Life

The Absolutely Essential Bars To Drink At In Los Angeles


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Making a “Best Bars” list for any city is a monumental task. So much of what makes a great bar great comes down to personal taste. The decor, the staff, the… vibe. It’s a strange sort of alchemy, dependent on wide-ranging elements. Besides, anything with “best” or “greatest” in the title is sure to invite angry comments and some Twitter burns. Who needs that?

Now consider how tough it is to make an authoritative Best Bars in Los Angeles list — picking among all the watering holes in the second most populated city in the nation — and you can see the challenges begin to mount. Which is why we’ve trimmed our list to the absolute f*cking essentials. These are the dives that you can drown sorrows in. The nightclubs where you can go “full hedonist” before scoring some of the city’s tastiest late night tacos. The post-mod gin joints where you can play it cool while a man with an ornate mustache mixes you a drink topped with “espuma” (don’t worry, it’s just foam).

Whether you’re on your first visit to Los Angeles, a new transplant, or a longtime local, this list is loaded with unarguably fantastic bars. Are they “the best?” Maybe. But more than that: They’re welcoming watering holes that connect people in this vast, often lonely city of angels, sinners, saints, and dreamers. For that reason alone, this is the best “Best Los Angeles Bars” list. Ever.

Dane Rivera, Life Writer

PART I: AUTHOR’S PICKS

Las Perlas107 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA

This Oaxacan-style cantina serves up the city’s finest Mezcal cocktails. Period. With garnishes ranging from Edible Hibiscus Flowers to chili-salted rims, the menu at Las Perlas never fails to dazzle the senses with their delicious Tequila and Mezcal concoctions.

Catch the Weekend Brunch on Saturday or Sunday from 1-4 p.m. for a Jarritos Grapefruit Paloma and chow-down on some tacos, carnitas, chorizo, or mulitas. And absolutely grab the Spiced Daisy! The deep greens and red-chili-rim of this drink perfectly reflect its bold flavors as the sweet bite of the tequila paves the way on your palate for the spice of the pressed jalapeño; which reaches into your sinuses, only to set off pleasure centers in the brain.

Pineapple and poblano peppers with a touch of cumin make the mezcal-based Poblano Escobar another favorite. As flavorful as its appearance would suggest. Get both!

Seven Grand 515 W 7th St #200, Los Angeles, CA

Dark-wood decor, pool tables, stuffed animal heads, live jazz, and strong whiskey — Seven Grand is a handle-bar mustache’s wet-dream. They specialize in one of the city’s best old-fashioned’s. Choose between nine of the finest whiskeys — expertly mixed with sugar, bitters, and citrus zest to enhance the full flavor profile and, you know, get you drunk. Warning: The drinks are pricey so you’ll be glad they’re strong!

Seven Grand has live jazz every day but Friday, switching up styles on a nightly basis — with everything from Dixieland jazz to improvisational forms. This is the type of bar where standing real-estate is everything, as most nights it’s very crowded and loud. Getting to the bartenders is quite the experience when its soundtracked to blaring jazz and the cacophony of whiskey-tinged conversations. It’s dim, a little classy, and always exciting. The perfect LA whiskey bar.

Block Party 5052 York Blvd. Los Angeles, CA

Block Party is the best bar in the city to drink at during the “Golden Hour.” There’s nothing like a Los Angeles sunset — welcoming the warm Highland Park night to the sound of Joy Division, Gorillaz, and shuffleboard matches out on the back patio. It’s pure bliss, especially with a Michelada or one of the joint’s special “Boozy Snowcones” in hand.

Great music, communal vibe, and a ‘Bring Your Own Grub’ eating policy give Block Party a neighborly spirit — you’re guaranteed to feel welcome and well taken care of. Best of all, Block Party is on the very lively York Blvd, a hot spot of street food and small bars. We recommend the Ibiza Sangria — a carbonated lemon-lime cordial with a Garnacha float!

Library Bar630 W 6th St #116a, Los Angeles, CA

Library Bar is small, dark, and intimate. This cozy drinkers den is complete with shelves of books for your browsing pleasure, and features drinks as delicious as they are strong.

