La Sala's The Cove

La Sala

1132 Prospect Street, La Jolla

La Valencia’s Whaling Bar as the place to go to sit and sip and sop up La Jolla sunsets has been replaced by the La Sala Lounge.

La Sala bar manager Scotty Moises says the revised lounge set sail under a new cocktail menu that includes a revision of the old whiskey-and-Campari concoction that Moises calls “the Cove.”

“When the Whaling Bar closed down,” he says, explaining the name’s origin, “we had a temporary lobby bar which overlooks the La Jolla Cove.”

While the drink comes dressed for dinner straight up in a martini glass or for cocktail hour on the rocks in a lowball, Moises says he prefers the latter.

Scott Moises

Scott Moises

“That way, as the drink sits and dilutes,” he says, “it becomes a little more gentle to drink as time goes on.”

“The name for the original cocktail is the Boulevardier,” he adds. “I was messing with flavors and stumbled across it.”

But Moises asserts his own style on the drink by playing around with ingredients and proportions.

With a one-to-one-to-one proportion in the original, Moises says, “the rye is definitely a bigger flavor in the Cove.”

The Boulevardier also calls for either bourbon or rye — but Moises insists that rye brings out the true virtues of the cocktail.

“Compared to straight bourbon, you get a deeper flavor with the rye,” he says. “It’s not quite as sweet; it’s a hardier flavor than bourbon.

“But then the sweet vermouth gives it a hint of sweetness, and the Campari, together with the other ingredients, highlights the flavor of the rye. In the end, you can taste the orange while leaving your palate with a dry feeling, washing to the back of the tongue. It makes your mouth water for another sip.”

How to make it

In a tin shaker filled with ice, pour:

  • 1½ oz. Bulleit Rye Whiskey
  • ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
  • ¾ oz. Campari

Shake, strain, and pour straight-up into a martini glass or on the rocks in a lowball glass, garnish with an orange twist and a maraschino cherry.

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No amount of rye, vermouth and Campari -- what a typically horrible new-age "cocktail"-- can dull the brain to the disaster that's befallen La Jolla's wonderful old La Valencia Hotel and its professional longtime wait-staff. Gone, all gone.

Your reviewer here is oblivious to the history of this iconic property, built in the 1920's and lovingly maintained by local owners as a SoCal landmark until its unfortunate sale in mid-Recession to crass outsiders. La Valencia's new proprietors are systematically destroying the institution's ambience -- "renovating" the dark, intimate, muraled Whaling Bar, the shady Prospect-Street patio, the adjacent main dining room and the ocean-view Sala living room/lobby. (And no one bothers to respond to customers' written concerns either.)

Any review of drinks at La Valencia in La Jolla should include a discussion of Place. What I want to know is: where are the so-called preservationists -- Save Our Heritage Organization and the La Jolla Historical Society -- when you need them? No where, no where at all.

No, no, no. The Boulevardier, on which the Cove is based - dates back to Prohibition, and there is nothing new-agey about it. Point of order: the last time I was in the Whaling Bar, I ordered a Boulevardier, and it was very good. And it is a gross assumption to claim that the reviewer is ignorant of the Whaling Bar's history. Just last November, he wrote up the Whaling Bar's Sazerac, and got an earful of history in the process. (And the bar manager was the same, then and now.) When I told him the place was shutting down, he asked if I knew of any way to get ahold of the mural over the bar. Place is of course important - but it should be noted that even the Whaling Bar's mural was not the original, as O'Brien's earlier article notes.

Monaghan, Wonderful response. New visitors will have nary a clue. Decades and decades of history gone by the way side.

The darnedest thing is, a fellow wrote those same sentences to the La Jolla Ledger back in 1955, soon after the remodel that gave us The Whaling Bar. All that '20s charm and character, changed, changed utterly.

I'm sad to see the place go. I honeymooned at La Valencia. We stayed in Bungalow 3, which I think isn't even there any more. But not every new thing is terrible. Do I love the remodeled bar at the U.S. Grant? No. But the new house Manhattan there is very fine.

First of all, Matthew, anyone who orders a "Boulevardier" in any bar is de facto "new-agey," and the drink's allegedly dating from Prohibition -- when alcohol was illegal -- only underscores my point about a desperate combination of horrible ingredients.

Second, anyone who measures a bartender's longevity from last November to July proves my point about the writer's total failure to get my point about how much has been lost at La Valencia.

Finally, you are arguably worse than O'Brien, the clueless writer and drinker, because you cavalierly report a speculative exchange with the ignoramus barkeep about getting"ahold" of the old bar mural which you dismiss as "not the original."

Crass. Superficial. New-agey. Just like the place that is now masquerading as the La Valencia Hotel.

Hee hee! Okay, the Boulevardier is a variation on the Negroni, which hails from 1919, and which is itself a variation on the Americano, which hails from the 1860s, both well before Prohibition. All three drinks involve sweet vermouth and Campari. New-agey is a pretty amorphous term, but 1860 sounds pretty old-agey to me. Is it just the rye that has you upset?

My only point in mentioning the November to July continuity is to indicate that the staff of the Whaling Bar is not entirely gone. This guy was here when it was the Whaling Bar, and he's still here now.

Apologies for the lack of clarity - I was saying that O'Brien asked me about getting ahold of the Whaling Bar mural if it got taken out during the remodel. That exchange was not with the barkeep. When I asked the barkeep about the mural, I was assured that it was not going anywhere.

And I'm not dismissing the whaling mural when I say it's not the original, just reporting the facts. The original was of nekkid ladies getting peeped on.

