An editor's guide to drinking around town

Los Angeles

An editor's guide to drinking around town
An editor's guide to drinking around town

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Los Angeles has long been marketed as the birthplace of the Moscow Mule, so perhaps its fitting that there are hundreds of fantastic drinking establishments here willing to help you make an ass of yourself. Unfortunately, the urban sprawl means a self-guided crawl is a dicey situation, which is why local editor Jeff Miller is here with his picks for the top places to get your booze on.

Best Club: Clubland is fickle around here. By the time you're reading this, it could already be closed, but I was impressed when I was recently at The Emerson Theater, a glittery, gilded room that feels sufficiently majestic to justify the wallet-emptying cost of bottle service.

Best for Work: The Montage in Beverly Hills has a slightly-hidden bar called Ten Pound directly above Scarpetta. You should make a reservation first, but, once you're in, it feels like an old boys' club: huge leather couches, a massive Scotch menu (they're exclusively Macallan, with all the pricey, ancient, partner's-expense-account-ready blends that entails), and a private patio for making discreet calls.

Best for Partying: Hollywood's recently renovated Three Clubs is an old-school gem: a two-pronged bar with a classic-feeling LA lounge on one side, and a darkened dance floor room on the other where DJs push everything from oontz-tacular electronic jams to 90's hip-hop. It's a great place to party because it walks the line: you can dance your ass off with a cute girl, then actually seal the deal next door. Bonus: no (or very cheap) cover.

Best Drink: I'm a big fan of letting bartenders go nuts, and no one does it better than the guys at The Varnish, who -- through their booze-addled haze -- have somehow retained an encyclopedic knowledge of alcohol and how to mix it. The only problem is that it's different every time, and after you've had a couple it can be hard to remember what you drank and which one was better than the last.

Best Cocktail Bar: The Houston Brothers -- a pair of identical twins -- kind of have this category on lock. La Descarga is a rum-centric Cuban speakeasy with a cigar lounge; Harvard & Stone's rear R&D room's where barmen from all over the world head to get nuts; and Pour Vous has an extensive list of fresh, fruit-forward cocktails and, um, an actual train in the backyard, so they all tie for first, second, and third.

Best Beer Bar: Another tie! Both Blue Palms and The Surly Goat are manned by hops lovers who'll talk to you for hours about the difference between an IPA and a double IPA, if you'll let them. Bonus points to The Surly Goat, though, as last time I was there the TVs were screening Reservoir Dogs.

Best Wine Bar: Though their Hollywood location didn't make it (R.I.P.), the Westside is still lucky to call Bodega their own. Knowledgeable staff, heavy pours, and inexpensive options make this longtime favorite a, uh, longtime favorite.

Best Local Beer: I recently visited Angel City's now-open-to-the-public Downtown brewery and tried their Eureka! Wit out of the tap. It's simple, it's refreshing, and it has unusual complexity. They can definitely count me as a fan.

Best Brewery: No question on this one: Golden Road keeps blasting out winner after winner (their 16oz cans of smooth-drinking Hefeweizen are my favorite part of seeing a band at the Bootleg), and they've created a mini bar empire as well, as the owners are also the behind Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, and Mohawk Bend in Silverlake.

Most Local Place (aka Where Locals Hang Out): Every single neighborhood in LA has at least one stellar dive where you can find 63-year-old wizened barflies and recent college grads discussing the best route for avoiding police checkpoints. The Drawing Room, Tom Bergin's, The Backstage in Culver City, the Chimneysweep in the Valley -- I could go on. But I won't.

Best Place to Day Drink: I'm partial to the patio at El Coyote. They make a mean margarita, the tortilla chips and salsa duo never stop coming (insider tip: mix 'em together!) and they've got the perfect combo of shade and sun. That said, if you want something more unique than Cuervo and marg mix, the back patio at Eveleigh has wood tables, foliage on the walls, an odd birdcage in the back, and housemade cocktails on par with anything you'd find at a more dedicated cocktail bar.

Best Jukebox: Koreatown's HMS Bounty isn't just one of the best nautically-themed dive bars in LA -- it's also the only nautically-themed dive bar in LA. And it has a sick jukebox. Sinatra? Check. Obscure punk rock? Check? THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK? Yep.

