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Pinky's Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Josh Telles

The 15 best cocktail bars in L.A.

Cocktails can be found just about anywhere in L.A., but these spots are taking their concoctions to new heights by serving up some of the best around.

Edited by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributors
Erin Kuschner
,
Stephanie Breijo
&
Magdalena O’Neal
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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 revival of classic cocktails like espresso martinis and old fashioneds, cocktail bars in L.A. are mixing up undeniably phenomenal drinks. Whether you’re looking for a drink in Culver City, Downtown, Highland Park or Santa Monica, there are spots to imbibe all across town. Check out our list of the best places to grab a cocktail in L.A. right now from Eastside to Westside, and all the pockets of town in between.

RECOMMENDED: The best bars in L.A.

L.A.’s best cocktail bars

  • 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.

  • 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. 

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

Blink and you’ll miss Historic Filipinotown’s near-hidden cocktail gem marked only by a lit-up coupe-glass sign out front—and you don’t want to miss Genever, an intimate, Filipina-run Art Deco den specializing in gin-based drinks. Inside, you'll find delicate, feminine touches in the gold-accented decor, creating a scene that practically glows. Menuwise, mezcal and rum may make a brief appearance, but even the most gin-averse should try an one of the infused juniper libations here, which incorporate green tea and tropical fruits for light, herbaceous and complex notes in your cocktails. Genever even offers non-alcoholic versions of many their drinks—just look for the asterisk on the menu.

  • 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 an outdoor hub for some of L.A.’s coolest up-and-coming chefs and pop-ups. Now fully indoors, you step in through the psychic’s storefront and find yourself in this Deco-inspired dining room and curved bar. The cocktail menu sparkles with a unique take on an espresso martini (the city's favorite drink these days) called midday coffee which combines cold brew and orange cream for a frothy sip reminiscent of an elevated Irish coffee.

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  • 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.

  • 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, the charming Roosevelt Hotel. Within the hotel is the Spare Room, the hotel's destination-worthy cocktail bar. The bar may seem small, but it is deeper than meets the eye with couches lining the two bowling lanes (that are available for advanced booking). 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.

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  • 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.

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

The chances of you, a mere mortal, walking into this underground Arts District cocktail bar without a reservation are slim to none, but the L.A. outpost of this famous New York cocktail bar still has some of the best (and most expensive!) drinks in the city. Flavor profiles and vibes divide the menu under labels like such “light and playful” and “boozy and honest.” Many drinks run in the $24 to $26 range—the sky-high prices you’ll have to pay for time-tested techniques and a vast array of unique, hard-to-find spirits. Not to be outdone by the drinks, Death & Co. also serves a small food menu, for an upscale drinking experience that’s big on aesthetics, balance and flavor. On the other hand, a slightly damp, “old building” smell hangs in the air, and anyone who’s closed their tab will definitely feel pressured by staff to leave.

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

This laid-back lounge is probably your best bet for reliably excellent swills in the area. After all, we're talking about the old stomping grounds of two of LA's premiere mixologists—Jason Bran and Damian Windsor (Warwick). They've created an impressive program of at least two dozen connoisseur cocktails organized by seven types of liquor, and if that's overwhelming, just grab your nearest barkeep for some pointers. The customer always comes first here, and there's no rush. Heart-to-hearts happen and usually last well into the evening. Just make sure to snag a stool or booth by 8pm, or make a reservation in advance.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 1 of 4

This unassuming bar may be hard to find from the street, but once you encounter it, you’ll find yourself heading down this narrow brick-lined alley every time you have a cocktail craving in Los Feliz. Pinky’s makes a point of serving classic cocktails with a unique twist, like with the addition of fennel in an espresso martini or yuzu in their take on a tequila sour. Plus, if you get a little too much liquor in you and need something to help you sober up (or make room for more), the bartenders will be happy to serve you some simple tacos until closing. 

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  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4

Housed in a former recording studio in the heart of Hollywood, Grandmaster Recorders is the newest nightlife project from Botanical Hospitality Group, the same Australian partner team behind E.P. & L.P. and Strings of Life. While the views from the wraparound rooftop bar with glittering views of the Hollywood Hills is definitely worth a visit, the cocktails at 71 Studio Bar sends us straight downstairs. Cocktails include references to the legends that once recorded at the studio; such as the Late Registration which is a bright combination of Grey Goose, chamomile blanc vermouth, ginger, yellow watermelon, and lime—a drink we only imagine Kanye West would love to sip on.

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

This vinyl-only bar settled in the middle of one of Highland Park’s most-bustling blocks offers a reprieve from the college-student-studded drinking holes known to the area. While the space has over 8,000 records from the personal collection of co-owner Peanut Butter Wolf (of Stones Throw Records), the same eclectic attention to detail is applied behind the bar. Whiskey sodas and sake flow with ease on draft, while ingredients like pineapple, lemon, and Aperol are shaken into cocktails like the Goldliner, which features Madre mezcal. All in all, Goldline is a one-stop shop for a drink worth driving East for.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

To encourage a “work hard, play hard” demeanor, the Neuehouse members-only Wyman Bar on the first floor of its Downtown location serves up cocktails meant to be sipped and savored after a long day of work, over a happy hour meeting, or between downtown errands. The bar is open to the public as long as you have a reservation 7 days a week, for those who aren't members. Sips include The Chieftain, which combines RATU spiced rum, bitters and orange, for a new style old-fashioned. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Silver Lake
  • price 2 of 4

The Mediterranean-leaning small-plates specialists at Bacari took over Silver Lake's Cliff's Edge space, bringing the local chain's signature, shareable cicchetti to Sunset Boulevard—and one of L.A.'s best patios. Though if you enter from the wooden door beside the restaurants main driveway, you’ll walk right into the magic of Bar Bacari. Open until 2am, the bar often has live music, a slightly smaller tapas menu from the main kitchen, and cocktails like the LaBrea Rose, which strains lillet wash, tequila, rosewater, agave, lime into a coupe glass, highlights just how much the team loves Los Angeles.

Looking for craft beer instead?

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