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Three immersive new cocktail bars you need to try

The Wolves new cocktail bar Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: The Wolves

Don’t get us wrong, we love L.A.—it’s just that there are days we'd rather be swept off to Paris than stuck on the 101. Thankfully, even if our wallets can’t afford a last-minute flight, we have a perfect way to escape within city limits: Here are three new bars around town that can cancel the world out for awhile, whether you want to be in an all-vinyl hi-fi lounge, a Parisian- and Art Nouveau-inspired drinking den or a stylish hacienda for a cocktail or 12 (seriously, 12).

Gold Line

Audiophiles, this one’s for you. Highland Park’s Gold Line is what happens when a record store launches its own bar, complete with a 7,500-vinyl record playlist from the private collection of a world-famous DJ. Sitting beneath Stones Throw Records—whose artist catalogue includes the likes of J Dilla, Mayer Hawthorne and A-Trak, among others—Gold Line is low-lit and kind of a party, pushing music that primarily spans the ’60s to the ’90s through a vintage hi-fi sound system.

There are thousands of records on display from DJ Peanut Butter Wolf’s own library, and you’ll find the Stones Throw founder spinning them often—and when he’s not, there’s other talent taking over DJ duties. Want to play DJ, yourself? Step up to the old-school Rock-Ola 442 jukebox, which is packed with 7" records. The cocktails here aren’t kitschy, music-themed ones; instead, the focus is simply on highballs, whether they’re made with vodka, Japanese whiskey or pink tequila. You’ll also find a few classics—Manhattans, negronis and sazeracs—and natural wine, plus beer, which can be found for as little as $4. 

 

Stones Throw Records' Gold Line Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/C A.

 

Mon-Li

This isn’t your drink-and-dash sort of bar. Easily one of L.A.’s most complex newcomers, Malibu’s Mon-Li offers a 12-course cocktail tasting menu that’s locally sourced in both drinks and bites—and we do mean local. Herbs, vegetables and spices are grown in the garden onsite, which, of course, you can tour; when not grown in the garden or picked up at a nearby farmers’ market, ingredients are often foraged from the Santa Monica Mountains by Matthew Biancaniello himself, the co-owner and man behind the menu of the Calamigos Ranch hacienda bar. Biancaniello, formerly of the Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar, now stuffs cherry tomatoes with caramel. He gently fills colorful eggshells with his own take on eggnog. He makes his own beer from shrimp and organic herbs.

And his one-and-a-half-hour experience will cost you: The nonrefundable tickets run $150 per guest and must be purchased in advance—but it’s the price you pay for craftsmanship, not to mention exclusivity (the bar is open from just Thursday to Saturday, and only seats 12). Not looking to imbibe but still curious about Mon-Li? There’s even a non-alcoholic tasting menu, which is also set at $150.

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Photography © Carolina Korman Photography

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The Wolves

When it comes to making an entrance in the L.A. bar scene, the Wolves steals the spotlight. The intricate, decadent, detailed cocktail haven within a 1911 annex to Downtown’s Alexandria Hotel is almost overwhelming. After all, where do you even rest your eyes? At its ornate stained glass centerpiece, repurposed and bent to form the ceiling? At the antiques perched around the walls and stairwells and beer taps and even the bathrooms? Are you in Paris? Are you in a Victorian train depot somewhere in Great Britain? It’s hard to tell, which is the design of owners Al Almeida and Daniel Salin, who collectively worked their way through decades in the film-styling and private-art worlds.

The drinks are equally thoughtful, crafted by Kevin Lee, whose primary goal is making as much of his ingredients himself—from the tinctures and the bitters to the fermented fruits and brandies and liqueurs. The result? Wholly unique cocktails made from small-batch concoctions that Lee's been aging and working on for months, and once those ingredients are gone, new cocktails will enter the rotation. We love the Banana Cream with Some Herbs ($16), made with High West Distillery bourbon, fermented bananas, a dill-and-caraway liqueur, apricot liqueur, myrrh vermouth, plum amaro, lemon, marjoram, aromatic bitters, chestnut bitters and cedar-wood fragrance. Give it a try (if it’s still even on the menu). 

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