Get us in your inbox

Search
Japanese Maple at Roger Room
Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanJapanese Maple at Roger Room

The 15 best cocktail bars in L.A.

Check out L.A.’s best cocktail bars, from the beach and seasonal libations to the godfather of the cocktail bar scene

Written by
Time Out contributors
,
Erin Kuschner
&
Stephanie Breijo
Advertising

Year-round, L.A.’s cocktail bars not only offer some of the best ambiance in the city—they’re also home to some of the best tipples in the world. From bespoke libations made with farmers’ market-fresh ingredients to the revivial of the classic cocktail worthy of Don Draper, cocktail bars in L.A. are mixing undeniably phenomenal drinks. Whether you’re drinking in Culver City, Downtown, Highland Park or Santa Monica, there are exceptional spots to imbibe all across town. Check out our list of the best places to grab a cocktail in L.A. right now. 

RECOMMENDED: Our list of the best bars in L.A.

L.A.’s best cocktail bars

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

The world-famous cocktail den is now open in Los Angeles, and the drinks are just as inspired, moody, balanced and bright as ever. Cocktails at the L.A. outpost are divided into flavor profiles and vibes such as “light and playful,” “elegant and timeless” and “boozy and honest,” and while the technique and the reverence are real, the team always manages to have fun; the Virginia Beach Vanity Plate, for instance, involves rosé, overproof armagnac, strawberry, aloe and cid phosphate, like a grown-up take on a summery, beachy cheap wine. Not to be outdone by the drinks, Death & Co. also serves seasonal small plates to snack on, plus larger plates and desserts, for a full experience that’s big on aesthetics, seasonality and flavor.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Mar Vista
  • price 2 of 4

Take equal parts neighborhood bar, Taiwanese soul food and a cocktail menu that somehow makes even the most de rigueur drinks exciting, and you’ve got a Mar Vista gem that’s also one of the city’s best. Whether you're opting for their more recent cocktails to-go or taking a seat at that L-shaped bar, the vibe is unpretentious, and the cocktails are unadulterated fun: Pan-Asian ingredients sneak their way into the fundamentals and colorful, eccentric concoctions alike—who else is giving you a spin on frozen piña coladas with lychee, yellow chartreuse, tequila and prickly pear brandy?

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 2 of 4

Imagine your grandmother’s house: Warm and inviting, with no shortage of antique knick-knacks. Now add a ton of booze. Welcome to Big Bar, which, despite its name, is actually quite small, fitted within a repurposed bungalow in Los Feliz—about 15 people inside feels snug, though more like a friendly hug than a claustrophobic nightmare. Somehow this utterly vintage nook hosts packed events with utter ease, from bartender takeovers to movie-themed drinks coinciding with a screening on the patio. Add to that an uncomplicated yet whimsical drink program, and you’ve reached neighborhood-bar heaven. 

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • La Cienega
  • price 2 of 4

This groundbreaking cocktailery is small, but the drinks pack a punch. Once you’ve located it (just head to Largo, then spot the neon sign for an old psychic parlor), find more than 20 classic tipples with a twist—like the vanilla-charged Spiced Mule—all served in chilled glasses and the occasional plastic monkey. Vigilant barkeeps in snazzy suspenders are always on hand to shake up a recommended libation or launch into an impromptu lesson on Japanese whiskey, making the service as top-notch as the drinks. Their slogan is “The best of everything, nothing but the best,” and here, it most certainly rings true.

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 3 of 4

One of city’s most sophisticated bars since 2009, the Varnish is considered the godfather of L.A.’s craft cocktail movement. The speakeasy sits inside Cole’s, marked only by a drawing of a coupe glass, and always feels like a party—not a modern party, mind you, but a kind of jazz-den party from the decades of yore. It’s the perfect artmosphere for a classic enjoyed around the Prohibition era—such as an old-fashioned or a sazerac, all of which the bar staff is more than adept at crafting—but the brief menu of house concoctions is always worth perusing. Feel adventurous? Go ahead and pick the Bartender’s Choice option and let them do the picking. Whatever you order, snag a vintage booth to take in the live piano music.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Echo Park
  • price 1 of 4

Southern charm and Park’s Finest BBQ collide at Thunderbolt, a neighborhood cocktail bar that’s big on hospitality and Southern-leaning bites—but just because Thunderbolt is into Georgia peaches and BBQ, that doesn’t mean this Historic Filipinotown bar is only about juleps. The cocktails here are inventive, joyful and balanced, and always changing. We especially love the bar’s playful concoctions, such as the clarified take on a piña colada (Tropipop), or the rotating selection of carbonated cocktails, and we’re all about Thunderbolt’s homage to the neighborhood: the P-Town Boxing Club, made with pandan and coconut-washed rye.

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

New York’s renowned Employees Only headed west, opening an outpost in West Hollywood. It began with cocktails in a sleek and stylish speakeasy-like setting, then in 2020, became a hub for some of L.A.’s coolest up-and-coming chefs and pop-ups. Indoors, you step in through the psychic’s storefront and find yourself in this Deco-inspired dining room and curved bar, complete with the hidden Henry’s Room (a sort of speakeasy accessed through a back wall). But since then the bar launched Summer Social Club in the parking lot next door, laying down astroturf and setting up picnic tables for a low-key, seasonal-perfect vibe. It’s here you can taste your way through some of L.A.’s emerging culinary teams while sipping some creative and equally fun cocktails under big, striped umbrellas.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4

It’s easy to get caught up in the mayhem of Hollywood Boulevard, but if you head toward the glowing red neon above it all, you'll enter an Old Hollywood hideaway. Tucked even further within the neon's home—the charming Roosevelt Hotel—is the Spare Room, the hotel's destination-worthy cocktail bar. Whether indoors at the moody, usual location upstairs (it and its small bowling alley are currently only available for private booking) or on the patio at the new Spare Room… Somewhere Else pop-up, the bar’s drinks scream “fun” with modern flair. The team here work magic into flamboyant tiki-leaning concoctions and understated classics alike; unwavering since its 2011 launch, the Spare Room has undeniably become one of the top bars of the city—or anywhere, really.

