Flamboyant cocktails and old-school cool Hollywood bars. Cold-brew fuel and relaxing teas. And mezcal. Lots of mezcal. When it comes to options to wet your whistle, Angelenos have a full bar of options for any occasion.
Here are some of our favorite places to drink in L.A.
Arts District Brewing Co.
Arts District Brewing Co. is peak craft brewery, a mammoth industrial warehouse turned into a light-filled temple of beer kegs and gleaming fermentation tanks. Arts District’s beer repertoire is excellent; I’m partial to the Lo Que Sea, a blonde ale with a sharp, flowery, citrus bouquet. A bar dispenses cocktails and cider for non-beer drinkers, and there’s a sprawling patio ideal for large groups. There are games at every turn — Skee-Ball, ping-pong and darts — and the basement-party vibe is buoyed by the vast quantities of nachos, tater tots and tacos flowing out of the kitchen. — P.I.E.
828 Traction Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 519-5887, artsdistrictbrewing.com
Jammed into a crowded Echo Park strip mall, Bar Caló is a dark, velvet-trimmed cocktail lounge that aims straight at the hearts of tequila and mezcal lovers. The tequila selection runs deep and is always changing, and the mezcal menu includes more than 50 bottles representing 10 Mexican production regions. Most bottles are available in traditional 2-ounce copita servings. Not surprisingly, there are several terrific mezcal cocktails on the menu. I admire the well-rounded, sweet-smoky notes of the Rolling Blackout, a prickly pear-infused mezcal cocktail punched up with fresh citrus and herbs. — P.I.E.
1498 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 278-0901, barcalola.com
Among the thousands of coffee shops in Los Angeles, this Culver City cafe and roastery stands out for its utter devotion to details. The rotating single origins and signature blends (including “the 9,” a mix of Colombian and Panamanian beans) culled by owners Zayde Naquib and Jereme Pitts taste as multilayered brewed at home as they do crafted by the pros at the shop. The staff bake their own morning pastries; the finely crumbed lemon scone cake is a recipe that should be replicated in coffeehouses across the land. The warehouse space manages to appeal to many personality types: The hipsters camp on the aluminum bleachers, the suits retire to the glassed-in room for meetings in the back, and the screenwriters stare wild-eyed into their laptops around the central communal table. — B.A.
3515 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 837-7815, barnine.us
Everson Royce Bar
A good bar ought to slow down time. At Everson Royce Bar, or ERB, you can feel time crunching to a halt every evening on the patio, especially if there’s a Mexican boilermaker (Modelo with a shot of tequila) and some buttermilk biscuits on your table. This popular Arts District hub is an all-occasion sort of place: If the relaxed patio isn’t your speed, the bar’s interior is a dark, busy room with tufted seating and a marble bar. The drink menu is a neat repository of present-day Angeleno drinking culture: natural wines by the glass, micheladas, good-quality mezcal and Japanese whisky. The food menu — cheeseburgers, hamachi tartare, potato taquitos — ensures you may never leave. — P.I.E.
1936 E. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 335-6166, erbla.com
Ivan Vasquez operates two outposts of Madre: a scrunched 48-seater in Palms and a much larger operation in Torrance. The latter is a mind-expanding, call-a-rideshare destination for mezcal seekers. Over 400 bottles line the bar’s shelves. Ask for bartender Bryant Orozco, who will grab a stack of shallow clay Oaxacan copitas and take you on a journey. Smoky, meaty, fruity, herby, smooth, ragged, jolting, calming: Mezcal, as Madre’s selection lays bare, can take your palate almost anywhere. To eat alongside: memelas, thick Oaxacan tortillas spread with pureed black beans and freckled with queso fresco and crumbled chorizo. — B.A.
1261 Cabrillo Ave. #100, Torrance, (310) 974-8005, madrerestaurants.com
Does this hidden bar within Venice’s Scopa Italian Roots fly almost too under the radar? It houses an astounding, 1,000-bottle-plus cache of vintage and hard-to-find spirits but still feels like a bona fide secret three years after opening. Make an online reservation. A Scopa staffer will escort you to the door, where you’ll surrender your phone while inside. Settle into the cozy chrysalis of a room, where bartenders soon will inquire about your drinking predilections. If you have any interest in dropping serious coin on rare mezcals or brandies or vintage Champagne — or even double digits sipping a bourbon from the 1970s you might never encounter again — this is the place. — B.A.
2905 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey, (310) 821-1100, oldlightning.com
Tsubaki’s little-brother bar in Echo Park is the most enticing place in Los Angeles to learn about and consume sake. Courtney Kaplan’s 22-page drink list — part textbook, part chatty diary — categorizes sakes into flavor groups: fruits and flowers, earth and umami, rice and minerals, “delicious weirdos.” Kaplan is a wise tableside guide; trust her suggestions. The place is snug: six tables and an 11-seat bar; blond woods, concrete, one exposed brick wall. Look to Charles Namba’s chicken katsu sando and the tall, miraculously tidy Ode to Mos chili burger for sustenance. — B.A.
1360 Allison Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 784-7930, ototo.la
Imen Shan specializes in dan cong oolongs — teas cultivated around Phoenix Mountain in China’s Guangdong Province that, through precise oxidation and roasting but without any flavor additions, taste miraculously of stone fruits and spices; multiple steepings can also coax out floral and mineral qualities. Yes, it’s a heady, niche world. Lately she’s been branching out to include a handful of top-tier green and black teas in her collection as well. A tasting at Shan’s tiny, handsomely cluttered Alhambra storefront is $25 and by appointment only. Tea lovers open to revelations will find them here. — B.A.
28 S. 5th St., Unit E, Alhambra, (626) 202-8777, teahabitat.com
The Tower Bar
The Tower Bar at the ’20s-era Sunset Tower Hotel is old-line Hollywood at its most genteel, an airy, light-streaked restaurant and bar with monogrammed napkins, comfortable chairs and Western breezes on the veranda. A new terrace lounge, added in 2018, plays up the property’s Art Deco design with rose-colored sofas and a small jungle of palm fronds. The service is old-fashioned and very good — white-jacketed servers cheerfully balance martinis on silver platters. The cocktails are strong, unfussy and expensive. Try the Gabé’s Witch’s Brew — a heady blend of bourbon and cynar — named after the bar’s newest maître d’, Gabé Doppelt. — P.I.E.
8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 654-7100, sunsettowerhotel.com
A buzzy hot-pink neon sign that reads “Boyle Heights” slices through the perennial twilight inside this dark Eastside bar, a feel-good shrine to “Chipster” (Chicano Hipster) East Los culture. Mexican movie posters decorate the bar-tops; heavy, elegant wood furnishings look like they were swiped from an old Mexican mission. The vibe is friendly and loud, and the cocktails are overtly flamboyant: A paloma is made with tequila-infused sake; oversize micheladas glower with hot sauce; and shaved ice raspados are a sharp, dizzying mix of blended agave spirits and fruity aguas frescas. A small kitchen window provides snacky nourishment in the form of barbacoa tacos, elote and the crisp, hand-rolled beef hot dog tacos called taquitos de weenie. — P.I.E.
1846½ E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 685-5767, houseofxelas.com