Escaping dinner-table discourse? Home alone and anti-holiday? Or maybe you’re the full-on festive type who’s had their tree decorated since Black Friday. Whatever the case, ‘tis the season for a stiff one at a holiday bar. Here’s where to drink your way through Christmas and the holiday season to celebrate—or avoid—the festivities this year. Eggnog and mulled wine—or coal cocktails and zero cheer—here we come.
If you’re more of a Buddy the Elf
If you’ve ever been to one of the holiday bar takeovers at Here and Now (formerly Westbound), you know these guys mean business. Fake snow, hanging stockings, Chritsmas lights, carolers, drag-queen bingo and movie screenings are all par for the festive course during Blitzen’s. From December 3 to the 31st, this Arts District bar transforms to a North Pole watering hole complete with over-the-top cocktails (boozy hot cocoa! Monkey Shoulder with Manischewitz and grapefruit!) and festive bites (potato latkes! turkey-and-gravy poutine!). Plus, when you bring a quart bag of new travel-size hygiene products to donate to PATH, you’ll be greeted by a complimentary cup of punch; what’s not to love?
Santa’s shop right along Melrose? You’d better believe it. One of 110 offshoots of NYC’s original, kitsch-tacular pop-up—Miracle on Ninth Street—L.A.’s outpost, this year hosted at Melrose Umbrella Co., offers Monday-night programming such as ugly-sweater contests and ski-themed parties now through the pop-up’s end on December 29. Of course, the real draws here are the cocktails served in festive glassware, which, by the by, will be available for purchase. Look for around a dozen holiday drinks, such as the Run Run Rudolph, made with prosecco, gin, mulled-wine purée, lemon and cane syrup, and the YIPPIE KI YAY MOTHER F****R!, made with rum, cachaça, yam-and-coconut orgeat and pineapple. Merry and bright, indeed.
The elves behind the NoMad’s bar are at it again, working to bring their famed Holiday Spectacular cocktails to the hotel’s DTLA coffee bar. Fans of the NYC event—and those who attended last year’s pop-up—are no stranger to drinks served in snow globes, alpine-themed martini glasses and every other shiny holiday bauble you can think of. This year, the festivities launch the weekend of December 7, when the team will be slinging holiday-inspired drinks in tacky, festive garb.
You probably know Los Feliz’s Big Bar is one of the best spots to sip year round, but when it comes to the holiday season, it somehow gets even better. The bar team decks out their repurposed Craftsman into a full-on festive sight, and the drinks are even more merry. In addition to the winter menu there’s a handful of holiday cocktails, which this year includes some truly fun concoctions: Try the Rollin’ with the Gnomies, featuring vodka, St-Germain, pomegranate, lime and grapefruit tonic, all served in a copper gnome; or the Nog (Not Really), with Hennessy Black, 12-year rum, bitters, cream, egg, port, nutmeg, truffle and a salted shortbread cookie.
The modern diner within the Hoxton Hotel is flipping its private dining room into a winter wonderland with its SNOWday pop-up, running now through the end of December. Stop by for some serious holiday concoctions, such as the Partridge In A Pear Tree, featuring tequila, pear brandy, amontillado sherry, grapefruit, lime, celery root and cinnamon, and the Polar Bear Club, which features cachaça, aquavit, banana, pineapple, coconut and lime. If you’ve been good this year, you probably deserve some of Sibling Rival’s decadent pancakes, so go ahead and just order a round of those, you know, since you’re there.
If you’re looking for wintry vibes but can’t leave the heart of Hollywood, we’ve got news that’ll make you yodel with excitement: The Everly Hotel is flipping its spaceous lobby bar into an Alpine-themed ski chalet from November 29 to December 31. This year, Ever Bar is going all-in on holiday cheer with live music most Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, plus nightly cocktails like the Gingerbread Man, made with genever, amaro, cinnamon, biscotti liqueur and absinthe. They’ve even got large-format holiday drinks, such as the wine-and-brandy spiced glogg, and some chartreuse hot chocolate, so you can warm up with your whole ski crew.
If you want to turn your “Merry Christmas” into “Mele Kalikimaka” this season, head to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. That’s where you’ll find the hotel’s main bar, Double Take, flipping to a festive Double Tiki pop-up through January 1. The tropical takeover comes complete with a large dancing Santa in a Hawaiian shirt, plenty of tiki cocktails on offer, and an upside-down Christmas tree. In lieu of tacky sweaters, wear your loudest Hawaiian-print shirt—you just might win the tacky-tee contest.
L.A.’s 1950s-inspired cocktail lounge is fittingly getting into the spirit with old-timey holiday classics—some even with modern touches. From December 1 to 31, look out for this year’s festive menu, with drinks that utilize herbs in new and unique ways, including the Coco Verde, made with rum, creme de cacaco, herbal liqueur, mint syrup, heavy cream, white peppercorn tincture, and a sugar, cocoa and yuzu-salt rim; and the fruit cake side car, made with rye whiskey, apple brandy, lemon, cranberry-ginger-orange syrup, house-made sweet vermouth, brandied cranberries and a lemon twist.
We shudder to think of what Casa Vega’s electric bill looks like after the month of December. A kaleidoscope of floor-to-ceiling Christmas lights with garland and tinsel cover this throwback every holiday season, and have for more than 40 years—making it one of the most festive spots in town and a perfect perch for some classic and Mexican-inspired cocktails.
If you’re more of a Scrooge
Trade one fictional being for another and ditch Santa for Bigfoot, where the pine trees are only there to make you feel like you’re in the damn woods. At both the Atwater Village and Palms locations of the perfectly kitschy Bigfoot Lodge, survive the holiday season without a guy in a red suit, but with the help of trivia nights, DJ sets, live music, stand-up and karaoke, not to mention daily specials and a low-lit cabin-like setting.
Without a doubt, Footsie’s Bar is one of our favorite dives—as well as Bad Santa’s (check out the film’s opening scene)—and it’s one so dimly lit you’ll barely be able to make out the decorations, not that there are many to begin with. The most festive this spot usually gets are dance parties of the “Joy Division to the World” variety, so grab a PBR tallboy and a hot toddy and dance or drink in the darkness. It’s also open until 2am daily, which means you can sneak off from your awkward holiday work parties and family obligations and still find this spot slinging cheap beer and charcoal-activated cocktails alike.