A Lofty Life - VODBOX in Beverly Hills, Calif.


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Stepping in to Nic’s Martini Bar and Restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., is clearly taking a step back in time. This once hot Hollywood hangout served icons of another era when the real Rat Pack ruled and their sultry divas swooned. You might not find Frank and Lana at the bar, but you can still find a fresh martini poured daily and placed in what once was Dean Martin’s favorite seat.

Celebs and scenesters continue to swing in to Nic’s today, as his martinis are notorious. But the real star onsite is the VODBOX, the brainchild of Larry Nicola, vodkateur, restauranteur and chef. This hip Renaissance man has been shaking up the nightlife in Beverly Hills ever since he left his previous post at LA Nicola in Silver Lake years ago and took up residence in what he calls, “halfway between Silver Lake and Venice.”

On any night of the week you can pop in (reservations recommended) and chill out in the VODBOX for a full flight of 2 ($21) or 3 ($30) vodka tastings. Guests pull in from their limos for the vodka flights only or patrons of the restaurant schedule it in mid meal.

Before stepping in to the Bond-like VODBOX, set at a cool 28 degrees, Nicola and crew will suit the ladies up in leopard print faux furs and hats so they can get their buzz and their fashion on.

Nic’s has all the usual spirits suspects (Belvedere, Grey Goose, Absolut), but with an average of 80 to 90 vodkas to choose from, sip outside your comfort zone. While the vodka dances on your tongue you too can dance around the globe. The choices and destinations are endless from Vietnam’s Kai vodka (rice based), Frances’s Ciroc (French grape based) and New Zealand’s 42 Below (grain based).

Go a little bit deeper and explore the more obscure, Poland’s Potochi (rye based), a family owned vodka since 1846 or Italy’s Mezzaluna, a triple distilled semolina grain and quadruple filtered in all natural water from the Italian Alps or Siku, a wheat-based vodka made from water sourced from glaciers in Greenland and made in Holland.

For true connoisseurs, the higher grade or more obscure vodkas, can run up to $45 a shot. Pinky, a Swedish vodka is “the world's most beautiful vodka," says Nicola, hand blended by champion wine tasters with violets and rose petals, it has a floral nose and "pink" taste.

No vodka tour would be complete without a Russian round. Try some of Nicola’s favorites, the Jewel of Russia or Kauffman, a super exclusive vintage vodka with very limited bottles, where all ingredients are sourced from a particular year.

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