The Normandie Club: LA
3612 W 6th St at Normandie Ave, Koreatown, Los Angeles CA
By Stephanie Sherry, Guest Writer
The Place: A riff on a classic cocktail lounge that’s dark and sexy and oh-so-New York.
The Time: Monday January 7th, 9:45PM. It’s 2019 and my New Year’s resolution is to go out more and, you know, actually be a twentysomething while I still can. To be honest, I wish that I had a more romantic way I found this place, but it was just your classic google search gone right. My vision board for 2019 involves multiple variations of “DEAR GOD HAVE A SEXIER LIFE” so when the new year hit, I was committed. I immediately searched “best cocktail bars in LA” and there it was: The Normandie Club. At the top of every list. So here I am.
The Vibe: The bar is relatively unmarked save for a softly illuminated sign--aptly saying “BAR”--and an unassuming black door. I step through and suddenly emerge into the dark, amber lit cocktail lounge of my DREAMS. In an instant the cacophonous sounds of the Los Angeles streets fade away as the smooth jazz floats in. Artsy sharpie scrawled across painted brick. Dark wood. Sexy mood lighting. Where am I, Brooklyn? As the internet would say--I am shook. I literally have to stop to take it all in. I look out at the guests in their leather booths, hidden in shadow. I can feel them look back. One nods at me as if to say yeah, it’s that good. The Normandie Club is classy and confident and definitely doesn’t kiss and tell. I see an empty seat at the bar tucked behind a pole. Perfect. I’m ready to happily drink alone.
The Bartender: Oh, Dennis. Dennis and I become fast friends. His hipster glasses, great hair, and darkly painted nails fit right in with the unofficial LA bartender dress code, but without the attitude. He is friendly and warm and engages in just the right amount of obligatory banter. He points out that the painted bricks I was admiring earlier are actually all signatures of past bartenders. It’s a great homage.
The Drank: This menu. is. brilliant. The cocktails are interesting twists on classics, all appropriately titled “it’s sort of like a…”, giving the list an appreciated comedic flair. An entire section titled “OUR OBSESSION” is dedicated to the martini, along with a brief history lesson and six of their own versions. A witty aside at the bottom boasts “That’s not all folks,” assuring you that if you can’t find a drink on the menu to fit your fancy, your bartender will excitedly share with you another classic that might better suit your mood. While I know I should have a martini (it’s clearly their thing), I see they have a Swizzle on the menu and boy do I love a Swizzle. “It’s sort of like a...Swizzle” is an intoxicating mix of rum, mango, salted macadamia, creme de banane, lime and cardamom. It is well-balanced, fun, and fruity AF. Full disclosure: I down it way too fast. For round two, I move on to “It’s sort of like a...Daiquiri.” It’s simpler, more aromatic, and cleans the palate. Both beautifully made.
Was I Hit On?: Oh man. Here we go. “New Year New Me” Stephanie decided to rock a red turtleneck and a red lip which apparently after ALL THIS TIME is the key to me manifesting my “sexier 2019.” Ironic, because this is the one night when I’m explicitly not looking for a man. But here I am, just sitting behind my pole, when a guy waltzes over. He is also in a turtleneck. He exclaims “you’re in red, and we’re all animals, so, you know, I couldn’t not come over…” I look to Bartender Dennis who catches me rolling my eyes. Turtleneck Man can sense my disinterest and begins to mumble about how he’s “just passing the time before going to his girlfriend’s…” So, yeah. You could say I won. Almost immediately after Wannabe Slampoet leaves, two other men come and strike up a conversation--albeit much nicer than the first--but I’ll spare you the monotony.
BUT WAIT there’s more: at the end of his shift, Bartender Dennis joins me at the bar. We talk about our lives and our hopes and dreams. Suddenly the other bartenders start joking around with me...and just like that, it’s like I’m part of the family. (Bartender Dennis also informs me later that he watched the whole Turtleneck encounter and “didn’t intervene because he knew I could hold my own,” which is quite possibly the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.)
Should You Drink Here?: Oh, 100% YES. The Normandie Club is exhilarating, empowering, and wildly entertaining. PLUS there’s a secret speakeasy in the back (OH YEAH). Shh. I won’t spoil it. You’ll have to see for yourself.
Stephanie Sherry is an outspoken New York Jew trying desperately to find good people and good bagels in Los Angeles. (Word's still out on the bagels.) She is a member of the Advanced Improv Program at UCB and a Woman-on-the-Street Host. She was named the IOWF's "Best Newcomer Actress" for her starring role in the comedic original series "Sensitive: A Webseries" and recently began doing standup at The Nerdist in LA. Loves a classic sour. Hates a sour mix.