Best Outdoor Spot: On a sunny day, there's nowhere I'd rather throw one or five back than Ray's & Stark at LACMA. Their bar snacks -- flatbreads, charcuterie, and more -- are top-notch, their modern-artsy chairs are equal parts pretentious and lounge-y, the drinks are proper and strong, and their live jazz on Fridays is actually, like, bee-pop-a-bop good (as opposed to "wanka-blllepabap" unlistenable).

Hottest Girls: If I can jump to the conclusion that you like college girls (safe conclusion), then Happy Ending in Hollywood, The Lab at USC, and either location of Busby's are sure bets for eye candy. If your tastes could be better described as "aspiring actresses", The Churchill will do juuuuuust fine.

Easiest Place to Get Laid: Head West, for sure. The Basement Tavern in Santa Monica has a ventilation problem, which means that all the girls in there are shedding clothing and inhibitions nightly, and Venice's well known cougar hangout James' Beach is an in-at-1:15, in-and-out-and- well, you get the idea, by 2:15.

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1. The Emerson Theatre 7080 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

Winner of Hospitality Design's 2013 "Best Nightclub, Bar, or Lounge Design" award, this dual-bar, 8000sqft club has a '20s-style feel with plenty of energy and burlesque dancers as well, in case all the dancing and bars didn't do it for you.

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2. 10£ 225 N Canon, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (Beverly Hills)

Surprisingly not 50 Cent's much posher English cousin, 10£ is a tiny, balcony-adorned, wood-paneled ode to Macallan, serving up way-hard-to-find varietals like the Fine & Rare Vintage 1951, and 57yr-old Lalique.

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3. Three Clubs 1123 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038 (Hollywood)

Though you may remember it as the bar they go to in that movie where Vince Vaughn is skinny and cheats at NHL 94, Three Clubs also boasts a smoking patio w/ iron-embellished railings, and a bar stocked with only "unique" label booze, from which mixologist Joel Black has created a new menu featuring drinks like The Spicy One with basil, lime, jalapeno, agave & whiskey; and the Pepper Smash with whiskey, lemon, honey, basil, and bell pepper.

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4. The Varnish 118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014 (Downtown)

In the back of Cole's -- specifically behind an oak door that's marked with a framed picture of a cocktail -- is The Varnish, a tiny bar from the vaunted mixologists behind New York's Milk & Honey and Little Branch. The bar is an intimate, Prohibition-era hideaway with cozy wooden booths, soft jazz playing in the background, and expertly-made top-shelf cocktails. Order the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, or go off-menu and let the bartender make you something unexpected.

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5. La Descarga 1159 Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029

From a former Doheny barman and the guys behind Piano Bar, La Descarga is a painstakingly-designed, two-story ode to pre-Fidel Havana, complete with a secret entrance, weathered ceiling/walls, a felt banquette, bathrooms festooned with reprints of old, Cuban newspaper articles, and a bar made of white Carrera marble.

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6. Harvard & Stone 5221 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Koreatown)

From the guys behind the Havana-themed hideaway La Descarga, Harvard & Stone is a meticulously designed craft cocktail bar in a cavernous, two-story, 1930s factory in Los Feliz. Dance the night away to a solid indie, Motown, and everything-in-between playlist while you sip on pop-culture themed libations (Knocked Up, Hey Arnold, and Zelda are three such cocktails).

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7. Pour Vous 5574 Melrose, Los Angeles, CA 90038 (Hollywood)

Pour Vous is a swanky, velvet couch-laden cocktail bar reminiscent of old Hollywood.

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8. Blue Palms Brewhouse 6124 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

This space affixed to the Fonda is a glorious beer lounge, boasting 24 craft drafts from Portland's hoppy "Hair Of The Dog" to Belgium's "Duchesse de Bourgogne", plus a comfort food menu including filets and ruben sandwiches.

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9. The Surly Goat 7929 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046 (West Hollywood)

The Surly Goat's a dark-lit two-tiered, rare-and-unusual-leaning beer bar decorated with all sorts of old brewhouse paraphernalia (everything from WWII-era ads in German to PBR one-sheets).

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10. Angel City Brewery 216 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Located in the historic John A. Roebling warehouse in the Arts District, Angel City Brewery has become a leader in the craft beer scene, selling its top-notch brews throughout California, Nevada, and, of course, in-house at the brewery with a rotating selection on tap. Its signature beers range from staples like the Angel City IPA and Pilsner to gems from the warehouse collection like the Peach Berliner Weisse to limited-time brews like a Salted Caramel Gose. You can toss 'em back in the art deco space or in one of the numerous restaurants and bars at which they're sold.

