Drink up at these top hotel bars
When the hospitality juggernaut landed in L.A., it had to live up to its world-class New York City counterpart. To our amazement, it did. We’re thinking the awesomeness has something to do with the rigorously trained team, a massive yet expertly curated 40-drink menu and, oh yeah, one of the sexiest, moodiest interiors in all of Downtown. Local, seasonal ingredients and house-made yogurt, tinctures and tonics brighten rare liquors for drinks so good you’ll have to convince yourself to try something new each visit. (Even if they are around $20 a pop, they’re worth the splurge.)
Get to this moody but lively K-town spot early—seats fill up fast for this cocktail destination, which sits pretty on the ground floor of the revamped Hotel Normandie. Reimagined classics are the name of the game here, where you’ll get all the flourish of a prestigious cocktail bar without any of the pretension. What’s more, give the bar team a few parameters—favorite flavor combinations, stirred, shaken, etc.—and they’ll whip up the perfect cocktail for you. Don’t miss Normandie Club’s sibling concept, The Walker Inn, though you’ll need a reservation to get into that weekday speakeasy—but trust us, the wait and advanced planning are always worth it.
Look good—but not like you’re trying too hard—when visiting Upstairs, a Moroccan oasis perched atop the trendy Ace Hotel. The elevator next to Best Girl is your key to getting inside (or rather, outside) the buzzing, open-air roof deck, swathed in an exotic canopy and scattered with hip Downtowners clutching plastic cups. Perfect for an after-work schmooze or a reunion with old friends, you’ll find two bars to order a drink from (be warned: weekends bring the requisite long lines). When the weather’s warm, try one of the bar’s oft-rotating seasonal frozen drinks—perfect for sipping through spring and summer.
The main draw for civilians at the Chateau is the celeb spotting, but whatever you do, play it cool. Act like you belong among the pretty young things who sprawl on oversized seats and couches in the lobby. While Sunset stalwart Bar Marmont closed last year, you can still get expert drinks from the restaurant—or hole up at the small five-seat bar in the corner—no formal seating required, and there’s even a late-night menu for the night owls. With a what-happens-in-the-Chateau-stays-in-the-Chateau ethos, partying is encouraged here—though no jumping (or late-night swimming) in the pool for non-guests. The shabby chic-meets-Spanish-Gothic-revival décor—the hotel opened in 1929 and hasn’t really been overhauled since—pairs with nothing better than a bottle of champagne. Oh, if these walls could talk.
Step through the main entrance of Freehand’s Art Deco-and-Craftsman-inspired lobby and the first thing you’ll see is Rudolph’s Bar & Tea, the stellar ground-floor watering hole offering a menu built around tea-infused cocktails. (Step to the right and you’ll find full-service restaurant The Exchange.) Find cocktails by the single serving, or large-format options for groups. Not in the mood to imbibe? Rudolph’s also brews up full tea service, plus light bites all day long. The bar is a nod to Rudolph Rosenberg, once the owner and operator of the Commercial Exchange Building that now houses Freehand L.A.—it’s one of the area’s most stylish settings, now home to a few of DTLA’s most fashionable wining and dining concepts.
Take the elevator to the very top of the Freehand to meet Rudolph’s fun-loving sibling concept, Broken Shaker. Think of this as less a strict bar and more of a vibe: Tropical, seasonal cocktails come topped with glitter, plastic mermaids and colorful straws, while guests swim in the adjacent pool and everyone enjoys the view of DTLA skyscrapers from the center of it all. Feeling peckish? The brief but equally-fun bar snacks include chips and peanut salsa, fried chicken and shrimp tacos. Seats here are sparse, so make a reservation in advance—especially if you’re bringing a crew.
A bowling alley might not be the first place you’d think to grab drinks in Hollywood, but this isn’t an ordinary bowling alley. Stashed away in the shadowy mezzanine above the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel lobby is the Spare Room, devised to evoke pure revelry. A show-stopping set of lanes dating back to the early 1800s stretch the length of the handsome parlor, oozing with Art Deco elegance and a clear view of Hollywood Boulevard out of arched windows. Though let’s face it: The real reason to visit this covert gaming lounge bookended by two gleaming bars is the ace drink program. Punch bowls and tiki drinks abound here—and yes, they just might make your bowling game better.
