26 great cocktails in the Los Angeles area

The classic michelada at Loteria Grill consists of lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, Tapatio, celery salt and a bottle of Dos Equis.

The classic michelada at Loteria Grill consists of lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, Tapatio, celery salt and a bottle of Dos Equis.

(Mariah Tauger / For the Los Angeles Times)

Cheers! It's six o'clock somewhere. And while your attention may have been diverted elsewhere, Los Angeles has become a cocktail town, a city where the sommelier thing seems just a bit old-fashioned, the craft-beer thing is a little played out and, as far as I know, there is still only one restaurant with a water sommelier. For the first time in recent memory, it is easier to find a delicious Negroni to drink with your pizza than a delicious, affordable bottle of Napa Zinfandel.

In the cocktail universe, Los Angeles was probably better known as the TV home of "Three's Company's" Regal Beagle pub and as the birthplace of novelty cocktails like the White Russian and the Harvey Wallbanger than as a destination for serious drinking. Dale DeGroff, the father of the 21st century cocktail renaissance, spent decades behind the bar at the Hotel Bel-Air without attracting much notice.

So it was a surprise to almost everyone when local chefs like Mark Peel and Michael Cimarusti began to lean toward cocktails a decade ago, intrigued by the clean flavors and the precise ways in which a cocktail could be manipulated to flatter the contours of a dish. Cedd Moses, the Houston Brothers and the 1933 Group opened multiple bars where the cocktails were as important as the groove. A generation of young drinkers grew up more confident in their ability to order top-shelf rye old-fashioneds than to navigate often-overpriced wine lists.

Map: Where to find Jonathan Gold's 26 great Los Angeles cocktails

And the bartenders got better. Where there were once perhaps a dozen L.A. bartenders who could handle a Corpse Reviver or a Ramos gin fizz, suddenly there were hundreds, and it became difficult to sustain an ambitious restaurant without an ambitious bar program.

The bartenders who were stars a few years ago have mostly become consultants, managers and brand ambassadors — while you may be able to try Julian Cox's inventions in a dozen venues, you are unlikely to taste a drink actually shaken by Julian Cox — but it hardly matters. Los Angeles is at long last a great place to drink, not just in a few specialty cocktail bars but practically everywhere.

The Cocktail Issue: Bartenders pour out their stories | Food and spirit pairings | Bar gear | Mocktails | Cocktail ice | The renaissance barman

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Moscow mule

I have tasted a well-made Los Angeles, the shaken whiskey-egg concoction described in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, and it is not, perhaps, a cocktail for which a great metropolis might want to be known. The great Los Angeles cocktail is really the Moscow mule, a combination of vodka, lime and strong ginger beer first mixed at the old Cock 'N Bull on the Sunset Strip in the 1940s and now made in its most authentic form at the Tam O'Shanter Inn, a 1920s-era restaurant still owned by the Lawry's family and best known for its Robert Burns Day celebration. The Moscow mule is the drink that pretty much introduced America to vodka and may be responsible for that box of tarnished copper mugs in the back of your great-aunt's garage. The Tam makes a great Moscow mule, for decades served in a chilled pewter vessel but now in a proper copper mug: spicy, not too sweet and sneakily alcoholic.

2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Feliz

(323) 664-0228

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Tequila y sangrita

In Jalisco, the spirit's birthplace, tequila tends to be served not as a margarita but as a shot — perhaps a shot in a snifter if you're drinking something good in a fancy bar, but a shot nonetheless. And if you have lived your life well, there will also be a shot of sangrita, a blend of fruit juices anchored by a few drops of bitter orange perhaps and zapped with a bit of hot chile. A good sangrita has an almost magical ability to scrub the palate between sips of straight tequila, in the way that a sliver of pickled ginger prepares you for the next piece of sushi or a sip of cold Muscadet sets you up for your next oyster. You'll probably be going to Corazon y Miel for the pork ribs with cactus, the wild boar chilaquiles and the spicy 12-hour barbacoa, but it may be the dual shots of tequila and spicy-tart tomato-based sangrita that will persuade you to return.