Seriously, the bartenders mix up their drinks very generously at this spot. One Negroni in and you’re sure to be smiling like an idiot, skimming the shelves for a book already in your hand. The vibe is energetic and sophisticated, and — this may sound weird but — they have big, beautiful ice cubs. Who doesn’t love a good piece of ice?!

The Tequila Mockingbird (Library Bar’s menu is loaded with cute names like this) is a delectable mix of tequila, blackberry pink-peppercorn shrub, lime, and serrano. It’s the perfect accompaniment to their small, gastropub-inspired bites.

Our only major gripe with this place is the music. It’s an odd mix of hip-hop classics and top 40 pop from the early 2000s. It just doesn’t mesh with the visual aesthetic even a tiny bit, but that’s no reason to skip out on this classic cocktail bar.

EightyTwo707 E 4th PL, Los Angeles, CA

EightyTwo looks like the backyard we always imagined rich people having… back when we were eight and thought a nice arcade was the pinnacle of wealth. This bar is housed in two large buildings — full of pinball machines and classic arcade games. The courtyard between the two buildings gives EightyTwo a raucous, house-party feel.

This is a fantastic bar to go to with friends or to take a date who grew up playing video games. Street Fighter 2 is projected over the bar and classic cabinets like The Simpsons, NBA Jam, Rampage and Frogger share space with some game-inspired cocktails (try the Princess Peach or Zangief) — all of which taste far better than their novelty names suggest.

Don’t come here for an intimate match of Vs. Dunk Hunt — EightyTwo is always packed, and for good reason: It’s almost impossible to not have a good time here. Best of all, you can always settle the bar tab amongst friends with a drunken match of Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

Broken Shaker416 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA

Rooftop bars aren’t everyone’s scene, but you can’t go wrong with Broken Shaker. Located on the pool deck of the Freehand Hotel, it’s the only rooftop bar in LA that won’t make you feel like you’re on the set of Entourage. The whole 60s-vibe is laid back and chill — like the sort of place Don Draper would find himself in after smoking a joint. Perfect for an afternoon tropical-cocktail or a quick-bite from their California-inspired appetizer menu.

This neighborhood is currently booming and the Freehand is a new epicenter of the scene. It’s part hostel/ part hotel and takes bookings on Hostelworld — so the clientele is young, often international, and very attractive. If you’ve ever gone out in LA on a Sunday and wondered “where are the cool kids today?” the Broken Shaker is a fair bet (Rudolph’s Bar + Tea in the lobby is also a smash).

If the weather is nice, expect a big crowd to take advantage of the Freehand’s pool. Or find the city’s “next-gen elite” chatting amongst the city lights on a warm summer night. This is the perfect place for a group hang or a date who is wowed by the skyscrapers of DTLA.

Birds & Bees207 South Broadway, B, Basement, Los Angeles, CA

Birds & Bees takes a little bit of a scavenger hunt to find, but there’s something incredibly exciting about the walk to the bright yellow front door. After following a wooden fence near the back of an everyday, ordinary LA parking lot, you’re led down a stairway into a hidden trench — discretely out of street view — with a long hallway leading to the aforementioned yellow door, sounds emanating from behind.

The crowd inside is electric, as jazz and old rock n roll scream out of the speakers and black and white Hollywood classics are projected onto a wall.

Birds & Bees is big, but that doesn’t stop it from filling up with people. It’s always so crowded that it’s almost strange it remains hidden and discrete. Try the El Diablo for mouth-watering citrus and ginger with a nice mezcal smoked finish, complete with mid-century modern stainless steel straw. This place is perfect for anyone wanting the speakeasy feel with none of the elaborate code-cracking.

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Ella Fitzgerald 👌🏽 #birdsandbeesla

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4100 Bar 1087 Manzanita St, Los Angeles, CA

4100 isn’t quite a dive bar (honestly we could make a whole list of great dives in LA) but it’s definitely not fancy. Despite its rough exterior, 4100 is actually a great neighborhood bar with a chill staff and friendly locals. They have their own parking lot but parking is generally not an issue here, as so many pass by this rough gem without giving it a second look.