Monaghan: your message seems to be, "I've never heard of it, so it must be new age crap. No... don't bother me with evidence to the contrary. I'm the infallible of the Pope of the Church of Me, and I have spoken."

By the way, people drank during Prohibition.

Joaquin, you are right about two things: my infallibility on matters La Valencian and the fact that people drank rotgut during Prohibition.

Matthew Lickona, you just don't get it. My complaint is not about the gross featured "cocktail" that triggered a rant. It's about what's happened to an old, famous and beloved La Jolla landmark that was sold by locals to outsiders and CHANGED BEYOND RECOGNITION, for the worse, in every respect -- gracious dining rooms, dependably SoCal menus of fish and fruits and other typical hotel mainstays, warm and professional long-time wait-staff (that included many Latinos), an umbrella'd outdoor patio, small dark bar, the lobby's huge vase of seasonal flowers, the wooden puzzle at the Sala table, more -- utterly disappeared. This is the story that needs Reader-telling, not just the history of a rye-based concoction.

In primary response to M. Monaghan; Sir, I sincerely respect your passion for La Valencia however your criticism is misdirected and misinformed especially regarding the new ownership. As Managing Director of this regional icon, the history and legacy of La V is a key element in our renovation and business plans. You are obviously unaware of the monumental tasks at hand involving property infrastructure and decades of deferred maintenance – addressing these alone are essential to ensuing La Valencia remains an icon for generations. This enduring boutique hotel has not gained her notoriety by staying the same – it has done so because she has continued to change over the almost 9 decades of her existence.

The Whaling Bar and its companion partner Café La Rue took the place of successful street front retail space which had endured for over 2 decades. The Skyroom was crafted from a 10th floor sundeck where guests has relaxed from 1928 (when the tower wing was opened) until the late 1950’s when a roof and windows were installed to accommodate 12 small tables. Our Verandah Ballroom was once the Calypso Room of the Cabrillo Hotel – this building was the original hotel of Prospect street and was acquired by La V in the 1950’s. Our Mediterranean Room was a rebranding in the 1970’s of the Surf Room in space originally designed as offices and tea rooms for the Los Apartementos de Sevilla, circa 1926 prior to the La Valencia name. The mezzanine Galleria Room was once the Library and the terrace off La Sala (a prime ocean view venue) only began service for dining in the 1990’s.

The decision to close the Whaling Bar was not taken lightly. The room we dismantled this spring was actually the third version - a late 1980’s remodel. The original Wing Howard artwork of both the Whaling Bar and Café La Rue was appraised and then respectfully removed and stored at significant cost for safe keeping. The main mural, heavily damaged by years of neglect, smoke and moisture, was removed in 4 large pieces since it was painted directly on plaster affixed to plywood and attached to the center wall. Opening the center wall uncovered substantial termite damage and dry rot prompting needed structural rehabilitation. The floor of the bar was cracked and water damaged from issues stemming from old cast iron pipes. The fireplace flue inside the wall had apparently detached many years ago and we discovered that heat was dissipating directly into the walls and sub ceiling as we uncovered charred drywall and melted electrical and conduit lines – a significant safety hazard. The closing, although emotional, could not have come sooner for safety reasons alone. We are now installing structural steel support columns, replacing all pipes/plumbing and electrical and have even demolished most of the cement floor to pour a new foundation – we must ensure the room is sound.

Physical conditions aside, the Whaling Bar as a business had been in decline for over a decade prior to ownership changes. The room was fortunate to have a loyal staff but their loyalty to the room was not enough to ensure loyal patronage (even of regulars) who were often enticed away by newer and fresher venues. Operating a novelty room that loses money is not an option in any business environment.

The return of Café La Rue is a respectful nod to that restaurants great success in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. The décor is inspired from the original Wing Howard art work depicting lively French village and country scenes in the art deco era. I have been personally working this with Harrison Howard, the artists son. A new central bar will occupy the footprint of the 3 former bars - we are adding a 500 bottle wine vault so our guests can take advantage of the hotels renowned wine inventory (currently hidden away 4 floor below). We will be taking advantage of the wonderful patio that adjoins the venue by opening up one of the 3 large arched window as a new entry and we will also add sidewalk seating to ensure that the Village ambiance is enhanced. The patio itself is receiving a large covered wood arbor that replicates the wood work of the tower wings early 10th floor sundeck.

Decades of history at La Valencia are not lost as Peter45 indicates. I gratefully appreciate the comments of Matthew Lickona regarding similar changes at THE US GRANT – I was part of this historic properties massive renovation and re-branding and my 7 year tenure there was to ensure that the property was successful and more importantly relevant by infusing her unique past with a visionary future.

Under new ownership extensive and necessary infrastructure work at La V has been completed including foundation work, plaster repair and new paint. The quaint elevator (another safely hazard) was rebuilt with efficiency in mind. A complete renovation of all 112 guest rooms was completed in April – this first time in 30 years that all rooms were addressed in one period. A new fitness center and business center were also unveiled this spring. Currently the entry colonnade (a late 1930’s addition) is being rebuilt as time and weather made this wood and plaster structure unsafe. A more elegant colonnade with a solid roof (vs. the fiberglass panels that leaked in the rains) will welcome guests later this summer.

M. Monaghan, I have not meet you and you have not meet me – I would hope that before you post another erroneous message that you call and meet me at La Valencia so I can share more of our plans with you directly and so you have accurate and reliable information. As the steward of this great lady, I am dedicated to ensure her successful future and also defend her storied past.


Mark Dibella - Managing Director - 858-551-3790

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