Historically, there may have never been a bad time to drink whiskey in Los Angeles. The popular spirit somehow even evaded strict Prohibition laws (heck, you could buy it at Walgreens with a prescription at one time). Today, it is aged to perfection, served tableside with aromatic accoutrements and woven into stellar cocktails. Here are five great places to appreciate the revered elixir around the city right now.
£10 at the Montage Beverly Hills
Tucked above Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Scarpetta in the Five-Star Montage Beverly Hills lays luxurious cocktail lair, £10. Its drink menu will please any palate, but it’s whisky seekers wanting to indulge on The Macallan Single Malt who will be most delighted since the spot is the only official U.S. home for the prestigious Speyside, Scotland distiller. High rollers may gravitate to rare selections such as a 60-year-old dram for $3,144 (savor it in a Lalique crystal glass). Those seeking variety can sip from one of three whisky flights featuring pours in their teens, twenties and beyond. Pair your poison with an artful dish from £10’s exclusive menu or any personal request you might have for the kitchen such as a tin of Tsar Imperial Osetra caviar served over angel hair pasta topped with chopped chives or a six-pound tomahawk steak for four.
Does Seven Grand have the largest whiskey menu in the city? At 17 pages, it just might. You can travel to the best whiskey regions in the world with the downtown’s drinking den’s selection. When that’s not enough, you can slip into cozy Bar Jackalope within the same space for a slightly varied lounge take. Bar Jackalope’s intimate surroundings in the back of Seven Grand accommodates just 18 lucky guests, but it offers more than 120 varieties of whiskey, from American bourbons to Japanese varieties. Aim high with tastes of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve or Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, or order Bar Jackalope’s signature Highball made with Japanese whisky mixed with soda water on draft.
At Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak Los Angeles you can elevate your imbibing experience with two tableside whisky flights. During the Japanese Whisky Ceremony, choose a garnish such as strawberries or chocolate and take in its aroma as it is set ablaze with a handheld torch. Your attendant then traps the smoke with a tumbler, infusing the essence with a whisky chosen from one of the most extensive collections of Japanese whiskies in America. Enjoy your drink expertly chilled with an ice sphere. Now, if bourbon is more your speed, summon the cart of three specialty bourbons paired with complimentary trimmings to draw out every delicious drop of flavor. Like in the Japanese Whisky Ceremony, glasses are smoked tableside to accentuate each unique profile.
Renowned mixology talents Julian Cox and Josh Goldman have elevated the drinking experience at numerous restaurants around L.A., but they have never had a place all their own until they opened Brilliantshine this fall. Just a few blocks from Santa Monica’s pristine ocean views you can sip on whiskey-focused cocktails inspired by Cox’s travels around the world. He interprets classic potions with modern twists using boutique production spirits. Take the Brilliantshine Creole, for example. It’s made with Michter’s US-1 bourbon, Punt e Mes vermouth, Bénédictine, China-China liqueur, orange bitters and a lemon twist. Or, the Tattletale, which is a Scotch medley with Angostura bitters, lemon and orange blossom honey. Grab a seat in the rustic saloon and pair your glass with entrées from chef Richie Lopez, who brings his Peruvian roots to the forefront in dishes like striped bass crudo with white soy sauce and peaches; shrimp ceviche with citrus sauce and cancha (a popcorn-like side); and a Merguez lamb burger topped with époisses cheese, Fresno chilies, egg and avocado.
Co-owner Jared Meisler has been collecting rare, vintage whiskey for quite some time and he just rolled out a reserve list allowing you to share in his spoils. You can find vintage boozes from well-known brands such as Jack Daniels (’64) Johnnie Walker Black (’54) at the Hollywood gastropub that taste similar to the current expressions in some respect yet totally different in others. Also find Highland and Speyside single malts from closed distilleries, in addition to bottles from very small, special-edition runs like the smoky Laphroaig aged in sweet bourbon barrels. Meisler says, “There’s a good chance that once we empty some of the bottles, no one will ever taste these whiskeys again.”