Monday, June 17, 2024

Baby Gee Bar and new summer menu reflect this Long Beach gem beyond the accolades


Baby Gee Bar has had many reasons to celebrate—they’ve been recognized not just once but twice by the coveted and prestigious Spirited Awards while co-owner and lead bar maestro Gianna Johns scored recognition from the respected Star Chefs earlier this year—but when it comes down to it, they’re a Long Beach bar through and through.

And that very much includes their newly minted summer menu.

baby gee bar
Gianna and Daniel discovered vintage Long Beach glasses at a flea market and sought more to build a large enough collection for their Negroni Snow Conie cocktail. Photos by Brian Addison.

Baby Gee Bar’s summer menu is a mixture of savory’n’sweet and Long Beach history—all made with love

Taking a quick dip behind the bar, Gianna returns back with a small array of three colorful and enameled glasses from the early 1960s. Each glass features some type of existing or no-longer-existing Long Beach landmark—from the Virginia Hotel that was demolished in 1933 to The Queen Mary—along with a brief history about some part of Long Beach. They found the initial trio at the Long Beach Swap Meet and sought others to build a collection via eBay and other resources.

It is but one touch from the new summer cocktail menu that showcases why Baby Gee might be bringing home a shit ton of hardware for the city, but their ultimate goal isn’t bringing crews from above the 10 or tourists into the tiny space. Rather, it is to remain and bolster itself as a Long Beach community watering hole.

cocktail long beach
Baby Gee Bar’s Negroni Snow Conie from their summer cocktail menu. Photo by Brian Addison.

“I hope when it comes to this menu, I hope it comes through how we decided to look inward and at Long Beach,” said co-owner and Long Beach native Daniel Flores. “It is beyond humbling to read about us getting these recognitions but the realty is that someone from L.A. reading that very same thing? It isn’t going to convince them to drive to our bar on a Wednesday night. We’re doing this for Long Beach. Long Beach is our patronage. Everyone is always welcomes—but Long Beach is where the heart and home is for us.”

Daniel’s words ring true on a variety of levels—there’s a nod to the Dirtbags, which Daniel has happily become a regular attendee at Blair Field—and it’s not just the cocktail ingredients.

cocktail long beach
Baby Gee Bar’s cozy, 70s-gone-Gen Z interior is part of the space’s charm after taking over the former Red Room space in 2023. Photos by Brian Addison.

Baby Gee has become a de facto, third-option queer space with their welcoming aura and, let’s be frank, queer aesthetic: From happily-tacky-yet-tasteful yarn art from the 70s to paper lantern lighting to featuring Tom of Finland vodka, the place feels as gay and fabulous as Aunt Charlie’s in San Francisco with a bit more tact and class—and that is a compliment that is fairly difficult for any queer writer to hand out.

They’ve harnessed an intimate aspect of the local music scene, hiring stellar jazz artists from Long Beach to play every Sunday and often during special events (like their New Year’s Eve party earlier this year).

Baby Gee owners
Baby Gee Bar owners Gianna Johns and Daniel Flores. Photos by Brian Addison.

They’ve been home to two hospitality appreciation events that uplift the workers behind the industry we love—one for Long Beach Food Scene Week last year and another for Last Call this year.

“The more and more I return to my roots as a kid year and connect it with being an adult, the more and more I realized just how much home Long Beach is,” Daniel said. “I would say its easy for someone to want to make an even larger national profile with some of the accolades we’ve gotten but in all honesty, we want to do the opposite. The whole neighborhood has completely embraced us and it is only right to embrace them right back in return.”

gianna Johns baby gee
Gianna Johns of Baby Gee Bar. Photos by Brian Addison.

