Los Angeles is a city that’s close to my heart, and over the last decade or so it’s played a pretty pivotal role in the explosion of American craft drinking culture. Thanks to the fact that you can now safely go bar-hopping with a ridesharing service—avoiding the long-time pain point of designating a driver in a city with limited public transit—it’s easier than ever to explore the scene.
As a sprawling metropolis of interconnected suburbs, picking our geographical boundaries for which bars to include in this list was a difficult one (especially compared to our Best Bars in San Francisco piece). At the end of the day, we ended up starting with Downtown LA and working outwards in a roughly 10-15 mile radius.
One of the hardest things to do when compiling a best-of list is forcing ourselves to cut it off somewhere, and in a city with as many great options as Los Angeles, there were bound to be some great bars left out. Our goal, as always, isn’t to be comprehensive—instead, this is simply a list of our favorite watering holes, compiled from the experiences of our staff, advisors, and discerning friends in Los Angeles, and you should take it as a jumping-off point rather than an exhaustive guide. Our one standard rule is that all bars had to be public-access venues, which meant no private clubs or lounges were included.
So, without further ado, here are Bevvy’s picks for the best bars in Los Angeles.
The Best Bars in Los Angeles
Harvard & Stone
5221 Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood) // harvardandstone.com
This ’30s-era, factory-themed cocktail den is known for its inventive drinks, live music, and the occasional burlesque show. Boasting suspender-clad, mustachioed bartenders serving artisanal cocktails with an emphasis on American spirit brands, Harvard & Stone was a 2015 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards top-4 finalist for Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar.
118 E 6th St (Downtown) // 213dthospitality.com/project/the-varnish
Recognized as the Best American Cocktail Bar at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, this award-winning cocktail bar is the brainchild of Eric Alperin (Milk & Honey, Little Branch, Half Step) and is often credited with spearheading the craft cocktail movement in Los Angeles. This speakeasy-style bar is where some of the city’s best bartenders serve impeccably-crafted cocktails for thirsty patrons, in a “refurbished storage room” at the back of a famous restaurant in Downtown LA.
515 W. 7th St, 2nd Floor (Downtown) // 213dthospitality.com/project/bar-jackalope
Bar Jackalope is a distinguished whiskey bar located in the back room of Downtown LA’s Seven Grand restaurant, featuring a rich selection of Japanese whiskies, Scotch whiskies, American bourbons, ryes and more. Guests can store unfinished bottles they’ve purchased inside of “whiskey lockers” to save for their next visit, making for an upscale service that makes repeat patrons feel like VIPs.
The Corner Door
12477 W Washington Blvd (Culver City) // www.thecornerdoor.com
This neighborhood restaurant and bar serves up classic and contemporary cocktails with new American cuisine. The small, intimate setting has a bit of a hipster reputation and can be a little loud, but the service is warm and friendly and the food and drinks are delicious.
The Spare Room
7000 Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood) // spareroomhollywood.com
This classy cocktail lounge is located upstairs in The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and features both a bowling alley and a gaming parlor. Patrons enjoy innovative and meticulously-made cocktails in an elegant setting complete with polished wood, velvet chairs, and arched windows overlooking Hollywood Boulevard.
Lost Property Bar
1704 Vine St (Hollywood) // www.lostpropertybar.com
Lost Property Bar is located at the historic intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and serves modern twists on classic cocktails with a focus on whiskey. Patrons can “claim lost property,” which affixes their name to purchased bottles of whiskey that are then reserved only for them to enjoy from visit to visit. A similar claim is available to purchase the various products adorning the walls.
1348 14th St (Santa Monica) // thechestnutclubsm.com
The Chestnut Club is a modern cocktail bar from the teams behind Black Market and Scopa, and features a beverage program inspired by classic recipes, as well as a vast selection of unique spirits. Upscale attire is suggested (no baseball caps, shorts, or flip-flops, unfortunately for the beach-goers among you).
ERB (Everson Royce Bar)
1936 E 7th St (Downtown, Arts District) // www.erbla.com
Everson Royce Bar (better known as ERB) is a distinguished neighborhood watering hole in the Downtown Arts District. The bar is helmed by Chris Ojeda (Varnish, Soho House) and features bespoke cocktails, quality spirits, wine, and beer, while the kitchen serves culinary creations by James Beard Award-winning chef Matt Molina.
107 E 6th St (Downtown) // 213dthospitality.com/project/las-perlas
As the “nation’s first mezcal bar,” Las Perlas is a Oaxacan-style cantina that specializes in hand-crafted tequila and mezcal cocktails. With an extensive selection of over 120 premium agave spirits, this is one of the top places in the country to experience Mexico’s native spirit. Oh, and their Margaritas are killer (which comes as no surprise).
