Unlike a lot of cocktail towns, Los Angeles is not beholden to any traditions. From the early days of Hollywood to the more recent craft cocktail renaissance, LA is the place for daring drinking in part to this freedom and out-of-the-box thinking. Here now are the 20 essential cocktail bars in Los Angeles.Read More
20 Essential Cocktail Bars in Los Angeles
Strong, well-made drinks are the order of the day and here’s where to go to get ‘em in LA
Tonga Hut, LA’s oldest tiki bar, has been around since Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber were still fighting over who made the first mai tai. The drinks are still sweet and potent nearly 60 years later. Drinkers who want to get their name on the wall need to drink 78 cocktails from the bar’s Grog Log within a year.
The Rendition Room
This reservation-only cocktail bar hidden behind a bookshelf in Vitello’s Studio City Italian restaurant is a cozy spot to sip barrel-aged cocktails, as well as classic riffs made with infused spirits, such as a spicy mango margarita with jalapeno-infused tequila. Barman Scott Warren is the drink creator and consummate host of the bar, making guests feel like regulars.
This new-old Eagle Rock aperitivo bar, in a historic building, is the sort of watering hole where one could easily transition from afternoon to evening. Claim one of the red leather booths and start easy with a Venetian spritz and then work through the menu to an espresso martini made with mezcal. Or peruse the lists of amari and vermouths for low-proof options to draw things out. Groups of friends can toast 50/50 shots such as the Ferrari with Fernet and red bitters.
1886 Bar at The Raymond
1886 may be far off the beaten Lyft path, but it’s been luring cocktail enthusiasts to Pasadena with creative and well-crafted cocktails since 2010. Enjoy a cocktail or a whiskey-straight fireside on the patio or in the quaint and cozy bar, which was once part of the historic Raymond Hotel.
Big Bar has long been a favorite spot to hang out for local bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts, thanks to cocktail community events and a rotating roster of guest bartenders. But for anyone in the mood for intriguing, tasty, and well-crafted cocktails, such as a Chicago deep-dish pizza-inspired martini, this is the spot. Grab a stool at the intimate bar or on the expansive brick-lined patio.
The Dresden Restaurant & Lounge
For nearly 40 years, the main draw of this nearly 70-year-old Los Feliz bar was longtime bar lounge act, Marty & Elayne. But even after Marty’s passing, the beautiful old-school lounge continues to host live music acts every week and with no cover. The cocktail menu features seasonal drinks as well as classics such as the Vesper and the Dresden’s Blood and Sand, which has been on the menu since around the time the bar first opened.
Before you dismiss this Los Feliz spot as a restaurant and not a bar, even chef Joshua Gil would say the food complements its stellar bar program by Max Reis, formerly of Gracias Madre. The cocktail menu offers drinks inspired by classics but taken to a whole other culinary level that spotlights the flavors of Mexico, such as a spicy margarita with lacto chorizo, a Jungle Bird with housemade tepache, and an Oaxacan Old Fashioned with house mole bitters and sal de chapulín. The bar also boasts one of the city’s best agave spirit collections with bottles that can’t be found elsewhere except in Mexico.
Any tiki fan owes it to themselves to drop by this Los Feliz bar. After all, its founder Ray Buhen was one of the original Filipino bartenders who worked for tiki legend Don the Beachcomber, keeping all his cocktail ingredient secrets. The bar is now run by Buhen’s son and grandsons who carry on Tiki Ti’s cocktails, as well as some traditions — just order a Blood and Sand or a Ray’s Mistake to find out.
This midcentury Cuban-inspired cocktail spot in Virgil Village serves a range of drinks by bar director Chris Raba. Choose from classics one wouldn’t normally find on a menu, like the Infante, to originals like the Cheat Day daiquiri with brown butter, banana, and dulce de leche. But don’t skip the bar pie, which is made by sister restaurant Cafe Tropical and inspired by cocktails like pina colada.
The Roger Room
When on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood and desiring a drink without the fussiness of dress codes and velvet ropes — come here. A dark circus-themed bar with craft cocktails that go down way too easily, the Roger Room is the ideal venue for hanging out with the crew or drinking solo.
