Marcus Fan > Best Bars in Los Angeles

Best Bars in Los Angeles

As this is where I live, I drink here the most often and there maybe a disproportionate amount of bars in Los Angeles that I recommend. But I adore Los Angles because it has one of the finest bar scenes in America.


1. Matt Biancaniello Pop-Up

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.facebook.com/matthew.biancaniello

Few bartenders have reshaped our view of what a cocktail can be like Matt. He has taken the cocktail and added the culinary eye like no one in the world. Utilizing ingredients that would stump most chefs he has created cocktails with more culinary daring then anyone in the cocktail world including the folks at the Aviary. His ability to meld wild flavors cohesively in a glass is nothing short of mind blowing. While it is now en-vouge to do "omakase" style cocktails he has been doing it for longer then anyone else save Columbia Room. His range goes beyond cocktails into things like sage beer and forever changed what a cocktail can be. Prepare to have a seat and drink copiously. Check his Facebook page to find out where he working at the moment. I can't recommend anything since everything is hyper seasonal meaning sometimes a drink is only available one day and that is it.


Matt Biancaniello Pop-Up

2. 1886 at the Raymond

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1250 South Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA - map
Website: http://www.theraymond.com

As you drive down the cement and asphalt street to the valet at Raymond Restaurant you see this grand but warmly inviting craftsman style estate that was hidden from view just moments earlier. Look around you notice the green plant scape surrounding the copper colored sign that says "Raymond est 1886." Stepping out of your car you know you uncovered a gem and just hope everything else is just as lovely.

While you can enter through the dinning area to the bar, I prefer to walk around through the patio area to the bar. Once through you patio to see a beautifully landscaped walkway that you step onto. A few steps further and you see an ivy covered awning above you and a gorgeous bar only LA could give you. To the right an bay of windows open to another patio area for the bar. The door is frosted and elegantly painted in gold with "1886." As you open the door you see the beautiful wallpaper you saw hints of through the window. A simple and invite bar in front of you beckoning you to have come on up and have a drink.

When you have made your way to the bar you cannot help but look around once again at the space you are in. How detailed and yet simple the decor is and how good it feel to be there. As you gaze the barkeep asks you if he can get you something and you are snapped out of your revelry and realize yes you do want a cocktail. As you pick the menu you see are enticed by all the options. You begin to notice some are clearly more classic based then others and how interesting they sound as you try to picture the flavors in your mind. The cocktail list as a nice balance of shaken and aromatic cocktails; a fizz, a sour, a tiki, Old Fashioned variation, a Manhattan variation and more.

You order and then gaze around again and notice a Cuckoo Clock in the corner and bartender smoking a cocktail. You watch the staff work and you hope the drink they are working on is your not just because you want a drink but because they all look so tempting. Some are garnished with a citrus boat, another is served in a hollowed out cucumber. Your drink arrives and it is lovely and plan to stay while longer then you you thought you would.

A few hours later you tried most of the cocktails on the list and a few that weren't. As you pay your bill and walk out you realize you had one of the best cocktail experiences you had in a long while and kick yourself for having not come sooner. You know you'll come back because as you have back you know that is it one of the best restaurant bars in America.


1886 at the Raymond

3. Winsome

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1115 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90012 - map
Website: http://www.eatwinsome.com

Edwin runs the cocktail program here and he is awesome. The cocktail list are a wonderful mix of familiar but different that is very approachable.


Winsome

4. Bestia

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 2121 7th Place Los Angeles CA, 90021 - map
Website: http://www.bestiala.com

This perpetually packed restaurant lost much of their bartending talent. They can still make a good drink though.


5. Belcampo (Santa Monica location)

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 - map
Website: http://www.belcampomeatco.com/restaurant/santa-monica/

A very strong cocktail along with a solid scotch selection as well. Scotches are served with brook or well water from the same region as the scotch you are drinking. The only place in the US doing it right now.


Belcampo (Santa Monica location)

6. Melrose Umbrella Co.

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 7465 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036 - map
Website: http://www.melroseumbrellaco.com

A fantstic cocktail list in a relazed and comfotable space. Favorites are the Endless Summer and the I Dream of Greenie.


Melrose Umbrella Co.

7. Spare Room

Type: Medium Volume Hotel Bar
Location: 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA - map
Website: http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/la/hollywood-roosevelt/drink/the-spare-room

If you have never been to the Spare Room it sits in the heart of Hollywood in one of Hollywood's most historic hotels. As the doorman checks you ID you see these grandiose doors that open gently. When you enter the 1940's styled game parlor the bar beckons you on the right. As you approach the bowling lanes to your left peak your attention, but first a drink.

