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Cinnabar Update

Over drinks and dinner with Nurse Cocktail, Chuck Taggart, and Wesly Moore, we learned the why and wherefore of Cinnabar’s pending demise. It’s the driving, stupid. But of course, that’s getting off too easy. Weekday business was way down and had been for some time. Alvin, Damon, and Flame had been discussing closing for over a year. They chose their moment with discomfiture but, as we saw them, were obviously at peace with it. Alvin looked tired. I knew he would enjoy kicking back. Flame is always about possibilities.

So, readers from the larger world are puzzled at the fuss. OK, a cocktail venue is gone, but it’s just one joint. Well…

The history speaks. In fact, the voices of Los Angeles history are a cacophony from Cinnabar. Alvin’s inspired take on the Negroni landed them national recognition when famous cocktail scribe Gary Regan published their recipe and cited them in his book "New Classic Cocktails". The drink probably belonged as much to his talented bartender, Jason MacDonald. I followed Jason to the newly-minted Cinnabar when he left the closing Duplex. It was at Duplex I met Jason, who introduced me to Paul Greenstein, band leader of the Radio Ranch Straight Shooters, owner of Millie’s, and co-author of "Bread & Hyacinths" - a riveting book on the Socialist movement in Southern California. Duplex, despite its out of the way location saw a number of celebrities in for the amazing food and drinks. And Cinnabar got Bob Hope. They also had the famed Yee Mee Loo bar. Yee Mee Loo was a Chinatown bar right out of Raymond Chandler. Alvin had an interest. He got the back bar, bartender Richard moved to the Good Luck Bar, and both places co-opted Yee’s signature drink, the TiDeeBowl. Old timers remember the tiny Yee Mee Loo with reverence, and that back bar was originally a Hollywood prop from the 1930s. If we factor in six degrees of separation, Cinnabar was a true Los Angeles nexus point in history. They made damned fine cocktails to boot.

So we didn’t come in on weekdays anymore. Flame looked at me when I showed up Saturday night. "It’s YOUR fault" she said, and maybe so. I moved just about twice the time distance away - but obviously I was not the only one staying home. It’s the driving, stupid - but, even so, I think Walt Kelly said it best: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Originally published on May 9th, 2005