6626 Atlantic Ave., Bell

(323) 560-1776.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

English milk punch

Faith and Flower has become the drinking destination of choice in that hinterland between the L.A. Convention Center and the financial district; boisterous enough for dude-bros but elegant enough for first dates, a grand, high-ceilinged complex featuring the Asian-tinged French cooking of chef Michael Hung. The drink menu is no longer as dependent on the great old cocktail books as it was in its first days, but there is still the English milk punch from "Professor" Jerry Thomas' 1862 "How to Mix Drinks": milk, clarified in a complicated process taking several days, flavored with spices and mellowed with bourbon, absinthe, Batavia arrack and three rums, among other thing, served cold. It is among the nicest possible accompaniments to a Sunday breakfast, and you absolutely cannot make it at home.

705 W. 9th St., Los Angeles

(213) 239-0642

(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)


In the post-"Mad Men" era, old-fashioneds have become the whiskey cocktail of choice: bourbon, sugar, a dash of bitters and ice. And Seven Grand may be the most old-fashioned-intensive bar in the western United States. They claim to sell 70,000 of the cocktails each year. Yet I'm not sure I've ever walked into Seven Grand without drinking a Sazerac or two: lightly sweetened rye stirred with a dash or two of anise-scented Peychaud Bitters and served neat in a small, absinthe-rinsed glass. As it should be, the Sazerac is complex yet straightforward, and fragrant yet austere. You will not find a better version of the New Orleans classic in Los Angeles.

515 W. 7th St., Los Angeles

(213) 614-0737

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Brandy old-fashioned

My friend Sara Roahen, a longtime New Orleans resident, is a food writer faithful to all things Louisiana, from sno-balls to fried catfish to sausage po' boys. You really should look up her turkey bone gumbo recipe sometime. Yet her alcoholic obsessions run neither toward the Sazerac nor the brandy milk punch but toward the brandy old-fashioneds that her family drank when she was growing up in Wisconsin: brandy, sugar and bitters topped up with a splash of soda (or 7Up), served in a double rocks glass mounded high with crushed ice. A brandy old-fashioned is the quintessential cocktail of the Upper Midwest. Does it make sense that the best version in Los Angeles is served at the Ledlow, a restaurant serving Josef Centeno's refined take on American dinner house cuisine? It just might. Ledlow's brandy old-fashioned is a cocktail meant to be savored with dinner.

400 S. Main St., Los Angeles

(213) 687-7015

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Gin and tonic

Around here, gin and tonic is a basic summer tipple, one step below a pitcher of sangria, perhaps, and one step above a frosty can of Bud Lite. So Spain's obsessive gin and tonic cult often seems odd to everyone who thinks of it as the one cocktail his or her great-aunt knows how to make. Gin, tonic — done. But there is a quiet beauty to the infinite variations you find in Madrid or Barcelona: the herbs, the tinctures, the aromatics added to the basic drink, which is almost always served in a bulbous wineglass. (Some Spanish lists feature almost a hundred variations.) As served at the Chestnut Club, Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix's oversubscribed Santa Monica lounge, Spanish-style gin and tonics tend to be unfussy and aromatic, small liquid essays on the kinds of bitterness that can be coaxed out of the basic ingredients. I like the variation called Brighton Racecourse, inflected with a hint of grapefruit and a sprig of fresh lavender.

1348 14th St., Santa Monica

(310) 393-1348

The Negroni cocktail at Scopa Italian Roots.

The Negroni cocktail at Scopa Italian Roots.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


Is the Negroni the best of all possible aperitifs? Yes, the Negroni is the best of all possible aperitifs, unless you are strictly of the glass-of-Champagne school, or perhaps of the school that insists the job of an aperitif is to taste so persuasively awful that the rest of the dinner can only be an improvement, in which case, enjoy your artichoke liqueur. Strictly speaking, a Negroni should also be persuasively awful, composed as it is of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, each of which is basically undrinkable on its own, especially since Campari became the New Coke of amari when it was reformulated a few years ago. But stirred together, nicely chilled, enhanced with an orange peel — not bad, especially on a lazy afternoon. Everyone who's visited Italy has his or her own version of a peak Negroni experience. Mine came, as so many do, in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, because of the taste and also because of the stupendous price. The Negroni at Scopa Italian Roots, that Venetian palace of veal chop Milanese and day drinking, has all the well-calibrated syrupy bitterness at a small fraction of the cost. Get a plate of the jet-black fried calamari too.