Its dark and intimate and the interior decoration is a mish-mash of anything-goes nonsense, but the bartenders are attentive and it’s always easy to find the perfect spot to lounge with a few cheap but effective drinks. Perfect for a quiet get together with friends or a chilled-out business meeting.

Angel City Brewery216 Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA

Angel City Brewery has everything you could want out of a beer bar. 17 beers on tap, fairly priced, an incredibly relaxed atmosphere, and plenty of space. We mean it — this place is huge. You’ll never struggle to find a seat, despite it always drawing in a big crowd.

With art on the walls, a merch shop, and board games scattered throughout the bar, Angel City Brewery just begs you to get lost in its giant beer hall. Be sure to try the “Angel’s Flight,” a beer flight named after the shortest railway in the west (which is, surprise, in downtown Los Angeles).

Food trucks are often hosted in the inner lot, once you enter. On weekends there can be a short wait, but the line moves fast and the smell of hot dogs cooking by the local food vendors give you the perfect opportunity for a pre or post-bar snack. Angel City Brewery’s proximity to other great bars make it the perfect stop on your bar-crawl itinerary, but chances are at the end of the night you’ll find you’ve invested most of your time at the brewery.

The Walker Inn 3612 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

We’ll be honest, its easy to not be a fan of the speakeasy model. People don’t want to complete a task, solve a puzzle, or learn some secret word just to get a drink. Most times, we just want to f*cking order. Speakeasies can make you feel like a lab rat, not like you discovered a genuine secret. Having said that…

You definitely need to come to the Walker Inn, yes you have to flip a lightswitch on a secret door mysteriously labeled ‘Secret Door’ only for a person to come out and ask you to wait “28 seconds,” but once you’re inside you forget all about the game of pretend that you, an adult, just partook in.

The Walker Inn is stunningly intimate, they keep the room at a very low capacity. You don’t feel like you entered some speakeasy of years passed — handlebar mustaches and all — you feel like you’re somewhere very modern and quiet. The bartenders are relaxed and friendly and incredibly aware that you’re both spending time someplace special.

We won’t suggest a drink because their menu is always in-flux with the seasons, but the drink we ordered last go around utilized green tea and it was hands down one of the most well-crafted cocktails we’ve ever had. From a pure craft standpoint, The Walker Inn is going to be tough to beat. If you don’t know what to order because everything sounds so damn good, and it will, definitely give the tasting menu a try.

PART II: STAFF & EXPERT PICKS

There are dozens of truly top-flight bars scattered throughout Los Angeles, too many for one liver to handle. Too much for even Nicolas Cage in ‘Leaving Las Vegas,’ though I’m sure we’d all pay to seem him try. So we asked other Uproxx writers, editors, and friends-of-the-site for their picks, to round out the list and to guarantee that our readers get the most comprehensive guide they could ever hope for!

The Spare Room7000 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA

Normally, there are only two solid reasons to go down to mess that is Hollywood Blvd. Because out of town family (who have never before graced our fair city) are visiting, and because you can’t stop getting nominated for Oscars. We get it, you’re Meryl Streep. It’s hard to be so talented.

But if you happen to find yourself wandering the streets of Hollywood, confused, and looking for refuge, you should tuck into the Roosevelt Hotel (you can also hit the pool which is open for non-guests with drink purchases for a swim or late night dancing) and head to the Spare Room for a cocktail. It’ll give you the feeling that you’re stepping into the Hollywood glamour of yesteryear (the bar’s not particularly old, but it feels old and is there anything more Hollywood-ish than faking authenticity?).

The Spare Room is a cozy little place with two wooden lanes of old school bowling, great cocktails, and plenty of leather couches to sink into. It’s a classic Hollywood experience.

-Allison Sanchez, Senior Life Writer

Thirsty Crow 2939 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

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Welcome to the weekend.

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Nothing good ever happens at the goddamn Thirsty Crow.

