LA is to cocktails as a burger is to a bun. They’re fine on their own, but together they really make sense. So, whether you want an anti-inflammatory Stoney Negroni, a rooftop margarita made with prickly pear or an award-winning Hop Scotch, with carrot, Chivas, Earl Grey and cinnamon brown sugar, read on because Los Angeles’s got it all.
Image credit: Gracias Madre
The current place to be, Gracias Madre is all about a hippy kind of love. It serves vegan, organic, locally sourced food, such as pozole, a traditional hominy stew (made from maize grain) with ancho-chilli broth and cashew cream, avocado and tortilla strips. The owners were inspired by recipes from their Mexican colleagues’ families, and their love of their mothers. And, holy Mother, do their cocktails pack a punch. Beverage Director Jason Eisner uses small-batch mezcals and tequilas, mixed with organic spirits and house-made syrups, tinctures and bitters.
Highlights include a Boozy Popsicle with tequila blanco, roasted pineapple and jalapeño. They also serve cocktails with CBD, a non-psychoactive essential oil from cannabis plants. Good for alleviating anxiety, elevating mood, and for its anti-inflammatory properties, apparently; try the Stoney Negroni.
Image credit: The Peninsula Hotel
An old-school favourite, with great service at its heart, the Peninsula Hotel is classic LA. Visit its understated Club Bar for a cigar-club vibe. The bartender knows his stuff – try a Prickly Pear Margarita, with el charro tequila, prickly pear, lime, sage and jalapeño.
In summer, the scene moves up to the Roof Garden – and its firepit – where chefs barbecue fresh fish, steaks and speciality burgers, and the Speckled Jalapeño Margaritas flow easy. During the awards season, it’s stars a go-go up there.
This southern soul-food restaurant is also a cocktail motherland. To eat while you sip, try biscuits – somewhere between a savoury scone and an English muffin. They are made to perfection here, served with burnt orange honey butter, bacon jam and pimento cheese.
The drink to pick is a mason jar full of Cure-All Tonic, a signature cocktail made with your choice of vodka or gin, combined with a secret selection of tinctures from the Willie Jane garden, plus agave, lime, and house-made tonic water.
Image credit: Wonho Frank Lee
If you’re travelling with your family, hit up Citizen in Beverly Hills, a buzzing new bar and restaurant serving a trans-global selection of small plates (mussels with saffron, orange, star anise and Thai basil, or soba noodles with honshimeji mushrooms, kimchi and tamari vinaigrette) and stonking cocktails.
They offer a Bartender’s Choice cocktail; you tell the waiter your preferred spirit (gin, vodka, whisky or rum) and what sort of mood you’re in, and they’ll come up with something to surprise you. There are also soft cocktails for younger drinkers.
The Melrose Umbrella Company
The image that marked the momentous abolishment of Prohibition was an umbrella with raindrops falling from the inside, representing the promise of many wet days to come. It was during this period – 1933 – when the building housing the Melrose Umbrella Company was built.
The quirky, candle-lit space, with umbrellas on its bare walls, now has great cocktail makers behind the bar, and has recently evolved into a coffee shop, too. Theoretically, you can arrive for coffee at 9am, start on the hard liquor at noon and stay till closing at 2am (Thurs-Sat). But be warned, there’s no proper food so it could get messy.
The intriguing signature cocktail, Hop Scotch #2, is a mix of carrot, Chivas 12, Atlantico Reserva, Earl Grey tea, and cinnamon brown sugar syrup, and has won awards.
Written by Sophie Pither, November 2016
Image credit: Gracias Madre