2905 Washington Blvd., Venice

(310) 821-1100

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Odder Pop

If you are into hardware, Church Key is definitely the place to be. It is easy enough to believe that you have been transplanted into the culinary pages of a Rejuvenation catalog. But even for those of us most apt to covet hand-cranked Berkel ham slicers or wooden tool boxes converted into hors d'oeuvres caddies, the real knockout is the vintage Pan Am drink cart, pushed by a uniformed flight attendant prepared to make you slushy alcoholic popsicles, plastic-encased booze frozen on the spot in a misty swoosh of liquid nitrogen. Even if you wouldn't be caught dead ordering a lemon-drop martini or a Sex on the Beach — the selection of Odder Pops changes almost every day — the Space Age groove of the presentation somehow makes it OK.

8730 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

(424) 249-3700

(Mariah Tauger)


A well-made martini is one of the greatest works of humankind: a caressing bitter chill, a burst of aromatics and a terrible, crystalline beauty that replicates what Kantians know as Pure Reason — a moment of clarity that carries within it the seeds of its own demise. In the dark years of the American bar, those decades when the eminence of the cocktail was superseded by bad white wine on the one hand and the Slippery Nipple on the other, it was the martini alone that upheld the integrity of the genre. Must a great martini be stirred by a 40-year veteran who takes as much care in the snappiness of his bow tie as he does in the quality of his drinks? Not necessarily, but it does usually end up that way. There has never been an article of this kind that does not end up praising the supremacy of the gin martinis at Musso & Frank, and this is not about to be the first.

6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

(323) 467-7788

(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)


Is the Tonga Hut the place to experience high-tech rotovap extractions, rare liquors and orgeat made from green almonds handpicked under a full moon? It is not. The North Hollywood institution is one of the last of the original tiki bars standing, a place built to quench the tropical thirsts of men and women who had served in the Pacific in World War II. And it is a pleasure to watch the bartender make six drinks at once as if she were playing a real-time game of Tetris, constructing her mixtures of rums, juices and whatnot according to some arcane additive principle that could probably be expressed as a question on the SAT. Tonga Hut is not a temple of mixology. It is a bar. The scorpion, a circus of rum, brandy, almond syrup and more, is fruity and cold, and it comes in a bowl for two. Romantic!

12808 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood

(818) 769-0708

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Oyster shooters

A shooter is usually a gentle thing, a tiny, subtle concoction prepared from an oyster and aromatized sake or clear spirits, often pressed into service as an amuse bouche. A shooter demonstrates a chef's ability to select seafood, to tweeze into existence a small but delightful tableau in a glass and to season in a way that both heightens and respects the flavor of a fresh kumamoto. At Tipple & Brine, the Studio City oyster bar, a shooter is less an appetizer than it is a formidable cocktail, especially when presented as a flight: a trio of small glasses sunk into holes in a wooden board. You pound them — one! two! three! — one sluiced with vodka and horseradish, the next with bourbon and bacon, the third with tequila and smoked roe, and you are all at once tipsy, slightly full and ready for a glass of cold beer. If you are anything like me, you are also wondering why Tipple & Brine doesn't do its oyster luge anymore, but the combination of shellfish and smoky Islay Scotch may never have been one for the ages.

14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks

(818) 528-2550

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Pisco sour

If you ask me, the greatest cocktail in all South America is the pisco sour served in the bar in Lima's Gran Hotel Bolivar, a thick, luxurious tipple of pisco brandy shaken with egg white and fresh citrus, strained into a squat glass and inscribed with a free-form squiggle of Angostura bitters. It is served with a little dish of salted cancha, marble-size kernels of toasted Peruvian corn. Mario Vargas Llosa drank this pisco sour. Generations of diplomats drank this pisco sour. You are at the heart of the Andean world. You won't find the right cancha at Los Balcones, a loungey Peruvian restaurant kitty-corner from the ArcLight theater in Hollywood, but you will find remarkably good pisco sours, rich as cream, to sip alongside the tiradito. If you're having more than one, have your second made with the spicy pisco the house infuses with Peruvian rocoto chiles.

