Speakeasies to Tiki Huts: L.A.’s Top Cocktail Bars
The craft cocktail scene in Los Angeles has come a long way. 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 fruits and housemade syrups at elegant lounges to kitschy Tiki bars, Entertainment Voice has crafted a list of the best cocktail bars in Los Angeles.
Giannini Bar at The NoMad
The NoMad Hotel opened in downtown Los Angeles recently and brought a bar program from the award-winning Leo Robitschek and his NoMad Bar team. The Giannini Bar has already garnered a following among LA’s cocktail enthusiasts with NoMad style of drinks tailored to Los Angeles’ weather and fresh produce. Look out for the rooftop opening in March.
Rudolph’s Bar & Tea
This lobby bar from the award-winning Broken Shaker team has a unique take on drinks and afternoon tea with a menu featuring tea-based cocktails inspired by various cultures around the world. The Salon Cocktails bring the tradition of tea ceremony from around the world with large format cocktails meant to be shared.
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.
Bibo Ergo Sum
This opulent hideaway opened rather quietly in an unsuspecting plaza on Robertson Blvd. The name translates to “I drink therefore I am” and it is certainly easy to follow with drinks created by Proprietors, LLC. Bibo Ergo Sum is also one of the best places to get a mocktail in LA, with one nonalcoholic drink available in each section of the menu.
Yes, the cocktails at Gracias Madre are vegan, but don’t let that deter you. Bartender Jason Eisner not only overcomes the vegan restrictions but embraces them to create some of the most creative cocktails in the city. Aguafaba is substituted in place of egg white to create the creamy texture of a fizz, while other cocktails incorporate ingredients like sugar snap peas. There are a number of low ABV and non-alcoholic drinks available, and some drinkers can opt to go “green” with cocktails made using CBD oil.
Harvard & Stone
Other Houston Hospitality bars may have dramatic entrances, but at Harvard & Stone it is all about the R&D Bar in the back. The R&D Bar is where the bartenders can really have fun creating new drinks and some great ones come out of the bar each night. You would also frequently find guest bartenders from all over the city and country that do one night stints at the R&D Bar. The bar’s reputation draws the best mixologists from around the country behind the bar.
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.
A.O.C. may not be at the forefront of most people’s minds when they look for a cocktail destination, but it would be a mistake as barman Christiaan Rollich consistently mixes some of the most well-crafted cocktails in the city using fresh, seasonal produce and his own infused spirits. Rollich is also in charge of the cocktail program at Suzanne Goin’s other restaurants such as Lucques.
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.
Everson Royce Bar
Everson Royce Bar in downtown L.A.’s Arts District may be owned by Randy Clement who owns the wine stores Silverlake Bar and Everson Royce, but the bar is much more than just wines. The cocktail menu lines up solid, well balanced cocktails from the refreshing to spirit forward. There is a big selection of barrel aged cocktails, as well, and it doesn’t hurt that there are food from Mozza alum Chef Matt Molina.
The Walker Inn
Hidden behind The Normandie Club is The Walker Inn, an intimate cocktail lounge featuring an inventive cocktail menu that changes seasonally. Since all guests must be seated, drinking at The Walker Inn leads to a more relaxed, quiet enjoyment. For the ultimate experience, reserve a seat at the bar where guests can enjoy cocktail “omakase” or tasting menu.
This old school tiki bar on Sunset Blvd has been serving up drinks for over 50 years. The strong drinks at this small tiki hut have been keeping Angelenos’ thirst quenched before there were any of the hip new craft cocktail bars. Now a non-smoking venue, Tiki Tiki remains an L.A. institution with classic tiki drinks and ones they’ve made into classics of their own, such as the Missionary’s Downfall.
To accompany Chef Scott Conant’s rustic Italian food at this restaurant, The Ponte’s cocktail menu is heavily focused on amaros and other Italian aperitifs including a flight of three Negroni variations. Led by bartender Ryan Wainwright, the menu also features his cocktails that won him the Bacardi Legacy competition and an Amaro Lucano cocktail competition.