There comes a point in everyone’s life when they realize the true joy of drinking alcohol doesn’t come from dancing on tables and making out with random people in line for the bathroom. It comes from sitting in complete silence and judging the f*ck out of every person who walks past them. And when this revelation finally hits you, there’s only one drink you’re going to want in your hand - a martini. This classic cocktail is much more than just a glass of vodka or gin with some vermouth, it’s a full-on power statement that rewards you with the ability to sit and glare at whomever you want.
From a classic West Hollywood Italian restaurant to a cocktail bar inside LAX, here are the 14 best places in LA to do just that.
If you consider yourself a martini drinker and haven’t spent a night at Dan Tana’s, then you actually aren’t a martini drinker. Sorry, we don’t make the rules, we just write about them. A meal at this classic Weho Italian restaurant is a LA rite of passage, one that’ll almost certainly include shots with the maître d′ and several rounds of gin martinis. At some point - most likely in between eating the best chicken parmesan in town and the woman in the pink boa blowing you a kiss from the bar - it’ll hit you: Dan Tana’s isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience, and one of the best in the entire city.
Tower Bar is best known for ice cream sundaes and enraged talent agents throwing cellphones into the pool, but this hotel restaurant and bar is also an idyllic place to drink many ounces of vodka and practice your side-eye. Located right on The Strip, Tower Bar is an unmitigated joyful mess and a spot that makes people-watching at other places feel like a waste of time. Spend even an hour here and you’ll see stressed-out momagers sobbing in the corner, the Olsen twins sucking the youth out of anyone who gets too close, and all those agents desperately fishing their burner phones out of the pool. Drinking martinis is the only way to make sense of it all.
Musso & Frank has been open for a century and is one of the only restaurants in town where fannypack-ed tourists and old men complaining about Eisenhower’s foreign policy live in complete harmony. To put it frankly, this Hollywood steakhouse is one of the most bizarre restaurants in LA, and while you don’t need to rush to eat any of the food, sitting at the bar and drinking the most iconic martini in LA is a must. Stirred and served with a sidecar on chilled ice, it’s a technically perfect martini that’s been served the same way for decades, and one that makes gravity tricky after just half a glass.
Located on the ground floor of the Hollywood Roosevelt, this upscale Italian spot has massive Old Hollywood energy. It helps that the Barish is inside one of the most historic hotels in LA, and has a long, marble bar that begs you to pull up and sip a cocktail. We love the refreshing bitterness of the Negroni bianco, but if you want to feel like a true Hollywood power player, go for the fennel-forward Barish martini with vodka and Italicus bergamotto. It’s the perfect way to get a little buzz before seeing a show at Pantages and goes great with their fragrant, herbaceous steak tartare.
If you know about The Dresden, you almost certainly know about Marty and Elayne, the iconic jazz duo who have been performing at this Los Feliz institution every week since the early ’80s. While we’re still waiting for the singing legends to return from their pandemic hiatus, the Vesper martini is a reason to go right now. Perfectly balanced with gin, vodka, and a lemon twist garnish, this definitely isn’t a briny martini, but it is a fantastic one, served in a setting where smug looks are openly welcomed.
There are plenty of reasons you need to be eating at Lawry’s - spinning salads, prime rib the size of an infant, and your server who just introduced herself as “Mrs. Butterworth.” But one thing that often gets overlooked is their “Meat & Potato” martini - Chopin potato vodka, a touch of dry vermouth, and a prime-rib-and-horseradish-stuffed olive garnish. It’s one of the most over-the-top martinis in LA, but in case you couldn’t tell from the chandeliers and never-ending dining rooms, that’s the name of the game at this Beverly Hills spot.
Sometimes we lie awake at night thinking about how much our lives have benefitted from Jones Hollywood. The casual Italian restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd. is the kind of place you can take anybody, and they’ll walk out happy. But whether you’re there on a first date, eating late-night pizza with friends, or trying to find the right ice-breaker for that person standing at the bar, ordering “The Dirty Sue” martini is a requirement. It’s briny, olive-y, and the exact amount of liquid encouragement you need to land that ice-breaker.
A table at Gigi’s can be extremely hard to get, which is why we like coming to this sceney French spot in Hollywood by ourselves after work for a seat at the bar instead. Here we can slurp some oysters in peace, order a few rounds of well-made martinis, and glance seductively at the array of attractive people hovering nearby.
Dear John’s is an Old Hollywood classic in Culver City that, prior to the pandemic, had just reopened after a complete remodel brought the space back to its glorious heyday. Consider this a re-reopening. The place used to be an old hangout for Frank Sinatra, and it’s easy to see why - the drinks are strong, the steak is served a beautiful medium-rare, and the dimly-lit interior is the perfect place to burrow into a big red booth and get hammered.
There isn’t a cocktail we love drinking more with actual ghosts than a martini, and that’s why you’ll often find us at Geoffrey’s. This sprawling seafood graveyard on the far end of the Malibu coastline has been around since the 1940s, and at one point, counted Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and JFK as regulars. We’re not saying you’ll be visited by one of them after a few rounds of martinis (there’s an entire martini menu), but we’re not not saying that, either. If you get hungry, go for the grab cakes, which might not attract any spirits, but are still really good.
Yes, Soho House is a members-only club, but if you live in LA for even a summer, you’ll end up at their West Hollywood location eventually. Just don’t let anyone tell you this bi-level rooftop is for actually getting work done. It’s for well-dressed rich kids with underwhelming IMDb pages to stand around on Friday nights and lie about how many auditions they had this month. It’s a soul-crushing atmosphere to be sure, but one that can be mitigated by sliding up to the bar, ordering a shockingly well-made gin martini, and judging the sh*t out every person you recognize from yesterday’s callback.
Plain and simple, there’s no place in LA - or the world - like the Magic Castle. This membership-only magician’s club/dinner theater in Hollywood is famously inaccessible (you can only get in if you get invited by a member, a.k.a. a magician). But if you’re able to score a reservation, prepare to embark on a wild night of up-close magic, talking mechanical owls, and fiercely strong cocktails. While their Old Fashioned (named in honor of member Neil Patrick Harris) will always be the house specialty, don’t skip the “Manifesto Martini.” Not only does it have Jägermeister in it, there’s a high chance that the guy making it for you has a bird of prey hiding in his jacket.
Walking into Chez Jay is like walking into a functioning time machine - one that sends you back to Santa Monica in the early ’60s. There are peanut shells on the floor, a jukebox that doesn’t play anything newer than Earth, Wind & Fire, and a giant fish hanging on the wall that’s definitely staring at you. It’s one of the Westside’s most iconic watering holes, and a place where actual pirates go to load up on (really strong) martinis, bark indecipherably at the TV, and stumble back out into reality several hours later.
The Wine Bar By Wolfgang Puck
The art of glaring at people while drinking martinis was invented at airports, so we would be remiss if we didn’t include a place at LAX. While there’s no shortage of spots to pick up a strong martini in the “horseshoe of death,” The Wine Bar in terminal 6 is a go-to of ours. This relatively affordable bar (for an airport) is located right off the main concourse and is our favorite place in the world to drink $14 martinis filled with pear puree that prove that flying sober is - quite literally - for the birds.