Jonathan Dahl runs the cocktail program at Darren’s, and helped build it from the ground up more than five years ago. On a nightly basis, Dahl will handcraft more than fifty custom pre-prohibition style cocktails, improvising layered, made-to-order drinks that suit each guest and complement Darren’s innovative cuisine. Dahl sees it as his personal responsibility to provide an exceptional experience at Darren’s; in his view, if he hasn’t exceeded expectations, he hasn’t done his job.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Dahl is a veteran of the restaurant business. After moving to Los Angeles three months after graduation, Dahl settled in the South Bay, where he held management positions at South Bay bars and restaurants and tended bar at Rande Gerber’s Station Hollywood at the W Hotel in Hollywood. After a brief hiatus from the industry, Dahl returned at the behest of General Manager Bart Thompson, and helped him develop the cocktail experience that would soon become an integral part of the restaurant’s identity, and help bolster its reputation amongst Los Angeles food and drink connoisseurs.
For Dahl, mixology truly is a labor of love – with an emphasis on labor. Dahl makes every drink by hand, using only fresh-squeezed juices, and fresh, hand-muddled ingredients. He has even been known to make specialty cocktails with ingredients brought in by customers, including homegrown habanero peppers. “In a way, this is the hardest, most labor intensive bartending job I’ve ever had,” he explains, “but definitely the most rewarding.”