In a city as huge and varied as Los Angeles, there really is every kind of lounge, club, bar and nightspot for imbibing. Whether it’s craft cocktails or dance-fueled party nights, or new beer or whiskey bars you’re after, you can find it. Here’s a look at the latest, from bowling alley bars to patios for bocce and wine. Plan those outfits accordingly, and be ready to call a car or bring a designated driver along for the ride.
1. Best Wine Bar
Malibu Wines is amazing for tasting new California varietals and they almost always have live entertainment like stand-ups or music in a variety of genres. Open-aired and nestled in the mountains, it makes for an excellent day outing in the spring.
31740 Mulholland Hwy
Yelp: 4 stars, 625 reviews
2. Best Beer Bar
A huge selection of local brews makes Golden Road Brewery quite a draw for locals, and its especially prized for the seasonal varieties of beer. Open-air seating and decent food all add to its charm as a good hang-out spot.
5410 W. San Fernando Rd.
Yelp: 4 stars, 1368 reviews
3. Best Sports Bar
Barney’s Beanery has a few locations, but the best is in West Hollywood. Go to watch a game, get some chili or play table shuffleboard. The vibe is relaxed and makes you feel like seeing your favorite team win is the only thing on the agenda.
8447 Santa Monica Blvd
Yelp: 3.5 stars, 629 reviews
4. Best Whiskey Bar
Located in Silverlake, The Thirsty Crow is a small bar with inventive drinks and tasty whiskeys. Go for the buzz, hip clientele and knowledgeable bartenders.
2939 W Sunset Blvd
Yelp: 4 stars, 583 reviews
5. Best After-Work Drink Spot
There’s an Asian-American culture clash happening at Good Luck Bar with its Chinese lanterns, comfy leather booths and a fusion menu of cocktails. The decor and lighting can take your mind off whatever’s happening outside those walls so you can sip and savor your next drink.
1514 Hillhurst Ave
Yelp: 3.5 stars, 408 reviews
6. Best Dive Bar
Brennan’s Pub is not the fanciest bar on the list, but the word ‘dive’ can sometimes be used affectionately. This space offers you a chance to bet on the speed demons in the animal kingdom: turtles. Every Thursday night, you can bring your own or wager on your favorite.
4089 Lincoln Blvd
Yelp: 3.5 stars, 269 reviews
7. Best Cocktails
It’s possible that the quality of the food at B.S. Taqueria may be clouding this particular pick, but the cocktails hold their own against the fare. Order the chicarones and anything with tequila and you won’t regret it.
514 W 7th St
Yelp: 4 stars, 333 reviews
8. Best Live Music
Hollywood is full of tourists, but if you know where to look there are still some truly awesome finds like Sassafras. Check out the live music on most nights of the week and have yourself a Southern good time.
1233 N Vine St
Yelp: 4 stars, 436 reviews
9. Bar with the Best Outdoor Space
Trendy and hip, Perch has extremely delectable food and quite an elegant rooftop bar. Come for the 360 degree views of downtown LA and stay for comfortable seating set high atop a skyscraper, making it one of the best bars in Los Angeles.
448 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Yelp: 4 Stars, 3317 reviews
Must-order: Drinks celebrate the many lives of this space, and most are inspired by cult classics. For Big Lebowski fans, The Dude Abides, a modern take on the White Russian with housemade coffee liqueur and horchata cream, is a must.
Insider tip: Be prepared to pony up for bowling, which costs $50–70 per hour, per lane, depending on day and time. Lanes accommodate up to six people.
Must-order: Try the gin Sling Sling, made with maraschino liqueur, lime and housemade ginger beer, or a barrel-aged Tour Eiffel, with cognac, Suze Cointreau and absinthe.
Insider tip: Don’t miss happy hour with deals on all signature pizzas, arancini and draft beer and wine (4–7 PM, Monday through Friday).
Must-order: For a taste of the wild side, try something from the Barrelworks menu, which focuses on sour ales like the Bretta Rose, a Berliner Weisse-style ale fermented with raspberries.
Insider tip: The on-site store has everything a beer-lover needs, from merch to brewing gear and a growler fill station.
Must-order: Paying homage to classic cocktails from around the world, drinks include the Pharmaceutical Stimulant, which is made with Aylesbury Duck vodka, espresso, and Varnelli Caffè Moka.
Insider tip: If your phone needs juice while you’re getting juiced, look for the USB ports next to coat and purse hooks along the bar. Genius!
Must-order: The Bull & Barrel drink list is almost encyclopedic with lists of spirits and cocktails, plus it includes tips on what to drink and how to drink it. Scroll down to tequila to find things like The Monarch, made with anejo, maple, dandelion and burdock bitters, and orange.
Insider tip: The bar patio, a mostly enclosed space with twinkling lights and fire pits, is where you want to be on balmy Pasadena nights.
Must-order: There’s an entire bible in The Whiskey Room featuring everyday sippers to rare ones like Karuizawa whiskey from Japan (a 2-oz. pour goes for $380).
Insider tip: If The Whiskey Room is busy, expect a $50 per person minimum. Or, just sit at one of the other two bars in the place — one upstairs, one downstairs — for a cocktail.
Must-order: Try the Green Gloves, made with jalapeño-infused tequila, lime, celery, chartreuse and smoked salt.
Insider tip: The Taco Tuesday Grill features carnitas, pollo and carne tacos (two for $4) plus $6 margaritas and palomas.
Must-order: On The Deep End menu, check out the Aerolite, a juicy one made with two kinds of tequila, pear au de vie, sherry and pineapple juice.
