Meet Your Mixologist: Kyle Ackley at Lexington Social House
Kyle Ackley is a bartender who is quick to admit that the kitchen influences his libations more than the time spent behind the bar. But it’s not too hard to understand why. After moving to Los Angeles from Seattle seven years ago, he navigated the hospitality ranks and soon found himself working for the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Michael Mina. Now, he comes up with cocktails for Hollywood’s Thomas Schoos designed Lexington Social House. A restaurant, bar and nightclub all in one, the modern Victorian styled spot pulled at Ackley because, “It seemed like a challenge. There’s no sleeping here.” We imagine it’s only getting busier now that the dawn of summer has arrived, especially now that they’ve pulled the wintertime canopy from the patio so revelers can enjoy the nighttime sky.
Ackley splits his time at the place running the floor and making drinks. His heart of house influence can be seen in several signature cocktails. Take The Polynesian, a silver tequila based concoction with pineapple gum syrup, basil and a bit of cayenne pepper. The token ingredient comes in the form of a garnish: a piece of crispy prosciutto, which imparts its oil and flavor into the drink itself. There’s something uncannily familiar about this particular marriage of ingredients, and you’ve probably figured it out already. Ackley's inspiration was stirred by a childhood love, Hawaiian pizza. Another cocktail the kitchen yielded is the Mule Kick, for which the key ingredient is a pickled chile shrub. Like an increasing number of bartenders these days, Ackley is particularly fond of shrubs, as these vinegar-based flavorings are known for the multiple dimensions they add to cocktails. “I recently went to Bäco Mercat, a restaurant in Downtown. I just love vinegar and fresh syrups and things like that, and they have an impressive list,” he says. “[There’s] pineapple citrus, concord grape, things like that. [They] make these really cool shrubs, and you can mix them with any booze you like [or even] with soda.”
Along with an updated version of the cocktail menu his patrons have come to rely on, Ackley is also unveiling a new drink every week during the summer. “We’re living in California, where we don’t really have seasons. More than seasonal [menus], I like go with the style of the drink. In the summer, I like a lot of drinks to be served long.” A recent one that follows that summer style is the 'Baja Fizz', which Ackley says plays homage to another way of making cocktails. “[This one] keeps the herbs and fruit in the drink. The style now is to strain everything out.” The main draw in the cocktail is Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, which adds an earthy, punchy overtone to the overall fresh look of the drink.
Ackley’s childhood fantasies don’t stop at pizza for adults. He says that if he could have any bartending superpower, he'd become a barkeeping spider. Explaining it with a twinkle in his eye, “I would have two hands devoted completely to just handling money!” Like anyone who works with people, Ackley obviously loves to have fun, but ultimately wants to keep adding something interesting to the mix. In his mind, a good barman, “combines experience, knowledge, creativity [and] uses that triple threat [in] their cocktails and the way they treat people at the bar.”
Lexington Social House, 1718 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028