One for the Road: Los Angeles

Robert Benchley famously told Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor, “why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a Dry Martini?” Marilyn mixes Manhattans in Some Like it Hot, and at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, French 75s were the order of the day.

Hollywood has long glamorized the craft of the cocktail on-screen, and Los Angeles was traditionally known as a drinker’s town off-screen, too. The ’40s and ’50s were the height of the city’s cocktail culture.

Fifty years later, the sparkle was gone, the glitter had faded and sadly, in most bars, style had trumped substance. But there are few things Hollywood loves more than a good comeback. A new group of bartenders has recently put LA back on the mixology map. Later this month Audrey Saunders, owner of New York City’s cocktail mecca Pegu Club, is opening a bar called The Tar Pit.

So get on a dry coat and order a cab!

The Varnish

118 East 6th Street, Downtown LA, (213) 622-9999 | www.thevarnishbar.com

Eric Alperin honed his bartending skills in New York. Last winter, he opened The Varnish with Sasha Petraske, who owns Gotham bars Milk & Honey and Little Branch. The establishment offers a short menu of classics.

The Edison

108 West 2nd Street, Downtown LA, (213) 613-0000 | www.edisondowntown.com

The antique furnaces inside the former power plant are reason enough to visit The Edison—not to mention the handcrafted cocktails shaken by LA stars Juan Sevilla and Joseph Brooke.

The Roger Room

370 North La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, (310) 854-1300

Welcome to West Hollywood’s first modern speakeasy: The Roger Room. Hidden behind a sign advertising a psychic you’ll find a lively crowd enjoying gourmet drinks.

Bar Marmont

8171 West Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, (323) 650-0575 | www.chateaumarmont.com

Bar Marmont, the legendary Hollywood haunt, is usually full of celebrities. And if you stop gawking for a minute, you’ll find that the bar serves great cocktails made with fresh juices. Acai, carrot and blueberry drinks are particularly popular. It is California after all…

Copa d’Oro

217 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 576-3030 | www.copadoro.com

Copa d’Oro is a sophisticated Santa Monica lounge that offers an innovative, fresh-fruit- driven cocktail menu designed by one of LA’s most influential mixologists, Vincenzo Marianella.

The Doheny

714 West Olympic Blvd, Downtown LA | thedoheny.com

Famed oil tycoon E.L. Doheny gives his name to this private member’s-only cocktail lounge inside the historic Petroleum Building. The Doheny serves excellent “epicurean cocktails” and a long list of fine champagnes and cigars. There’s even a special heated smoking patio for chilly starlets.

Musso & Frank Grill

6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, (323) 467-7788

For a taste of old-school LA, head to Musso & Frank in Hollywood. The restaurant, which was frequented by movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, has been feeding Angelinos since 1919. It still employs a legion of seasoned bartenders, some of whom have been behind the restaurant’s bar since the 1950s.

Polo Lounge

The Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, (310) 276- 2251 | beverlyhillshotel.com

Expect to pay a high price for impeccably served classic cocktails at one of LA’s most famous hotel bars. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson drank Singapore Slings and shots of mescal with beer chasers at the Polo Lounge. I suggest you stick to just drinking cocktails.

Rivera Restaurant

1050 South Flower Street, Downtown LA, (213) 749-1460 | riverarestaurant.com

The specialty of Rivera Restaurant is “Latin-inspired craft mixology,” so it’s no surprise that the menu focuses on tequila and mescal. But if you’re in the mood for something else, there are also plenty of classic cocktails.

Seven Grand

515 West 7th Street, Downtown LA, (213) 614-0737 | sevengrand.la

Seven Grand is another great watering hole from LA nightlife impresario Cedd Moses. It has an old-timey men’s club feel with an antique pool table, taxidermy and one of the best whiskey selections in the United States—nearly 300 different bottles.

Tiki-Ti

4427 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, (323) 669-9381 | tiki-ti.com

Tiki Ti on Sunset Boulevard makes some of the finest tropical drinks on earth. You’ll leave wondering why there aren’t more tiki bars left in the country.

Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.

Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.

More Great Food & Drink Stories from Across the Web

Comments

  1. Andrew - Liberty Bar/Seattle says

    Around 1K miles to the north of LA, Sunny Seattle has a unique place and deserved reputation as one of America’s spirits and cocktail havens. Here, the Washington State Bartender’s Guild works to foster an environment to promote a great expectation in terms of quality spirits and cocktails. That said, I am always surprised that LA up to now has seemed to not have a notable quality cocktail culture. Vanish and The Edison sure changed that, and Audry’s Tar Pit? Talk about upholding the standard? No problem.

    Fantastic – now there’s more reasons to run down to LA, and I look forward to the next few years as the trend towards quality develops into the norm.

    Andrew Friedman
    Owner – Liberty
    President – WSBG

  2. John Coltharp - Seven Grand/Los Angeles says

    Thank you very much Simon. We are doing our best to provide quality cocktails and service to our patrons. As someone who grew up in the Northwest, Chimacum more specifically, I’m very happy to see the WSBG so strong. I’ve been a part of LA’s cocktail push for awhile now an I’m very happy with it’s present state. I fell like a rising tide on the west coast brings all ships higher. I can’t wait to head up to San Francisco to Smuggler’s Cove! Still, Zig Zag will always be in my heart and I will visit every time I come back to see family and friends- John

  3. Terry B. says

    LA??!!! What’s up?!Hey we are Southeast of LA.Try comin’ to Tucson,Arizona.(Not Phoenix!!!).This is the place to be at,my friend’s.You think we can’t party?!Or,mix a darn good drink,or what? Tucson is where it is happening.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] spirited gift? Well, we got Angus McShane and Pedro Shanahan of downtown Los Angeles whiskey bar Seven Grand to give us five can’t-miss [...]

Speak Your Mind

leaderboard bottom