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Mix Like a Master: The Bella Donna of Villains Tavern

By Michael F. Robleto
Published: Friday, August 13, 2010, at 03:05PM
Villains Tavern: Dave Whitton and the Bella Donna Michael F. Robleto

Dave Whitton, part owner of Villains Tavern and the venue's cocktail designer, with the Bella Donna.

Downtown is divided into two teams these days: Those that have been to Villains Tavern and those that have only heard about it.

Located on the East side of DTLA, Villains has taken the nightlife scene by storm in the two weeks it has been open. How could a former sandwich shop rise from the ashes in such a short time to not only draw Downtowners from the Historic Core to the “other” side of Downtown but also to do it every night they are open? Simple; a dream team of savvy cocktails and master mixologists.

The Jules Verne-inspired bar design is new but the face perched behind it is not. Dave Whitton, part owner and designer of all the cocktails at Villains Tavern will seem very familiar because he was the lead bartender for the launches of the ever-so-popular Seven Grand and Golden Gopher. Flanking Dave are two more Cedd Moses alumni: Sonny Bonasera and Rodney Amieva. Together they are whipping the cocktail loving crowd into frenzy.

We stopped in and Dave was gracious enough to share the goods on one of the cocktails that has put Villain’s on the map. When asked about the inspiration for the Bella Donna, Dave simply stated, “Because it tastes good.”

The Bella Donna of Villains Tavern

Created by Dave Whitton


  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (available at BevMo)
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed orange juice
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • fresh mint
  • fresh black berries
  • shaved ice
  • cubed ice


In a tin: Add Makers, bitters, Orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup with ice. Shake vigorously. In a bucket glass, add a bundle of fresh mint and top with ice. Note: a smack with the hand will “open the mint oils up”. Strain ingredients from tin into glass and top with a bed of shaved ice. Top with a gramble (a muddled pool) of black berries. Sip and say ahhh.

When not pouring cocktails Dave can be found playing music, a passion that is reflected in the eclectic mix of musicians that play nightly at Villains’ Tavern.

Villains Tavern / 1356 Palmetto (6th and Santa Fe) / 213-613-0766


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