In a city like Los Angeles, new bars and cocktail lounges open every year. Unlike other cities, LA bars and lounges seem to come and go each year. Intimate lounge settings are on the rise, whether it is the square footage of the bar or the cozier seating environments offered. In addition, mixologists are designing programs featuring craft cocktails that bring together interesting spirits, liqueurs and ingredients all in one glass. These are the best cocktail bars of 2014.
7321 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Guests revel in Hollywood’s age old glamourous bar scene at Harlowe. Honoring the past through Golden Age vintage décor, treasures and black and white photographs hung throughout the establishment, Harlowe (named for screen actress Jean Harlowe) offers sophisticated yet modern cocktails and recreated classic small bites. Renowned NY bartender Dushan Zaric designed a beverage menu with cheeky quotables as cocktail names – Salute Your Shorts (a shot of Fernet Branco mixed with Crème de Cacao), Cheeky Devil (Bacardi 8, Cherry Heering liqueur, lemon, smoked cherrywood, pineapple and honey), and There’s Always Money In The Banana Stand (Dueling bourbons, Giffard Banane, orgeat syrup, absinthe, Peychaud’s and tiki bitters). Eric Greenspan, known from Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese) is the consulting chef on the menu. Not to be missed on the late night bites menu are the cheese puffs, yucca fries and the charred Brussels sprouts.
Related: Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches In LA
Butchers & Barbers
6531 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
Butchers & Barbers is Hollywood’s newest 2014 meet-up for well-balanced and spirit-forward crafted cocktails. Darker spirits are prominent here including whiskies, sherries, rums and bitter liqueurs. Guests can expect house-made infusions and syrups, and fresh, seasonal ingredients. Beverage Director Joe Swifka and Bar Manager Nate Oliver created the cocktail menu and overall bar to complement the bistro’s quality comfort fare menu that is polished yet unfussy. The bar offers mini-barrels of cocktails available for sharing, while wines are meticulously curated, and the craft beer selection is primarily draft.
1638 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Owner Johnny Zander recently opened Grandpa Johnson’s in the former Beauty Bar space and has personally transformed it into an Art Deco cocktail lounge reminiscent of a bygone era. Named after Zander’s grandfather who was Harold T. “Biz” Johnson, a United States Congressman representing California for 23 years, Grandpa Johnson’s is one of LA’s bar-only hot spots. With attention to detail, the curved brass bar with marble top is referred to as a “leaning bar” made to contour to the curve of a person’s body waiting to order a drink. Honoring his friends and family, Zander has named signature cocktails after them. Created by the Bon Vivant’s drink savant Alex Staus, one is named for an old Chevy dealership his aunt and uncle owned in the 1930s called Crockard (Atlantico Reserva, Cardamaro, Cognac, curacao, black walnut bitters and garnished with a lemon swath). Another, the T-Bizz (Angel’s Envy Bourbon, ginger syrup, apple cider, amaro, lemon juice and Angostura) is named for his grandfather’s nickname.
1714 North Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
While it may not be the newest kid on the block (originally opening in 1947), Power House re-opened in November 2014 after a three-month design and bar program renovation. Today, it honors the spirit of the neighborhood while celebrating its original neon sign, which remains intact. Conceptualized by Matt Winter, the revamped décor brings together an assortment of pieces including wrought iron bar shelved from Prague, chairs upholstered from World War II tents and 1920s-era soda fountain stools bringing together an assembly to honor the eclectic culture so present in Los Angeles. Barman Damian Windsor (Warwick, Roger Room) crafted a bar menu of four classes of drinks including “Sparkling & Effervescent,” “Shandies, Shrubs, & Flips,” “Spirited, Savory, & Stirred,” and “Stingers, Sours, & Sweets.” Some Power House favorites include the Jack Apple Soda (Jack Daniels invigorated by house-made apple soda), Alley Oop (Arette Reposado Tequila, agave, lime and topped with a creamy cucumber marshmallow espuma), and Kalimotxo, which is an elevated take on a Spanish refreshment (red wine, Coca-Cola with orange and cookie spice).
Related: Best Vintage Stores In Los Angeles
The Chestnut Club
1348 14th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
This cool new upscale lounge brings Westsiders together with the rest of L.A. Located off the beaten path in Santa Monica, The Chestnut Club is an intimate modern-day speakeasy with leather Chesterfield booths for large or small parties, and a private party room for up to 15 guests. Pablo Moix, a pioneer of craft cocktail recipes, and behind the beverage program at The Chestnut Club, mixes inspiring cocktails paying homage to some of Southern California’s iconic destinations such as Bullocks Wilshire (bourbon, rum and cynar), Ocean Park (Jamaican rum, pineapple, ginger, lemon and soda) and the Westside (vodka, Orgeat syrup, lime, cucumber and mint, bitters).
Sheryl Craig is a writer with a passion for interesting finds and treasures in Los Angeles. She has a background in journalism and public relations. A mother of two daughters, Sheryl integrates her healthy lifestyle into raising her children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.