The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Raising the bar in Los Angeles

Times Staff Writer

Where the action is (and will be)

Currently open

Bar Nineteen 12 at the Beverly Hills Hotel 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 273-1912.

The stylish, post-Deco companion bar to the famed Polo Lounge looks to remain packed with the moneyed set for some time, thanks to inspired design (including a backlit, white onyx bar), dangerously inventive spirit options (cherry martini popsicles, anyone?) and palm-tree studded views from the terrace. Former Four Seasons bar manager Philip Spee is already running Nineteen 12, which opened just last week, with genteel professionalism.

The Tropicana/Teddy's at the Roosevelt Hotel 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-7000. Summertime is when the Tropicana truly rocks. Promoters David Schneider and David Heath's selective Thursday-night throwdown, "Night Swim," attracts the most eclectic hipster crowd in town (prone to drunken plunges into the pool when the mood strikes). The dimly lit and beloved Teddy's, of course, remains one of the toughest bars to get into thanks to A-list regulars like Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel

1111 2d St., Santa Monica.

(310) 393-8080.

Sipping gin while watching the sun set over the ocean is proving to be a tonic among Santa Monica's beautiful set. Expect lines some weekend nights; get there early, grab a seat and a mojito, and get comfy on one of the white leather banquettes. Restaurant included.

Purple Lounge at the Standard

8300 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 650-9090.

The once-packed WeHo Standard may be old news, but the hotel's "secret" bar off of Sweetzer Avenue is quietly making a comeback. Rich Royal's Monday-night soiree at the Purple Lounge packs in the cool kids, with regulars like James Blunt and Tichina Arnold mixing it up inside the dark, plush club.

West at the Hotel Angeleno

170 N. Church Lane, Los Angeles. (310) 481-7878.

Comfortable modern couches and distinctly L.A. urban views overlooking the 405 (a lot prettier when you're not on it) make the buzzing hotel's sleek, circular bar/restaurant the perfect romantic antidote to the area's more pedestrian bars.

Coming soon

James Hotel WeHo's demanding scenesters should appreciate this sleek, Sunset Boulevard offering from Chicago. The planned lounge will likely be modeled on the flagship hotel's happening J Bar. Think swank, dark, sexy — though they might want to rethink the signature cocktail: Stoli Raz, elderflower and lime juice served in a martini glass coated in a hard, raspberry candy shell. Yuck. Projected opening: 2009.

The London Gordon Ramsay of "Hell's Kitchen" fame will be in charge of all food and beverage at the newly redesigned Bel Age Hotel (renamed the London), and British interior designer David Collins' firm (responsible for Claridge's Hotel and the Blue Bar at the Berkeley in London) will be making its L.A. debut with the still-unnamed bar. Projected opening: January.

Palomar Hotel Designed by Cheryl Rowley's Beverly Hills-based firm, the yet-to-be-named bar within Westwood's anticipated Palomar will have a "hip, bustling vibe," according to a San Francisco- based representative for Kimpton hotels. That remains to be seen. But you can expect wood floors, light colors and the oversized lamps everyone seems to love so much. Projected opening: early 2008.

Hyatt West Hollywood

Location, location, location: This place, in the heart of Sunset Strip, certainly has that. But can the former "Riot Hyatt" make noise again? Remodeling will include the ground floor's yet-to-be-named bar. Projected opening: late 2007/early 2008.

Custom Hotel

If you like your Sidecar with a side of jumbo jet, then Avi Brosh's Hopscotch Bar at the Custom Hotel near LAX is for you. DJs playing house music poolside should help drown out the noise. Projected opening for Hopscotch: late November (the hotel debuts a month earlier).

W Hotel -- Hollywood

Pure is coming to L.A. in a big way. The Southland's version of the Vegas juggernaut will grace the roof of the anticipated W Hotel Hollywood. Let's hope Britney (a regular at the Pure in Vegas) doesn't trip off the glass walkway jutting over Hollywood Boulevard. Projected opening: 2009.

SLS at Beverly Hills

Exclusivity is next to godliness at the forthcoming SLS Beverly Hills, which will be managed by the folks behind such hard-to-get-into bars as Hyde. Projected opening: mid-2008.

Charlie Amter


Best of the old school

Gallery Bar at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel 506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 624-1011.

