Going Old School at Hard Rock Cafe

A recent visit to the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal City took me back in time.

Hard Rock Cafe

From the massive neon guitar outside to the rotating car and iconic music collectibles lining the walls, I remember the excitement when I was a teenager and would meet my friends for a burger at the Hard Rock Cafe on La Cienega Boulevard, the second location for this iconic restaurant. While that location has closed, there are more than 150 Hard Rock Cafe locations around the world, and more than three dozen in North America today.

Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock has been in business since 1971 and they continue to fill the seats night after night. A loud, energetic venue, it is ideal for groups and family celebrations. In the hour and a half that we were there, we witnessed the celebration of five birthdays as the enthusiastic server called out a birthday cheer for each of them. This enthusiasm and energy is shared among the entire team. And, Hard Rock seems to build loyal teams as everyone we spoke with has worked there for years, included Manager Marco Escobar who has been with the company for twenty-one years and Chef Khaled Alex Masrouga who has been there for five years.

Marco Escobar and Khaled Alex Masrouga

While the menus are identical around the world, I was surprised to learn is that each Hard Rock location has a “local” seasonal burger on the menu, as well as seasonal artisan french fries. We tried the Herb and Garlic Fries with Chimichurri Mayo which were quite tasty.

Artisan Fries - Herb and Garlic Fries with Chimichurri Mayo

Hard Rock is currently offering a series of holiday cocktails served in mason jars. These seasonal drinks change every three months and can be found on all the menus around the world. In order to select the drinks, bartenders at any location are encouraged to submit their drink recipes. Then the corporate office selects the final drinks to be showcased.

These holiday drinks are all sweet. Hard Rock uses fresh ingredients, which is a key point, but the drinks are sugary, some more than others. I prefer well-balanced drinks and tend to error more on the tart side than the sweet side. But when I first started drinking, like most people, I liked the sweeter drinks. And I have to remember that that is what most people are still used to drinking.

Holiday Drinks

The five drink options are (from left to right):

Rock You Like a Coconut (Monin Salted Caramel, Coco Real, caramel sauce, half and half, topped with whipped cream) – This drink is alcohol free and exceptionally sweet and rich. It is more of a dessert and will give you a sugar rush.

Bohemian Rasp-sody (Smirnoff Vidka, Monin Passion Fruit, Robert Mondavi Merlot, fresh raspberries, housemade sweet & sour, topped with housemade passion fruit foam) – This drink is sangria-like with a grape-y flavor and fresh taste.

She’s My Apple Pie (Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, apple and pineapple juices, Monin Slated Caramel, topped with Angry Orchard Hard Cider and garnished with whipped cream and a cinnamon crisp) – If you like apples, this drink is for you.

Feeling Hot Hot Hot (Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, Rum Chata, Coco Real, Monin Almond, pineapple juice and a dash of cinnamon) – This drink is similar to a Painkiller or a Pina Colada.

Southern Jam (Monkey Shoulder, Black Cheery Real, fresh blackberries, lemon juice) – This drink was the most tart and was the one I preferred most of all.

One thing to remember is that the sweeter the drinks, the worse the hangover, so go slow and be sure to eat when you drink.