The cocktail scene in L.A. is in a league of its own, and there’s no shortage of cocktail experiences to check off your list if you want to truly be part of this city. There's also no one drink that embodies L.A. From classic cocktails at the oldest bars in the city to the latest and greatest concoctions at the city's best whiskey, tequila and tiki joints, L.A.'s varied and most storied drinks will satisfy those who crave more than just a pint at the neighborhood dive bar. Here are the 20 drinks you should order before calling yourself a bona fide Angeleno. Cocktail lovers, drink your heart out.
Quintessential L.A. cocktail experiences
Martini at Musso & Frank Grill
The history at Musso & Frank Grill is palpable—everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Kevin Costner has mosied through this Hollywood hot spot—but you don't have to be a star to try their famed martini. More than 800 of these beauties are stirred, not shaken, on a Saturday night, topped with two olives and only a splash of vermouth if requested. If you aren't already a martini drinker, this version will make you an immediate convert.
Irish Coffee at Tom Bergin's Public House
There's a reason Tom Bergin's calls itself the House of Irish Coffee. The Fairfax pub serves the absolute best iteration of this drink in L.A., with Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, simple syrup and dark roast coffee as the base, and chilled Irish cream serving as the proverbial cherry on top. Sláinte!
Sour T-iesel at Gracias Madre
Is there anything that Gracias Madre's Jason Eisner can't concoct? He's made vegan sours, house-made moonshine, and most recently he's given Gracias Madre patrons a buzz with CBD-infused libations (yup, that's cannabinoid oil). The Sour T-iesel is a vegan sour made with tequila blanco, lime juice, agave nectar, mint, CBD and aquafaba with matcha tea powder garnish.
Gin flight at the Flintridge Proper
The largest gin bar in the world, Flintridge Proper, is right in our own backyard (La Cañada Flintridge), where more than 200 bottles of the clear spirit line the walls. For a memorable (or, you know, not, depending on how much gin you drink) experience, try a flight, including the bar's own Flintridge Native Botanical Gin.
Watermelon Soju at Hanjip
Drinking (and eating) the watermelon soju at Hanjip is a blast—just watch out for the flying Pop Rocks. The communal drink served out of a hollowed-out watermelon shell comes with scoops of the fruit served inside, a sprinkling of Fruity Pebbles, a packet of Pop Rocks and a bottle of Jinro soju to get the party started. Pour the soju over the watermelon and enjoy the fireworks show.
Old Fashioned at the Varnish
First, it goes without saying that if you haven't yet been to the Varnish, you should go to the Varnish. And if you go to the Varnish, you should order the Old Fashioned. 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 L.A.'s most revered bar.
Ray's Mistake at Tiki-Ti
Named after Ray Buhen, Tiki-Ti's founder, the tiki bar's most popular drink was made by pure accident. In 1968, Buhen put the wrong syrups in an Anting Anting, and was about to throw it away until a customer said he would drink the cocktail anyway. Today, the drink is made with Tiki-Ti's "super secret flavor," plus botanic liquers, passion fruit and dark Coruba rum. The moral of the story: Make mistakes, then drink 'em.
Moscow Mule at Tam O'Shanter
Tam O'Shanter was slinging Moscow Mules long before everyone was ordering the ubiquitous copper mug full of liquor. Their version, made with Cock & Bull ginger beer, is a little spicy, a little sweet and affordable enough to knock back a few before digging into the pub's fish and chips.
Anything on the Walker menu at the Walker Inn
The Walker Inn first made its way onto L.A.'s cocktail scene in May 2015, offering adventurous imbibers an omakase drinking experience that included three cocktails curated to each guest's tastes. The crowd went wild, and the Koreatown bar has won multiple awards, even landing at #37 on the World's 50 Best Bars list. Since then, the omakase menu has evolved, switching up themes every eight weeks and expanding to include five to seven drinks. Past themes include California Citrus, Climate, Wet Hot American Summer, Alice Waters and PCH, to name a mindblowing few.
