The Club Bar at The Peninsula Hotel
A low-lit and woody den with a birch décor that might at first seem more suited to a club room in Manhattan, this five-star nook at The Peninsula is a genuine piece of old school L.A. (and that’s pretty hard to come by in a town with absolutely no commitment to nostalgia). This is the kind of classy nook where couples could meet discreet and enjoy both a cocktail and quiet conversation without fear of being either interrupted or caught unawares. Not that that sort of thing doesn’t still happen, of course. Also deserving of high praise is The Club’s attentive but unobtrusive staff, which serves an array of promising (albeit pricey) drinks for both ladies and gents (those with an urge for “girly drinks” are encouraged to try their blackberry caipirinha or the pomegranate mojito). And if you are, perchance, the sort of lounge lizard who takes their tea at 3, there’s also an assortment of leaves to choose from – from traditional strength to caffeine-free herbal infusions.
When it comes to questioning The Chateau Marmont’s long-standing rep as one of Hollywood’s hottest haunts, all any skeptic has to do is review the still-running roster of some of its most famous guests (everyone from Jim Morrison to John Belushi, Howard Hughes to Hunter S. Thompson, Led Zeppelin to Lindsay Lohan have shacked up here) in order to get an idea why this 80-year-old earthquake proof manse is still attracting such high-end clientele (let alone standing) on the Sunset Strip. So if you’re out to sight celebrities on the sip, you can’t do much better than Bar Marmont, where stargazing is practically a contact sport and the drinks are spectacular (the Framboise Sauvage and the Caipiruva are among the best). However, single lady patrons are encouraged to travel in packs of three or more – as it can be a bit of a magnet for male “talent scouts” looking to “recruit” fresh faces in questionable “independent productions” (HINT: 9 out of 10 claim they’re photogs who “own their own studio”). Strip parking is also a bit dodgy, but if you keep an eye out, you’ll find a plenty of affordable pay-lots close by.
Bar 1200 at The Sunset Marquis Hotel
Concealed in a tree-lined stretch just south of Sunset Boulevard’s most famous boutique hotel, this romantic and well-hidden alcove is exclusively for hotel guests and anyone lucky enough to make their VIP list. But if you have the coin, the looks, and/or are capable of passing yourself off as someone “of weight” (and not in the late, great Chris Farley sense), this is a place where you can sip high end booze and schmooze to your heart’s content. Weekend visitors deserve fair warning: it gets mondo crowded on Saturdays and Sundays, so don’t try to jump any velvet ropes if you’re shunned at the door. Also, there’s no photo taking allowed, and the reasons why should be patently obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of L.A. and its propensity for star-stalking paparazzi.
If you like the look of a smoky den without the smoke, then you’ll love the dark and red tones of this Wilshire Corridor way station, which – thanks to its daily “Rush Hour” menu (runs between 4 and 7 pm) – may be your best excuse to wait out traffic next to a late night at the office. As for the lounge menu: you can get a cold cocktail or a good glass of vino for about $6. And if you feel like you’ve done a little too much drinking to drive home safely (please err on behalf of caution), feel free to book a room upstairs at the Hotel Palomar, where guests drink for free during the 5 pm wine tasting hour. Monday thru Sunday, 4 to 10:30pm.
Bar @ the Gordon Ramsay
Don’t let his screaming fits on Hell’s Kitchen fool you: chef Gordon Ramsay knows how to run a first-rate restaurant when it comes to both food and drink, and all concoctions served off the opulent marble of his fine middle bar at The London West Hollywood are cold, hard evidence of the latter. Both tasty and expensive (each run about $16), two drinks most easily recommended are the Strawberry Fields or Gordon’s Fury, which is comprised of Belvedere orange vodka, fresh lime juice, crème de cassis and muddled jalapeño. If you’re able to get there early enough and feel compelled to linger longer, try to reserve a table by the window, where you’ll get a breathtaking view of L.A. Either that, or hit the rooftop pool to get a gander at the same magnificent vista from that great height.