Drinking Los Angeles

The secret hideouts of Prohibition-era speakeasies are now sumptuous shrines. Creating classic drinks of yore while taking their own approach, skilled bartenders have honed their trade and proliferated throughout the City of Angels.

Text: Matthew Kang    map: manuel córdova @thechumbeques
       

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PHOTO: wonho frank lee

The Fiscal Agent

Hidden above a barbecue joint called Barrel & Ashes – coincidentally one of the best spots in the city for smoked meats – The Fiscal Agent is an ode to great cocktail-making. Book a reservation before heading up and enjoy some of the finest drinks in Los Angeles, despite the fact that it’s located in the San Fernando Valley. Featuring one of the city’s most unique glassware selections, you’ll immediately be greeted by a tiny flute of sparkling wine to start off the night’s revelry. Then dive into the mixologist’s creations, which employ seasonal produce and inventive infusions.

11801 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
www.thefiscalagent.com

 


 

Seven Grand & Bar Jackalope

A longtime whiskey specialist in downtown Los Angeles, Seven Grand feels more like a hunting lodge than a swank urban cocktail lounge. But it seems to be both, with live music most nights, a centerpiece pool table, and even an outdoor balcony for tobacco smokers. The real show is behind the bar, which features one of the most extensive brown liquor collections in the city. Start with something reliable like an Old Fashioned or opt for a refreshing mint julep. If you’re ready to graduate to a more premium experience, nab a reservation at Bar Jackalope, an idealized Japanese-style bar hidden behind the Seven Grand that’s only open on weeknights.

515 West 7th Street, 2º piso
www.sevengrandbars.com

 


 

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phOTO: Luke Gibson

Harvard & Ston

With a vintage industrial layout, Harvard & Stone is the expansive spot for those who want to bring a crew and dance the night away. The bar program doesn’t skip a beat, and a top-drawer cocktail menu boasts new-school approaches to familiar classics. Hang out in the front room or head to the back bar, R&D, which employs a regular rotation of the city’s best bartenders who want to mix their latest ideas by the glass. Just be sure to dress the part and book a reservation on the Website before walking up to the door.

5221 Hollywood Blvd.
www.harvardandstone.com

 


 

phOTOs: wonho frank lee

Melrose Umbrella Co.

In the heart of a buzzing shopping district, Melrose Umbrella Co. has a weathered-in look, as if it had been there for generations. Everything from the wall décor to the furniture is carefully adorned with specially procured antiques. Behind the bar, the drinks are more forward thinking, using fresh herbs and fruits and incorporating hard-to-find spirits and unusual ingredients. The results are often surprising and always delicious, which is a good thing when meeting with friends or a special date. Because nothing is more fun than talking about provocative beverages in a fantastic space.

7465 Melrose Avenue
www.melroseumbrellaco.com

 


 

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phOTO: wonho frank lee

The Normandie Club / The Walker Inn

This duo of cocktail bars inside the Hotel Normandie in the heart of Koreatown represents the new class of great drinking establishments in Los Angeles. Up front, minimally designed The Normandie Club mixes tightly executed variations of tried-and-true classics, like a daiquiri that shakes up apple brandy with Jamaican rum or an elevated martini that combines vodka, fino sherry, raw white honey, and a touch of sel gris. Deeper inside lies The Walker Inn, a reservations-only mecca that borrows heavily from the Japanese-style whiskey bar. With innovative, theme-oriented cocktail menus in omakase style (bartender’s choice), The Walker Inn is pushing the boundaries of what cocktails can be.

3612 West 6th Street
www.thenormandieclub.com

 


 

The Varnish

Credited as the herald of top-level cocktails in Los Angeles, this speakeasy hidden behind Cole’s has all the markings of a world-class bar. The miniscule menu touts what the mixologists feel like featuring on any given night. That might mean a Prohibition-era classic fusing aromatic flavors or a frothy shaken drink like a Ramos Gin Fizz, which uses a fresh egg white for a creamy texture. The attention is in the details – fresh juices, crisp garnishes, metal straws, and clean glassware – while the clear-as-glass ice, cut daily, ensures a cocktail experience worth writing home about.

118 East 6th Street
www.213nightlife.com/thevarnish

 


 

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phOTO: wonho frank lee

The Roger Room

West Hollywood is often a trap for pretentious, clubby bars that draw in “scenesters.” While this circus-themed spot walks the line between celebrity-fueled lounge and legitimate cocktail bar, the drink program puts it at the top of L.A.’s watering holes. With a creative, ingredient-driven menu that offers a wide range of libations, The Roger Room is a shoebox space that packs in the crowds most nights of the week.

370 N. La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood
www.therogerroom.com

 


 

The Chestnut Club

Just because you’re stuck on the Westside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fantastic drink. The Chestnut Club in Santa Monica is off the main drag and away from tourist spots but presents a grown-up experience for imbibers. With plush Chesterfield booths, dim lighting, and an Old World feel, this lounge mixes idealized cocktails using only the best available spirits. Those looking for a special drink should delve into the reserve bottle list, which highlights rare, vintage and hard-to-find liquors that took the bar team years to compile.

1348 14th Street, Santa Monica
www.thechestnutclubsm.com

 

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