An excellent drink can make any meal better (or at least more fun.) And while these restaurants are all fine options for any upcoming dinner plans, their bar programs deserve some special recognition. From Downtown rooftops to flashy Hollywood restaurants and one enormous mezcal collection, here are restaurants that serve some truly great cocktails.
Gigi’s is a sceney French bistro in Hollywood where you’ll find entertainment execs, perhaps a celebrity, and plenty of oysters, burgers, and delicious steak frites on every table. We also recommend showing up a little thirsty, too. A night of lounging around on their string-lit patio, sipping martinis, and listening to a table of agents scheming how to get ayahuasca to Tulum next week is far more healing than you’d expect. We love the briny Wilmot (gin, dry vermouth, and pickled ramp), but if you really want to turn things up a notch, go for the espresso martini with vodka, coffee liqueur, cocoa nibs, and espresso.
Everson Royce Bar
Let it be known: ERB is one of our favorite spaces to drink (and eat) in all of Los Angeles. The casual bar/restaurant in the Arts District is a true neighborhood spot with one of the best big group patios in town, excellent cocktails like their prickly pear margarita, a never-ending wine list, and bar food that’s worth driving to Downtown for during Friday rush hour. And just when you thought we couldn’t sing our praises even louder, ERB also happens to make one of the best burgers in LA.
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In case you haven’t heard, Bar Moruno is one of the hottest spots to eat in Silver Lake right now, for two reasons: their excellent tapas and equally excellent cocktails. Dinner at this moody Spanish restaurant should entail tins of briney conservas, a chorizo-filled Scotch egg, and some sizzling hen of the woods mushrooms with fried bread for the table. Drinks at the Silver Lake restaurant are just as creative (and surprisingly savory), including an entire menu section dedicated to gin martinis. Our suggestion: ditch the usual dirty martini for one made with salmon-infused gin, white vermouth, and caperberries.
Saffy’s is a glamorous and bustling kebab house in East Hollywood where snagging a prime-time reservation can be a challenge. But if you find yourself at the U-shaped bar (or anywhere else in the restaurant), be sure to order a cocktail alongside your life-affirming shawarma and hummus. Saffy’s doesn’t specialize in a particular spirit but instead makes elaborate drinks that match the flashy, well-dressed crowd. The Vesper is particularly tasty, with gin, vodka, and hints of rose, lemon, and raspberry served in a slim Nick & Nora glass. It’s the perfect drink to have in hand as you scan the room (and look good while doing it.)
Birdie G’s has incredible Jewish-leaning comfort dishes like noodle kugel and matzo ball soup, but if you ignore the cocktails, you’re only getting a portion of the experience. The drinks at this Santa Monica spot are herbaceous and citrusy, like the maraschino and lavender-filled Sky’s The Limit or the Oh My Darling, which comes with clementine gin and orange bitters. And if you want to go full old school, try Not Your Grandma’s Grasshopper. It’s vodka, creme de menthe, creme de cacao, a scoop of mint chocolate ice cream, and the best excuse to keep drinking through dessert.
Nossa Caipirinha Bar
Some nights, you dream about a neighborhood bar with sidewalk seating where you can snack on meat skewers and order a hibiscus-flavored cocktail at 5pm. Well, we've got good news: that bar exists, and it’s called Nossa Caipirinha Bar. This casual little place in Los Feliz is a cross between a Brazilian restaurant and a great neighborhood drinking den where you can make new friends. If you’ve never had a caipirinha before, order one here. It's the national cocktail of Brazil, and they have five different varieties of this decidedly tropical drink on their menu. Sip one for a refreshing cool-down on a warm night.
Located on top of the Platform in Culver City, Margot is just as much of a restaurant as it is a bar. And while the food is solid, we love it most as a place to lounge, sip some incredibly strong cocktails, and watch trains roll by toward the sunset. Yes, it’s as oddly romantic as it sounds. The Summer Love, which comes with gin, watermelon juice, and lemon, is a standout, but no matter which cocktail you order, you can confidently assume it’ll come filled with flowers, herbs, or other botanicals.
