An athletic club isn’t exactly a traditional destination for a speakeasy. But inside the stately façade of the members-only Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC)—up the third floor, behind a shelf full of well-worn books—is a hidden staircase leading to what might be LA’s most difficult-to-find bar. A clandestine location, the Blue Room is a “club within a club,” for a hand-selected group of LAAC members designated “The Uplifters.”
To the untrained eye, the Blue Room could probably be mistaken for a combination of Restoration Hardware and Ben Sherman but was actually outfitted by designer Timothy Oulton. Framed vintage photos make charming decorations, the room’s walls dotted with enlarged monochromatic prints that could easily be mistaken for manufactured vintage. But the split-second captured moments of boxing matches and wrestling bouts come from the LAAC’s extensive archives. One foot in the past, the Blue Room is part of a club founded in 1880 and steeped in Los Angeles history. Once a gentlemen’s only establishment, these days, the LAAC membership is now open to everyone.
Alongside other aged memorabilia and quirky touches—like bronze casts of former members’ running shoes (in which they ran 100 mile races), bowler hats, and plenty of leather—is a cylindrical column of stacked books (an idea perhaps borrowed from nearby The Last Bookstore), and old gym lockers, which are used to store the members’ seemingly expensive scotch. With former members including Clark Gable, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, and L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz author and Uplifters founder), it’s tempting to dub the Blue Room an old WASP’s nest for the elite. But according to Cory Hathaway, assistant general manager, the average age of LAAC’s new members is 27, with an ever-shifting demographic, perhaps coinciding with the city’s own changing tide.
While the LAAC does stay true to its athletic roots with gym facilities and classes, the management’s focus is on attracting an entrepreneurial set of members, from your favorite DTLA whisky bar’s management to the start-up whiz whose app you’re downloading. The Uplifters’ modern-day membership is a purposefully chosen mix of innovative individuals in the arts, hospitality, technology, design, non-profit, and culture realms.
So what does such a club serve its members? Thanks to a partnership with The Macallan, the Blue Room is well stocked and ready to sample out one of the room’s most popular drinks: The Uplifters Cup.
A variation on a Manhattan, The Uplifters Cup is a creation of Liquid Assets’ bar program. And though somewhat taboo to mix scotch aged 12 years into a cocktail, it does boast Macallan 12 in its ingredients. The drink layers chocolate in multiple ways, from the Aztec Chocolate Bitters to the dark chocolate hinted by Macallan aged in sherry oak and the small wedge of dark chocolate as garnish. Unfortunately, to become an Uplifter and sip at the bar, you must first be a member of the LAAC and be invited by a fellow Uplifter, pending their approval, of course. Fret not if you’re unsure of your likeability, for the recipe for The Uplifters Cup follows:
THE UPLIFTERS CUP
2 oz Macallan 12
.75 oz Carpano Antica
.25 oz Uplifters Serum (Licor 43, Creme de Cacao)
Dash of Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Combine ingredients. Garnish with a piece of bitter dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
THE BLUE ROOM at THE LOS ANGELES ATHLETIC CLUB 431 W. 7th St. Los Angeles, CA // LAAC.com
Photography by Antonio Diaz