So goes the pronouncement by Los Angeles’ most revered, puzzled over, and despised modern troubadour, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, aka he of Silverlake past, a former hipster turned God of us, touring the world on the backs of songs that spill our joy, sorrow, and ironic detachment over both out, beyond us, into the ether. A song with the above title, an indictment of the Silverlake hang The Thirsty Crow, appeared on Father John Misty’s second album, I Love You, Honeybear, and quickly took hold, to the delight and chagrin of locals who frequent the dark, old time-y watering hole.

How could our Tillman be anything but both beloved and hated, as Dylan was when he went electric, and so forth. And it is very much the same for the Thirsty Crow. FJM, as he’s affectionately shorthanded, is a mirror that many don’t want to look back at, but for me, I relish the reflection. And, as a Brooklyn transplant to the aforementioned trendiest Los Angeles neighborhood, visiting the Thirsty Crow is not just a pastime, but a journey. It reminds me of the LA before me, and the LA still to come, it’s just a stepping stone in the stream of spots I can utilize for shitty Tinder dates, adored out-of-town visitors, evening benders, and maybe, just maybe, a place to fall in love, like Tillman.

The place has insanely cheap cocktails on happy hour, plenty of beer and wine, and old wooden chairs, an enormous bar, an elevated upper platform for late night canoodling, an outdoor alleyway for smokers, a rich, velvet curtain you must brush out of your upon entry — it is literally perfect. And half of you will hate it. Fine, fine.

What more could you possibly desire in a bar? It’s a goddamn perfect mess. See you there.

-Caitlin White, Director of Music

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Wednesday Night #soulpower w/ @mrjlogic 10pm

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Providence5955 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA

Providence— one of the only two-star Michelin restaurants in LA — is infamous for its commitment to sustainable practices (and fucking amazing food). And, that commitment now extends to their bar, where manager Kim Stodel innovates daily to give ingredients second and third lives. When Stodel took over his position, he didn’t set out to be the star of the establishment. Instead, he made an effort to follow the lead of the Providence kitchen, to become part of their ecosystem.

“Chefs and cooks are trained to try and utilize every single item,” Stodel points out. “Bartenders… not so much.”

Just like the kitchen crew, the Providence bar is economical, mindful of waste, and wildly creative with re-use. They are conservationists, and those guidelines gave Stodel finite boundaries to play in. Often, this means making garnishes, infusions, oils, sugars, and syrups from kitchen scraps. For example, he infuses rum with ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves, and then, he uses these ingredients to make a fruit roll-up-looking garnish. It sounds tasty, and it absolutely is.

-Alia Stearns, Senior Life Writer

Far Bar347 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Far Bar is a gem. You would think that their location — in the heart of Little Tokyo on the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles — would mean that they specialize in Japanese and other Pacific Rim whiskeys, and you would be right. That said, they clearly have a healthy respect for whiskey in general, and their sprawling collection winds throughout the space.

-Michael Neff (whiskey expert who has created bar programs for notable spots in NYC and Los Angeles)

Cole’s118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

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Salud!!!

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This is another classic DTLA spot, reminding you that this city does have some history (or at least imitates it well). This joint is a great cocktail bar with a hidden speak-easy out the back. The cocktails are decently priced and the dark wood and old leather booths give the whole place a throwback atmosphere.

Hit up Cole’s for happy hour and snag a couple $6 Manhattans or Old Fashioneds.

Zach Johnston, Senior Life Writer

Jones Hollywood205 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046

There are a host of great places to get a martini in Los Angeles. I would be doing you a disservice to not mention one of the most notable – Musso & Franks (so I just did). But Jones Hollywood is also a great spot for a martini that is very special to me. Bartending there has given me everything in my adult life. I met my wife while at Jones. I started my business at Jones and I have made lifelong friends at Jones.

Next time you’re there (and not drinking Jack Daniel’s –- which is also a thing), order a Dirty Sue martini, shaken ice cold with your spaghetti and meatballs “old school” style. Tell the bartender I sent you, with all the love in my heart.

-Eric “ET” Tecosky (Bartender and Founder of Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice)

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Come to us.

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Townhouse Bar52 Windward Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Established in 1915, The Townhouse is the oldest live music venue in all of LA – at least according to the Townhouse’s bar staff (I trust’em with my cocktails, so why not my facts?). As a New York transplant to beach life, this bar is my “New York-ish” place to feel at home. The dark and moody interior and commitment to live DJs is one of the reasons The Townhouse not just my personal favorite, but also a Venice fixture.

