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The Best Cocktails In L.A.
There's a lot of drinking to be done in this here city, and where you throw one back on a daily basis is likely just as much about quality as it is proximity. Thankfully our LAist editors are always on the lookout for a good drink in our citywide travels. We picked our favorite tipples around town to save you the mileage. Here are the cocktails that made the cut.
Photo of The Ultimate Gin and Tonic courtesy of The Bazaar on Facebook
RUM & COCONUT WATER (CANA RUM BAR)
Except for the guy who has to hack the coconut open, this is a simple drink: the only two ingredients are coconut water and Cruzan Black Strap rum. Coconut water has earned quite a saintly reputation as a sports drink and hangover cure, but it pulls its weight in this boozy concoction. The light, nutty flavor is the perfect backdrop to the rum's rich, dark molasses and vanilla flavors. Unlike a lot of rum-based cocktails inspired by the Tropics, this combination is not too sweet but incredibly smooth. The drink is served up in a young coconut with a straw and a spoon, so when you're done sipping, you can scoop out the coconut meat inside with a spoon.
Caña Rum Bar is located at 714 W. Olympic Boulevard, Downtown
POBLANO ESCOBAR (LAS PERLAS)
Downtown's Las Perlas turned me on to mezcal—tequila's lesser-known, smoky cousin—with cocktails like the Poblano Escobar. This drink balances the smokiness with sweet and savory flavors: the titular muddled Poblano chili and cumin give it a kick but the fresh pineapple, agave and lime provide a sweet tanginess. (The curaçao offers a hint of bitterness and citrus, too.)
Las Perlas Mezcal & Cerveza is located at 107 E. 6th Street in downtown
HONEY NUT OLD FASHIONED (1886)
Ever since the re-opening of the Raymond Hotel and it's classic cocktail bar, 1886, I've been obsessed with this cocktail. The Old Fashioned is my go-to, benchmark drink to test a bartender's wherewithall behind the stick, but I love the little twist Marcos Tello an his crew put on this version. They fat-wash Buffalo Trace bourbon with peanuts, then add honey syrup, Angostura bitters, orange and ice. It really plays on my high school memories of eating a fat bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios before heading out to morning swim practice. If only my breakfast were as boozy, getting up at 5 a.m. and swimming in the rain wouldn't have been nearly as painful.
1886 is located at 1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, (626) 441-3136
THE ULTIMATE GIN AND TONIC (THE BAZAAR/BAR CENTRO)
I used to think that g-and-t's were an English drink, but after living in Spain I realized that the Brits aren't the only ones obsessed with this refreshing, simple cocktail. Jose Andrés and his team over at the Bazaar make the appropriately-named Ultimate Gin and Tonic with your choice of gin from Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Hendrick's, or Oxley gin plus either Fever Tree or Stirrings tonic water, and garnish it with lemon and lime wheels, a couple juniper berries and lemon verbena. (I go for a combo of Oxley and Fever Tree.) Served with a little sphere of clarified ice in a stemless wine glass, it's a gorgeous drink to look at, and the aromatics are out of control. It may be a bit of a splurge at $18, but you're also paying for the ambience; Bar Centro is a great place for people watching.
The Bazaar is located at 465 S La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, (310) 246-5555
Photo by CaroScuro on Flickr
PENICILLIN (COMME ÇA)
While some of the options on Comme Ça's 18A cocktail menu can change with the seasons or with ever-evolving palates, we're glad to see that one of its classic drinks still remains. Penicillin ($12) is so tasty that you'd swear it's good for you. It's a blended Scotch drink with lemon, honey and ginger that shaken and served over a big block of ice with an "islay Scotch mist." While we're not quite sure what that latter part means, the kick of ginger at the end of the Penicillin ensures that we'll always come back for this classic at Comme Ça.
Comme Ça is located at 8479 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, (323) 782-1104
WHISKEY COCKTAIL (THE VIRGIL)
We like keeping things simple with our cocktails, and that's why weappreciate The Virgil's aptly named Whiskey Cocktail ($10). You have achoice between rye or bourbon, served with bitters and sugar served over a rock of ice. They have a great happy hour, too, which lasts all night long on Tuesdays and 7-9 pm other nights.
The Virgil is located at 4519 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, (323) 660-4540
DARK & STORMY (KITCHEN 24)
We were pleasantly surprised recently during a stop to K24 on Cahuenga when we tried the Dark & Stormy—one of the speciality cocktails. Though we prefer whiskey drinks, the rum and ginger beer sounded appealing, and K24 turned out a good one: Kraken spiced rum, St.Germain liquor, fresh lime juice and Bundaberg ginger beer. It's worth the $11 for a sweet (though not too sweet) refreshing cocktail. During
happy hour, it's $7.
Kitchen 24 is located at 1608 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, (323) 465-2424
For those who delight in sipping a stiff old-fashioned at day's end, A-Frame in Culver City pours a tasty take dubbed Backwoods. Here's what mix master Brian Butler spills into the glass: Booker's small batch cask strength bourbon, Laird's Bonded Applejack, dark amber Vermont maple syrup and Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters—all garnished with a maraschino cherry and lemon peel. If you fancy a go at the classic cocktail, you'll find it on the happy hour menu for $7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on school nights and on the regular cocktail menu for $11. Drink while summoning your best Don Draper.
A-Frame is located at 12565 Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, (310) 398-7700
Photo courtesy of Cana Rum Bar/213 Nightlife
GINGER MARTINI (CANAL CLUB)Canal Club in Venice made it onto our Best Happy Hours in Los Angeles list back in March, and featured on their long happy hour menu is the $5 ginger martini. A mix of vodka, triple sec, lime juice and ginger liquor, it's the perfect spicy accompaniment to the restaurant's sushi selections, as well as the random brie and grape quesadilla. The ginger zing helps trick imbibers into thinking they're doing their bodies good. You won't find the creative cocktail on the regular cocktail menu; it's sole purpose is to make you happy Sunday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to close, and Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Canal Club is located at 2025 Pacific Avenue, Venice, (310) 823-3878
AMERICAN TRILOGY (EVELEIGH)
For the brown-liquor lovers among us, we sometimes crave a little more than your average Jameson on the rocks or neat scotch. Sometimes we want a little flavor, and for that, head over to the Eveleigh for the American Trilogy. The drink combines rye, apple brandy, apple syrup, and orange bitters.
Eveliegh is located at 8752 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, (424) 239-1630
SPICED MULE (THE ROGER ROOM)
Looking for something that will get you wasted and satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out the Spiced Mule at the Roger Room, which mixes rum, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger juice, lime juice, cinnamon and club soda. Perfect for a cool night, but surprisingly refreshing for summer as well.
The Roger Room is located at 370 N La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, (310) 854-1300