The Normandie Club / Walker Inn
3612 W 6th St (Koreatown) // www.thenormandieclub.com
Brought to you by Proprietors, LLC and 213 Nightlife, two heavyweights in the Los Angeles bar and hospitality scene, The Normandie Club is a cozy cocktail lounge in this busy Koreatown neighborhood serving inventive cocktails, a great selection of spirits, and an array of craft beers, ciders, and wine.
12808 Victory Blvd (North Hollywood) // www.tongahut.com
As the oldest operating tiki bar in Los Angeles, the legendary Tonga Hut has been serving up rum-based, umbrella-topped libations for nearly 60 years. This mid-century modern tiki haven has all the standard accoutrements—from tropical decor to totem-like statues and bamboo poles—and is a favorite among locals.
4427 Sunset Blvd (Los Feliz/East Hollywood) // www.tiki-ti.com
Tiki-Ti, a “temple to all things tiki” and the second oldest tiki bar operating in Los Angeles, serves exotic fares to tropical drink lovers in a tiny, intimate space. This Polynesian-themed watering hole is only open for part of the week (Wednesday through Saturday), though, and make sure you remember to bring cash, as they don’t accept credit cards.
Scopa Italian Roots
2905 Washington Blvd (Venice/Marina del Rey) // scopaitalianroots.com
Scopa is a popular Italian restaurant from chef Antonia Lofaso, with an excellent bar program helmed by Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni. Guests can enjoy well-made cocktails and a deep spirits selection before, during, and after dinner, and those eschewing dinner for drinks only can order small plate items as they sip at the long, comfortable bar.
Melrose Umbrella Company
7465 Melrose Ave (Mid-City, Melrose/Fairfax) // www.melroseumbrellaco.com
A small, intimate lounge for sophisticated craft cocktails in the Mid-City Melrose/Fairfax area. Melrose Umbrella Company features rotating drink menus (referred to as volumes) with a mix of classic and contemporary cocktails that are sure to satisfy even the most intrepid imbibers.
1927 Hillhurst Ave (Los Feliz) // www.alcovecafe.com/bigbar
Located within Los Feliz’s trendy Alcove Café & Bakery, this neighborhood bar has been serving hand-crafted cocktails to thirsty patrons for over half a decade. Known for their friendly staff and drinks made to exacting measurements, Big Bar also boasts a patio and garden area that’s perfect for both happy hour and weekend brunches.
217 Broadway (Santa Monica) // www.copadoro.com
This distinguished cocktail lounge serves excellent drinks with small bites in a dark, cozy atmosphere. Headed by barman Vincenzo Marianella, Copa d’Oro has created one of the more successful cocktail programs in Santa Monica, and in the process has become quite the popular happy hour spot.
The Fiscal Agent
11801 Ventura Blvd (Studio City) // www.thefiscalagent.com
Opened by influential LA bartender Julian Cox (who has since moved to Chicago), The Fiscal Agent brings artisanal cocktails to trendy Ventura Blvd. An added plus of being located above Barrel & Ashes is the food menu, featuring creative dishes from chef Michael Kahakina that complement the drinks nicely.
The Daily Pint
2310 Pico Blvd (Santa Monica) // thedailypint.net
This beloved neighborhood dive bar has been serving thirsty patrons for over 25 years from the same Westside address. One of yours truly’s regular haunts back in the day, The Daily Pint continues to offer an extensive selection of craft beers on tap, cask, and bottled, as well as “the largest, rarest selection of single malts west of the Mississippi.”
6245 Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood)
The Frolic Room has a storied history, from its origins as a Prohibition-era speakeasy to private parties hosted by Howard Hughes and its reputation as a haunt of famed author Charles Bukowski, to perhaps its most famous connection to the unsolved Black Dahlia murder. Nevertheless, it’s a local favorite for reasonably-priced drinks, friendly bartenders, and a diverse mix of music, all served with a dose of kitschy charm.
The Drawing Room
1800 Hillhurst (Los Feliz)
This cash-only dive bar is known for having unpretentious vibes and the best damn jukebox in Los Angeles. Reasonably-priced beer along with generous pours of whiskey fit perfectly with the dark leather booths and bar seats, and while there’s no food, patrons are allowed to bring their own. Those who can’t wait for happy hour can start early, as The Drawing Room opens at 6 a.m. (no, that’s not a typo).
Ye Rustic Inn
Hollywood Blvd (Los Feliz) // http://yerusticinn.com/
Friendly service, legendary buffalo wings and cheap drinks have been a successful formula for Ye Rustic Inn, helping this popular neighborhood dive attract new patrons while keeping its regulars loyal and coming back.
So, there you have it—the best bars in Los Angeles according to Bevvy. Since we’re sure we missed some great spots and made plenty of you mad for omitting your favorite, feel free to heckle us in the comments below.
Feature Photo: Todd Jones via Flickr