LAMag.com — It was the winter of 1991 when Walton Goggins arrived in Los Angeles at the invitation of a manager he’d met in Atlanta (his hometown is nearby Lithia Springs) while working on an episode of In the Heat of the Night. As soon as he set foot in the woman’s Hollywood apartment—he recalls it being on Poinsettia Place—she presented him with a contract to sign. He put her off by asking for a tour of Hollywood Boulevard, and then broke it to her that he wasn’t prepared to sign any paperwork. She told him to get out. It was late, so he negotiated a night on her couch, which she agreed to as long as he hit the bricks first thing in the morning. At the crack of dawn, he gathered his belongings and caught a taxi to an audition that wouldn’t start for hours.
“I got there at 7 o’clock, 6:30 in the morning for a 10 o’clock appointment, and just sat out on the bench with all my shit,” he recalls. “That was my first 24 hours in this city, and ever since then [L.A. has] given me so much more than it’s taken away from me, and I’ve become the person that I’ve become because of this town.”
Goggins, now 46 and recognizable for starring roles in everything from Justified to the new Tomb Raider reboot (not to mention his pathos-rich turn as sociopathic school administrator Lee Russell on HBO’s Vice Principals), tells the story over sips of a gin concoction he mixed behind the bar in his new Arts District headquarters. In late 2016, he and friend-partner Matthew Alper, a first Assistant Camera man with dozens of film credits, launched Mulholland Distilling, a liquor brand that aspires to capture the “spirit of L.A.” Alper is a second generation Angeleno, raised on the Westside, and Goggins considers himself a transplanted native, which seems fair given the lukewarm welcome he endured to live and thrive in the city.
Last month, they quietly introduced the Mulholland Room, a second-story loft they intend to be a physical extension of the brand and its identity. In theory, it’s their office. It’s a tasting room. It’s a space for private and not-so-private events (eventually). It’s a place for people to get together and share ideas. Alper calls it a “salon.” Goggins calls it a “watering hole of sorts.” In practice, it’s the airy, gorgeous living room of your L.A. dreams, complete with a fully stocked bar and some really nice art on the walls.
“I think branding in 2018 is the opposite of branding, do you know what I mean? I don’t think that you wear a T-shirt with Mulholland Distilling on it anymore,” Goggins says. “It’s really about well, no. We’re here right now, and let’s pour a beautiful cocktail, and let’s sit and talk. I think our goal was to cultivate an experience where people could come and bond and share ideas, really, regardless of where you are in your life or what your occupation is.”
Currently, it’s accessible via text message to a number on a card being handed out by Alper and Goggins to friends and friends of friends. In the future, they envision opening it up for some more public gatherings, like an industry night, where bartenders can come, hangout, and experiment behind the bar.
Goggins’s personal aesthetic is represented in nearly every detail of the space. Amid the cushy, vintage sofas and chairs are pieces from the actor’s own collection, including a French club chair he bought when he started getting real work 20 years ago. The wall opposite the bar features a large-scale painting by Goggins’s friend Danny Fox; near the entryway, there’s also a Wes Lang painting of Willie Nelson and Stefanie Schneider photographs of the desert on L.A.’s outskirts.
The cool, inviting marble-topped bar is the heart of the space. Mulholland’s spirits—a New World gin, a whiskey, and a vodka—are distilled elsewhere, but finished to their specifications. The whiskey is distilled in Indiana, and then transported to Kentucky where it is blended with a high rye bourbon, so it’s 94 percent corn, four percent rye, and two percent barley. “It’s sweet up front and caramel-y, and then has a nice rye spice finish and a little bit of heat at the end,” Alper says. “Just to remind you that you’re drinking whiskey.” The vodka, made from non-GMO corn so it’s gluten free, is distilled six times, which gives it a sweeter flavor; a higher proof gives it a softer mouth-feel. The gin is the standout. Finished with notes of lime, lavender, and Japanese cucumber, it’s simultaneously fruity, herbal, and vegetal, without being alienating to people who don’t normally drink gin.
Alper refers to them as “egalitarian spirits.” They’re accessible in terms of taste, and they’re relatively inexpensive, too.
“That’s the whole thing,” Alper says. “It’s a reflection of who we are. I think it’s accessible, it’s delicious; the bartender’s really attracted to it because it’s new and different. People who’ve never had it before are attracted to it because it’s not scary and it’s not some off-the-path sort of thing.”
Goggins adds, “It’s not the greatest whiskey you’ve ever had in your entire life, and it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be accessible but beautiful, and a very high quality.”
For more info or to host a private event at the Mulholland Room, contact them via their website.