golden Road offering their Hefeweizen, Sunset Coffee oatmeal milk stout, Heal the Bay IPA, and Pico to Mexico cucumber lime lager. While the IPA and Hefeweizen are brand staples, the Sunset and Pico each pair surprisingly well with the variety of burgers.
There were five awards to be given with the top being Critics Choice. With so many restaurants vying for attention it was tricky to stand out. Citizen definitely did the job with an amazing chili burger, which didn’t win, but put up a delicious fight.
The People’s Choice winner was Cassell’s, with a delicious Aspen ridge chuck and short rib burger plus a side of fries and sauces. Boa Steakhouse walked away with the award for Best Patty with their 40-day dry-aged beef. Tastiest Sauce went to Malibu Cafe and Most Creative burger of the night hands down went to Pono with their organic beef with cheddar, russet potato chips and spicy guava rum sauce.
The big winner was decided by the esteemed judges at LA Mag when they announced Cannibal as the Critic’s Choice for this year. The Culver City establishment grilled up 60-day dry aged beef burgers with Stilton blue cheese, and harissa mayo. The simple yet flavorful creation was an early hit overall with people returning for seconds and thirds well into the evening.
In the end, all of the restaurants and chefs were winners for creating an unforgettable night. Where else could a person try some of the best burgers in SoCal, with some of the best whiskies around, and topped off with some amazing local craft brews? Only at LA Magazine’s Burgers Bourbon + Beer!