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—about 15 people inside feels snug, though more like a friendly hug than a claustrophobic nightmare. Yet somehow this utterly vintage nook adjacent to Alcove Cafe & Bakery hosts inevitably-packed events with utter ease, from weekly bartender takeovers to monthly movie-themed drinks coinciding with a screening on the patio. Everything about the space is relaxed: A gentle breeze blows through open doors, golden light radiates from tea candles and stained-glass chandeliers, and the prevailing scent is a mix of fresh-squeezed citrus and truffle fries. Even the bistro stools that line a pristine marble-top bar are comfortable. Add to that an uncomplicated yet whimsical drink program from master mixologist Cari Hah (Clifton’s, Three Clubs, City Tavern DTLA), and you’ve reached neighborhood bar heaven. Sit back, relax and sip a handcrafted swill, all prepared with fine spirits, house-made syrups and, most importantly, a whole lot of love. Grandma would approve.
Good for: Had a bad day at work? Pull up a stool, order a stiff drink and carbo-load to your heart’s content. There’s a “crispy” section on the menu—need we say more? This place oozes with romantic ambience, so bringing a date here is a viable option. But the best nights to come are on Thursdays for Mixtape Mixology, when featured bartenders from all over LA and beyond are invited to share curated playlists (music ranges from new wave to Canadian) and cocktail menus for the evening. Check the Big Bar Instagram in advance for a preview of each week’s playlist.
The scene: Cocktail enthusiasts, people on dates and long-time locals all settle nicely into this charming watering hole. For the most part, the vibe is laid-back and calm. But come on a themed night and there’s no sense of personal space or an appropriate level of volume, which always makes for a drunken good time.
Drink this: A resounding favorite off the spring menu is Shrubbing Bubbles ($12), a fizzy highball made with rosemary-infused barrel-aged Bols Genever gin and rosemary-apple simple syrup, topped off with amontillado sherry. It’s the quintessential aperitif and perfectly personifies the season. Though what really blew us away was the crystal-clear ice shard at the center of the glass. For those in favor of an old fashioned, Big Bar serves a tequila version called Piña Vieja for $15 (one of their pricier liquid offerings). Give it a good whiff and it’s pure El Tesoro reposado tequila, with an almost fruity taste thanks to persimmon and pineapple gomme. Don’t head home without trying the XXXX Island ($14). Made with rum, tart amaro, herbal bonal, lemon, pumpkin spice and java bitters, this is not your typical tiki drink. All of those polarizing flavors actually meld together to create something balanced and refreshing. Remember to tip big on this one—whoever prepares this beverage is going to have to manually crush the ice to give it that slushee effect.
Our tip: Your best bet for parking here is to valet, so bring cash. Try to arrive as early as possible to secure a spot in the bar and to make it in time for their Eastern Standard happy hour, which runs from 2pm until 7pm and highlights a different spirit each week. And did we mention mimosas, Bloody Marys, beer and wine are available from 7am every day of the week?