Los Angeles doesn't get more classic or more noir than inside this legendary lounge with its smooth, granite-topped bar, high painted Renaissance-style ceiling and giant martini glasses. The Biltmore was designed in 1923 by Schultze & Weaver — perhaps two of the best hotel architects of the 20th century and creators of such iconic structures as New York's Waldorf-Astoria. In the '30s and '40s the hotel hosted the Academy Awards and in 1947 Elizabeth Short was last seen in the lobby before turning up dead. In her honor, the Gallery Bar serves up a mean "Black Dahlia" martini made with Absolut Citron, Chambord and Kahlua.

Bar Marmont at the Chateau Marmont 8171 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 650-0575.

Party like a rock star at the bar adjacent to the Sunset Strip's most notoriously debauched hotel — a veritable castle-to-the-stars built in 1929. What happens at the Chateau tends to stay at the Chateau — unless, of course, like Led Zeppelin, you drive your motorcycles through the hotel's gothic lobby. Even the hotel's most tragic incidents — John Belushi overdosing in a garden bungalow, Helmut Newton's fatal car crash in the driveway — somehow add to the mystique of the place. Recently the bar received a face-lift, but owner André Balazs strove to retain its shabby chic while updating its menu with gastro pub fare crafted by former Spotted Pig chef Carolynn Spence. Of course, you'll still spot the most stars (both earthly and celestial) in the hotel's utterly charming courtyard.

Veranda Bar at the Figueroa Hotel 939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. (213) 627-8971.

Casablanca collides with ancient Arabia at this lush watering hole in a ravishing garden setting overrun with bougainvillea, spiny cactus and succulents. Just a basketball's throw from Staples Center, the Figueroa opened in 1925 as a YWCA and turned into a hotel after the Depression. Oodles of celebrities frequent the place for pre- and post-concert parties, fashion shows and the like, but no one at the hotel crows about it, which is why the place has come to epitomize the ultimate in laid-back — even self-effacing — style. The ornately tiled bar with its flickering candles, well-worn wooden stools and tranquil blue pool are the perfect place to enjoy a mojito with fresh muddled lime.

The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-2251.

Old Hollywood style and grace are trapped in amber at this most famous of hotel hangouts. Built in 1912, the "Pink Palace" quickly became the epicenter of Hollywood's burgeoning, and frequently decadent, social scene. In the '20s Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson were regulars; in the '30s Clark Gable and Carole Lombard met secretly in the bungalows before Gable's divorce; the "No Slacks for Ladies" rule was relaxed thanks to pants-loving Marlene Dietrich. In the '40s the El Jardin Restaurant was renamed the Polo Lounge in honor of Spencer Tracy, Darryl Zanuck and Will Rogers (among others) who played polo in the nearby bean fields, then caroused at the hotel's restaurant. Today, meals and cocktails are served at cozy, semicircular green booths or outside on a charming tiered brick patio shaded by a twisted Brazilian peppercorn tree.

The Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena. (626) 568-3900.

History refuses to give up on this timeless Pasadena landmark. Built in 1906 as the Hotel Wentworth, cursed with a rainy and disastrous first season, purchased in 1911 by Henry Huntington and renamed the Huntington, the treasured structure was declared unsafe in the event of an earthquake and closed in 1985. After a $100-million overhaul (which entailed demolishing most of the original), the hotel reopened in 1991 under the famed Ritz-Carlton moniker. During its tumultuous but always glamorous existence, the 383-room resort has played host to everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Bing Crosby to Albert Einstein. Catering to a more dignified crowd than you'll generally find in Hollywood, the Bar blends warm wood furniture, equine artwork and classy cocktails for a comfortable (if somewhat patrician) night out.

Blue on Blue at Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills 9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 407-7791.

Built in 1949 in sleek mid-century modern style and named the Beverly Carlton, the property was purchased by the Kor Hotel Group and opened as Avalon in 1999. Maison 140 designer Kelly Wearstler was brought in to make the aging three-story structure into a high-end resort worthy of a Beverly Hills ZIP Code while maintaining its winning 1950s charm. (If it was good enough for one-time resident Marilyn Monroe, it's good enough for you.) There are few places more relaxing to have a drink than at the hotel's bar, Blue on Blue, and particularly in one of the comfy cabanas around the glowing, hourglass-shaped pool.

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