LA Cha Cha Chá
Located on a second-story rooftop in the Arts District, Cha Cha Chá is a Mexico City transplant that we love for various reasons: they have shareable food like charcoal-grilled red snapper and shrimp aguachiles, a lush patio, and sprawling views of Downtown. We should also add “getting boozy” to the growing list of reasons to come here because we’ve liked nearly every cocktail we’ve tried. The smoky and spicy El Tigre Penicillin is a favorite, but their margarita deserves extra attention. It’s a pretty straightforward version (tequila blanco, lime, salt), but the secret weapon is the touch of Combier L’Orange, which gives the cocktail a bittersweet flavor that’ll stay on your tongue through dinner.
Wallflower is a mostly-Indonesian restaurant that offers a welcomed change of pace to Venice’s Italian and “New American” options. This Rose Ave. spot also happens to serve some of the best craft cocktails in town at its moody, candlelit bar, perfect for a drink date that potentially spills into a dinner date. Similar to the restaurant’s Southeast Asian menu, drinks here are aromatic and busy with lots of flavors that actually work. Order the Smoking Lemongrass for a tangy blend of mezcal verde, bourbon, egg whites, and, of course, fresh lemongrass. The final product is spicy, tart, delicately creamy, and so delicious that we feel obliged to order a second round.
If you manage to grab a seat at Kato’s eight-person bar, immediately direct your attention to the cocktail menu. The Arts District tasting menu spot has a list of 10 or so intricate drinks that are based on traditional cocktails but have descriptions that read like little poems and arrive in gorgeous glasses that look lifted from the world’s most obscure thrift shop. We love their spin on the bamboo cocktail made with red rice sake and tomato brandy infused with konbu, and a buttery, boozy milk punch jazzed up with five spice, yam, and pineapple. The bar is also the only place at Kato where you can order a la carte, which means nibbling on uni donuts and crab fat fried rice without committing to the full tasting menu.
This Arts District special occasion Mexican restaurant has a cocktail menu full of unexpected ingredients. Tequila is infused with dill and absinthe in “The DTLA.” For the kimchi martini, fermented cabbage is mixed and strained alongside gin, distilled habanero peppers, and a bit of sherry to create flavors that are spicy and mouth-tingling, yet strangely familiar. Damian also offers a wonderful—and equally complex—list of non-alcoholic cocktails, like their upgraded horchata made with toasted amaranth.
Regardless of which Madre location you go to, you’ll find yourself at one of the best spots in the city for great Oaxacan food and all things mezcal. However, the Fairfax location in particular has a whopping 500+ bottles of mezcal to choose from, making it the de facto LA bar for mezcal fans who want an exciting (if not overwhelming) amount of options. The bar’s smokey margarita with sal de gusano is a must-try and mildly spicy (thanks to chile liqueur), but we also recommend the frozen rosé, made with grapefruit and reposado tequila—it’s the only version of this overdone trend that we’ll openly admit to loving.
It’s rare that we come away from a dinner experience thinking more about the cocktails than the food. But that’s the case at Causita, the Nikkei Peruvian spot at Sunset Junction in Silver Lake. Cocktails here are named after fruit or vegetables: there’s the passionfruit, the heirloom tomato, the apricot, the snap pea. Each has a curveball element or two—umeshu or caramel or ají or shiso foam—that’s subtle but unique. If you like martinis, go for the carrot. It’s refreshing, high ABV, and even though you probably won’t know half of the ingredients involved (Hans Reisetbauer carrot eau de vie, anyone?), you’ll want another round.
The best way to experience this slightly silly Santa Monica rooftop restaurant at the Proper Hotel is at the bar, where the sound of cocktail shakers is just slightly louder than the music, and creates a soothing ASMR effect. Whether you come for brunch, Happy Hour, or date night, you’ll be surrounded by bamboo furniture, lush plants, and people who want to be seen— everyone seems to have a cocktail in hand. The drinks here hit just right: never too sweet or watered down. Our go-to is the pink-hued Americabo, with mezcal, hibiscus, lime, and cointreau.