Where to drink in Santa Monica
Inside an elegant, wallpapered parlor, choose from a row of vintage bar stools or settle into the maroon upholstered banquette as you sip expertly crafted cocktails like the Boulevardier (Bourbon, Carpano Antica Formula and Campari). Ideal for small groups, the kitchen also serves cheese boards, small plates and burgers, while backgammon boards provide a bit of postprandial diversion.
Fans of Chardonnay and Merlot alike will flock to this Santa Monica bar, where vino is the star no matter your grape preference. Choose from a hefty list of light, medium and full-bodied reds and whites to clink glasses on a casual first date, or order pizza and apps along with your wine for a longer night out. Stop by on Taco Tuesdays ($2 tacos and half off all beers) or Andrew Jackson Wednesdays, where bottles of red and white wine are just $20.
Inventive pizza toppings, like green curry chicken or short ribs, make pies here a novelty to look at as much as a joy to devour, along with grilled tuna, burgers, and fried chicken and waffles. But if you're here to drink, there's a lengthy list of cocktails, beer and wine to quench your thirst. A lively happy hour (4-7pm weekdays, 3-7pm weekends) packs the place well before dinner time, while ample outdoor seating continues the laid-back vibe.
You'll see plenty of first dates at Copa D'Oro, a dark lounge for the grown and sexy. There's a solid wine list here, but the craft cocktails are tops and feature ingredients sourced from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers' Market. During happy hour, cocktails are knocked down to a cool $5-$6, and small plates are offered at a discount, too, like paninis for $8 and dips for $7. As is usually the case with happy hour, this one lasts a few hours after work—except for Mondays, when you can order cocktails for a crisp Lincoln all night long.
Part wine shop, part wine bar, Esters is a place where you can take your time with a glass of your favorite vino (or discover something new) while contemplating what bottle to pick up for your next dinner party. Inside, you'll find comfortable bar seating, where your bartender will gently guide you through an impressive wine list featuring sparkling, white, red and dessert options (glasses range from $11 to $25). Outdoors, a small patio area lets you sip while people watching. There are small plates, too, courtesy of Rustic Canyon's Jeremy Fox—the bar is, in fact, part of the Rustic Canyon family, with wine director Kathryn Coker at the helm. The menu includes plates of burrata and tomato salad, grilled cheese, and baked ricotta; you can also customize your own cheese and charcuterie board with a selection of cheeses and meats. We recommend the kunik—a mix of goat and cow cheese from Nettle Meadow farm in New York.
This carefully curated gastropub is a beer lover's heaven, featuring roughly 30 craft beers to enjoy alongside American pub fare (Hell's burger and curly fries, anyone?). You're stumbling distance—two blocks, to be exact—to the beach, so you can always sober up with a long walk on the sand.
Tacos may be the namesake of this eatery, but make no mistake: its bar program steals the show. If you’re a fan of mezcal, there are more than 90 to choose from, with mezcal flights also available. For skeptics, there’s always tequila, but we’d encourage you to experience the artistry of bartender Gilbert Marquez’s cocktails, which use unique and unexpected ingredients to either enhance or subdue mezcal’s signature smokiness. With an array of equally novel garnishes, you may even develop a taste for crickets.
Exposed brick, sexy lighting and plenty of studded leather sofas—this is The Chestnut Club, the third bar from the same crew behind Black Market Liquor Bar and Scopa Italian Roots. When it comes to cocktails, a favorite is the Diamondback Lounge ($14), made with rye, applejack and yellow chartreuse. It's boozy as hell, but balanced to a T. Grab a spot near the large window facing 14th Street for some fresh air and solid people watching.
Free popcorn, board games, welcoming bartenders—The Commons is exactly what you're looking for in your neighborhood bar, with a killer beer list to boot. Allagash Black, Bell's, Dogfish Head 90 Min IPA, O'Hara's Irish Stout and Miller High Life share tap space with each other, all of which you can down while challenging your friends to Jenga or Connect Four face-off. If you lose, just read one of the always-hilarious sayings written on their sidewalk sign to cheer you up. A classic: "Abs are cool, but have you tried beer?"
A lengthy happy hour (every day from open until 8pm), shuffleboard, live music every night—what more could you ask for in a bar? The Craftsman Bar and Kitchen is a cozy Santa Monica hangout close to the beach, where you can get both outstanding cocktails and decadent burgers.
At first glance, this might look like your standard dive, but step inside and take a closer look because there are hundreds of bottles of whiskey cluttering the shelves and an impressive, ever-changing lineup of craft brews on tap, from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole to Firestone Double DBA. Grab a bottle or glass, then stick around for a game of pool.
With its high, tinned ceilings, vintage tiled floors and columns, and ambient globe lighting, you could almost mistake The Misfit’s interior for 20th century Paris. While an obvious shoe-in for date night, it's also the perfect spot for classy day drinking, with one of the best happy hours in town. From noon to 7 daily, all but three of the bar’s specialty cocktails are half price, so you can easily lose yourself in a Saturday (or Sunday) stupor if you’re otherwise engaged throughout the week. Don't forget to snag one of their complimentary homemade chocolate chip-French sea salt cookie after you pay the bill.
The Westside likes to keep things casual, and West 4th and Jane is as laid back as they come. Comfortable, communal tables fill up throughout the week with small plates (they have a bomb lamb burger) and pints of well curated beer. If you're having problems picking a brew, try the beer flight sampler—four 5oz. pours of their best beer on tap.