There is little better in this world than Cuban rum and cigars, but Cuba is a tad far from Los Angeles. If you’re craving a sultry night in Havana but don’t have the vacation days, head straight for La Descarga.
The bar is a nondescript building in East Hollywood so you’ll have to be careful not to walk straight past. But inside is a hidden, sexy, smoky, boozy world. You have a journey into the bar that includes stepping through a wardrobe of jackets: once inside, you’re immediately in an elaborate Cuban mansion. Maybe it’s a little crumbly and distressed in a few spots, but it’s clearly the home of someone wealthy with an eye for beauty and a taste for great rum. Dark woods, plush velvet sofas, and crystal chandeliers fill the intimate space; jazz musicians blow hard from the balcony, salsa dancing breaks out on the floor, and curvaceous burlesque dancers turn the bar into a stage. Since you’re going to such an illustrious, old school mansion, you have to look the part. There’s a dress code– it’s not egregious (more common sense), but it’s absolutely enforced.
La Descarga, appropriately, goes heavy on the rum, offering some top shelf rums and allows you to compare rums from all over the world: Antigua, Brazil, Grenada, Colombia, Guatemala, Martinique, the list goes on. They make a mean mojito but honestly, you can do better than that while on your mini-break to Havana: try the New World, which is a coconut infused five year old Plantation Barbados rum, coffee bean infused carpano antica formula, vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters, and cane syrup. Or, if you must go without rum, try the Vermont Side, which is gin based and has honey, lime, pineapple, with house made pine needle syrup and Douglas Fir Eau du Vie.
What really sets La Descarga apart is its cigar room. “Since La Descarga was built to be a Cuban concept, it was only fitting to include a cigar lounge,” General Manager, Andres Langhans remarks. Settle into the covered outdoor room, complete with its own bar and enjoy a stogie. Langhans gives us some highlights from their cigar menu, which includes, fittingly, Payne Masons.
“If you’re looking for a smooth cigar with some buttery undertones then the Golf Classic is the cigar for you, the drink of choice to pair up is the ever so smooth El Dorado 15-Year from Guyana,” Langhans says. “This rum explodes in your mouth with the flavor of vanilla and has a nice strong finish without being too harsh on the palette.
“Next you have the Robusto No. 3: that cigar has more of a bold toasty flavor that leaves you wanting more and doesn’t overpower your mouth. The pairing choice with the Robusto No. 3 would be the Zacapa 23 from Guatemala, which is also a bold flavor that tickles your palate with notes of vanilla, apricot and even some notes of cherry and butter as well.
“Last but not least is the Torpedo Barber. This cigar has two different wrappings, from the Dominican and Connecticut. The flavor profile for this cigar is a combination of nuts, butter and even some toffee. It has a great full body smoke leaving you wanting more with every puff you take. The pairing with this would have to be the equally bold taste of Diplomático Exclusiva from Venezuela. This rum just explodes on your tongue because it’s so rich and smooth. You’ll taste some notes of sharper oak tannins with some vanilla and toffee making it full of character and style.” There’s no need to memorize this; the staff is ready and willing to help you pick out the perfect cigar and offers pairing suggestions. No Cubans yet, but they’re eagerly anticipating the day they can sell them.
It is damn near impossible to get in without reservations– if you want to risk it, get there early. The earlier the better as the line gets long. If Lady Luck is with you and you are able to get in without reservations, it’s going to be standing room only. May not be a problem though, since it’ll be hard not to tango all night long, cocktail in one hand, cigar in the other, toasting the sultry Havana nights…