If you are a “shoot some pool and sip on a great bourbon”-type of person, The Townhouse will make you feel at home. But there’s another gear to this spot for the more adventurous: next-level DJs, live bands, comics, and even burlesque performers grab the spotlight nightly in the downstairs space, which is known as the Del Monte Speakeasy. On weekends the dance floor fills up late into the evening and the vibe cracking — thanks in part to low ceilings and scores of sweaty beach dwellers looking for beats.

On an average night, if sipping on a perfect Manhattan in a vintage mahogany bar watching Anthony Valdez DJ or an exclusive Terrace Martin set sounds like your jam, The Townhouse is your spot.

-Jarret Myer, Uproxx Publisher

Faith & Flower705 W 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Look, this spot is fantastic. And — to use a sports metaphor — it could probably make the playoffs without its star. But the reason I make a fuss over Faith & Flower is for the sake of one, genius, perfectly executed, deeply creative, wonderfully presented cocktail: The Clarified Milk Punch.

If you’re a fan of the site, you know all too well that I’m an outspoken fan of this almost-lost gem, recovered from an old bartending text. It’s got a mouthfeel that’s… rounded — thanks to the fact that milk fat is left behind in a cocktail that looks completely clear. The Faith & Flower version was named best cocktail on earth by Esquire in 2014 and, in the years since, has been riffed on and tinkered with, depending on the season.

This isn’t a drink for those who like to taste their liquor. For a drink that is almost completely made from straight spirits, there’s virtually no alcohol taste. Which helps explain why the Faith & Flower service team — a truly superb, caring bunch — frequently ask revelers to pick a designated driver before serving them.

Order some pasta or deviled eggs to go with your drinks and you’re a lock for a great night.

-Steve Bramucci, Life Editor

Bibo Ergo Sum116 N. Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048

Bibo Ergo Sum takes mixing drinks almost preposterously seriously. Their menu is structured like the Christopher Nolan movie The Prestige, a feature which is certainly in competition for “Most LA-ish gimmick in history” and the door is manned by a doorman in a well-pressed suit. The cocktail list is loaded with wildly complicated flavor pairings (all bearing names that make deep cut references), that will stretch your credulity and the bounds of your palate.

And yet…These drinks are good. And the brawny doorman remembers your name. And the bartenders may wear suspenders and treat their gig like it’s some high-level NASA-type chemistry, but they sure are talented. So talented, in fact, that they don’t mind in the least if you simply tell them your mood and a few flavors you like and send them on their way — off to create magic behind the u-shaped oak bar.

It really comes down to what you want. And if what you want is LA’s midcentury past remixed through the modern craft movement and twice filtered through the heavy-handed influence of Hollywood, you’re going to have fun here. Especially since, as much as it dances along the line of pretentiousness, the crowd itself is down for a party.

-Steve Bramucci, Life Editor

The Frolic Room6245 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Who would dare make a list of “Best Bars in LA” and not include the Frolic Room? Not us. Not on my watch. This place is beyond historic. It pushes past legendary. It’s a motherf*cking icon.

When you go to the Frolic Room, you aren’t just drinking your cocktail, you’re drinking in history. This is the last place the Black Dahlia was seen alive. It’s a famous haunt of Bukowski. It’s set dressing for noir legend Raymond Chandler. And a hangout for Sinatra.

Of course, movie scenes have been set there (LA Confidential, The Black Dahlia). Yes, a doorman who never caught his big acting break was murdered by a patron. It’s a legendary spot, it’s obviously gonna have some great threads to pull. The mural on the back wall by Al Hirschfeld serves as a reminder that LA was once just a small, dusty, crime-riddled outpost in a nation that was — less than a hundred years ago — completely focused on the eastern seaboard.

Look, you can know plenty about cocktails without ever having ordered one at this onetime-speakeasy. But you damn sure can’t truly know LA without having visited. Order the martini, filthy and don’t look back.

-Steve Bramucci, Life Editor

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