The Best Bars For Special Occasions In LA
12 bars perfect for the nights when you’re celebrating something big.
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 12 special occasion cocktail bars perfect for when you get that job promotion, pass the bar, or your roommate’s sh*tty cat finally dies.
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.
The Lobby At The Nomad Hotel is permanently closed
The Lobby At The Nomad Hotel
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.
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photo credit: Stan Lee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Old Man Bar
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
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.
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.