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Wineries
  • Pasadena
  • price 3 of 4

1886 isn’t just the best cocktail bar in Pasadena—it’s one of the best in all of L.A. This cocktail cove behind the Raymond restaurant serves some of the best fancy drinks around—and gets especially into themed menus every now and again. Even if they’re not pouring spooky cocktails brimming with dry ice, however, the menu always changes each season and thrives on originality—from the summery Pimm’s #13 made with mezcal and Mexican Tamarindo soda to the wintry Paradise Lost with agricole rhum, a house-made chai tincture, aged maple and lime peel. Even when the bar seating isn’t up and running, you can always find 1886’s handiwork on the Raymond’s cocktail menu—and we recommend that you do; after all, it pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s equally seasonal food menu.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Historic Filipinotown
  • price 2 of 4

This women-owned and -run cocktail bar is intimate, sleek and focused on gin, though that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find other, darker spirits. Mezcal and rum may make a brief appearance, but even the most gin-averse visitors should at least sample a few of the infused libations here, which incorporate green tea and even butterfly pea flower into gin for light, herbacious and complex notes in your cocktails. Currently Genever is only offering some stunning cocktails to-go—with many of them available as solo drinks, for two people, or for up to six—but indoors, there are delicate, feminine touches in the gold-accented decor, creating a scene that practically glows, and it’s an inclusive and intimate space for all (but especially for gin lovers).

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

Enter this neighborhood bar and feel right at home—no matter the season and no matter the theme. The comfortable booths make the time fly by, while the hyper-themed holiday menus welcome us back and keep us curious all year long. When not decked out in the likes of tinsel and fake snow for the winter months (when they serve up boozy hot cocoa and just about every other spiced and cozy drink you can imagine), the usual cocktail menu runs the gamut with deeply flavorful options that might combine whiskey with chicory coffee and tobacco bitters; gin with coconut cream, and sugarsnap peas; or rum in a frozen blend of apple and lemon. 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fairfax District
  • price 2 of 4

The mystique of prohibition lives on at Melrose Umbrella Co., a dark and pedigreed saloon that feels like a reprieve from modern-day Melrose Avenue. Step inside and, quite suddenly, it’s 1933: Immaculately attired staff shake up some of the best drinks in town from a list that’s got a little something for everyone. The menu is broken into four sections: “spirit-forward and complex,” “citrus-based and refreshing,” “tiki style,” and “tried and true.” These include strong, sophisticated, shrewdly balanced, fun, surprising and even classic flavor profiles, and while they’re not all Prohibition-inspired drinks, there’s no better atmosphere to raise a glass to the end of Prohibition.

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

The concrete exterior of this Arts District haunt seems intentionally nondescript. A bold neon sign above the door reads simply “BAR”—the small plaque beside it, “everson royce bar, est. 2015,” verifies the spot’s identity. Inside, E.R.B. is bustling and bright, and a spacious patio out back offers ample seating for drinking, dining and stargazing. Look for the bar’s rotating menu of barrel-aged cocktails made right there, but if you’re looking for something less aged and moody, and something more fun and fruity, we recommend one of their frozen concoctions or the stalwart Yo LA Tengo: a years-long favorite of ours that’s made with mezcal, Aperol, ginger and lime, or the delicate Infanté (pictured), which combines tequila with almond, lime, nutmeg and rose water.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

This so-stylish-it-hurts apothecary-themed bar is the sibling to New York City’s, which racked up acclaim through detail-driven, botanical-toned drinks in a dimly-lit setting. Here in Chinatown, the vibe, atmosphere and menu are all similar, with a few unique concoctions based on the region’s weather and whatever’s in season. True to the apothecary theme, cocktails are paired off into cures for what ails ya: stress relievers, stimulants, pain killers, euphorics and more, and they might include produce, tinctures or bitters such as cantaloupe, bee pollen, bell pepper, sage, coconut charcoal, or a honeyed chamomile cordial.

Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Highland Park
  • price 2 of 4

Curious imbibers can always find this drinkery inside a converted garage behind Cafe Birdie. Stop right there if you think this is a speakeasy; instead, the twinkle-lit courtyard and homey interior combo conveys a downright neighborly feel. That’s not to say there isn’t an air of mystique about the place: Good Housekeeping is dimly lit and exceedingly cool, with vinyl records spinning and options that include biodynamic wines, nonalcoholic concoctions, and some ever-intriguing cocktails. Options like the Wake and Bake put the team’s talent on display with ingredients such as a syrup made from spiced Christmas tea, and the Andy’s Wild Thyme lets them play with their food, infusing vodka with rosemary and thyme. Be sure to hang around the bar past 10pm, when you can get pizza by the slice from sibling spot Cafe Birdie.

Looking for craft beer instead?

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising