We had the good fortune of connecting with Kim Ohanneson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kim, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
Trusting my instinct was crucial to starting my business and continues to be a guiding force. If I have a gut feeling that something is viable, I’ll move forward, even if I don’t have all the details figured out. Sometimes that involves more work but I’ve never regretted that philosophy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
All the endeavors in Ardent Spirits L.A. involve whisk(e)y and spirits but what I am at heart is a storyteller, an educator, and a community builder. My reason for launching Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles, the largest Women Who Whiskey chapter in the world (2500+ members), was to give women the opportunity to learn about whisk(e)y so they could become confident imbibers and consumers. (Respectful gentlemen are welcome!) Similarly, the reason I’m launching Women Wealth $ Whiskey with the involvement of financial advisor Jomjai Srisomburananont is to provide a community in which women can become more confident about money AND drink great whisk(e)y! Our goal is to inform (via financially focused webinars) and inspire (via conversations with women who own businesses in the spirits and hospitality industry and beyond.) The Whisky & Poetry Salon, at which guests drink whisky and read poetry, original or not, is meant to be a creative community for people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as creative. Finding and reading a poem is a creative action that often inspires guests to start writing or to start writing again. Finally, my private tastings and my international whisky distillery trips revolve around the stories and the history as well as the whiskey and just generally make me happy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
well My approach to hosting out-of-town guests is neighborhood-focused. (It makes me crazy when visitors try to take in Disneyland, the beach, and Universal Studios in one day and then complain about L.A. traffic!) It’s also, I realize, pretty bar-focused! I live in Northeast L.A. and Cacao Mexicatessen and Cindy’s Coffee Shop in Eagle Rock are go-to’s for any comfort meal any time of the day. The Owl Bureau in Highland Park has really interesting literary events; it was a pharmacy for years and has a liquor license! And I love love, love Avenue 50 Studio: nonprofit, community based multicultural arts organization that is grounded in Latino and Chicano culture and has been producing wonderful exhibits and literary events for decades. In Downtown L.A., I would eat LASA’s Filipino food every day of the week. Cindy Schwarzstein’s Cartwheel Art Tours offer really interesting, offbeat, rambles around Downtown including Arts District Murals and the history-oriented Underground LA. (You visit two former speakeasies!) (Full disclosure: I lead a Golden Age of Cocktails tour for them as well.) I’m also a bottle holder at Bar Jackalope: the whisk(ey) library inside Seven Grand: one of L.A.’s best whiskey bars, so that is a late night favorite. Clifton’s Republic is fun to wander around with guests before a cocktail at the astonishing Pacific Seas room. (Reservations a must and you should definitely dress for the occasion!) I have an abiding love for the Geffen Contemporary, which is in walking distance to the women-owned, tropically themed Mermaid Bar: a fun and cozy stop for delish tiki cocktails. The Japanese American Museum has a lot of well-curated special exhibitions and is down the block from faves Sake Dojo and Far East Bar; co-owner Don Tajara stocks both with great whisk(e)y! In addition to delicious food, Sake Dojo has a special sake machine to keep everything super fresh; their spirits collection focuses on Pacific Rim offerings. While whisk(e)y will always be my sweetheart spirit, I love gin as well so a stop at GENEVER gin bar is a must when I’m in the area; it’s women-owned, gorgeous, and has great cocktails. Heading to Hollywood, I love the old-school glamour of the aptly named MiniBar as well as Jeremy Allen’s on-point cocktails. They host the Oscar watching parties for Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles, which always sell out. Musso & Frank’s is a pilgrimage and if I can combine it with a noir film fest at the Egyptian Theater, I’m in heaven. I used to live down the hill from Yamashiro and like to bring guests there for old time’s sake to sip a nostalgic cocktail while overlooking the amazing view. Down the hill at the Roosevelt Hotel, guests are always amazed by the Spare Room’s two, functional, bowling lanes! Since she took over, Yael Vengroff has upped the cocktail program at this intimate, tucked away bar so it wows on multiple fronts. I don’t make it to the Westside as often as I’d like but Bergamot Station is a must-stop if I’m taking Metro. I try not to miss the photography exhibits at the Getty Contemporary; I go early and have been known to spend the better part of a day there, especially if I combine it with a visit to the Skirball Center across the freeway. Both are great options if kids are involved. If it’s an adult-only outing, I’ll head south to Wen Yeah’s “neat” bar (recently profiled in VoyageLA). Wen’s passion for agave-based spirits, his commitment to staff training, and his work with small time producers is inspiring and impressive. Scopa Italian Roots seems to top my “special occasion meal” list with surprising frequency and not just because of the affiliated Old Lightning bar; the same group also owns The Chestnut Club; both bars have some of the best cocktails in town. Everyone wants to go to Santa Monica, of course; I’ll always try to include respite stops at Tongva Park and Palisades Park and, if my musician husband is along, an intimate evening o at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, which is one of the best music venues in town.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Ha, this feels like my Academy Award thank you speech! My husband Marty Axelrod has been my indomitable silent partner since I launched my first (and still current) whisky endeavor The Whisky & Poetry Salon. He’s hauled a million boxes for the extensive Salon set-up, picked up countless bottles of whisk(e)y and washed countless glasses for Ardent Spirits L.A. private tastings, and helped kept everything together when I launched Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles and was consistently working eighteen hour days. The upside is that he gets to drink A LOT of good whisk(e)y! I’m forever grateful to Whisky & Poetry Salon Co-founders Emeritus Karolyn Kiisel and Johnnie Mundell for taking that wisky-for-words leap with me. My BDB (best drinking buddy) Judi Laing, the founder of BYOB Like a Boss, brought Women Who Whiskey to my attention and is always game for exploring new cocktail spots. Women Who Whiskey (wWw) founder Julia Ritz Toffoli has provided support at every turn. Stacey Smith-Clark, the first Veep of Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles (and now President of the Long Beach chapter!) was always there with humor, empathy and social media savvy. Current VP Jacqueline Saavedra has been instrumental in this new phase of Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles’s growth. Travel adviser Larissa Schultz (Journey-Wide Travel) somehow intuited my desire to curate global whisk(e)y distillery tours, helped make that dream a reality, and is my rock in terms of making it all happen. Finally, I’m so excited to be launching my newest endeavor Women Wealth $ Whiskey with the involvement of financial advisor Jomjai Srisomburananont to help women become more confident about money.