Whether you’re longing for the distant days of summer or relishing in the new cool breezes, Los Angeles’ best bartenders have your seasonal fix. Even if you aren’t one of the elect bartenders gifted enough to experiment with umami, molecular reactions and combustible combinations, you can always partake in the next great libation. The joy of chasing the best craft cocktails is in the thrill of the yet, undiscovered. With guidance from L.A.’s top talents, five stellar bars serve the perfect beverages to drink right now.
1. The mixologist: Somer Perez, Director of Bars, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for Library Bar
The bar scene: In a tiny room that easily holds some of the city’s biggest influencers and then some, the scene shifts from night to night and hour to hour. It can be loud and hopping one minute, and quiet and mysterious the next. Chic and richly decorated in dark leather, everyone knows that the drinks here are the real rock stars. “It’s a ski lodge meets mad scientist lab,” says Perez. “Drinking is social and Library [Bar] is a little gem in the hotel where you can get a craft cocktail made to your specific flavor profile with the freshest, seasonal ingredients without any pretension or judgment from our mixologists.”
The drink: Indian Summer Smash. “Being a NYC transplant to LA, I am still consistently amused by the fact that summer here lasts well into [autumn]. I think this cocktail is the perfect “LA Fall” cocktail because on the east coast this would be something we would have in June to celebrate the cold weather finally leaving us!”
How it’s made: Muddle three peach slices with ½-ounce fresh lemon juice. Add ½ ounce of St. Germain, 2 ounces of Hendricks gin, three dashes of Fee Brothers peach bitters. Top with Fever-Tree club soda all and shake. Strain into a rocks glass with a single giant cube and top with the club soda.
2. The mixologist: Raul Yrastorza, bar manager at Las Perlas
The bar scene: Curious about exactly what wonders a dedicated tequila and mezcal bar might reveal? You aren’t alone. From foodies, spirit lovers and hipsters to celebrities and locals, people who flock to this Downtown watering hole quickly become loyalists to the cause. Because here, democracy rules. “Our crafted cocktails are a bridge for those who are not ready to try straight mezcal at first,” Yrastorza explains. “The idea is to put amazing tequila and agave into the hands of the people.” The dimly lit, yet color saturated, bar illuminates a formidable collection of agave-derived concoctions, and the décor pays homage to Mexico. If the room doesn’t transport you, the cocktails certainly will.
The drink: Sueño Cocktail. “It tastes like the season of autumn, like walking and smelling the air of the open market in Oaxaca — the root of its inspiration. Earthy balsamic vinegar syrup brings it all together, allowing this cocktail to truly be sweet and savory.”
How it’s made: Muddle one medium strawberry, four basil leaves, a pinch of rosemary, two bar spoons of balsamic vinegar syrup, ½ ounce of five-spiced honey and two dashes of Fee Brothers whiskey barrel-aged bitters in a short tin. Then add two ounces of Santo Domingo Albaradas mezcal, ¾ ounce of Meyer lemon juice and ¼ ounce of egg whites. Shake and double strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a rosemary leaf and drops of Angostura bitters.
3. The mixologist: Rob Floyd, Scarpetta at Montage Beverly Hills and president of RxLiquidChef
The bar scene: A popular cocktail happy hour that launched this fall has kicked the already-sexy scene at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant Scarpetta up a notch. Guests of Five-Star Montage Beverly Hills, Hollywood agents and ladies who cocktail rather than lunch effortlessly intermix at chef Scott Conant’s Beverly Hills outpost. The rustic-modern, indoor-outdoor concept makes a seat at the bar as nice a place to catch a cool breeze, as it is a hotbed of delicious Italian bites and fast and furious libations. “The drinks are beautiful and indigenous to what magic they are making in the kitchen,” Floyd says.
The drink: Il Fico. “The details make this fig-themed drink special, and I love to use nontraditional garnishes. Here, a very simple crushed pecan, nutmeg and sugar mix, applied to half of a martini glass dipped in honey adds a little something memorable to each sip. Plus, it just sticks better this way.”
How it’s made: Muddle two California figs, adding two ounces of cognac or bourbon — such as Hennessy Black for cognac or Basil Hayden bourbon — ¾ ounce of fresh lime juice, ½ ounce of simple syrup and ¼ ounce of Cointreau. Shake with ice and fine strain. Lightly dip a martini glass into orange blossom honey, and rim with crushed pecan, mixed with nutmeg and sugar.
4. The mixologist: Gabriella Mlynarczyk, head bartender at ink.
The bar scene: Hip foodies get their fix of handcrafted cocktails at chef and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Michael Voltaggio’s celebrated restaurant. With a crowd of diners positively thrilled to simply snag a reservation, the energy in the room is undeniable. Against a sleek, modern backdrop of inky, dark gray walls, the minimalist bar is the stage for a cast of beautiful, fresh and sometimes avant-garde libations. “We have a plethora of culinary toys to make our drink experiments stand out from the crowd,” says Mlynarczyk. It’s safe to say watching the bartenders work their magic is almost as fun as drinking their creations.
The drink: White Russian Tea Room. “Being English I don’t drink a ton of coffee so the standard White Russian has never really appealed to me. Earl grey is such a lovely aromatic tea and combined with amaretto it’s a perfect match. A touch of slightly salted cream on the top turns it into a lush and comforting end to a meal or a great sipper by the fireside.”
How it’s made: Stir together two ounces of earl grey tea infused vodka, one ounce of amaretto, ½ ounce of simple syrup and three drops of bergamot oil over ice for 20 seconds. Strain ingredients into a chilled ice-filled glass and pour one ounce of Straus family cream over the top or served on the side.
5. The mixologist: Robert Rouleau, beverage manager at Bar Nineteen12 at The Beverly Hills Hotel
The bar scene: All about location, this exclusive hangout inside Five-Star The Beverly Hills Hotel plays host to Hollywood moguls, A-list celebs and the fabled hotel’s jet-setting international guests. The bar oozes Hollywood glamour; live music sets the tone for a vibrant, yet relaxing scene. The expansive patio, overlooking palm trees, is the perfect vantage point to take in stunning sunsets every evening. And the staff’s friendly, top-notch service enhances the expertly crafted drinks. “The rich history of The Beverly Hills Hotel couples nicely with our amazing wine list and cocktail menu, which focuses on the classics,” Rouleau says.
The drink: The Fig Sidecar. “First, this cocktail is made with a great spirit, Rémy Martin Accord Royal cognac. Secondly, it’s [a] twist on the classic sidecar recipe. The deep red color from the cognac being infused in the fig is perfect for fall.”
How it’s made: With dedication to detail, infuse Rémy Martin Accord Royal cognac with fresh figs for seven to 10 days. Then combine the cognac with Cointreau and fresh lemon.
Photos Courtesy of The Dorchester Collection, Somer Perez and Scarpetta-Montage Beverly Hills