As this is a Hollywood lounge they do quite a few covers. And Yael Vengroff has elevated an already wonderful bar program with her own unique brand of adult delight. Beginning of course with such cocktail names as Trust the Captain, Pack My Suitcase and Silent Agenda. When you order while not every bartender is as adept as Ms. Vengroff they can all execute the list. Of course if is always best to order from the Captain herself. Not just for the quality of the results but the joy of watching her work. She embodies the phase "serious fun." Precise and fast not just in her movements but in her quips as she speaks to her guests. She'll crack a joke, take an order and politely deal with a jerk seemingly all at the same time as she is cranking out 6 cocktails.

The cocktails themselves when they arrive beautiful. Delightfully garnished with perhaps dill potato chips, or Pandan Leaf that add to the cocktail just look lovely. As you take a sip and then another, the DJ might be starting up. Industry folks flock to the bar regularly to enjoy themselves. It is one of America's best high volume bars.


Spare Room

8. Salts Cure

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1155 Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038 - map
Website: http://www.saltscure.com

A very good bar program that does not get the credit it deserves. Every bartender here at the very least can execute the cocktail list. The cocktail list is a mix of classics, riffs off of classics, and boilermakers. There are usually 2 drinks of the day on the chalkboard as well. Really enjoyable drinking.


Salts Cure

9. Copa d'Oro

Type: Medium Volume Bar
Location: 217 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA - map
Website: http://www.copadoro.com

If you have never had a cocktail here, you are in for a treat. There are so many great drinks here that I have forgotten many of them, but here are some off the current list: King the Bahia, Campanula Sour and Hacienda. Vincenzo heads the program here and I would highly suggest ordering from him.


Copa d'Oro

10. Chestnut Club

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 1348 14th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404 - map
Website: http://www.thechestnutclubsm.com

The sister establishment to Scopa it has a much higher volume particularly on the weekends. I generally don't order cocktails here, it's the great spirits selection here I'm after much like Scopa. But from the list the El Camino and Bullocks Wilshire are nice.


Chestnut Club

11. Old Lightning

Type: California
Location: 2905 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292 - map
Website: http://www.oldlightning.com

The best selection of spirits in LA by far. The only question is what you are willing to pay for as the prices here are also probably the highest in the city. That said there are hundreds of pours here you cannot get anywhere not just in LA, but California. That is certainly justifies some of the premium. There are many cocktails as well priced quite steeply as well.


12. Norah

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 8279 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046 - map
Website: http://www.norahrestaurant.com

The cocktails here are under new direction, but are still quite good.


Norah

13. Bar Jackalope

Type: Low Volume Bar
Location: 515 West 7th St. #2, Los Angeles, CA - map

Only open Sunday-Thursday this roughly Japanese style spirits bar sits inside Seven Grand toward the back. It has a great spirits list that is very well curated so everything on the list be it $7 or $200 is a good spirit. They also serve flights and half pours at reasonable prices.


Bar Jackalope

14. Wolf

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 7661 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046 - map
Website: http://www.wolfdiningla.com

The cocktail list is short, but nearly everything on it is quite good. I believe Karen Grill is running the program here, but every bartender here is good so order from anyone.


Wolf

15. Big Bar

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1929 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.alcovecafe.com/bigbar

Unfortunately I do not make it out here very often, but when I do the cocktails are good.


Big Bar

16. Gwen

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 6600 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028 - map
Website: http://www.gwenla.com/

This wonderful art deco interior houses a fabulous cocktail program run by Mitch and Katie. The cocktail names are quite simple, but the cocktails themselves are elegant and delicious.


Gwen

17. Walker Inn

Type: Low Volume Cocktail Bar
Location: 3612 W 6TH St., Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.thewalkerinnla.com/

You probably heard about The Walker Inn. You have probably been. If you have not, you are missing out on the most intriguing new bar in America. You can view the bar in many ways. You can see it as a great experience. It begins with making your reservations. Then when the evening comes you stand out side the "Secret Door" and longingly press the button to enter. A red light appears and moments later a host ushers you in and you view an immaculately appointed space. If you sit at the bar you bartender will greet and let you know that they'll be serving you drinks that are tailer around what you enjoy, which will include cocktails on their theme of the moment. The theme changes every two months or so, but start you off they present an amuse bouche. If you sit at a table you are greeted by your server who will present your amuse bouche a cocktail list of the current theme and their standard cocktail list as the kindhearted staff guides you through a wonderful evening.

The direct of the bar has been in flux over the past year and the program has been affected by it. Hopefully things settle down a bit.


Walker Inn

18. Scopa Italian Roots

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 2905 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292 - map
Website: http://www.scopaitalianroots.com

When you look at the wall of booze you know they have an amazing selection of spirits to enjoy. Particularly of American whiskey and tequila/mezcal. The cocktails are okay, but if you happen to be lucky enough to have Eugene make you a drink, you'll be quite happy you did. From their cocktail list the El Camino and the 19th Century are good picks.


Scopa Italian Roots

19. Cole's

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 118 East 6th St., Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.colesfrenchdip.com

A classic cocktail bar but they always have a few specials that are a bit more modern. Generally solid drinks.


