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 has become the place for daring drinking thanks to this freedom and out-of-the-box thinking. Here now are the 19 essential cocktail bars in Los Angeles.Read More
19 Essential Cocktail Bars in Los Angeles
Dimly lit spaces for well-shaken drinks 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. Fifty-eight years later, the drinks are still sweet and potent. Drinkers who want to get their name on the wall need to drink 78 cocktails off the bar’s Grog Log within a year.
The Cigar and Whiskey Bar
For the ultimate splurge, reserve a spot at the Maybourne Hotel’s cigar and whiskey lounge in the former Ten Pound space. The elegant mezzanine bar, which features a 1,000-cigar humidor and Lalique light features, serves a $100 Sazerac made with Whistle Pig 15-year-old rye to sip on with that premium cigar. The cocktail menu is comprised of classics that are available either at around $20 or a “fine edition” with a premium spirit for double or triple that.
Umbrella Club at SIXTY Beverly Hills
Staycation vibes abound at this Beverly Hills rooftop bar by the team behind Melrose Umbrella Club. Order a Mai Tai or commit to an Extended Stay Piña Colada served in a pineapple. There are many sitting options to choose from, such as chaises and hanging wicker chairs, while taking in the gorgeous views from Beverly Hills to Downtown. The rooftop is divided by bar level, which is open daily, and the pool level, which for reservations and hotel guests. To get up there, just check in at the hotel front desk or the Ella restaurant host stand.
The Roger Room
When on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood and one desires a drink without any of the fussiness of dress codes and velvet ropes, come here. A dark circus-themed bar with craft cocktails that go down way too easy, it's the ideal venue for hanging out with the crew or solo drinking.
The Normandie Club
This Koreatown bar by Pouring With Heart is a favorite bartenders’ hang. The cocktail menu not only offers new favorite versions of classic cocktails but a handpicked spirits list and drinks using whatever ingredient the bar staff is currently obsessed with.
The Dresden Restaurant & Lounge
For nearly 40 years, the main draw of this 68-year-old Los Feliz bar was longtime bar lounge act, Marty & Elayne. Sadly Marty passed away in early 2022. But the beautiful old-school lounge continues to host live music acts every week and with no cover. The cocktail menu, updated a couple of years ago from ‘70s saccharine to craft cocktail standards, features seasonal drinks as well as the classics such as the Vespers and the Dresden’s Blood & Sand, which has been on the menu since around the time the bar first opened.
Big Bar has long been a favorite spot to hang out for local bartenders, thanks to guest bartenders and cocktail community events. But anyone in the mood for intriguing, tasty, and well-crafted cocktails, such as a red onion margarita, this is the spot. Grab a bar stool at the intimate bar or on the expansive brick-lined patio.
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 dimly lit Historic Filipinotown gin joint, which is owned by three Filipino women who raised money via a Kickstarter campaign to build it, secured the 50th spot on North America’s Best Bar list in 2022. Order up cocktails with Filipino-forward ingredients such as calamansi pilsner and coconut oil-washed sweet vermouth, and house fish sauce.
Sitting upstairs from the constant party that is Lowboy cocktail bar, 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 tumeric. The bar concept started as a pop-up series by beverage director Karla Flores-Mercado and now features a mostly women bar team.
Broken Shaker at Freehand Los Angeles
The downtown LA Freehand Hotel bar is sister to the James Beard-nominated Broken Shaker Miami. This rooftop party offers everything Angelenos want to show off to out-of-towners: gorgeous sunset views, swimming pool action, and fun craft cocktails with its share of easy but tasty food, like crispy fish tacos and fried chicken wings.
Also featured in:
This unassuming Historic Filipinotown/Echo Park cocktail bar has been racking up the accolades lately, including a spot on this year’s North America’s Best Bars list (No. 9) and being named a finalist for the 2022 Spirited Awards’ best U.S. Cocktail Bar. Bartender and co-owner Mike Capoferri has created innovative cocktails such as a HiFi-inspired old fashioned with coconut-washed rye, an espresso martini on nitro, and a canned piña colada soda.
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.
Ever since NeueHouse’s swank downtown bar debuted in its private co-working space at the historic Bradbury Building in 2021, Angelenos have been clamoring to grab a drink there. And now it’s easier to get in. They still don’t take walk-ins but instead of emailing a request, would-be bar-goers can simply reserve a seat via Resy and pay $5 for a day pass. The short cocktail menu of (mostly) stirred sippers makes it easy to prolong visits while lounging around in all the different seating options, whether in the bar or out in the lobby.
This low-key nautical-themed bar located in a Little Tokyo strip mall wants to be everyone’s neighborhood spot, promising a good time with live music, Tiki Thursday, and Boozy Bingo night. And the drinks are affordable and approachable. Close out a night of high-end drinking Downtown with a tropical punch like Drink Like a Fish with rum and Earl Grey tea.
Also featured in:
Death & Co.
Death & Co’s subterranean downtown LA outpost, which landed on the North America’s Best Bars list this year, is where you want to go to appreciate a finely made cocktail with quality spirits and fresh ingredients. With an extensive menu of intriguing options, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. However, not only are the drinks conveniently listed from light and refreshing to booze forward, but the knowledgeable bar staff will happily guide you. Or you can simply go with the longtime favorite, the Buko Gimlet with navy strength gin, cachaça, pandan, coconut, and finger lime.
This nearly 100-year-old Lincoln Heights bar space has survived the Great Depression, a Bar Rescue episode (under the previous ownership), and the pandemic. Transformed and reopened at the beginning of 2020, the Airliner features an outdoor patio and two floors of bars — the upstairs stage regularly hosts live events. Its list of approachable $12 cocktails, such as the Oregon Trail with whiskey and strawberry tea, was created by Raul Pool (formerly of Lowboy). But its events such as $6 Burgers, Booze + Brews night, and monthly Tiki nights with guest bartenders keeps fans coming back.
Good Housekeeping HLP
This Highland Park bar is the one everyone wishes was in their neighborhood. Tucked behind Cafe Birdie, it has a chill ambiance that is even welcoming of canine companions, whether on the patio or in the lowlit bar itself. Drink offerings range from biodynamic wines to hard seltzers to well-crafted cocktails featuring intriguing ingredients such as jasmine-infused Japanese whiskey, salted strawberry orgeat, and pineapple mandarin shrub.
1886 Bar at The Raymond
1886 may be far off the beaten Lyft path, but it’s been luring cocktail enthusiasts to Pasadena with its 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 part of the historic Raymond Hotel.