Bar Keeper

Bar Keeper

Gregory Han
Apr 6, 2007

Sunset Junction's Bar Keeper prides itself on being a "head shop" for those who want to prepare and serve their cocktails with style. You'll find gadgets, glassware, bars, books and beakers, as well as a variety of new and vintage barware - including many hard to find collectibles - at our boutique. Bar Keeper happily offers you a wide selection of Schott Zwiesel Tritan break resistant stemware, among other items for the imbiber.

Shop owner Joe Keeper opened his place last April after growing tired of his work as a reality TV producer (Big Brother, Celebrity Mole, Monster Garage). To figure out what to do next, he made a list of his loves and hates. Among his loves was his Silver Lake neighborhood (he's been a resident since 1987); high on his list of hates was commuting through traffic. Opening a shop near his home seemed perfect. But now he had to tell his wife. So early one morning he drove her out to a particularly expansive section of California desert - okay, it was Death Valley - gave her a shot of tequila and broke the news that he wanted to quit his job and become a shopkeeper. She gave him three choices: head shop, toys or barware. He loves the traditions of cocktail eras gone by, and had recently read a newspaper report that predicted a new rise of the old-fashioned cocktail. It had to be Bar Keeper.

The shop is a crucial spot for serious collectors to satisfy their highball, sidecar, margarita and absinthe needs. But Keeper also tries to convert committed beer drinkers. To explain the allure of cocktails to casual shoppers who peek inside the store, he sometimes asks, "Have you ever smoked a joint?" Depending on how the customer responds, he follows with this explanation: "There is a communal spirit to smoking with a group, it's the same thing with cocktails. Anybody can pour a beer, but it's the tradition of mixing, serving and sharing that makes drinking a group experience."

He also points out that it doesn't have to be alcohol that is consumed, especially if you serve your drinks in really cool glasses. One idea: Instead of bringing a bottle when you're invited to a party, bring your host some Bar Keeper martini glasses. Sure, anybody can buy some stemware at Crate & Barrel, but at Keeper's shop, you'll find one-of-a-kind pieces thanks to his army of pickers, a group of aggressive young men who travel outside of Los Angeles to retirement communities and score real finds.

Meanwhile, Keeper continues to do his part in nurturing the social tradition of cocktails by hosting parties in his shop the first Friday of every month. He invites a mixologist to come to the store and teach customers how to make one or two drinks. He's had absinthe tastings (it's illegal to buy it or sell it, but not to drink it), and on December 5, he celebrated the repeal of Prohibition by drinking beer and Jack Daniel's. His parties are free and draw a nice, diverse crowd of lesbians, gays, transgenders, singles, breeders, you know, everyone. Keeper also screens drinking movies above one wall of the shop. Of course, The Thin Man is a favorite.

"William Powell woke up and poured himself a martini every morning and no one ever called him an alcoholic," says Keeper of the film's leading man. "There was a dignity and a sort of ritual ceremony to making that martini."

He relates that sense of dignity to his business: "I find that people, when they have the right kind of glass, they stand a little taller, a little prouder."

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