Located upstairs from the constant party that is Lowboy, Bar Flores boasts views of the Echo Park neighborhood and Sunset Boulevard. It’s a great spot to take in the scenery while enjoying day-friendly cocktails such as the cognac cocktail with tepache, curry, and turmeric. The bar concept started as a pop-up series by beverage director Karla Flores-Mercado and now features a mostly female bar team.
The Maybourne Bar
Tucked in the former concierge space at the Maybourne Hotel, this hotel bar is the destination for cocktails in Beverly Hills. The Maybourne Bar is the sister establishment to Connaught Bar in London, which is considered one of the world’s best bars. The cocktails by Chris Amirault display drink-making prowess, elevating variations on classic cocktails to imaginative heights. His menus are always designed around well-thought-out themes, such as his last one based on melody. Choose from unique sips such as a black and white milkshake in the form of a clarified white Negroni or a Cadillac margarita spiced with saffron and pasilla chile.
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This unassuming Historic Filipinotown/Echo Park cocktail bar has been racking up accolades since opening in 2019. Thunderbolt has been recognized by StarChefs and even captured the number 10 spot on North America’s Best Bars list. Bartender/co-owner Mike Capoferri’s innovative drinks include a HiFi-inspired Old Fashioned with coconut-washed rye, a nonalcoholic lychee daiquiri, and a canned pina colada soda.
Steep After Dark
Sip tea-infused cocktails, such as a black tea Negroni or a tropical oolong rum drink with mango liqueur and cream of coconut, at this teahouse-turned-cocktail bar in Chinatown’s Mandarin Plaza. Only available Wednesday through Saturday nights, the drink offerings by bar director Huy Pham (Bar Jackalope) are meant for leisure enjoyment. No rush, and definitely no hurried shots. Rather, savor the tea spirits, which also include a pu-erh tequila and oolong Japanese whisky, in a flight or a favorite cocktail style such as an Old Fashioned or margarita.
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The Normandie Club
This Koreatown bar by Pouring With Heart is a favorite among bartenders. The cocktail menu offers new versions of classics and handpicked spirits and drinks using ingredients the bar staff is currently obsessed with. On Friday and Saturday nights, the former Walker Inn space in the back turns into a disco ball-decked-out nightclub with live DJs and cocktails on tap to sate dance-induced thirst.
Whiskey lovers or those who just want a more intimate and curated cocktail experience head straight to this Japanese-inspired whisky bar in the back of Seven Grand. Since the bar has limited seating and attentive table service, reservations aren’t required but recommended. Once inside peruse the big book of whiskys, including the bar’s single-barrel varieties that can be enjoyed neat or in a favorite cocktail. The bar also offers a bottle-keep service where regulars can purchase a bottle that’s stored on-site and enjoyed on subsequent visits.
Death & Co.
Death & Co’s subterranean downtown LA outpost is where one ought to go to appreciate a finely made cocktail with quality spirits and fresh ingredients. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the extensive and expensive menu. Fortunately, the drinks are listed from light and refreshing to booze-forward, and the knowledgeable bar staff guides as needed. The Standing Room located left of the host stand offers a more casual vibe and straightforward cocktails, and does not require reservations.
For a bar hidden in the back of Cole’s and not even marked with a sign, the Varnish is well known. The collaboration of the late legendary barman Sasha Petraske, Eric Alperin, and Cedd Moses won Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best American Bar, as well the title of one of the 50 best bars in the world. Duck in here for a classic cocktail and find out why.
Everson Royce Bar
With an elegant cocktail lounge, daily happy hour, and one of the best outdoor patios in town, this Arts District bar is the perfect spot for meeting up with friends or going on a really fun date. The cocktail menu, designed by Raul Pool (the Airliner) and Trafton Barney (Ace Hotel), offers well-crafted thirst quenchers including frozen palomas and prickly pear margaritas. What sets Everson Royce apart from most bars is its burger crafted by a James Beard award-winning chef. Order the 7th Street Siesta, a tequila cocktail with rhubarb and fresh cantaloupe, to go with the burger.
The cocktail bar connected to chef David Kuo’s Little Fatty Taiwanese restaurant in Mar Vista has served cutting-edge cocktails since day one. Beverage director Ramsey Musk, who was named one of Punch’s best new bartenders, is leaning into fun cocktails. The Miami Vice milk punch features a clarified pina colada with strawberry daiquiri dust, while the gin martini includes red onion and “zippy orange air.”