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The Best Bars For Special Occasions In LA

PHOTO: Jakob Layman

If you’re reading this, it means you’re celebrating something. Congratulations, now let’s decide where you should drink. The bars on this guide are certainly more upscale than your usual Friday night go-to, but you’re celebrating a big life event here, so shelling out $18 for a cocktail with pork belly extract and individually-cut ice cubes is what you’re in the market for right now. From whiskey speakeasies to rooftop patios and poolside bars full of catatonic celebrities, here are 13 special occasion cocktail bars perfect for when you get that job promotion, pass the bar, or your roommate’s sh*tty cat finally dies.

The Spots

Bar Jackalope

515 W 7th St #200
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If you want to drink whiskey in LA, you go to Seven Grand. If you want to drink whiskey and celebrate your roommate finally breaking up with his girlfriend who ate all your food, you go to Seven Grand’s hidden whiskey bar, Bar Jackalope. The tiny space is dark and intimate and their massive catalogue has any kind of whiskey you could possibly want. While they do serve a few cocktails, most people come here to sip rare whiskey flights and smoke cigars on the tiny patio. Seating is on a first come, first served basis, but if there’s a waitlist, just put your name in and continuing drinking at Seven Grand. Get there early on weekends though, as lines can get long.

Photo: Leo Rivas
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Very few bars will stop you in your tracks the way that Nomad does. When you step into the building - a massive, converted bank downtown - you’ll feel like you’re in a 1940s movie where you’re the star and that handsome guy in the newsboy cap at the bar might propose you train with him across Northern Africa. In reality, that guy lives in Silver Lake and is just grabbing a drink before his shift, but the point is this bar/restaurant/hotel makes you feel special. And so will that group cocktail served out of golden metallic rooster. It’s definitely a post-work spot during the week, but Fridays and Saturdays come alive with a bit rowdier crowd. No reservations needed.

7.4
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In cities like New York or Chicago, bars on top of skyscrapers are old news and most likely overpriced tourist traps. In the land of earthquakes, however, a restaurant/bar on the 71st floor of a building is a straight-up landmark. There are 360-degree views of the city, fantastic cocktails that are inspired by different neighborhoods of LA, and an interior that looks like a LACMA art installation. The bar’s food menu is also very good and might be the only one with foie gras in the city.

Tower Bar

West Hollywood
8358 W Sunset Blvd
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Your mom just retired and immediately booked a flight to LA. She says she’s ready to party, but you know she really just wants to sit by a pool, drink martinis, and eavesdrop on as many celebrities as she can. Tower Bar is your spot. The West Hollywood institution is full of aging actors yelling into their cell phones, great views of Downtown, and $19 cocktails that are worth it because you just watched Faye Dunaway slam hers on the ground. You’re definitely going to want in on that build-your-own sundae situation as well.

Employees Only

West Hollywood
7953 Santa Monica Blvd

Pilot season didn’t exactly go according to plan, but you did book a guest-star on a Freeform show, and you’re feeling famous. Take your agent to Employees Only for thank-you drinks. The fancy cocktail bar in West Hollywood feels like you’re in a 1960s airport lounge, but instead of wealthy business travelers, you’re next to a 23-year-old who you vaguely recognize from cable television. Skip the mediocre food, and concentrate on the cocktails, which are far from mediocre. There’s also a second, semi-private bar in the back for when you’re actually famous.

Big Bar

Los Feliz
1927 Hillhurst Ave
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The Alcove is home to one of the most overcrowded, bone-crushing patios in the city. That said, it’s also home to a fancy cocktail bar with drinks good enough to look past the fact that there are 50 people here on Instastory Live. If you’re able to get a seat inside Big Bar, do it. The bartenders will actually talk to you, and the small interior is far more low-key and intimate than the patio. Also, arrive as late as you can. Alcove clears out quickly after dinner, leaving the place to you and some late-night pie eaters, which is also probably you.

Photo: Eugene Lee

Open since 2009, this downtown speakeasy is one of LA’s original cocktail bars. While it’s probably not as cool as it used to be, it’s still an impressive place with next-level cocktails you want to be drinking on your anniversary. The space is dimly lit with a long row of booths, there’s live jazz music Sunday-Thursday, and if you get hungry, you can order-in French dip sandwiches from Cole’s, which is attached.

Photo: Peter Stanislaus
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Walker Inn is a hidden bar in the back of The Normandie Club in Koreatown. The place is dark, intimate, and kind of feels like you’re drinking craft cocktails in the waiting room of an upscale brothel. While they do take walk-ins, we’d suggest you get a reservation and embark on their $70 omakase-style cocktail menu. You’ll get six or seven courses (please take an Uber) of creative cocktails you can’t find anywhere else in town. The menu changes frequently based on the seasons, so even if you’ve already been, you can expect a completely new set of drinks a few months later.

Old Man Bar

Culver City
12517 West Washington Blvd

Old Man Bar is a whiskey bar in the back of Hatchet Hall, an upscale Southern restaurant in Culver City that you completely forgot about. While grabbing dinner at the restaurant and then making your way to Old Man is a good plan, you can also expedite the process and go directly to the bar. Spend the night drinking well-made whiskey cocktails, and celebrating finally quitting that terrible job at the aviary. It gets crowded on the weekends, but even then, you can always snag a table or few seats at the bar.

1886 Bar at The Raymond

Pasadena
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave
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Located inside a bungalow house in Pasadena, Bar 1886 is where you go to drink Manhattans and Sidecars in a secluded patio and pretend like you’re a person who owns a mansion in Pasadena. This dimly-lit, romantic bar has a rotating cocktail menu, but if you aren’t seeing anything that looks good tonight, they have over 600 off-menu cocktails that the bartenders can whip up on command. If you get hungry, they serve a very good bar menu with things like steamed mussels and suckling pig tacos.

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Bibo Ergo Sum is inside of a painfully dated plaza on Robertson Blvd., and nothing about it seems remotely interesting from the outside. But then you walk inside and your fear of maybe having brought your agent to a cash loan office fades away. The decently-sized space feels like a 1920s supper club with an aggressive Art Deco aesthetic that doesn’t feel cheesy. The cocktail menu is broken up into three magic trick-inspired sections (The Pledge, The Turn, The Prestige), and every drink is unique. Also, most drinks fall between $12-$14, which is pretty good considering you’re drinking craft cocktails in Beverly Hills.

Perch

Downtown LA
448 S Hill St
7.5
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There’s something about special occasions that always makes humans want to drink on rooftop patios. Give into those natural instincts, and go to Perch. One of Downtown’s original rooftop bars, Perch might not have quite the crowds as some of the newer spots in the area, but considering you’re there to celebrate an engagement, no one’s in the market for a sweaty dance floor by the pool anyway. Instead, Perch has excellent craft cocktails, live jazz music every night, and a relaxed patio overlooking Pershing Square.

Room 31

Eagle Rock
2136 Colorado Blvd
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Many of LA’s hidden speakeasy/crawl-through-a-refrigerator bars are some of the most popular and recognizable spots to drink in the city. Room 31 is not one of them. Open since 2016, Room 31 is an extremely small bar that can only be accessed by sliding aside a secret wall at a random sports bar in Eagle Rock. Despite its size, there always seems to be an open table, and you don’t have to crowd the bar for 20 minutes to get a cocktail. This is where you go if you want to celebrate an anniversary, but neither of you particularly enjoy being in public.

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