Gianna Johns is the humble and kind cocktail connoisseur of Baby Gee Bar

Gianna is the creative heart of Baby Gee Bar. From the choice of ingredients—curated through a list of trusted distributors and house-made concoctions should they not be able to find a cocoa butter-washed gin that is up to par—to the art work featured on menus and collateral—every little drawing and menu has been fully realized by Gianna—she is the creative force that keeps Baby Gee feeling, well, Baby Gee.

“I’m lucky to have a symbiotic relationship with the people I work with,” Gianna said. “All of my distributors come in at one point and are like, ‘I brought you this because I know you’ll love it,’ and I am so grateful for that because it is usually some weird, fantastic thing that fits my vibe and the bar’s vibe very well. I’ll even thumb through their books for inspiration if I am feeling a little cocktail-blocked: ‘Like, oh, check out this saffron gin I missed—can you get me that?’ And they accommodate. It’s a genuinely great network where everyone is stoked about what we’re doing.”

pickled pink baby gee
Baby Gee Bar’s Pickled Pink cocktail is a par example of the space’s dedication to funky if not outright witty concoctions. Photos by Brian Addison.

What is often not discussed is how those relationships are reciprocal: Surely, distributors can bring in whatever spirits they want into bar spaces but without the talent to know how to use them (and therefore sell them), that relationship crumbles. And in this sense, Gianna soars: Her knack for combining an odd array of flavors—think previous usages of yellow curry, green peppercorn, and dried chilaca

Now, let’s explore some Baby Gee Bar’s 2024 summer cocktail menu’s highlights…

Xanadu Martini

What kind of cocktail? This booze-forward play on a Gibson is a continuation of Gianna’s ability to create Long Beach’s best iterations of martinis. Beautifully layered with slight hints of sweet and plenty of citrus and tart notes, it is an ode to what can be called Baby Gee’s most savory cocktail menu yet.

Xanadu Martini: Cocoa butter-washed gin | Manzanilla sherry | Apricot | Carrot | Pickled onion

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Pickled Pink

What kind of cocktail? One for the lovers of summer and an ode to Long Beach’s love of local strawberries and, well, pickles.

Pickled Pink: Mezcal | Guava | Pickled strawberry | Cherry blossom | Toni

Merlin’s Beard

What kind of cocktail? In the world of playfulness, like the aforementioned Pickled Pink, Gianna’s take on reconstructing a watermelon for her Merlin’s Beard creation is wildly witty: Layering a pool of tequila-and-mezcal-meets-cucumber before dolloping a foam roof of salted watermelon foam and topping it with black sesame seeds, this drink rides a coaster from watermelon Jolly Rancher to margarita on steroids. Gianna calls it the most difficult drink she’s created—and that makes sense with its beautifully constructed complexity.

Merlin’s Beard: Tequila | Mezcal | Cucumber | Shisho | Cinnamon | Lime | Salted watermelon foam

Negroni Snow Conie

What kind of cocktail? This is Baby Gee Bar at its most Long Beach. Using vintage cups with mini-features on Long Beach history (and, in some cases, some fabulously flourished advertising talk from the 1960s), this play on a negroni is richly layered with sweet and tart before having a perfectly bitter finish.

Negroni Snow Conie: Gin | Campari | Sweet vermouth | Hibiscus | Cherry preserves | Pasilla chile | Grapefruit

Dirtbag Mai Tai

What kind of cocktail? An evolution on bartender Marcus Gow’s winning tiki cocktail for Last Call’s tiki competition earlier this year, this is the most tiki cocktail yet from Baby Gee Bar, where the traditional flavors of coffee and spices come out in layers of citrus, tart, and earthiness. My suggestion? Add the “Walk the Plank” option, where a floater of overproof dark rum makes this bowl of deliciousness even more boozy.

Dirtbag Mai Tai: Belizean Rum | Blended Scotch | Cashew | Coffee | Blood Orange | Tamarind | Cacao

Dirtbag Mai Tai (with a Walk the Plank): Add a pour-over of overproof dark rum

Baby Gee Bar is located 1227 E. 4th St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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