Yet another outstanding bar can be found inside the Roosevelt Hotel, this time on the ground-floor lobby. Amidst a moody and refined setting full of leather and huntsman-aligned décor, you can sip on fantastic libations driven by seasonal ingredients. Order a cocktail and settle into black leather couches, or take it for a wander through the hotel’s many nooks and crannies to seek out a hidden corner.
On the ground floor of the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel is the aptly named MiniBar. Borne of the brains that brought us Dominick’s and Little Dom’s, this 32-seat hideaway offers a sanctuary for the pensive imbiber; a place to get out without the usual chaos that accompanies going “out”—and with parking validation, to boot. The moment we enter the bar, we're captivated: Every square inch of the space is thoughtfully designed, with accordion-style warm wood paneling, retro brass light fixtures and white leather swivel chairs. Our favorite drink here, the Fuzzy del Navel, is refreshing, colorful and garnished with a cute little cocktail umbrella.
Head for the dark, sexy, moody bar attached to the hotel’s Wolfgang Puck-fronted restaurant, where you can settle in on the front patio or fireside—and piano side, in the evenings—surrounded by Art Deco–inspired design. Seating in the aptly titled Bar & Lounge is first come, first serve, but the scene is spacious and there’s usually a spot at bar, those small mirrored tables or the corner booths. With Puck behind the menus, bar treats include caviar and schmancy hand-cut pastas and dry-aged steaks, with seasonal cocktails served in crystal stemware—lest you forget even for a second where you are.
No, you’re not at a poolside retreat in the Spanish Riviera—you’re in the heart of Downtown, sitting just a block from the Staples Center, but you’d never know it at Rick’s. The newly renovated Hotel Figueroa’s poolside bar is the DTLA oasis we’ve been waiting for, with lush greenery, hanging lanterns, a fireplace and terrace seating that transports us to a world away. The Dushan Zaric-designed program offers frozen cocktails, plus micheladas, tiki-leaning concoctions and Cuban-style beers—perfect for sipping on the patio overlooking the whole scene. Follow the hotel’s social media to get clued in on events like yoga on the Rick’s terrace.
Hollywood gets all the credit for creating movies, but once upon a time, Culver City was where most of the “lights, camera, action” actually happened. As movie posters and memorabilia dotting the lobby will remind you, the Westside’s historic hotel housed silver screen legends from the Munchkins during filming of the Wizard of Oz to Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin, who allegedly sold the hotel for a dollar to John Wayne in a game of poker. Despite the dramatic outfitting—massive stone fireplace, heavy draping over arched windows—the lobby bar has a low-key, neighborhood feel. Groups can spread out on comfy, velour couches, while tables for two are perfect for date-night, pre-dinner cocktails or night caps. Come after 7:30pm on any night of the week and you’ll be treated to live jazz.
Beachside rooftops are in surprisingly short supply in L.A., making Hotel Erwin’s High Rooftop Lounge an in-demand spot for sun-kissed locals. Even if you’re staying at the hotel, be sure to make a reservation; there’s nothing like a multi-hued sunset over the Pacific with a cocktail in hand to get Angelenos buzzing. Getting chilly? Evening imbibers can stay past sundown wrapped up in one of the bar’s cozy blankets while sipping a spiked cocoa or hot root beer float. If you don’t like your drinks sweet, stick to local craft brews to pair with midnight, gourmet munchies like the baconnaise-topped sliders and street-style tacos.
A sleek, stylish bar just off Hollywood and Vine? We’re so there, and you should be, too. Ever Bar comes complete with a view of the iconic Capitol Records building, but it won't steal the scene from the bar's culinary and cheeky riffs on classic cocktails. Concoctions such as the Drink Your Vegeteables, a veggie-packed take on the margarita, take center stage—though the spacious and artsy lounge digs give the drinks a run for their money. Weekly DJ sets and acoustic acts set the mood, while bar bites from the neighboring Jane Q kitchen—like the duck confit monkey bread—fuel you for a game of pool or simply lounging around that gorgeous lobby.
