75 best dishes and drinks 2017: Drinks

No one could escape 2017, but these cocktails made it a bit more manageable.
The Mai Tai at Pacific Seas
Photograph: Courtesy Pacific Seas/Dustin Downing
By Stephanie Breijo and Time Out contributors |
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Though it wasn’t all bad, 2017 made us want to throw back a drink or seven—but as we sipped our way through the city we quickly realized that the year’s best drinks were really to be savored. It was also a year for escapes, be it to another time—when martinis reigned—or another country, when a decadent espresso transported us to an Italian piazza far from reality (ahem, a mall in Century City). Here are 2017’s best drinks, for your sipping pleasure in the new year and beyond.

RECOMMENDED: The best dishes and drinks in L.A. of 2017

L.A.’s best drinks of 2017

Big Bar, martini, Slightly Salty by the Sea
Photograph: Courtesy Big Bar/Eugene Lee
Bars, Cocktail bars

Slightly Salty by the Sea at Big Bar

icon-location-pin Los Feliz

One of bar manager Cari Hah’s favorite drinks is the martini, which means you can almost always find a variation on Big Bar’s ever-rotating menu. Earlier this year she changed the dirty-martini game with this cocktail involving Edinburgh Seaside Gin, Lustau fino sherry, Gancia dry vermouth and a couple dashes of L.A.’s own Miracle Mile “Dirty Sue” bitters, drying out the dirty martini and cutting down on brine—without losing that classic, salty bite. $15. — Stephanie Breijo

Romance Without Pressure at Melrose Umbrella Co.
Photograph: Courtesy Melrose Umbrella Co.
Bars, Cocktail bars

Romance Without Pressure at Melrose Umbrella Co.

icon-location-pin Melrose

This cocktail is full of flavor, tying in real passion fruit purée with fresh-cucumber notes and grapefruit. The best part about this cocktail? You get to choose which base spirit you’d like, be it rye, gin, pisco or vodka. (Hint, hint: It’s best with pisco.) $14. — Jenn Brous

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Cold Hollow at Bibo Ergo Sum
Photograph: Courtesy Bibo Ergo Sum
Bars, Cocktail bars

Cold Hollow at Bibo Ergo Sum

icon-location-pin Central LA

I’m curious to see what else opens up in Beverly Grove’s Robertson Plaza, and if there’s anything that can top Bibo Ergo Sum—“I drink, therefore I am”—the stylish cocktail bar that sits in its back corner. The menu is littered with artful drinks, but my favorite is by far the Cold Hollow: an Amontillado and Oloroso sherry-based blend of a house-made salted caramel apple cordial, Pierre Ferrand cognac and Plantation O.F.T.D. Overproof Rum. It’s balanced, with a wintry depth to it, and without overbearing sweetness—despite the salted caramel. $12. — Stephanie Breijo

ET Foam Home, The Wallace, E.T. Foam Home
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo
Restaurants, Californian

E.T. Foam Home at the Wallace

icon-location-pin Culver City

It’s easy for a flower-scented cocktail to come off as a boozy cup of potpurri, but at the Wallace, this drink’s crème de violette foam is light in flavor and almost pillowy in texture; a perfect entry point—and complement—to the cocktail’s shaken blend of gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and marjoram. $15. — Stephanie Breijo

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Hot Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Studios/David Sprague
Things to do, Event spaces

Hot Butterbeer at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter

icon-location-pin Universal City

Butterbeer, the butterscotch-foam-topped cream soda straight from the Potterverse, shouldn’t taste good served hot. And yet, this seasonal twist is even better than the original. Substitute fizzy soda for something akin to toffee-flavored hot chocolate, and you have a magical recipe to warm up on chilly theme-park nights. $6.99. — Michael Juliano

The Mai Tai at Pacific Seas
Photograph: Courtesy Pacific Seas/Dustin Downing
Bars, Cocktail bars

