Speakeasies to Tiki Huts: L.A.’s Top Cocktail Destinations
The craft cocktail scene in Los Angeles has come a long way since the days of vodka and Red Bull. You can now find a great cocktail bar in almost every neighborhood. It may have started with classic speakeasies, but the craft cocktail movement in L.A. has also grown beyond, utilizing the fresh produce available in California year-round. From hand-cut ice to fresh produce and housemade syrups, an elegant lounge to a kitschy Tiki bar, Entertainment Voice has crafted a list of the 20 best cocktail destinations in Los Angeles.
As one of the first of L.A.’s craft cocktail speakeasies, this intimate bar hidden behind Cole’s in downtown Los Angeles is still one of the city’s best. They stick with classic cocktails done right with special attention to ice, hand cut into various shapes to fit each cocktail. Their mastery of ice has led owners Eric Alperin and Cedd Moses to start their own specialty ice cube company, delivering to various Los Angeles establishments.
L.A. has many bars to sip great cocktails in, but a disco? Honeycut is a marriage between a great craft cocktail bar and a disco/dance floor – perhaps the only dance lounge with solid cocktails. There’s a quieter bar and lounge area with more complex cocktail offering, while the adjoining room is the disco, serving highballs and cocktails on tap.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
The newest of the Houston Brothers’ bars brings a fun and kitschy atmosphere with a secret entrance through what looks like a garage sale. Inside you will be greeted with funky 70’s décor and great drinks served out of an Airstream trailer. And because L.A. is usually warm, boozy snow cones complete the experience.
If you didn’t think Pasadena was in on the craft cocktail movement, think again. Set in an old craftsman house behind The Raymond Restaurant, 1886 Bar is not only the best bar in Pasadena, but also one of the best bars in the L.A. area. Their bartenders collaborate to create their seasonal menu, which might revolve around fun themes such as arcade games.
Big Bar is where cocktail lovers and bartenders come to hang out for a chill night either at the marble bar counter or on the patio, which showcases movie nights during the summer months. You will find patrons sipping on cocktails consisting of in-season fruits and ingredients. This is also where people come on big holidays, as Big Bar is known for their fun-themed parties on Valentine’s, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve.
Melrose Umbrella Co
This post-prohibition bar adorns their walls with umbrellas, signifying that liquor can now flow freely. Their cocktail menu is divided between classics and modern concoctions along with cocktails on draft. Setting out to be the go-to neighborhood bar, their happy hour menu involves customizable classic cocktails that translate to plenty of options to suit everyone’s tastes.
Tunner Bar is a game changer in the Studio City cocktail scene. The rock-themed bar above Tipple and Brine evokes the vibe of a New York subway tunnel while the menu reinvents infamous “bad” cocktails from the 80s. They make their own (superior) version of Southern Comfort, used in the Alabama Slammer.
The Chestnut Club
The new Santa Monica addition easily became one of the neighborhood’s best. Cocktail connoisseurs are drawn to this bar for their rotating menu of gin and tonics, accented with spices such as serrano chili or lavender, as well as the over 400 bottles of spirits that line the shelves.
1933’s newest cocktail bar is their best yet, with a stunning space evoking Hollywood’s Golden Era. Its menu blends classic cocktails with modern techniques. There are also draft and bottled cocktails along with house-made sodas and a solid food menu.
Champagne, red velvet banquettes, and French inspired cocktails transport you to the days of Moulin Rouge in this Parisian-style lounge. To complete the experience, you’ll find live music and burlesque shows on the weekend. Just be warned, dress code is strictly enforced, monsieur. There’s a reason they call it “cocktail attire”, right?
L.A.’s oldest Tiki bar has reinvented itself to keep up with the craft cocktail renaissance. With a newly renovated interior that is both tiki-kitschy and chic, Tonga Hut brings up its bar program a few notches. Instead of sweet and sour mix and grocery store juices, you can expect housemade syrups and fresh spices – even homemade butter batter for that hot buttered rum.
Cana Rum Bar
The rum-focused bar is only open to members, but membership fee of $20 gets you into the monthly Rum Society tastings for a minimal fee. The exclusivity means it’s easier to snag a stool or table and enjoy one of their great cocktails on the weekend. On Saturdays, a live DJ plays Latin tunes to go with the great selection of rums.
Devon Espinosa (previously of Ink) has devised a fun cocktail menu befitting of this spacious and eclectic restaurant. Find boozy popsicles prepared tableside with liquid nitrogen and canned cocktails along with more subdued concoctions. A personal favorite is the Fashioned Chai, adding a twist to Old Fashioned using chai syrup.
Upstairs Bar at The Ace Hotel
The Ace has set up shop in a gorgeous DTLA historic building. The rooftop bar, with its poolside seating and stunning views of downtown, can be quite a scene, but the cocktails are also not to be missed. Made with fresh fruits and spices, the drinks are well executed. Punch bowls are available for table service, making this a great spot for a group.
This Cuban-themed speakeasy with a secret entrance took Los Angeles by storm when it opened. Even now, it is still one of L.A.’s top cocktail destinations where you can catch live bands and burlesque dancers. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a fire dance. To get away from the excitement, head to the back room for a cigar break.
The Houston Brothers are masters of speakeasies and secret entrances, and No Vacancy, set in a 100-year old Victorian house in Hollywood, is no exception. Their cocktail menu is designed by twelve of L.A.’s best bartenders, dubbed “The Dirty Dozen.” Live music performance, burlesque shows, and even tightrope walkers can be found in their courtyard.
Enter a Southern saloon in the heart of Hollywood, with a cocktail menu recently revamped by bartender Karen Grill of Bestia. Naturally, the cocktail menu focuses on drinks representative of New Orleans like Vieux Carré and Hurricanes, but they’ve taken the extra step of aging them in barrels, bottles, or jars. You’ll see quite a few aging barrels sitting on top of the shelves.
Mixologist Julian Cox has been responsible for many great cocktail programs in Los Angeles ever since the days of Rivera in downtown L.A., but alongside partner and sommelier Josh Goldman he finally has a place to call his own with the opening of Brilliantshine in Santa Monica. They both create cocktail programs for restaurants around town, but this is their R&D center, which means you’ll be finding their latest and greatest plays.
The Library Bar
Even though Matt Biancaniello has left The Library Bar, they still keep to his standard of market-fresh, produce-centric cocktails. There’s no menu in this small bar hidden inside the Roosevelt Hotel, but fresh herbs and fruits are displayed on the bar. Tell the bartender what produce and flavors you enjoy, and they’ll whip up something just for you.
Black Market Liquor Bar
Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix are two of the most well known mixologists in Los Angeles, and they’ve taken their game to Studio City with Black Market Liquor Bar. The Valley crowd has packed this bar since its opening. The cocktail menu changes weekly but you can be sure they will always be noteworthy.