Cole's

20. Daily Pint

Type: Medium Volume Bar
Location: 2310 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 - map
Website: http://www.thedailypint.net

A dive bar with craft beer and the best selection of scotch in Los Angeles, and one of the best selections in the US.


Daily Pint

21. Alexander's Steakhouse

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 111 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101 - map
Website: http://www.alexanderssteakhouse.com/pasadena/

Another wonderful addition to the Pasadena cocktail world. Eric Lund is helming this bar and doing very good work. Favorite cocktails: 3rd and Los Angeles, Wry Rabbit.


Alexander's Steakhouse

22. Honeycut

Type: Medium Volume Bar
Location: 819 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.honeycutla.com

This bar is split between two rooms. One with a light-up dance floor and the other a lush classic cocktail bar. I prefer the cocktail bar side of things and off their current list I really like the Gams Gams Gams and Mayor of Flavortown.


Honeycut

23. Seven Grand

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 515 West 7th St. #2, Los Angeles, CA - map

This whiskey bar use to be my favorite bar in the city. No longer, but it is still a very good bar. It is upstairs above a restaurant called Mas Malo. It is in many ways what I think of when I think "bar." I suggest ordering from Andrew, Lucy or Jean-Michelle. The cocktails I love here are not on the menu and generally are not made anymore, but the Mint Julep is still the best in the city.


Seven Grand

24. Cassia

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1314 7th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 - map
Website: http://www.cassiala.com/

A wonderful cocktail program. A little inconsistent depending on your bartender, but it can be really good. Run by the talented Kenny Arbuckle. Favorites were the Banana Mule, Seasonal Bellini, and Lava Flow.


Cassia

25. Bar Mattachine

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 221 W 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014 - map
Website: http://www.facebook.com/BarMattachine/

A pretty gay bar serving some very well executed cocktails. Run by Garrett McKechnie he has created a great team of bartenders elevating what it is to drink at a gay bar. Favorites cocktails: Indian Summer, Hartwood.


Bar Mattachine

26. Messhall

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 4500 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 - map
Website: http://www.messhallkitchen.com

This under-rated and generally ignored cocktail program has some really great drinks... but also some really terrible stuff. Okay quite a few terrible things, but of the great things I enjoyed from the list: Hannibal's Plan, See Something Say Something, Rocketeer.


Messhall

27. Normandie Club

Type: Low Volume Bar
Location: 3612 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 - map
Website: http://www.thenormandieclub.com

While their cocktail list is entirely classics, they are all variations of classics. Mighty tasty ones at that. I particularly enjoy their Old Fashioned and Daiquiri.


Normandie Club

28. The Varnish

Type: Low Volume Bar
Location: 118 East 6th St., Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.thevarnishbar.com

Located inside of Cole's French Dip. When you enter just keep walking straight to back wall. You will see a book with a small picture frame with an illustration of a cocktail glass. The Varnish is behind that door. Classic cocktail speakeasy along the lines of Milk and Honey and Little Branch. Drinks do take a while so order two at a time and another two as soon as the first two are dropped off. I am not a huge fan of classic cocktails, but if you are, this is the best place to go in LA to have one.


The Varnish

29. Harvard and Stone

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 5221 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027 - map
Website: http://www.harvardandstone.com

My favorite bit of this bar is the R&D back bar which serves a different list of cocktails every night. This place can get very busy on the weekends so plan accordingly.


Harvard and Stone

30. Tiki-Ti

Type: High Volume Bar
Location: 4427 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA - map
Website: http://www.tiki-ti.com

A tiki style bar that has been a staple of Los Angeles for years. It is a tiny space that is lots of fun. I quite like the Ray's Mistake.


Tiki-Ti

31. Bourbon Steak

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 237 S Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91210 - map
Website: http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/southern-california/bourbon-steak-los-angeles/

Pretty good stuff if being done in Glendale. The favorite was the Black and Yellow.


Bourbon Steak

32. Everson Royce Bar

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 1936 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021 - map
Website: http://www.erbla.com

With decent cocktails, what really separates this bar is the back bar. An exceptional selection spirits from Karuizawa Japanese Whiskey to Mezcal.


33. Black Market

Type: Medium Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 11915 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604 - map
Website: http://www.blackmarketliquorbar.com

Somehow this space in the Valley has one of the most solid line up of bartenders in the city. Their current cocktail list isn't the strongest they have had but I quite like The Red Hot and Bothered.


Black Market

34. Corner Door

Type: Low Volume Restaurant Bar
Location: 12477 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066 - map
Website: http://www.thecornerdoorla.com

While much press and praise have been garnered by the cocktails here helmed by Beau du Bois, I have never been all that taken by the cocktails here. It is a decent program though and you can get a good cocktail.


Corner Door

35. Las Perlas

Type: Medium Volume Bar
Location: 107 East 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014 - map
Website: http://213nightlife.com/lasperlas

My second favorite selection of tequila/mezcal in the city. I would skip the cocktails here and sip on some distilled agave with some sangrita all night long.


Las Perlas