Mai Tai at Pacific Seas

icon-location-pin Downtown Historic Core

It’s hard for me to stay away from Pacific Seas. The over-the-top tiki kitsch, the quiet nooks near beached rowboats and other maritime ephemera, the DJ sets played from the bar’s centerpiece—an actual Chris-Craft luxury boat—all make this one of L.A.’s most colorful and whimsical watering holes. This, in my humble opinion, is the heart of Clifton’s Republic, and it’s a fitting ode to Clifford Clinton’s original, 1930s-built Polynesian-themed bar that used to sit a few blocks away in DTLA. My Pacific Seas go-to is the reliable Mai Tai, a tiki classic here made using the original 1944 Trader Vic’s recipe. Expect a perfectly tart concoction of fresh-squeezed lime juice; house-made orgeat; Curaçao; and both Jamaican and Martinique rums. $15. — Stephanie Breijo

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Angeleno Root at Bar Mateo
Photograph: Courtesy Bar Mateo
Bars, Cocktail bars

Angeleno Root at Bar Mateo

icon-location-pin Downtown Arts District

This cocktail shows a good balance of bitter and sweet, combining the locally-made Opuntia prickly pear spirit with the also-L.A.-made Amaro Angeleno, plus a pineapple shrub, citrus and ginger ale. Bonus: The garnish is a beautiful charred sugar pineapple wedge that smells delicious. $14. — Jenn Brous

Gentleman's Breakfast at Officine Brera
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo
Restaurants, Italian

Gentleman’s Breakfast at Officine Brera

icon-location-pin Downtown Arts District

Your first instinct may be to go for one of the many reds on offer—sure to complement Angelo Auriana’s expert Northern Italian menu—but I say: begin instead with something a bit deeper, a cocktail that's perfetto for enjoying around that fire pit. One of Officine Brera’s longstanding cocktails, the Gentleman’s Breakfast is built on bourbon that’s been infused with bone marrow. The addition gives the drink less of a meaty tone and more of a rich one; the fat wash lends body to the cocktail without overpowering in flavor. Add some Averna, a few dashes of walnut and angostura bitters and an orange peel and you have somewhat of a savory take on a Black Manhattan. $16. — Stephanie Breijo

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Bicerin at Eataly
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo
Restaurants, Italian

Bicerin at Eataly

icon-location-pin Century City

Italians know how to do dessert right, but even the phenomenal tiramisu upstairs is worth skipping for a cup of Eataly’s traditional Bicerin. Found in the Lavazza espresso shop on the first floor, this centuries-old recipe of layered hot chocolate, espresso and cream is so indulgent, thick and rich that you may just forget there’s fresh cannoli at the next counter over. $4.20. — Stephanie Breijo

The Let's Talk About it Later cocktail at Good Housekeeping
Photograph: Courtesy Good Housekeeping
Bars, Cocktail bars

Let’s Talk About It Later at Good Housekeeping

icon-location-pin Highland Park

The Let’s Talk About It Later is a great introduction to amari—the Italian-style herbal liqueurs—for those new to them. This cocktail is deliciously crafted with a house-made strawberry oleo, bourbon and Amaro di Angostura, then gets topped with a Fernet float. This boozy sipper is definitely a fave. $13. — Jenn Brous

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Lavender Latte at Bia Coffee
Photograph: Courtesy Bia Coffee
Restaurants, Coffee shops

Flower Lattes at Bia Coffee

icon-location-pin Koreatown

This small K-Town cafe makes rose and lavender syrups by infusing the petals in jars of water and cane sugar, which you'll see steeping on the counter. The pastel syrups are then used in coffee drinks, sparkling sodas and desserts. The rose and lavender lattes—best iced, IMHO—are creamy and not overly saccharine, as the floral notes counteract the sugar. $5.40. — Juliet Bennett Rylah

Chailent Night at Westbound
Photograph: Courtesy Westbound
Bars, Cocktail bars

Chailent Night at Westbound’s Miracle on Santa Fe

icon-location-pin Downtown Arts District

This pop-up bar from Westbound is the watering hole that lets you reach a Christmas-gasm, the kind of joint that makes even the most jaded Scrooge cheery with its It’s a Wonderful Life vibes. And this year’s Chailent Night is perhaps its most holiday-tastic tipple, a piping hot blend of whiskey, vermouth and creamy chai-spiced goodness that’s basically Christmas in your mouth. Sure, this pop-up is almost up, but that just means you should put this drink on your list (and maybe order it twice) in 2018. $16. — Tim Lowery

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