English Milk Punch at Faith & Flower
The idea of drinking spiked milk might not appeal to everyone, but this drink from Faith & Flower, which has garnered critical acclaim across the country (it won Esquire's 2014 Cocktail of the Year award) is a universal hit. Made with multiple kinds of rum, bourbon, Batavia Arrack, absinthe, green tea, a smorgasbord of spices and clarified milk, it's enough to make you forget your lactose concerns.
Michelada at Diablo
There are a lot of great micheladas in town, but the Diablo version might be the most unique. Choose your beer, then top off your pint with a savory popsicle made with tomato juice, lime, chilis and spices. Dunk. Repeat.
Gin & Juice at Commissary
It's fitting that Roy Choi, L.A.'s darling stoner chef, would name this Commissary concoction after a Snoop Dogg song; and it's no surprise that his eyes are sometimes bigger than his stomach, which helps to explain why this juice cocktail (choose from fresh-squeezed options like beet, watermelon, apple, pineapple or carrot) comes served in a tupperware tub perfect for gulping... or sipping, if you stick to the song. (It's also a nod to the fact that those working in the kitchen often drink from food containers as it's all they have on hand.)
Mezcal pours at Guelaguetza
There's a rumor that Guelaguetza has been serving mezcal longer than any other restaurant in L.A., and while we can't substantiate it, we believe it. The restaurant is an ode to all things Oaxacan, and its mezcaleria bar in back serves up an array of flavorful cocktails featuring the smoky liquor. In addition to cocktails, you can also try half-ounce tasting pours of the spirit, served in traditional, tiny gourd cups.
Gimme S'more at Clifton's Republic
Within Downtown L.A.'s historic Clifton's Republic, a fireplace flickers below a giant, fake redwood tree inside the Monarch Bar. Cozy up with the Gimme S'more, a hot chocolate for grown-ups with tequila, Kahlua, hot cocoa and cayenne pepper, all topped with boozy whipped cream, a marshmallow, cocoa and Bacardi 151, which is then lit on fire.
Mezcallin at the Corner Door
When the Corner Door's talented head bartender Beau du Bois crafted the Mezcallin, a spin on the traditional Penicillin, he created a drink that uses pineapple gomme to complement mezcal's smoky flavor. The result: a highly creative, complex cocktail that has left regulars enamored with the drink since 2012.
Daquiri at Caña Rum Bar
Caña Rum Bar features 400 gourmet rums for cocktails including mojitos, tiki drinks, margaritas and, of course, the daquiri. Don't expect any frozen fruit or syrupy mixes here; Caña's version comes together perfectly with little more than rum, sugar and lime juice.
Odd-er Pop at the Church Key
The Church Key's Odd-er Pop resembles the popsicles of your youth more than a boozy beverage, but don't be fooled: each pop contains a three-ounce cocktail, ranging from a "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" (lemon drop) to an "It's Not Easy Being Green" (appletini). Head bartender Devon Espinosa has come up with plenty of creative concoctions here—canned Bloody Marys, anyone?—but these pops frozen with liquid nitrogen are his signature mark.
Margarita at El Cholo
The El Cholo Margarita has presided as a classic L.A. drink in all of its uncomplicated glory since 1967. Made with El Cholo margarita mix, 1800 tequila, Cointreau and a bit of egg white, it's one of the smoothest variations in town. So order a few, okay?
Scorpion Bowl at Tiki No
You can bet this dark, classic tiki bar pours some seriously fortified tipples, many of which are stronger than your average nightcap. But the big daddy of them all—in both size and strength—is undeniably the Scorpion Bowl. Meant to be shared (though we've seen it conquered by a party of one), this trough of syrupy sweet liquor is served on fire, garnished with marischino cherries and stuck with plenty of long-stemmed, brightly-colored straws. If you're at Tiki No with a group, it's a no-brainer.
The Thirsty Crow at Thirsty Crow
The namesake drink at The Thirsty Crow includes "magic" on its list of ingredients, and we are here to confirm that, yes, it's downright magical. Crafted by head bartender Cooper Gillespie, the refreshing cocktail features Old Overholt rye whiskey, maraschino, lemon and ginger beer, and so perfectly embodies the Silver Lake neighborhood it resides in.