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11. Golden Road Gastropub 5430 San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles, CA 91203 (Atwater Village)

This spacious, industrial gastropub is the best place to drink LA's cherished canned Golden Road beers in tap -- you know, seeing as it's made next door. Pints of citrusy Wolf Pup Session IPA, banana-flavored Hefeweizen, and chocolatey Brown Ale are crisp accompaniments to the two backyard patios with ample seating and games galore. The giant Jenga is usually taken by the kids and families -- but the beer pong table will offer solace and a fun, younger crowd.

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12. Tom Bergin's 840 S Fairfax, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Mid Wilshire)

Tom Bergin's is one of the city's most beloved bars, and perhaps the most legit Irish Pub on the planet (outside of Ireland, of course) what with being the inventors of the Irish Coffee. Head here for a classy, relaxing, and authentic Irish experience.

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13. El Coyote 7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (West Hollywood)

Underneath the ambience-enhancing Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, you’ll find all the comforting usual suspects -- fajitas, nachos, and enchiladas -- along with the occasional wild card, like OSTRICH tacos (!) and, um, burgers. On Tequila Tuesdays, they offer at-the-bar tastings and dollar-off 'ritas, ensuring that you can essentially already call Wednesday a bust.

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14. Eveleigh 8752 W Sunset, Hollywood, CA 90028

This rustic space has a reclaimed, wood-laden indoor/outdoor dining room with a communal table and sofa-like seating. Their outdoor patio is the real draw, where you'll feel as though you've entered a gorgeous garden party, surrounded by homegrown herbs and vegetables. From land (lamb meatballs) to sea (wild Pacific yellowtail), every dish on Eveleigh's delectable menu is market-fresh and crafted with care.

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15. The HMS Bounty 3357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (Koreatown)

This may come as a surprise, but the HMS Bounty is a nautically themed British-style pub (go figure). Pull a stool up next to a local and have a chat on a weekday or join a busier crowd on the weekend. Either way, this dimly-lit hole in the wall in Koreatown is a hidden gem for a laid-back night and an inexpensive drink.

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16. Ray's & Stark Bar 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (Mid Wilshire)

Located at LACMA, this swanky bar and restaurant takes museum dining to new levels with an upscale American menu, killer cocktails, and an expansive outdoor patio. Expect wood-fired pizzas, plenty of veggie plates, and classic entrees like a burger with caramelized onions and grilled fish. The Stark Bar has an impressive spirit selection sourced from across the world, and the craft cocktails taste just right at happy hour.

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17. Happy Ending 7038 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

The boozy dream of a group of people including former Mint chef Matthew Gladstone, this massive ode to gratification rests upon the three pillars of bar awesomeness: a great happy hour, an ambitious menu, and flatscreens -- 30 of 'em.

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18. The Lab 3500 S Figueroa, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (Downtown)

The Lab's a Galen Center-adjacent beery gastropub decked out like a science classroom, with industrial lighting, black-slate-topped common tables, a white-tile bar, textbook-filled bookshelves, and plush professorial leather chairs, all run by USC Hospitality, who recently started opening off-campus restaurants in a bold effort to get alumni and foodies to visit the 'hood.

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19. The Churchill 8384 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Mid Wilshire)

Because... awesome, Churchill's hired a pinup-girl-esque SoHo House/Harvard & Stone drank-slanger to update their menu. Her sippers include the reposado/ Aperol/ amaro/ mescal "Thirsty In LA"; and the pisco/ pineapple/ egg whites/ bitters/ cinnamon "Grapes of Wrath", which no doubt will help you through your next Great Depression.

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20. James' Beach 60 N Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)

James' Beach is famous for being famous. In one instance, that refers to their "Modern American Comfort Food" (especially the mahi mahi tacos). In another, it's because their vibrant bar scene has been featured in various films and television shows. But in the end, it's the whole package that makes James' Beach a top spot in Venice.

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21. Bodega Wine Bar 814 Broadway, Santa Monica (& other locations), CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

Located in Santa Monica, Bodega prides itself on being unpretentious about wine. A go-to date spot, the wine bar is intimate and perfect for quiet conversation over good vino and small plates. It also has an awesome late night Happy Hour starting at 10 pm.

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