Category Archives: Bar Reviews

Scouting out the best (or not) places to enjoy a glass!

Pro∀bition

Riverside, California

Yes, the upside down “A”  is on purpose! A whiskey bar next to the historic Mission Inn, Pro∀bition is more than simply a place to grab a drink. In keeping to its prohibition theme, the hostess at the front door can often be seen in a flapper’s dress, and the bartenders have the classy 20’s vibe as well.

Proabition
Mural on the wall in keeping with their theme.

The thing that really sets this place apart for the whiskey searcher is their selection. While they certainly have a large number of whiskeys on hand, the uniqueness of their selection is a playground. They tend to stock full lines of whiskey. Instead of one or two expressions from a distiller, they carry almost the full range.

Proabition
Whiskey selection behind the bar.

For example one can choose from Glenfiddich 12, 18, 19, 21, or my personal all-time favorite, Glenfiddich 30 year. Old Pappy can be had from 10 through 23, and the rye as well. Of course the also carry a wide selection of single-expression distillers as well, including a few brands I have not heard of before! So if you’re looking for something different, don’t be afraid to ask if they have anything not on display for you to experiment with.

Rachel at Pro∀bition.
Rachel at Pro∀bition.

A highly recommend stop if you happen to be in the area! They offer a great selection and a depth usually not seen most places. The bartenders are knowledgable and willing to help you on your whiskey journey. Say hello to bartender Rachel if you stop in.

Yelp*

4 no

Johnny’s Saloon

Huntington Beach, California

Alternately called a biker bar or a punk-rock bar, both terms fall flat in truly describing this place, although “dive” might be a good start. The decor is dark, and seems to borrow heavily from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, complete with things that rise up and down on motors from the ceiling. This “theme” (if it can be called that) follows you into the restroom, which is quite dark and receives a different audio feed than the bar proper. Serenading you will either be the Star Wars theme or “It’s a Small World.” Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride not the movie, has also been heard. (I think even the A-Team theme made an appearance, but I can’t verify that.)

Johnny's
In Memory

The only real theme going on here is Johnny’s support of veterans. “It’s Veteran’s Day 365” they proclaim. On display at the bar are the drinks commemorating the fallen. People come and buy a drink in memory of a friend or family member and leave a note identifying those not to be forgotten. It’s an ironically sobering testament. The line of bottles has grown significantly since this photo was taken,

After 8pm, the bar turns decidedly darker lighting-wise. They even cover the TV’s with a darkening gel to go along with the almost-out dimming setting. No food despite rumors of pretzels, but feel free to bring in your own from one of the nearby take-outs.

Nimah, Intern bartender and resident nerd
Nimah (pronounced Neve), intern bartender

But of course, this is all about the whiskey, and Johnny’s offers up a surprisingly large and varied selection. If you like, you can even buy a bottle from them and have them hold it for you as your personal stash.

They stock a good selection of whiskeys from the usual whiskey places, and even an Amrut from India. They carry well over one hundred options for you to try. Mostly their whiskeys sit in the $7-$15 range, but they do have a smattering of mid-level whiskey ($20 range) such as Auchentoshan 18yr and Glen Garioch. There’s not much above that (they do have Balvenie 21yr at $30). This is a great place to grab a drink in a more interesting environment than your average whiskey bar. The have enough selection to keep things interesting

And yes, the whiskey bottles are held up by statues of naked women on their hands and knees. I welcome suggestions on how to accurately describe this place!

Yelp*

4 no

Dillon Whiskey Bar (Iceland)

Reykjavik, Iceland

The best whiskey bar in the world.

Is that too strong? I don’t think so. To be a whiskey bar, you of course need a lot of whiskeys, and Dillon delivers. They may not offer up the selection that a premiere bar in a traditional cosmopolitan city (Los Angeles, etc) might, but they have a respectable selection of whiskeys from around the world. There is so much more to Dillon, however.

Dead Man's Party
Sara and Katla dressing up for work.

First off, it is located in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. There isn’t a more awesome spot on the globe (IMHO). They don’t call it “Niceland” without reason. I have never felt so welcome in any bar (even the one down the street from where I’ve lived for over a decade) than I did strolling into the sole “whiskey bar” on the snowy landmass known as Iceland. Contrary to the popular belief that Iceland and Greenland have ironic names, Iceland is indeed home to much ice. They lay claim the largest glacier in Europe. But this isn’t a review of Iceland, though you should go. Now.

Katla holding down the bar.

This place is the closest I have ever been to the mythical “Cheers,” but with an international twist. English is the adopted national second language, and it is spoken well, so you will have no problems getting around or making your wants known. This little island attracts the most varied assortment of individuals. Just sitting at the bar I met people from all over the world. It was an unforgettable experience.

The bar is located on the second floor of what was once a three-story house. The first floor is a burger joint (more on that later) and the upper attic becomes a concert venue on the weekends. A very cozy, intimate venue indeed. The bar itself is welcoming with warm woods and scattered seating. The framing of the original structure still exists, so there are a couple “rooms” of seating, albeit without walls. The bar dominates the space without being imposing.

Ardberg
Henný offering a suggestion.

But of course, this is all about whiskey, and Dillon has that in spades (wink, wink, take a look at their sign again). Coupled with awesome bartenders, otherworldly scenery, and international clientele,  this place is a destination all in its own.

Sara poses with the mini-cask of Flokí.
Sara poses with the mini-cask of Flokí.

They had whiskey from all the usual places, a California whiskey I’d never heard of, Swedish, Japanese, as well as the lone domestic, Flokí. You can read more about that in my Whiskey Advocate magazine article.

My friend and fellow writer Laurie from Texas summed it up best: “This is amazing. I’m drinking Japanese whisky in an Icelandic bar listening to Johnny Cash while talking to a Canadian.”

And if you do go, don’t forget to check out the Chuck Norris Grill downstairs. Their Roundkick (No, not Roundhouse. Just go with it.) burger is not to be missed. If you ask the bartender nicely, they might even deliver, as the two are under the same ownership.

5 no