Do you have a special love for whiskey and mezcal? Well, we hope you’re sitting down, because Neat in West L.A. is positively packed with both. What’s more, the bar's casual vibe and incredibly cool staff create a sanctuary from the Westside scene known for taking itself too seriously. Neat has more than 60 mezcals and even more whiskeys. Whether it’s Espadin from Oaxaca or Yamazaki from Japan, there are stories behind each bottle, and the staff is more than happy to tell them. But Neat is no two-trick pony. The bar carries every type of liquor imaginable, plus wine, craft beer and champagne. And the cocktail program is strong. The mixologists work with imagination and precision. However, the Neat staff has a soft spot for brave souls who sit down and ask to be led on a journey through the pages-long menu to discover a new favorite spirit they’ll enjoy in its purest form. You gotta admit, the concept is pretty neat.
The scene: Neat is a laid-back liquor lounge with a sizeable middle space that fills up on weekend nights. Eleven small cocktail tables dot the perimeter and there’s ample space between each one. You can maintain privacy even with 50 others in the place. There’s a semi-private VIP room in back, perfect for parties or hatching a corporate takeover. The dark blue walls make it feel classically cavernous and the messy arrangement of picture frames on the ceiling lend an avant garde flare to the room. Live music on various nights make the vibe even more authentic and unique to West L.A.
Good for: Come to Neat when you’re ready to become a real drinker, and to ditch mixers, chasers and ice forever... or just for a night. Don’t disregard the education available to you; a trip to Neat is squandered if you don’t engage a bartender on the ins and outs of whiskey, mezcal and high-end craft-cocktailing. Even without an award-winning booze collection, the cocktail program is strong enough to make this one of L.A.’s libation destinations. The daily happy hour from 5-8pm, when prices drop on cocktails, beer and wine, is worth the trip. Even come alone. It’s fun to listen to the bevy of happy regulars rap about trendy booze all night long.
Drink this: Six classic cocktails and five original recipes are yours to explore. El Diablo Ocho ($13) is a light and refreshing blend of tequila, lime, ginger and cassis. It’s all the best parts of a margarita without the heaviness of a processed mix. The tequila will linger in the back of your mouth for a while and remind you it’s still tequila time. The Rhum Old Fashioned ($11) is a master of disguise: it tastes exactly like a whiskey drink. The rum is aged in bourbon barrels, which paired with the Demerara simple brown sugar, drives home the flavor of caramel that completes the Old Fashioned motif. The Punch Drunk Love ($10) is a rare original creation whose Absinthe complements rather than overpowers the dark berries from the crème de mûre and the stoic whiskey base.
Our tip: There’s no food at Neat so not to distract from the drinks, so grab a meal before you show up. Lucky for you, two classic Mexican spots, Don Antonio and the Talpa, are right across the street.