The holidays are a time to socialize, and for some of us that means an uptick in cocktail consumption. Where to go is always a question because There'seach hot spot comes with its own vibe, favorite cocktails and dress code. Where might you fit in? We've got a few suggestions.
The scene: A twentysomething crowd that doesn't believe in well drinks and appreciates good bourbon. (Money is not an issue for this crop of USC and UCLA grads who will Uber their way to their Brentwood and Santa Monica apartments at the end of the evening.) It's tough to get a reservation in the restaurant, and most people in the cramped bar are waiting to dine. Be patient.
The space: An indoor-outdoor bar and restaurant tucked behind two wooden saloon doors in Santa Monica. The former Renee's Courtyard location has been transformed with kitschy décor: ceiling fans, vintage Playboy cartoons in the men's room and miniature skateboard utensil rests on each table.
Dress code: Strappy heels, tucked-in sheer floral shirts and Levi's cut-off denim shorts for the ladies. Fitted jeans, white
Prime seat: Stand at the bar, because that's the only way to get a bartender's attention. Then try to snag one of only four seats for some prime people-watching.
Sip and snack: Try the Brilliantshine Creole from co-owner and cocktail genius Julian Cox; it's made with Michter's US 1 bourbon, bitter Punt e Mes vermouth, Benedictine, Bigallet China-China, with its earthy, orange aromatics, orange bitters and a lemon twist ($14). If you'd like food to go with that cocktail, order the shrimp ceviche for a light bite. It comes with a refreshing citrus sauce, crunchy cancha corn nuts and chips ($11). The menu changes seasonally.
522 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 451-0045, thebrilliantshine.com
The Nice Guy
The scene: Hollywood celebrities and models — and those guys from that vodka commercial. Also in attendance: members of the double-cheek-smooch crowd who will not think twice about ordering a round of Johnnie Blue scotch at $50 a pop.
The space: A bar/restaurant where the yellow and white floral-patterned booths, wood paneling and bartenders in suspenders and bow ties will make you feel as though you're taking a step back in time. When the door opens, you almost expect to see late-'70s couple Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton walk in, followed by the cast of "Goodfellas."
Dress code: Curve-hugging black dresses, sky-high Christian Louboutins and cigarette-leg J Brand leather pants for the ladies. Sleek vests, collared shirts with the sleeves rolled up and thick-rimmed glasses for the men.
Prime seat: Seats at the bar and restaurant tables are by reservation only — and they are hard to come by. If you can sweet talk or name-drop your way into a reservation, request the lounge in the back. It's the perfect spot to have a quiet conversation with your date or keep an eye on that celebrity at the bar.
Insider tip: There is a strict no-camera policy, so refrain from snapping shots with your new iPhone 6 Plus. That selfie can wait until you're outside.
Sip and snack: The H.wood Group's Adam Koral and mixologist Brian Stewart created a cocktail list that includes signature drinks with the names of the infamous, Pretty Boy Floyd and
401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 360-9500, theniceguyla.com
Bar Mateo at Zinc Cafe & Market
The scene: Downtown artist and loft-dweller types — and a few suits as well — who stop by for a drink after a business dinner. Be warned: They take themselves and their installations and gallery openings very seriously.
The space: An open barn-style building with wood paneling and exposed beams and a vibe that is, surprisingly, seaside. There's a large patio with plenty of seating and a small fountain.
Dress code: White T-shirts, dark 7for All Mankind jeans and black jackets for the men. Vintage fringe-trimmed silk wraps, broad-shoulder leather jackets, high-waist denim and Isabel Marant Dicker boots for the ladies.
Prime seat: Take advantage of the weather and sit outside, relishing the opportunity to sip a cocktail under the stars.
Sip and snack: Proprietors LLC, the cocktail masters behind L.A.'s Honeycut and New York City's Death & Co., have created the Hercules of cocktails with the Hewitt. It's made with smooth Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon, herbaceous Amaro Nonino, Lustau East India Solera sherry and cherrywood smoke ($12). To eat, keep it simple with honey-drizzled goat cheese, walnuts and a good baguette ($9).
