There’s no mistaking the strength of the cocktail culture in Los Angeles, where bartenders exhibit boundless creativity and swagger-filled technique, using house made ingredients and local spirits to create cocktail menus that break necks and please palates like no where else in the country.
With the plethora of drinking dens popping up just as quickly as restaurants throughout LA, the best bartenders are the ones who serve unparalleled hospitality and a memorable experience alongside a simple, yet perfectly executed potion. We’ve rallied together a list of spots that some of the top bar talent in LA like to go on their day off to help you to satisfy your cocktailian cravings just like the pros.
3014 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Recommended by: Gilbert Marquez
Mixologist Gilbert Marquez specializes in agave spirit; if you’ve ever enjoyed a drink at some of LA’s top Mexican restaurants (Mexicano, El Carmen, Mercado), you can be sure he’s the man behind the cocktail programs. Currently, you can find him at Santa Monica’s Tacoteca. Says Marquez, “When I go out to drink I usually go to Guelaguetza in K-town. In addition to their Oaxacan food, they have one of the best and largest mezcal selections.” He typically drinks this Mexican spirit straight with a couple of oranges.
The Corner Door
12477 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Recommended by: Brittini Rae
Brittini Rae (Miss Speed Rack LA 2015) from Melrose Umbrella Co. votes for the drink program long helmed by Beau du Bois at The Corner Door, a neighborhood favorite of Culver City locals. Order the Keytar Solo, made with Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum, Gran Classico, Sweet Vermouth, Pecan Bitters, and Hickory Smoke. It’s a stirred cocktail that is served on the rocks. Says Rae, “The hickory smoke balances the bold aromatics of the Mt. Gay rum with the festive dry fruit notes of the Gran Classico and Sweet Vermouth. With just a touch of hickory smoke and pecan, this Negroni variation tastes like being home for the holidays.”
205 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Recommended by: Billy Ray
Billy Ray of 13-Stitches has consulted on bar programs nationwide, and in LA bars like Formosa Café, EightyTwo, and The Proper. He is also the first Brand Ambassador for Woodford Reserve and Old Forester. When he’s off the clock, he heads over to Jones, a rock n’ roll Italian joint in Hollywood. As far as cocktails go, he’s digging the America’s Manhattan by Eric Tecosky. It’s made with Jack Daniel’s, cola syrup, and Ramazzotti Amaro; it’s a playful drink that he’s enjoyed time and time again.
Scopa Italian Roots
2905 Washington Blvd
Venice, CA 90292
Recommended by: Jen Len
Jen Len, who was recently met with a flurry of industry support on her last night at Cana Rum Bar, is a fan of Scopa Italian Roots, Venice’s Italian tesoro with a 20-foot tall illuminated bar some might refer to as the holy grail of alcohol. It was here that she enjoyed a brilliant libation from none other than Pablo Moix (The Chestnut Club, Old Lightning). The drink was made with La Niña del Mezcal Madrecuixe, serrano chiles, lime, citrus peels, and topped with tonic. The execution errs on the side of simple, combining a harmonious mix of flavors that Len says becomes “pure mindless pleasure while sipping.” Be careful not to lose track of how many you’ve had, it’s easy to forget.
5137 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Recommended by: Peter Lloyd-Jones
The Raymond 1886 barman Peter Lloyd-Jones loves going to Sonny’s Hideaway; so much so, they’ve even collaborated with them on past menus. This is a place that nails it with quality beverages, hospitality, and ambiance, which is moving it up the ranks as a neighborhood favorite in Highland Park, a neighborhood in a thriving state of gentrification. Lloyd-Jones suggests the Caipirinha, a drink he first fell in love with on a trip to Brazil that is now one that he can’t get enough of. The rugged flavor of cachaca is complimented well with fresh lime that is carefully dissected, leaving no bitter pith. It’s then muddled with coarse sugar and shaken with cracked ice. He says he is “slightly obsessed; it’s the simplicity that captivates me.”
118 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Recommended by: Karen Grill
Karen Grill is the crafty belle behind the bar at Sassafras Saloon, a charming Savannah townhouse drinkery by the 1933 Group. During the rare instances that Grill finds the time to go out on a day off, you can find her barside at The Varnish, Downtown’s longstanding speakeasy that is celebrating their 6th year anniversary this month. She loves the Sherry cocktail from Daniel Zacharczuk, it’s a creation that pleases all the senses.
107 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Recommended by: Cari Hah
On Cari Hah’s day to play, this Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge bartender and Speed Rack LA 2015 Semi-Finalist can be found at Las Perlas. Agave spirits served neat are her favorite, and it’s here that they serve them with a really wonderful sangrita on the side. Says Hah, “The best thing about drinking spirits neat is that I am offering my respect to the distiller who puts so much love into the product.” If you’re the type that agrees with the philosophy of enjoying spirits in their pure form, cozy up at the bar to take your taste buds on a journey through all the tequila and mezcal they can handle.
Joy Bitonio has the phrase “Joie de Vivre” tattooed on her shoulder, a reminder to enjoy life every single day. She has a voracious appetite for fun, adventure, food, good cocktails and works out like a madwoman to keep it all together. Check out what else she recommends around Los Angeles in the links below.