Where to find the best old-fashioned cocktails in LA
Cole's has sat in the same Downtown location since 1908, when it opened its doors as the city's first public house inside the Pacific Electric railway station. Though the main reason people flock here is for the French dip, the eatery is just as famous for their old-fashioned. A hand-cut ice cube is surrounded by bourbon, Angostura bitters and a sugar cube, and topped off with a Luxardo cherry and both a lemon and orange peel.
In the back of Cole's sits the Varnish, marked solely by the etching of a cocktail on the door. Throughout the years, this dimly lit bar has managed to become the bastion of this city's drinking culture. The most popular drink at the Varnish is, by far, the old-fashioned, a classic cocktail in a classic setting. Bourbon, Angostura bitters, a sugar cube and a splash of club soda is poured over a block of ice, to be enjoyed slowly in the surrounds of LA's most revered bar.
The Corner Door is a cozy culinary and cocktail retreat where exposed red brick meets dark wood paneling under Edison-approved lighting, and the drinks and bites are reliable and flavorful. Beau du Bois heads up the beverage program, which features craft cocktail specials as well as a set list of classics, including an outstanding old-fashioned. If you like yours on the sweeter side, you'll want to opt for the bourbon version; for a more peppery, dry take, choose rye as your base. The best part? If you come during R&D night on Sundays, the old-fashioned is a mere $6.
From the street, there’s nothing to suggest anything remotely exciting could exist beyond Resident's abandoned warehouse facade. But through the side gate, a twinkle-lit, cacti-peppered patio buzzes with 300 or so Downtown denizens. The drinks are as funky as the setting, including Resident's take on an old-fashioned called the New Fashioned. Old Forrester bourbon, Corbin Sweet Potato liqueur, brown sugar and toasted pecan bitters are pre-batched, letting all those great flavors sit and mingle. The resulting flavor is like Thanksgiving in your mouth—more savory than sweet, and strong as hell.
Once you get past the doorman at Thirsty Crow, you might notice a stuffed dusty crow mascot perched in the rafters. But what should really catch your eye is the whiskey selection: 100+ whiskeys and 60+ small batch bourbons are on display behind a horseshoe-shaped bar. The only natural thing to do? Order an old-fashioned, made with bourbon, bitters, sugar and orange zest. Just be sure to come during Thirsty Crow's incredible happy hour—Mon-Fri 5-8pm, Sat-Sun 2-8pm—when old-fashioneds and a few other classic drinks are available for $5.
Opened in 2007, Seven Grand is neither a newcomer nor a perennial of Downtown LA’s bar scene, but it certainly could pass for the latter. Arguably the city’s premiere destination for whiskey lovers, its atmosphere is of another era, and the best way to fit in is to keep it classic. If you’re not sipping on a single malt or a small batch bourbon, the obvious order here is an old-fashioned. There are a few whiskey options to incorporate into your drink, from Old Forester to Four Roses Seven Grand Single Barrel—a bourbon exclusive to Seven Grand; sip it slowly while you're waiting for your turn at pool.
With a quirky name and a low-key location, Old Man Bar may not immediately make its way onto your radar. The dark room at the back of Hatchet Hall is home to mounted taxidermy and a fireplace, dark wood booths and a bar full of whiskey. Further proof that it is truly an old man bar: an entire section of the menu dedicated to Old Fashioneds. You can stay safe and go with the classic, but why not try one of the other nine options made with tequila or rum or mezcal? If that sounds a little too out-there, the Weller is a superb choice, made with W.L. Weller special reserve bourbon, demerara sugar and Angostura bitters. It's smooth, sophisticated and best enjoyed next to a crackling fireplace.
Inside this tiny restaurant bar (BarToni's is adjacent to Little Toni's, an Italian staple in North Hollywood), a mix of inventive and classic cocktails are offered in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. It can be a place to go a little crazy with your drink—would you like a Grasshopper or a Pink Squirrel with your pizza?—but it's also a solid spot for an old-fashioned. Choose from house bourbon or rye whiskey, mixed with sugar and Angostura bitters.
Don't let this Ivy-League named bar, with its vintage lights and ski lodge den in dusty rebellion, deceive you into thinking it's a place for the aspiring E.E. Cummings or next Norman Mailer. The draw here is live music—mostly blues and rock 'n' roll—and an R&D bar in the back where patrons can sample a nightly curated list of bespoke cocktails designed by a rotating brigade of mixologists. If your heart is set on an old-fashioned, though, they make some fantastic variations here (as well as a stellar original). The Summer Old Fashioned uses whiskey, cynar, Giffard Banane (a banana liquor) and coffee extract; a previous take, the Gold Fashioned, mixed bourbon, Jamaican rum, crème de banane and mole bitters.
This Culver City cocktail bar takes its name from Barney Oldfield, a man who lived a near-mythic life racing cars and starring in automotive-inspired stage and film works and was later buried in the neighborhood. For all the excitement in Barney's life, Oldfield’s offers a subdued, neighborhood-bar experience with French bistro barstools and white tiles. It's hard to imagine not ordering an old-fashioned here. Come for their fantastic happy hour (5-9pm), and mark your calendars for Tax Day, when all old-fashioneds are a single dollar.