Over the past several years we have seen a wave of amazing cocktail bars hit LA scene. With fresh, local produce, the extension of our Metro system and that gorgeous So Cal weather, west coast drinking culture is steadily on the rise and poised to become one of the most exciting in the US. Here are the best of the best cocktail bars in LA right now.
The Chestnut Club
Mood lighting, dark woods, clubby leather sofas, and exposed brick make this refined westside cocktail club feel a world away from the flip-flopped, ocean-bound crowds that fill the city. Helmed by the team that brought you Black Market Liquor Bar and Scopa Italian Roots, The Chestnut Club continues to craft those bespoke cocktails, which are thoughtful yet simple. Fans of brown spirits will feel right at home sipping on the Poor Man’s Pappy Old Fashioned or the rye and mezcal-fueled El Camino, but if you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone, the bar team is more than happy to help you navigate their vast collection of mostly small-batch spirits and liqueurs.
The Walker Inn
You’ve probably enjoyed a drink or two with friends at The Normandie Club, but we suggest skipping the crowd. Instead, head straight to the back of the bar, hit the buzzer and be prepared to be blown away. Welcome to The Walker Inn, were you’ll find an elaborate lineup of craft cocktails. Themed menus change over roughly every six weeks and while you can order cocktails a la carte, it’s best to opt for their omakase-style pairings. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to go during busy hours!
All aboard this tribute to the elegant days of luxury locomotives. Westbound is the newest addition to the Arts District’s One Santa Fe building and features an international line-up of spirits and market-fresh cocktails. For sips with travel-inspired twists try The Conductor (with bourbon, black sesame, and tamarind) or La Remedia (with gin, watermelon, grapefruit, and pink peppercorns). Guests can choose to sit at the copper-clad bar or opt for the more private, plush leather booths, inspired by vintage train cars.
For a taste of New Orleans in Hollywood, head over to Sassafras where cocktails are served up with plenty of Southern charm. The flavors of the French Quarter can be found in cocktails such as the Vieux Carré or Sazerac, to playful originals like Sex on the Bayou. You’ll soon discover that many of the key ingredients from amaro to ginger beer have been house-made by the talented bar staff. If you’re looking for a quiet drink on a wicker chair on the front porch we suggest coming early, but stay late for rambunctious live music and entertainment.
The Varnish is one of the early standouts from the speakeasy-style cocktail bar resurgence and they still never fail to impress. Make your way through Cole’s (stopping for a famous French Dip), to unmarked door in the back and find yourself transported to an intimate hideaway filled with cozy wooden booths, jazz tunes and carefully crafted classic cocktails. Go for the gold standard and order a Gibson or the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, or choose to turn yourself over to the bartender’s choice for an innovative twist on a prohibition-era classic.
Harvard & Stone
This East Hollywood hotspot is often packed on weekend nights, but show up early or on an off night and score quality and creative pours like the Tamarind Tiki with rum, Campari, lemongrass, and tamarind shrub, or the Kiwi Paloma with mezcal, kiwi, grapefruit, pineapple, and jalapeño. Those in the know show up for happy hour from 8:00pm to 9:30pm nightly and a reverse one Mon-Thurs 12:30am to 1:30am to enjoy $5 Old Fashioneds. Don’t miss the bands and burlesque performers — stick around and order another round.
Melrose Umbrella Co.
There’s a good chance you’ll find an off-duty bartender or two hanging out under the umbrella. This post-Prohibition cocktail haven features a menu of reworked classics and long-forgotten recipes. The spacious bar offers a laid-back neighborhood vibe perfect for exploring their extensive and adventurous drink menu where there’s a little something for everyone.
The Spare Room
Award-winning beverage director Yael Vengroff has totally elevated the beverage game at this sleek cocktail lounge/ bowling alley hidden inside the Roosevelt Hotel. You’ll quickly forget how pricey the bowling is after several sips of thoughtfully blended booze. From a Salt & Vinegar Martini served with dill potato chips to the Lucky Smoke with Japanese whiskey, rum, banana liqueur, and vanilla, the menu is full of delicious surprises. We suggest bringing the whole gang for bowling and bingo night and indulging in their elegantly boozy punch bowls.
Radical ’80s decor, a breakdancing Michael Jackson-impersonator, karaoke rooms tricked out with records and VHS tapes… this is what you’ll discover once you’ve made your way through the secret entrance in the Line Hotel to Breakroom 86. Once you realize you haven’t actually time traveled back into an 80’s music video, you’re going to want to explore the retro drink menu. Mood Ring-inspired cocktails even have corresponding scratch-and-sniff stickers on the menu! Yep, they’re as fun to look at as they are to drink. Cap off your evening by hitting the boozy ice cream truck out back.
Venture to Chinatown for stylish tiki-inspired cocktails at General Lee’s. The Asian-inflected cocktail den’s menu rotates frequently, but you’ll always find drinks featuring unique house-made additions like wasabi-infused vermouth or black sesame syrup to take your drinking game to the next level. The friendly bar team is also happy to go off menu and shake up whatever you’re thirsty for. If you’re looking for a peaceful sip, get there early because the place packs up as the night gets darker and DJs come out to play.