In Los Angeles, it isn’t just the cuisine that is farm-to-table. Around the city, cocktail aficionados are ditching their vodka-sodas and gin and tonics for more crafted choices with the ambience to match. Here are five nightlife destinations to muse on the city’s expert mixology.
Once you pass the velvet rope and emerge from the dark hallway, the expansive environment of Warwick welcomes you with a sensual mix of private seating areas, chandeliers and a second floor lounge with a perfect vantage point of the revelry below. Hit the main bar or loft bar for concoctions conceived by “cocktail duo” Jason Bran and Damian Windsor, such as the Blackberry Buck (bourbon, house blackberry-ginger beer) or the Spanish Bull (tequila, mezcal, Cointreau, orange and carrot juices). Reserving a table at L.A.’s newest it-spot not only secures you bottle service, but a tableside mixologist as well. Have your cocktail attendant mix your drinks, or if you prefer to take on your own shaking or stirring, all your market driven accouterments, spirits and mixers will be filled throughout the night.
Award-winning mixologist and beverage director Philip Ward (formerly of Death & Co. in New York) transports you back to the 1920s and ’30s by channeling the spirits encountered on smugglers’ routes from Mexico to the U.S. This translates to a craft cocktail menu brimming with mezcal and tequila. Standouts on the downtown Los Angeles speakeasy’s menu include The First Battle of Tabāsco with jalapeño-infused Blanco tequila, strawberry shrub, lemon juice and yellow chartreuse. Fans of other spirits need not feel left out. Other signatures include everything from rye to rum and a smoky housemade bacon-infused bourbon found in the Ebanos Old Fashion, stirred with mezcal, agave nectar and Angostura bitters.
When you want to channel your inner Francophile and indulge in all the romance of 1920s Paris, scour Melrose Avenue for a dimly lit “cocktails” sign. Once inside the ornately decorated drinking den you’ll encounter fellow bons vivants sipping inventive cocktails such as the bubbly Zou Bisou (vodka, lemon, honey, peach and crémant brut) or the stiffer Contre le Soleil (reposado tequila, aloe, cucumber, cherimoya and mint, served julep style) — all while burlesque dancers swing from the rafters (literally) to vibrant live music. To ensure your entrance, you’ll want to study the elaborate dress code on the website. The bottom line is, Pour Vous is a place you want to dress to impress.
To locate The Roger Room, you may have to consult a psychic, or just look for the emblazoned neon signs advertising palm readers and love potions on La Cienega Boulevard and the nondescript doorman lingering next to it. Inside the low-key lair, you’ll find a team of mix masters stirring up seasonal artisanal cocktails. This winter, drink your way through a menu that includes the Fire Eater with Zwack (a herbaceous Hungarian liquor), lemon juice, egg whites, ginger beer and clove; or go for one of the bar’s perennial favorites such as the Thug, which is a concoction of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Bärenjäger honey liqueur, lemon juice and spicy habañero bitters.
This downtown speakeasy was one of the first spots in L.A. to coax imbibers to ditch their vodka-Red Bulls for a more refined combination of spirits. The menu changes seasonally, so right now you can relish in the nostalgic winter essences of the Jersey Buck with rye, apple brandy, allspice and ginger beer, or go for the Bartender’s Choice and one of The Varnish’s deftly equipped mixologists will concoct a potion using the liquor of your choice. To find this intimate spot, walk through the dining room at Cole’s (one of two restaurants in Los Angeles that claim to be the originator of the French dip sandwich) and slip through the door in the back. Inside the jewel box, request a seat at the piano for full effect.
Photos Courtesy of Alen Lin and Scott Tomaino