1360 Vine St., Los Angeles

(323) 736-2775

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Jimmy Conway

In "Goodfellas," Jimmy Conway, the mobster played by Robert De Niro, drinks Seven-and-Sevens, the house cocktail of men who don't give a damn what other people think about what they're drinking. "Hey, kid, keep 'em coming," he tells young Henry. For some reason, a Jimmy Conway, equal parts straight bourbon, Sambuca and Canadian whiskey served in a shot glass, became kind of a thing a decade ago. But at Love & Salt, a fashionable Italian restaurant in Manhattan Beach, a Jimmy Conway becomes whiskey seasoned with walnut bitters, pricey Nonino amaro from Friuli and a weird, bitter Italian liqueur made from rhubarb. It tastes less like a mobster shot than it does like the best old-fashioned you've ever tasted. Is a Jimmy Conway what you want to be drinking with lamb's tongue panini or a whole maple-glazed pig's head? Probably so.

317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach

(310) 545-5252

(Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

Gin and juice

Everybody at the moment seems eager to tell us how to think like a chef — to expand on the produce we find in shops and at the farmers market instead of blindly following recipes. At Commissary, Roy Choi's vegetable-forward restaurant in the Line Hotel, you also have an opportunity to drink like a chef: The cocktail, basically the two titular ingredients sloshed together with ice in a plastic deli container, is exactly what a sweaty line chef might want to have by her side when the orders start pouring in on a Saturday night, although she may have to settle for it as a shift drink. Is it a plus that the cocktail is named for Snoop Dogg's wooziest hit? Do you even have to ask?

3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

(213) 368-3030

(Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

Little Tokyo

Was there a Little Tokyo cocktail in Harry MacElhone's 1926 edition of "Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails," the essential drinks manual of Paris in the '20s? Would yuzu, cloudy nigori sake and the bitter, orange-scented Italian aperitivo called Cappelletti have been available there at the time? I can't answer that definitively. I can tell you that my copy of MacElhone's 1927 "Barflies and Cocktails," whose recipe section is said to basically duplicate that of the earlier book, lists a Japanese Cocktail containing almond syrup, brandy and bitters, which is pretty much identical to the Japanese Cocktail in Jerry Thomas' "Bar-Tender's Guide" from 1862. Cocktail geeks can be pretty insufferable. At any rate, the cocktail program that Julian Cox and Tobin Shea put together for Redbird, the restaurant by the deconsecrated St. Vibiana's Cathedral downtown, resurrects lots of recipes from classic old cocktail books, the strategy that established the new cocktailian movement in the first place. And whether or not the Little Tokyo has its roots in the Paris of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, it is a complex, low-alcohol cocktail that goes splendidly well with Neal Fraser's light, strongly flavored hors d'oeuvres.

114 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles

(213) 788-1191.

The classic michelada at Loteria Grill consists of lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, Tapatio, celery salt and a bottle of Dos Equis.

The classic michelada at Loteria Grill consists of lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, Tapatio, celery salt and a bottle of Dos Equis.

(Mariah Tauger / For the Los Angeles Times)

(Mariah Tauger)


I'm not sure you can even call a michelada a cocktail — it's basically an improved way to drink beer: Add some heat, toss in some umami, spritz with fresh citrus and ice them down so that you can drink them on a patio all afternoon. Some of my favorite micheladas are made with nothing more complex than Corona, Clamato and a splash of chile. Jimmy Shaw, owner of the Loteria Grill in Hollywood, Westlake Village and elsewhere, tweaks his micheladas just that little bit extra. If you're a thrill seeker, you can try the variation of michelada popular in Mexico City, spiked with Tapatio hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and the dread Maggi seasoning. It smells a bit like a sheep pen but has a shimmering depth of flavor you would never expect from a shotgun marriage of supermarket condiments.

6627 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 465-2500

Also: 180 Promenade Way, No. 15, Thousand Oaks; (805) 379-1800. 12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 508-5300, and others.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


Mezcal is definitely not a cocktail. It's a spirit, made from the heart of the agave plant, that at its best has a smooth, almost shimmering aroma underlaid with an aggressive hint of wood smoke from the pits in which the agave was roasted. And as delicious as mezcal can be in mixed drinks — Julian Cox's Donaji at the old Rivera comes to mind, served in glasses rimmed in grasshopper salt, as well as Marcos Tello's Medicina Latina — it never tastes better than when it is served traditionally, in shallow gourd cups, a plate of oranges and spiced salt on the side, at the Guelaguetza mezcaleria. Even if you collect mezcal the way that some people do comic books, there are bound to be a few bottles on the huge list you haven't run across yet.

