If you haven’t visited LA in a while, you might notice a few changes. Startups have sprouted across the city grid and there are finally less herds of yoga pant-wearing gal groups. Most importantly, this longtime mecca for flashy nightclubs festering with NBA stars and C-list celebs flaunting their bottle service of Vodka cranberry is now one of America’s most exciting cocktail destinations.
And with each new highly themed bar concept that crops up, LA gets just a little bit more extra than it already was. Here are five cocktail bars to check out next time you find yourself in La La Land.
1. Apotheke LA - “The Scene to be Seen”Nestled right up against the LA River on the south side of Chinatown, what was once a vacant lot is now a luxe compound for drinks and fine dining. From the team behind Apotheke Bar in NYC, the LA location features intrinsic cocktails whipped up by bartenders clothed in pharmacist attire.
While the indoor bar boasts its charming decor - Apotheke even earned an award for LA’s “Most Stylish” bar - the outdoor bar is really where it’s at. With a view of the nearby city scape, you can enjoy quirky concoctions based on “healing properties” as you groove the night away to the DJ’s musical splendors. But get there early, this place is POP-U-LAR so there will be a wait on busy nights.
2. The Wolves - “Journey Back in Time”Like stepping into a scene from Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, The Wolves offers a curious experience with its gorgeously over-the-top, turn of the century ambiance. Built within DTLA’s historic Alexandria Hotel building, no detail has been left out in this Parisian salon-inspired cocktail bar with art nouveau interiors.
But what truly bedazzles this bar are the aberrate cocktail musings from Bar Director Kevin Lee whose amaros, bitters, liqueurs and vermouths are made in-house with seasonal ingredients. A night under the Belle Époque-era ceiling will set the mood for a bit of romance, so bring someone you're really crushing on. Otherwise, you'll feel stuck in a time capsule with a bad date.
3. No Vacancy - “Party with the ‘In Crowd’’From local icon twins Mark and Jonnie Houston who helped bring LA nightlife to new shaken and stirred heights, this multi-room Prohibition era-inspired bar features a curated selection of crafty cocktails in a bustling Hollywood atmosphere.
Once you get through the lengthy line and speakeasy theatrics involving a scantily clad host escorting you in through a secret entrance, the restored Victorian structure and dim lighting will set the tone for a true Hollywood night.
Warning: it can get crowded (and a little bro-tastic) on weekend nights. Thankfully, you can head next door to its sister bar Dirty Laundry where you can sip amazing cocktails and get lost on the cellar-like dance floor.
4. Broken Shaker at Freehand LA - “Poolside Under the Stars”Where South Beach chic meets DTLA rooftop culture, Broken Shaker offers a libation oasis under the SoCal sun and nighttime stars.
A Tales of the Cocktail award winner and James Beard finalist, the eclectic cocktail menu from house made ingredients paired with delectable bites takes poolside day drinking to an ultimate high atop of the trendy Freehand Downtown LA Hotel.
Not exactly the place to grab an easy drink on the go, your time and money will be better spent by sticking around and soaking in the ultra-LA vibe.
5. Here & Now - “Dine and Unwind”For a more halcyon-esque evening tucked away in LA’s coveted Arts District, Here & Now is the spot to unwind with visionary cocktails along with late night nibbles curated by Chef Geo Delgado. Inspired by Great Britain’s historic Pullman luxury trains, imbibe in this retro vibe with your friends (or by your own sweet self) and let the high caliber bartending staff whisk you away to a golden era.
But the boho Arts District can get a little sleepy on weeknights, so if you want to keep the night going you may want to venture to another neighborhood. Or if you've had enough to drink, this bar is conveniently located near a scrumptious plethora of late-night Japanese eateries.
To fully experience LA nightlife never confine yourself to one particular part of town. The city’s sprawling layout can be intimidating, but Uber and Lyft rates are still pretty reasonable for the time being.
So there’s no harm in bouncing from one place to the next, sipping world class cocktails all along the way. With so many fabulous options from underground lairs to poolside rooftops, the real question is where do I get started?
Cover image: Broken Shaker