Insider tip: The Deep End is open on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but the disco remains open Thursday through Saturday.
Must-order: The Reconditioner is not one to take lightly. Made with three types of over-proof rum, fresh pineapple juice, Coco Lopez and a float of Amargo-Vallet Bark of Angostura, it’s poured over crushed ice and served in a hollowed-out pineapple.
Insider tip: A boozy Sunday brunch features $20 bottomless mimosas made with fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Must-order: There are great sippers on the cocktail menu, and a fab spirits list, but the wine list is superb and reasonably priced.
Insider tip: Get a flight of three wines and some magical culinary creation from Matt Molina for $25 every Wednesday (5–8 PM).
Must-order: Quenchers tend to change with the seasons. Right now the Fuscia Fizzle (gin, ginger, sherry, raspberry, lemon and bubbles) hits all the summer notes.
Insider tip: Things like buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon monkey bread and rice porridge with crispy pork and a soft-boiled egg are hits at brunch (Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM–3 PM).
Must-order: The Cobbler sounds like dessert, but it’s an incredibly refreshing icy drink made with sherry, amaro, grapefruit and strawberry.
Insider Tip: The Vermina vermouth, made by Steve Clifton and David Rosoff, is only $6 a glass during happy hour (Sunday through Thursday, 4–6 PM).
Must-order: Classic cocktails get a unique twist here, including the old fashioned made with Chairman’s Reserve rum, tobacco, coffee and a fig leaf in the glass.
Insider Tip: The address says Hope Street, but know that the entrance is on Grand Avenue, right next to The Broad museum.
The 10 Best New Bars in Los Angeles 2015
The Fiscal Agent
Raise a glass to 2015. The past year has been kind to cocktail, wine and beer drinkers alike (for the latter, see also 5 Best L.A. Breweries of 2015) — thanks to the debut of excellent bars that are pushing the boundaries of how we drink and socialize in our vast city. We’ve hand-selected 10 destinations where it’s worth opening a tab. Some are exploring the bartender omakase format, some are creating elegant concoctions that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or London, and some just want to be that divey joint around the corner where you’ll be welcomed with a shot and a beer. Los Angeles, of course, has room of all of them.
Chris Day at General Lee’s
10. General Lee’s Cocktail House
It might technically be incorrect to label General’s Lee a new business, considering the space in Old Chinatown it occupies was known as General Lee’s restaurant as far back as 1878. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the former Mountain Bar space was revamped and revived as a tropical/Orient-inspired, two-story cocktail lounge complete with bamboo barstools and palm tree wallpaper. Bar director Chris Day’s current menu is themed around the eight elements of Daoist cosmology, which might seem cerebral but really just means killer drinks like the Mountain, made with mezcal, sherry and pineapple-sesame gomme. —Garrett Snyder 475 Gin Ling Way, Chinatown; (213) 625-7500.
9. Now Boarding
Now Boarding opened its doors at the end of December last year, touching down in West Hollywood with a ‘60s-era, air-travel aesthetic. The glamorous frills of a bygone era permeate everything from the walls lined with booths (the seats themselves are inspired by an old-school flight cabin) to a large mural depicting flight routes across the globe. Aviation-themed cocktails like the Fog Cutter weave zesty citrus into a rum drink spiked with orgeat, while the D.B. Cooper uses muddled watermelon and jalapeño to combat the vegetal twang of a tequila blanco. The bar’s sheer commitment to its theme makes for an enjoyable, if kitschy, evening out, but bar manager Wil Figueroa’s devotion to craft cocktails is what distinguishes this spot as L.A.’s true mile-high club. —Brad Japhe 7746 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-8447, nowboardingla.com.
Wade Design Co.
8. Bar Bandini
Echo Park is home to many bars, but few have struck a better balance between accessible and fashionable than the recently opened Bar Bandini. Bare and intimate, the interior’s exposed wooden framing lends the feeling of a garage pop-up, albeit one where you’ll find natural wines offered by the glass or on tap (there’s a good chance you’ll find an orange wine or pet-nat on the rotating list) and a solid roster of local beers. We love Bandini in part because it offers such underrated service; it’s a place to chill with a glass of Gamay and hold a conversation at normal volume. —G.S. 2150 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park.
With the addition of bars like the barrel-shaped Idle Hour and the literary-themed Catcher in the Rye, the boom of North Hollywood’s craft cocktail scene was one of the year’s major developments. The most pleasant surprise, though, was bartender Aidan Demarest’s partnership with old-school Italian restaurant Little Toni’s to launch a cozy, 10-stool setup in the restaurant’s neglected bar space. BarToni’s pays tribute to overlooked ’70s cocktails like the Grasshopper and Harvey Wallbanger’s, but they know how to craft a killer Manhattan, too. —G.S. 4745 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 763-0131.
6. Southland Beer
Koreatown’s Southland Beer is a little difficult to find given there’s no street signage, and even when you pull into the lot, the door is barely marked and hiding between a beauty salon and a popular Korean blood-sausage restaurant. Once inside, however, your search is rewarded with a drinking space so intimate and dimly lit, it could easily get away with being a cozy neighborhood wine bar. Instead, the focus here is craft beer, with taps that rotate through special releases from Southern California breweries like Three Weavers, Monkish, Bottle Logic and Barley Forge. The expertly curated selection of uncommon IPAs, saisons, ciders and sours at Southland is a refreshing change of pace, especially in a city where stocking major craft beer titles is now all but a requirement of most beer bars. —Sarah Bennett 740 S. Western Ave., #112, Koreatown; (213) 908-5104, southlandbeer.com.