580 Mateo St., Los Angeles; (323) 825-5381, zinccafe.com
The scene: A casually dressed thirtysomething crowd sipping wine alongside the 50-and-older folks who insist on ice-cold martinis to lubricate their debates about world politics and the NFL.
The space: Two rooms, separated by a curtain. It's a little nightclub-ish in the back room with knee-high tables and mirrors to check your lipstick. The front room, where the bar is located, is a modern hunting lodge with white wood rhino and deer heads, exposed beams and bright turquoise walls. Enter from the parking lot behind the restaurant Fin.
Dress code: Little black dresses cinched at the waist with a vintage tiger belt, Brimark tights, Tahari shoes and pink Kate Spade bags for ladies. Famous Class hats, faded denim jackets, black-and-white checkered Vans and camouflage drop-crotch pants for men. That guy in the Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts is the one debating world politics.
Prime seat: One of two booths opposite the bar. They offer space to kick back, and if it's not too crowded, the bartender will come over and take your order.
Sip and snack: Have a modern "Sex and the City" moment with a frilly, just-sweet-enough pink martini called Betty Boop, made with vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and blackberries ($12). If you're in the mood for something stiffer, order the Cagney, with rye whiskey, lemon juice, sugar cube, Cabernet Sauvignon and brandied cherry ($12).
12223 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 398-8611
The Chestnut Club
The scene: The Santa Monica models and bottles crowd — without the bottles. Men in collared shirts traveling in pairs, gripping vodka sodas, chatting up small groups of young women sipping martinis. It's a little like the Vegas nightclub crowd — what happens in Santa Monica stays in Santa Monica — without the fog machines and flashing lights. And better cocktails.
The space: A largish-ish room whose centerpiece is a display of more than 400 liquors, backlighted behind the bar. The walls of the main seating room are lined with bricks and feature plush chesterfield booths. A back room offers a spot for quiet conversation and room for larger parties.
Dress code: Nasty Gal sheer-paneled black minidresses, red Rebecca Minkoff Mini M.A.C. bags, black Steve Madden heels for ladies. Penguin collared shirts, dark denim and loafers for men.
Prime seat: If you're there to be seen, sit at one of the small high-topped tables in the middle of the room. You'll be able to make eyes at anyone in the surrounding booths or at the bar.
Insider tip: Doorman Corey Weber will urge you to be patient when you're waiting in line and to put some effort into your evening attire. No hats, flip-flops, tank tops and cargo pants. When you're finally in, don't even think about ordering a Red Bull.
Sip and snack: With all the body heat in the room, it can get a little stuffy. Cool off with the Westside, made with vodka, Orgeat, lime, cucumber, mint, bitters and a mound of crushed ice ($14).
1348 14th St., Santa Monica; (310) 393-1348, thechestnutclubsm.com
The scene: Hollywood hipsters bobbing their fedora-clad heads to an acoustic version of DJ Quik's "Tonite." After a couple of drinks they step outside to smoke an electronic or real cigarette, then pop back in for another cocktail. It's the center of the too-cool-for-school universe.
The space: From the street it looks like a vintage-jewelry shop with two empty glass display cases, but push through the red velvet curtain and you'll encounter a "Gatsby"-esque cocktail lounge. The curved bar is made of brass and marble, and the furniture is straight out of a Hollywood starlet's powder room, circa the 1920s, with plush red and gray chairs and white banquettes.
Dress code: Zara acid-wash denim skirts, Helmut Lang white tanks, H&M gray peep-toe sling-back heels; hot pink Ann Taylor blazers; black quilted Chanel bags for the ladies. Levi's denim tuxedos, Urban Outfitters beanies or fedoras and combat boots for the men.
Prime seat: One of the honey-colored wooden tables stamped with the letters "GJ" along the back wall or one of two reservation-only spaces in the back with mirrored walls. You and your friends can start an impromptu dance party and, with a view of the entire bar, invite those you deem worthy to join you.
Insider tip: Bartender Joseph Brooke recommends … nice shoes. He's seen the doorman turn away countless hopefuls because their dirty sneakers were not up to par.
Sip and snack: One of mixologist Alex Straus' fanciful cocktails. Try the Decadente, made with Tequila Ocho, Pierde Almas La Puritita Verda, guava purée, lime juice and green tea syrup ($14).
1638 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 467-7300