3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

(213) 427-0608

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Havana fix

The fix is among the oldest and simplest of cocktails, essentially a shot of liquor, a bit of sugar and a squeezed-out quarter lemon served in a glass of crushed ice. Most 19th century cocktail books give instructions for fixes made with gin, brandy, whiskey or rum. One of Eric Alperin's most popular drinks in the earliest days of the Varnish, the cocktailian bar behind Cole's downtown, was a gin fix empurpled with a little homemade grenadine, pomegranate syrup; later came a Brazilian fix with cachaca, honey and chartreuse. Alperin's particular gift as a bartender is twisting a classic recipe just a half-turn or so; it is still recognizable but somehow more glamorous, like that girl from your junior high school class who grew up to be a model. Which brings us to the Havana fix — not a 19th century cocktail but one that could pass as one in a police lineup, a fix made with rum, pineapple and a splash of chartreuse, like a tiki drink's mustachioed great-grandfather.

118 E. 6th St., Los Angeles

(213) 622-9999

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Kiki Fantana

The newest wave of neo-speak-easies in Los Angeles is pretty straightforward. You weave your way through a loading dock, a barbershop, an oyster bar or somebody's dad's garage, and then you're in a room with mismatched furniture, retro music and lots of Grey Goose — so comfortable. But Honeycut, another bar in Cedd Moses' seemingly endless portfolio of downtown bars, has a few more layers to it. Because you really are staggering down a dark alley, the bouncer really is the size of a USC defensive tackle and the bar at the bottom of the stairs really is a small disco, complete with booming Chic and Donna Summer, where people are strutting on a flashing dance floor identical to the one danced on in "Saturday Night Fever" — ironic yet somehow also post-ironic. Will your cocktail be dispensed out of a machine the way that the ones you (or more likely your parents) used to get at Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace on a false ID? Yes, except instead of a Pina Colada, you will be drinking a Kiki Fantana — a strangely delicious thing involving gin, vermouth and house-made strawberry cream soda. But wasn't Kiki Fantana the dancer representing orange Fanta in those old commercials? Shh.

819 S Flower St., Los Angeles

(213) 688-0888

(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)


A gin gimlet, nature's perfect summer drink, was a safe order even in the dark ages of the American cocktail. A shot of gin, a splash of Rose's Lime and you're there. Even then, it was understood that muddling in some basil or using fresh lime juice instead of the bottled stuff was just messing with what was undeniably a classic. But then came the introduction of the lime cordial, a syrup, often homemade, which incorporated the breezy, bitter aromatics of the peel back into the mix. And a well-made gimlet made with a good cordial, like the one you can find at 320 Main, is beautiful — a little sharp, more bracing than the gimlets you may be used to, but with real citrus depth.

320 Main St., Seal Beach

(562) 799-6246

(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Baby's First Bourbon

The concept behind this drink at Harvard & Stone is silly, possibly bordering on the offensive. As its name suggests, it is basically a cocktail with training wheels: whiskey sweetened with almond syrup, scented with lemon and touched with the barest hint of Angostura bitters. It may serve as a useful pivot to more serious cocktails, such as old-fashioneds, Manhattans and sours, and even if your tastes lean more toward an Aviation No. 2 or even straight mezcal, it does taste pretty good, although on the sugary side. Still, if your Tinder date ordered this for you on your first meeting, you would be justified in ditching him for a solo bowl of duck stew noodles at the nearby Sanamluang. Sanamluang is less crowded too.

5221 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz

(323) 466-6063

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Smoke of Scotland

Vincenzo Marianella may be the bartender equivalent of Kobe Bryant in his prime, a guy who knows all the basic moves but can still score with a drink lightly scented with marmalade and Dijon mustard, or with a spontaneous juice concoction whose ingredients are known only to farmers market ninjas. The $5 happy hour drinks at his Copa d'Oro are popular with UCLA students, but his menu includes $55 Manhattans for the Silicon Beach crowd. Marianella, who may have started the local cocktailian movement in his years behind the bar at Providence, was the first in town with the Bartender's Choice thing. Still, his most enduring invention may be the Smoke of Scotland — ultra-peaty Islay Scotch given glowing, moody depth with a few drops of vermouth, elderflower liqueur and the Italian herbal liqueur Averna. It's the drink that taught Scotch to speak Italian.

