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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.