California and Esquire’s Champagne Cocktails

   DSC_1785    – –

For as long I can remember, I’ve always hated Los Angeles.

I had no good reason for this hatred, I just never felt any affection for the city. I’ve certainly never felt the instinctual pull to LA that I’ve felt with New York for some many years. For me, New York was my father and my lover, my dearest friend and fiercest adversary. In Joan Didion’s words,

…quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.

LA was too much like Phoenix, my hometown, with its sprawling city limits and its car dependence. It was literally too close to home; my mother would just have to climb in her car and drive for fives hours to see me, rather than plan and pay for an expensive flight to get the same results. And I already knew California because I’d spent so many summers in San Diego, a happy refugee of an unbearably hot summer. In my mind, there was nothing special about LA, nothing sexy or scary or enticing or brutal or exotic about LA. I’d never even spent more than a day or two at a time there, but like a good New Yorker, I’d bash LA repeatedly. You needed a car and a breathing mask to live there. Who needs to be in that sunshine all the time? Not me. For me, LA was playing it safe.

DSC_1781(i forgot to put the sugar and bitters in first…)

DSC_1782(…so I started again)

Eleven years later, last January, I was stranded in LA for a whole week. First in LAX for a number of hours I’d rather forgot involving Guatemalan visas and return flights and name changes and maroon Honda CRV rescues, but then in LA proper. I walked the beach with new friends and I binged the Beyonce album in said Honda CRV with old ones. I snapped photos on the Fox lot like a tourist, ate banana cream pie at Apple Pan and burgers at Bob’s Burger like a local. I toured the Hollywood Hills and Bel Air and Rodeo Drive. I soaked up the sunshine while the rest of the country froze in a polar vortex. I drove a car daily, and I liked it. I was reminded of how many lovely Californians I am blessed to have in my life.

On a detour to San Francisco, while driving through the mountain range in Los Padres National Forest in my rental car that struggled with the ascents, I was caught speechless at the sight of these big, sleeping rock mounds, towering thousands and thousands of feet above me, their skin tanned and leathery from the sun. You should move here, said a voice in my head. At this point the New Yorker inside me whipped around, brought herself up to her full height in her black stilettos, adjusted her chunky black sweater, smoothed her black Acme jeans and said, Are you fucking crazy?

Apparently so, because a little over a month ago, I packed my bags, left the San Juan house and moved to Los Angeles.

 DSC_1794    DSC_1775

Do I have a job? No. Do I have an apartment? No. Do I have a savings account that stretches like an LA freeway into the unknown. No.

But I have that voice in my head, You should move here. It was pretty loud in Guatemala. I also have a desire to see wide open spaces, not after renting a ZipCar and taking a trip to Long Island or the Poconos or Connecticut. But every single day. I have two potential careers and a hell of a lot of ganas (motivation) not to live with my parents, but I also want to be closer to them, and my brother and grandparents. I don’t really want to drive daily but I also don’t want to freeze my ass off walking to the subway in January or roast my ass off on the platform in July. I want home to be a five-hour drive away, rather than a pesky and expensive flight away. I want year-round tan. I want to play it safe.


I am not, I could not every say goodbye to New York for good, but for right now, Los Angeles feels like a remedy, like vitamins. So I’m celebrating with sexy, golden champagne cocktails with bitters and bright California citrus. I’m grateful for what’s behind me and excited about what’s in front of me.

And while I still love New York more than I can say and all the people in it, and I can’t say I’m totally hooked yet on ‘the City of Angels’, I think I might be falling in love with Los Angeles.

DSC_1798(champagne cocktails make working on easter sunday waaay more bearable) 

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Champagne Cocktails

Only adjustment I made here was swapping prosecco for champagne, because living in Central America and being a student does not leave your bank account full of frivolous cash so one can afford things like champagne. From Prep time: 5 minutes; serves 1. 

Sugar cube
3 dashes bitters
Brut champagne
Twist of lemon(s)

Place a sugar cube* in a chilled champagne flute, lash it with 2 or 3 dashes of bitters (Angostura or Peychaud’s), fill the glass with brut champagne or other, cheaper, bubbly (peasant!), and squeeze a lemon twist on top.

Some prefer an ice cube in theirs, which will (to state the obvious) prolong the chill at the cost of a certain dilution. But if you’re taking the sensible, economic route, chill and dilution are just the things you want — although if cheap bubbly’s the only option, rather than pussyfooting around with one of these, we’d rather go all-out with one of these. Or you can replace the bitters with absinthe and float a tablespoon or so of cognac (good cognac) on top. That’s called a Casino Cocktail. We don’t know which casino it was named after, but you can be sure it ain’t Foxwoods — and not just because it predates the Wonder of It All by fifty-odd years.

* The standard 1/2 teaspoon size. Don’t use loose sugar or try to crush the cube — the whole point isn’t so much to sweeten the drink as to create bubbles, which the cube will do as it slowly dissolves.


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