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Dando and Hatfield [Photographs: Esther Tseng]

While not the first successful seafood restaurant in Hollywood, Littlefork was the first new spot in awhile to offer a food menu aimed to appeal to food geeks more than tourists. Approaching its one-year-old birthday, Littlefork's status as a favorite in the neighborhood is helped by its late night dollar-oyster hour. But an even bigger facet of the restaurant's success is the cocktail menu curated by Dino Balocchi, a transplant from Chicago's Longman and Eagle.

Balocchi brought a drier sensibility to Hollywood cocktails, making the Littlefork's orange laminate bar a destination for cocktail geeks. Indicative of such geekdom is the bottle of Jeppson's Malört Balocchi keeps in his reserve, shots of which are poured for enthusiasts, masochists, and potential converts to the wormwood gospel. (If you haven't tried it, do so with caution!)

Aside from the Malört shots, however, the cocktails achieve impressive balance. The Dando and Hatfield ($12, pictured at top), made with Tequila Ocho blanco infused with Persian cucumber, is what Balocchi describes as a "reverse Cosmopolitan." The drink's gorgeous and bold hue is somewhat misleading—while it's even brighter pink than a Cosmopolitan due to a few shakes of Peychaud's bitters, there's no cranberry juice here, just dry curacao and the delicate flavors of cucumber-infused blanco tequila. It trumps any Cosmo I ever tried.

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Trailways

The Trailways ($12) cocktail is an homage to the city's vegetation to the north, inspired by a few of Balocchi's hikes in Runyon Canyon. Made with Junipero gin and given a slightly sweet, bitter depth with Lillet Rose, housemade jasmine syrup, and Peychaud's, Trailways is a gently floral and aromatic treat.

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Gold Coast Sour

For whiskey drinkers, there's the Gold Coast Sour ($12), a delicious concoction made with Old Weller Antique 107, a lush, wheated bourbon perfect for accenting with rhubarb and thyme, as well as mixing with bittersweet Amaro CioCiaro. This drink went down so smoothly, I didn't realize I was looking at the bottom of my footed sipper in about a minute. With frothy egg white adhering rich amaro to a strong backbone of overproof bourbon, the Gold Coast Sour is a delight.

Each time I've visited Littlefork, I've found my fellow clientele charmingly unpredictable. You may find yourself in friendly and casual conversation with strangers (the hallmark of the community watering hole, I'd say) or needing to maintain your cool while sitting adjacent to the producer of Nirvana's Nevermind. It's Hollywood, after all, where one should always be prepared for anything.

About the Author: Esther Tseng is a Los Angeles based food and cocktail writer. Her best finds are chronicled on e*starLA while her day-to-day ponderings and poisons can be found on Twitter and Instagram @estarLA. She'll try anything once.

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