22 Cocktail Bars to Try Right Now in Los Angeles, Winter 2016
When the weather cools down and the sun sets begin earlier, cocktails become a greater attraction in Los Angeles. Instead of fresh shaken drinks, imbibers pine for the likes of stirred, aromatic cocktails like negronis, manhattans, and old fashioneds (though honestly, those are good any time of year). Here now, a guide to where to drink cocktails (or beer and wine, if that’s your inclination) right this moment in the City of Angels
Brendan Collins’ internationally flavored restaurant in Hollywood has a fantastic bar program, making this an ideal stopping point during a Cahuenga bar crawl. Of course, the drinks are much more elevated than what’s typical of the area, especially with bartender Gaby Mlynarzyck designing the menu.
2 The Walker Inn
Just behind The Normandie Club, Proprietors, LLC and 213 Hospitality have created what might be the highest concept drinking spot in the city. With a tasting-menu like system (either two drinks or a full on omakase), enjoy innovative drinks that conjure up a unique theme. Reservations required.
3 B.S. Taqueria
Downtown is lucky to have Ray Garcia cooking up some of the best tacos in town at the moment. While you’re munching on those tacos, which use non-GMO heirloom corn masa for its tortillas, sip on a cocktails by barman Michael Lay, who previously developed the drink menu at Faith & Flower.
4 Alexander’s Steakhouse
Erik Lund, formerly of Republique and Rivera, has built a solid bar program at this Pasadena steakhouse, making it one of the better places to grab a cocktail in the 626.
5 Belcampo Meat Co.
This Northern California farm and butcher shop has a full service restaurant hiding behind it. The beautifully appointed interior, with light raining from its massive skylights, makes it one of the best places to grab an early drink on the Westside. With drinks designed by Josh Goldman, it’s one of the most compelling places for drinks on the Westside.
Tobin Shea has compiled a classic cocktail menu that gets their basis from decades old recipes. Everything’s been a little spruced up for the current century, which means that drinks won’t overwhelm the carefully cooked dishes coming out of Neal Fraser’s kitchen.
7 The Normandie Club
This fantastic bar from Proprietors, LLC and 213 Nightlife fuses the best of The Varnish’s speakeasy sensibilities with Honeycut’s approachability in a casual spot inside the Normandie Hotel. The drink list is tight and focused, but completely thought out using modern techniques. But the science doesn’t even really matter when it comes to the results in the glass, which are as good as you can expect from a top-flight cocktail bar.
Former La Descarga barman Kenny Arbuckle has a seasonal drink list inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asia. That means a gin, aperol, cynar, and Thai basil or a bourbon papaya smash mixing curacao, lemon, and mint.
Two New York City vets team up to take over the former One Eyed Gypsy in the Arts District, sporting a tight menu of familiar dishes like fried chicken. Darwin Manahan, who was previously behind the stick at Pasadena’s Punch, has a great program featuring the Padre, mixing Ford’s gin, kalamansi, and lemon.
10 Forman’s Tavern
This robust man-cave of a drinking den in Toluca Lake tends to lean toward quality spirits and brown-liquor cocktails. Bring your fur or flannel and hang out with the locals.
11 The Chestnut Club
Santa Monica really needed an adult place to grab a drink and have a great time without having to battle lists or wolf down some food. The Chestnut Club is the perfect answer, founded by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix, who bring a top-notch bar program (and rather ridiculously awesome spirit list) to a grown-up lounge that feels right any time of the week. The excellent tunes from a rotating list of DJs certainly doesn’t hurt the vibe.
El Segundo might have its best new place for cocktails in a very long time. With hearty pre-American rancho fare, the cocktails run the gamut of refreshing strawberry margaritas to beautifully stirred drinks like the Precursor, mixing gin, velvet falernum, and vermouth.
13 Everson Royce Bar
From the Silver Lake Wine team comes a top grade cocktail bar on a quiet stretch of the Arts District. Bartender Chris Ojeda (The Varnish, Soho House) makes classic drinks with a twist that go great with chef Matt Molina’s snack-like fare. Hang out inside or sprawl out on the back patio if you’re up for battling the cold air.
With a fantastic, mid-century inspired interior by Kelly Wearstler, the Avalon now has a beautiful new space to sip cocktails. With refurbished classics like the Vesper or Cosmopolitan by barman Ryan Wainwright, there are almost no better places to feel like you’re in an episode of Mad Men.
15 The Fiscal Agent
Julian Cox finally has a place to call his own. With a world-class team building some of the very best drinks Los Angeles has to offer, it’s worth the trek to the Valley. Make a reservation and go upstairs for this dark, intimate speakeasy after a dinner in Studio City. Though Cox has physically moved on to a gig in Chicago, his imprint is still heavy on the place.
16 Bar Mattachine
Billed as the first gay cocktail bar in Downtown, the pedigree behind the bar is as solid as you could get. With swanky digs and a friendly vibe, it’s a place for anyone in Downtown to have a great drink.
17 The Rose
Julian Cox and Nick Meyer have put together an ideal casual cocktail spot in Venice, preparing a tight selection of colorful market-driven drinks that work perfectly with Jason Neroni’s classic California fare. Just be prepared to wait it out because the crowds are thick right now.
Jeremy Fall has transformed the former Sadie event space into a weekend only breakfast bar, with things like benedict fries, crispy candied bacon, and a banh mi on the bill of fare. Oh, and to drink, try the boozy smoothies or bourbon cereal milk.
19 El Chavo
Brandyn Tepper, formerly of Hinoki & the Bird, has joined forces with a few other restaurant professionals to transform the former El Chavo into a ceviche-laden remake. The cocktails are a step above your typical paloma and margarita, with high-grade tequila and mezcal finding their place on the drink list. Try the Rita Morena with mezcal, salted strawberry, ancho chili, lemon, and cucumber.
Josiah Citrin’s new high end grill house in Venice has a stellar lineup of drinks to go along with the meat and vegetables. A chestnut filley blends bourbon with white wine and thyme while the midnight margarita throws in some charcoal to good effect.
Timothy Hollingsworth’s landmark restaurant in Downtown has a top-flight bar program to match. Sip on a rhubarb rickey with raspberry eau de vie or a kiwifruit swizzle mixing gin, yellow chartreuse, and dry vermouth. Whether you’re sitting at the bar and hanging out over drinks or pre-gaming dinner with some compelling cocktails, Otium is a solid bet.
22 Pok Pok LA
Andy Ricker’s Thai restaurant in Chinatown has gotten mixed reviews from plebians and Yelpers, but the critics have been all about the Portland transplant. And that bar program, laden with a tamarind whiskey sour or apple-vinegar gin rickey, is probably the best place to grab a drink in the area right now.