Nights with Névé: The Drink as Art

Cocktails can be a beautiful thing. Drink a couple, and you're feeling might groovy. Make note of the artisanal ingredients included, from the liquor to the fresh fruits to the other accents used in a given concoction. Sip slowly, to savor the mixologist's blend of flavors. This is an art.

As part of the movement to appreciate cocktails as art, Michel Dozois of Névé Luxury Ice joined La Descarga General Manager Steve Livigni in presenting a series of four specialty cocktails at Osteria La Buca, paired with bites from the Italian eatery's kitchen.

Guests were escorted through a side alley and around the back for the evening, getting the chance to preview what will soon transform into a sort of anteroom for the restaurant featuring prosciutto and wine in a marketplace meets lounge atmosphere.

Masking tape stretched and shaped along the wood-paneled walls marked where open spaces and shelving will soon be, while Champion Grubbs set up an easel in the corner to transform a blank page into a chalk rendering of one of the cocktails of the evening. "When he’s not painting cocktails, Grubbs can be found behind the needle at Frontline Tattoo in San Diego," notes fellow attendee Josh Lurie of Food GPS.

Ah, yes: Art + Drinks was the focus of the evening. First up was The Eloper (Dimmi Italian liquer, vodka, lemon juice, cantaloupe and Prosecco, garnished with a piece of prosciutto) which could easily assume a role on a brunch menu--and, with the fruit and meat components, readily be a liquid meal substitute for the hardier set.

A surprise for the usual Scotch drinker, and perhaps even more of a surprise for the non-Scotch drinker, was The Italian Stallion (Scotch, Carpano Antica, Cynar) thanks to its galloping mildness and slight spiciness that registered fro some fellow drinkers as bitter, and others (read: me) as herbal, almost tea-like. In this case, everyone's tastebuds are on track, since Cynar is a bitter Italian apertif made with herbs and artichoke.

The third drink was not only gorgeous to look at, thanks to its ruby-magenta hue, citrus garnish, and sugared rim, but also delicious and well-balanced between fruity and, frankly, boozy. This was The Silenzio Dolce, (Zaya rum, Averna Amaro liquer, blood orange juice and walnut liqueur) that for many was the highlight of the night. Another reason why this drink was much beloved: It got its name from Marissa Medina, who entered LAist alumn and award-winning cocktail writer Caroline on Crack's "Name the Cocktail” contest. Cheers to you, Marissa!

Lastly, we sipped on the frothed-up I Luv Lucy, (Carpano Antica, whiskey, and lemon juice) that got its foam top thanks to egg white and its name thanks to Dozois' girlfriend. In the interest of full disclosure, at this point yours truly was kind of soused, so there are no photos of this one. And in the interest of even more disclosure, we stuck around for a gorgeous dinner at Osteria La Buca afterwards to make sure we were sober drivers. Okay, and since we're in a disclosing mood, one more, for good measure: As part of the evening's fun, Champion Grubbs' on-the-spot cocktail art was awarded via an old fashioned name-out-of-a-hat kind of drawing to one lucky guest, and that guest was me. Score!

So you didn't get to go to this, you didn't win the artwork, and you didn't try these cocktails. Don't worry, we wouldn't be telling you all this if you couldn't take part in some future drinking/good times. First, you can always hit up the rum bar La Descarga to sample the beautiful cocktails they have on their menu, including their newest drink, The Next Level. You can also head to Osteria La Buca to see the new space once it's completed and open for business. But what you may want to keep your eyes and ears on alert for is the next Nights With Névé event, which will be a rolling party...as in on wheels, moving through the city. Start by following them on Twitter to find out the details.