One of Downtown’s hippest hotels comes complete with a few concepts worth sipping in, but the real gem is the rooftop. It’s here you can take in the views of DTLA and beyond, all with a cocktail in hand, be it of frozen, muddled, spritz, tiki or classic variety. It’s also an ideal place to come with friends, as every cocktail can be served in pitcher form. Round out your party by the pool with a brew from the beer garden, lounge atop a waterbed pod, or get dancing to one of the bar’s DJ sets.
Past the Langham’s lobby—it’s really more of a high-tea kind of place—head into the Tap Room, a bar that encourages a rather elegant take on beer appreciation: local, craft brews on tap and more by the bottle. (The wine and scotch lists are pretty nice, too.) The dark-wood and white-fabric furnishings, weekly live jazz and classic cocktails pay homage to the hotel’s roots as an original 1933 watering hole, but the bar bites—lobster corn dogs, cauliflower tacos, sorbet flights—are thoroughly contemporary hits.
Perched atop InterContinental Downtown's 73rd floor is Spire 73, the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. Even though you're 1,100 feet in the air, those afraid of heights need not worry, as there's plenty of seating—including a sprawling bar—removed from the edge. Take it all in with breathtaking views of the city, plus chic fire pits, signature cocktails and a wide selection of whiskey. The bar bites are few, but get the job done: wagyu, truffle fries, grilled shrimp and Korean chicken wings should tide you over until your meal in the hotel's international marketplace (Dekkadance), steakhouse (La Boucherie) or sushi bar (Sora).
If you’re surrounded by VHS tapes, vinyl, old-school speaker systems and walls of cassettes, ’80s hits blaring, don’t be alarmed—you’re not time travelling, you’re just in the Houston brothers’ Break Room 86. Situated at the back of the Line, this nothing-but-fun karaoke bar slinging colorful cocktails and a killer playlist injects K-town with a hit of nostalgia that even those born in the ’90s and later will love. Also, there are boozy push pops. Need we say more?
We were already big fans of Mama Shelter as a hotel and a restaurant—there’s a downstairs bar, too—but ever since that rooftop bar opened, we’ve wondered just what it might take to move in for good. The colorful space is splattered with multicolored sofas and chairs where the something-for-everyone menus run the gamut, from the Middle East to the middle of the American South. Cocktails are also totally diverse and delicious, with a focus on margaritas and Moscow mule variations. On warm nights, you can dance under the stars while DJs spin an eclectic mix of music, or take in a classic movie on the outdoor screen. There’s also a foosball table, a yoga studio and sweeping views of Hollywood. Like we said, we’re moving in.
Set back just a touch from Santa Monica Boulevard is the West Hollywood branch of Palihouse, sporting a mod living-room bar complete with enormous, upholstered couches and Moroccan-inspired tiles. The scene? Languid imbibing—house cocktails feature small-label spirits and fresh ingredients, while by-the-glass selections emphasize craft brews and California reds—and the occasional mini-dance party that tends to break out. If you get hungry, Mardi is Palihouse’s courtyard restaurant right across the way—which has outstanding cocktails in its own right.
The Peninsula extends luxury and excellent service to its Beverly Hills outpost’s Club Bar, the hotel’s cocktail lounge. Understated and unobtrusive (and quite expensive—glasses of wine escalate into the $25 range), it’s not a scene, but it’s where the real power players—the agents and producers and other power houses you won’t recognize—wheel and deal over single malts, barrel-aged Manhattans and the classiest bar snacks in town, from petite lobster rolls and sustainable oysters to caviar toasts and dim sum. Grab a seat at the bar or people-watch at the more intimate banquettes.
Be a tourist in your own town for a night. Past the lobby bar and up on the 34th floor, Downtown’s Bonaventure Hotel is the home of the famous BonaVista Lounge. Sure, it’s a little cheesy—moderately-priced specialty drinks are served in souvenir glasses—but it is a fun, classic L.A. thing to do. And the bar doesn’t offer just regular, sky-high views—the lounge rotates, making it better to take in all of Downtown’s scenescape.