217 Broadway, Santa Monica

(310) 576-3030

The Daiquiri at Ca–a Rum Bar.

The Daiquiri at Ca–a Rum Bar.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


Hemingway liked his daiquiris frothy and frozen, he liked them spiked with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur, he liked them unsugared and he liked them huge. His beloved double frozens, as described in "Islands in the Stream," "had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow." A proper daiquiri, on the other hand, like the ones you find at Caña Rum Bar in downtown L.A., contains nothing more than sugar, fresh lime juice and rum. It does taste of alcohol, specifically the rum with which it is made, which is kind of the point: If you are drinking Smith & Cross or a nice old agricole, you may as well enjoy it. At Caña, you can also drink rum from a coconut. Please don't.

714 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

(213) 745-7090

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)


It's a hot afternoon. You and the one you love have found an outdoor cafe in Guadalajara. You have no intention of moving from the table, maybe ever. And in front of you is a cold — margarita? Yeah, right. What you are actually drinking is a paloma, which in its platonic form is just tequila and Squirt in a tall glass with ice and maybe a wedge of lime. This is Mexico, so it's Mexican Squirt, the kind that comes in a thick, swirly bottle. We're not savages here. At the formidable downtown tequila bar Las Perlas, the palomas are made with Jarritos grapefruit soda, which is an acceptable substitution, but no tricky grapefruit cordials, no handcrafted bitters and no shaman-approved agave syrups. Are you not refreshed? We thought as much.

107 E. 6th St., Los Angeles

(213) 988-8355

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Sherry cobbler

A cobbler is among the oldest of American cocktails, one of those drinks, like the crusta or the daisy, whose existence on a menu serves more to establish the bona fides of a bartender than it is to stimulate the thirst of a modern barfly. How important is the sherry cobbler? Dickens mentions it in his novel "Martin Chuzzlewit." It is the drink credited with introducing the idea of ice cubes. It is the drink credited with popularizing the idea of straws. It was the appletini of 1843, and yet when you mention the great sherry cobblers at Belcampo Santa Monica to a friend, she will assume you are talking about cherry cobblers instead, and she will ask whether they come with ice cream. Belcampo's cobbler does not deviate from the basic formula of lightly sweetened sherry over ice, but I can tell you that the effect is to make the nutty, fragrant wine taste even more like itself. It's the way you may have always wished sherry might taste. And the amontillado sherry Belcampo uses is so expensive that bartender Josh Goldman begged me not to mention the drink: It may be his favorite cocktail, but it is also a loss leader. Write about the (handcrafted, artisanal, farmers market-based) appletini instead. Done.

1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

(424) 744-8008

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)


There are three trends sweeping through L.A.'s best cocktail bars at the moment: the essential classicism of the cocktailians, who are as determined to demonstrate the beauty of pre-Prohibition cocktails as your favorite high school English teacher was to help you understand what she saw in "Romeo and Juliet," the low-alcohol guys who would like to enable you to have more than one and the sardonic nose-thumbers for whom a drink's essential rationale may be comedic. The Normandie Club, which is like a classic cocktail lounge as reimagined by David Lynch, is somehow at the intersection of all three. The martini has sherry and honey in it. The old-fashioned is flavored with nuts. The daiquiri recipe includes a Bolivian brandy imported by Steven Soderbergh, and somehow it all makes sense. (The drinks were designed by Devon Tarby and Alex Day, also responsible for the wacky cocktails at Honeycut.) But it is the spritz, cousin to the unlovely spritzers that may have seen you through the 1970s, that is the revelation here — fizzy, diluted vermouth, true, but given an almost fugal aromatic complexity with hints of fresh grapefruit juice and elderflower liqueur, and a flavor that shifts from bitter to limpid and sweet as the ice cubes melt in the wineglass. If I had to choose one cocktail to represent Los Angeles in 2015, this would be the one.

3612 W. 6th St., Los Angeles

(213) 817-5321