Dad by day. Beverage director/cocktail craftsman/bar manager by night. If only we were talking about a crime fighter, too, we’d have the next Hollywood action hero franchise. But in reality this arrangement describes the life of Aidan Demarest, who has developed beverage programs at some of Los Angeles’s best drinking venues. Demarest has overseen what goes from behind the bar into the hands of customers at celebrated places such as Seven Grand, the Edison, First & Hope, 1886, and currently the Spare Room at the Roosevelt Hotel, where he’s currently based, unless he’s working elsewhere with his cocktail consulting business partner, Marcos Tello of the Varnish. Demarest has mastered the art of compartmentalization. In fact, it’s an essential strategy to managing his demanding professional and personal life, which takes him from being father to three kids ages 7, 9 and 15 in the Valley to running one of Hollywood’s hottest nightlife spots.
During a night out (yay!) at the deluxe yet welcoming Spare Room, where this past weekend we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with shiny basins of curiously delicious punch, bowling, and classic games made out of real wooden pieces, Demarest took a few minutes before his Saturday kicked into high gear to chat in one of the room’s plush and comfy banquette tables. (A side note to parents and relatively mature folks in need of age-appropriate fun: you will definitely NOT be the youngest people in the building and you’ll have to tolerate a certain Entourage factor if you hit the EPIC Library Bar, Public Kitchen and the Spare Room. But put together they make for a mighty fine way to spend an evening in Hollywood.)
How do you do this, and then wake up in the morning and give your kids breakfast?
Here’s my tomorrow: I close here at 4 in the morning. My wife has a swim meet with my oldest son in Torrance at 6:15 in the morning. So for my two younger ones, who are 7 and 9, I have to be up by 7. I get the coffee set for 5:30, it’ll be ready. I get up, drink a pot of coffee. She’ll be back by noon so I can nap later. Basically I sleep like a camel and try to store it. Right before I came here I came straight from a basketball practice.
Is there an understanding in your family like, “Daddy’s sleeping in today”?
Yeah. There is a certain sort of thing. Although a few years ago it was very sacred. I was asleep sometimes ’til 10, 11 or 12. Now I feel like it’s taken less and less precedence.
So is the afternoon nap is absolutely crucial?
Crucial. I probably sleep about five hours a night. Then I get another hour in the afternoon.
That’s almost like newborn baby hours.
Yeah. I found as a dad that I was much more resilient than most of the other new dads I knew because I was used to no sleep — and I was used to no sleep and early mornings. I always bartended at night while pursuing other things during the day, so it’s not like I could sleep ’til 2 in the afternoon. When my son was born I got more sleep than I had ever gotten, and most people were like, “Say goodbye to sleep!” And I was like, “what are you talking about?” We got up a couple of times during the night, but we slept from 10 at night until 6 in the morning. For me that was a vacation. I had never gotten that much sleep, ever. I got more sleep when they were born than any other time.
Well, that’s a blessing in disguise.
Yeah. I’m conditioned to not really get enough sleep.
How do you explain to them what you do? Do you keep a very bright line between your work and your identity as a dad? How do you negotiate that?
I think I do. Probably more so than most people, because I run nightclubs in Hollywood. It’s a little different than a chef. If anybody asks what I do, my youngest daughter says, “my dad sells beer.” And now I run a place that has a bowling lane. So they think, oh, he runs a bowling alley! But I keep it very separate. It doesn’t translate.
Actually, there are probably a lot of people who come here every night who have no idea that I have three children. In fact, probably 90 percent of this room has no idea. It just doesn’t come up, and there’s not a lot of parallels with the average 24-year-old Hollywood kid and my family in a cul-de-sac in Toluca Lake. There’s no point in me bringing it up. We’re not going to talk about what’s a good co-op preschool, or where’s the best place to get biodegradable diapers, or do you know a doula. The conversations I have all day I never have at night.
So do you like that separation of your professional and personal life?
I do. And I could never do either without the other. I could never do this, without my wife and kids to center me and go back to that. And I don’t think I could do my wife and kids without this. Even if I have to wake up at 7 in the morning and make hash browns and burnt toast for the kids, thank god I get to do that instead waking up face down next to some cocktail waitress. And vice versa: thank god at the end of the day around 8:00 when my wife does the witching hour, I leave and get a drink. I have to say that it might be the best of both worlds. It’s a tough tightrope, but it might be the best.
Almost none. I have no open alcohol at home. I have amazing stuff people have given me, and I collect some rare vintage bottles. But I don’t have a liquor cabinet. It would never occur to me to make a gin and tonic at home. My wife every now and then has people over and asks me to bring something. But if we do a dinner party, I usually do wine. Because I don’t want to get stuck working. And I make some good drinks. If the booze is there, I’m tempted. I’ll step in. If we’re having a dinner party, I’ll bring home a good bottle of scotch and wine, and that way it can all be drank neat.
Where do you like to eat out with your kids?
Ugh, nowhere. [Laughs]
You mostly prefer to eat at home?
More and more. With my first kid, I worked at and ran bars in Hollywood, and we lived over by Beverly and Fairfax. The 15-year-old we had alone for seven years. We lived in restaurants. The Farmers’ Market. We’d go to Providence. Larchmont. It was so much easier. He rolled and handled himself in restaurants. Then we had two kids, 18 months apart, and they are monsters. And they are awesome! But it’s totally a different animal. I guess mostly we do the Valley. I rarely take them here [Hollywood area] anymore. I go to the Alcove a lot because a buddy of mine runs that place. And I love Big Bar. My kids like that place. I love El Cholo down on Western, and my wife worked at the Wiltern after we had our son. We live in Toluca Lake, and at the end of our street are a bunch of little restaurants and stuff down there like Bob’s, and we hit all those.