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7 Best Cocktail Bars in Los Angeles
From tried-and-true classics to creative concoctions, these L.A. cocktail bars cater to all tastes.
Enjoy a drink – or two, no judgement – at these popular spots.(Getty Images)
Los Angeles is known to many as the world's entertainment capital, so it's no surprise that the city has a varied and eclectic slew of nightlife options. The revitalized cocktail scene has bartenders everywhere dusting off decades-old drinks and creating exquisite combinations of their very own for visitors and residents alike. U.S. News asked some local experts to pick their favorite drinks and watering holes. Here's what they said.
The Varnish.(Courtesy of Carlos Lopez)
The small, 1920s-themed speak-easy has played a huge role in the classic cocktail scene in Los Angeles since opening in 2009. In fact, The Varnish's focus on reinvigorating popular drinks from the Prohibition era practically started the trend. Limited weekly cocktail menus feature a handful of classics and seasonal specials, like Spanish Town, with dark rum, curacao and nutmeg.
"Varnish is always amazing," says Casey Duggan, former head concierge at the Viceroy Santa Monica and current head concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta. "They have arguably the best Old Fashioned I've had in my life."
[Read: The Best Los Angeles Tours.]
The location inside a storeroom behind one of Los Angeles' oldest surviving saloons, dating from 1908, gives it the true old-timey vibe as does the tinny piano music playing on jazz nights, Sunday through Tuesday. Walk through the red-walled dining room at Cole's and knock on an unmarked black door. The Varnish is open every day from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
L.P. Rooftop Bar
"My favorite place right now is L.P. Rooftop. The drinks are great," says Sarah Dandashy, concierge at The London West Hollywood and host of AskAConcierge.tv. The rooftop itself, which is above the E.P. Asian Eating House restaurant, offers street food bites from the downstairs menu and views of the Hollywood Hills.
L.P.'s fruity cocktails are perfect for pairing with city views. Life Cultivated, a clever take on the Old Fashioned, is a carefully stirred medley of Japanese whiskey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom bitters and lime zest.
Located in West Hollywood, L.P. Rooftop is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Friday, and from noon to 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Fig in Los Angeles.(Courtesy of Christian Horan)
The charming Santa Monica bar and restaurant inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows is a good choice for nature lovers. The low-hanging baskets of greenery, airy skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto the pool area combine for a greenhouse effect.
Fig's mixologists have gone for elegant simplicity, with most drinks combining a single liquor with fruit, herbs, spices or honey for a refreshing taste. Take the Raspberry Eastside, with gin, cucumber, raspberry and mint. Bourbon sippers will love the Fatty Buffalo, made of milk-washed bourbon, Earl Grey tea and honey.
Fig is open daily for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., and also has breakfast and lunch hours. It offers daily happy hour specials from 5 to 6 p.m.
The Roger Room
The Roger Room.(Courtesy of The Roger Room)
The narrow, funky The Roger Room is a bit hidden, but that makes it all the more enticing. "It's for people in the know," Dandashy says.
Jeanne Mills, head concierge at the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, agrees. "It's one of my personal favorites: very small, with an art deco design," she says.
The early 20th-century feel is the perfect complement to cocktails with tongue-in-cheek names. Try the Old Sport, a gin-based drink with black tea-infused lychee liqueur, cucumber juice and lime juice, or the tequila-based Tijuana Brass, with lime juice, agave and cucumber foam.
[Read: The Best Hollywood Tours.]
Find The Roger Room hidden in West Hollywood between Largo nightclub and a smoke shop, marked only by red velvet curtains. It's open daily until 2 a.m., though when it starts serving varies by day.
Copa d'Oro.(Courtesy of Jason Sorge)
In Santa Monica, the weekly farmers market inspires bartenders at Copa d'Oro to create drinks that match liquor with local, organic and seasonal ingredients. The buzzing lounge is a favorite hangout of Angelenos who appreciate the creative menu. At the bar – dressed with herbs, fruit-infused tinctures of bitters, and fruits and veggies – order the Campanula Sour, a concoction of grapefruit vodka, red bell pepper, mint, elderflower liqueur and lemon.
Located one block from the Santa Monica Promenade, Copa d'Oro is open every evening, though hours vary. Happy hour deals are offered nightly until 8 p.m.
This low-key watering hole, a recent addition to the hip Highland Park neighborhood, takes cocktails seriously. Have a seat in one of the mid-century, mismatched chairs throughout the long, narrow space, or saddle up to the bar and chat with head mixologist Mauricio Canales about specialty liquors and aperitifs.
Weekly drink specials are often mixed with tea blends from the local Chado Tea Room. On the main menu, mixologists have revived the long-forgotten Gin Fizz with their signature G&T Fizz, a mix of gin, fluffy egg whites, black lime tonic syrup and the aperitif Byrrh Grand Quinquina.
Find ETA, with large glass windows out front, next to Owl Rexall Drug store. It's open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday.
The Walker Inn
A tiny lounge behind another great Koreatown cocktail bar, the Normandie Club, The Walker Inn is more of a private room than a speak-easy. "They've got a highly curated menu of interesting cocktails," Mills says. While Normandie itself has a highly respected cocktail program, The Walker Inn offers something more unique: a tasting menu, based on a theme, which changes every few months.
[Read: The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles.]
The menu changes so frequently that it's impossible to say what to order from week to week. A great option is the "flight," or the full tasting menu, which gives you a few sips of each thematic cocktail.
Enter through a "secret" door at the back of the Normandie Club. Push the button to the left of the door to enter. Reservations are always a good idea for the space, which has a 27-guest capacity. The Walker Inn is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
To experience more of what Los Angeles has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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