Illustration by Andrew Roberts
We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so let’s just say the entrance to this upscale new rum bar is unconventional (and we’re not referring to the bleak stretch of Western Avenue that it’s on). Surprise revealed, you descend a narrow spiral staircase into what looks like a neglected Havana nightclub circa 1940, complete with a samba band and flickering bathroom lights. We’re all for theme bars, but it’s the selection of unusual rums that makes the secretive spot a favorite of sharply dressed fans of distilled sugarcane. » 1159 N. Western Ave., Hollywood, 323-466-1324.
Ask Matthew Kaner, the beverage director of this Los Feliz wine bar, what bottles are available that day, and he’ll respond, “Well, what do you like?” Yes, there’s a board listing a few pours, but it’s more rewarding to let the guys behind the bar mine your hopes, dreams, and taste preferences to find the perfect glass for you. Sound too touchy-feely? The testosterone-heavy decor (there’s a motorcycle hanging on the wall) tips the scales in the other direction. » 4628 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, 323-660-4400.
Agave-based spirits like tequila and mescal are having a moment, and the downtown cantina from Cedd Moses (Seven Grand, Caña, Cole’s, Tony’s Saloon) is part of the reason why. Loft dwellers and arty types enjoy rare tequilas, smoky mescals produced in small Mexican villages, and cocktails: The poblano escobar—created by acclaimed barman Julian Cox from nearby Rivera (see page 160)—is made with poblano chiles, cumin, and pineapple. Don’t know your reposados from your añejos? General manager and agave expert Raul Yrastorza is happy to provide an education along with that buzz. Leave the lime wedge for your Corona—this stuff is for sipping, not shooting. » 107 E. 6th St., downtown, 213-988-8355.
A Silver Lake bar with credible cocktails and nary a foosball table in sight? Believe it. Here’s a downright gentlemanly addition to the neighborhood, stocking fine grain alcohols (rye, scotch, bourbon) behind a round marble-top bar and mixing time-honored potions like the mint julep, the Sazerac, and the classic version of a whiskey sour. The bar whips up four styles of manhattan: traditional, black, marmalade, and spicy mole. Members of the area’s young, fashion-forward elite come to drape themselves across the vintage furniture and swill something old, stiff, and savvy. » 2939 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-661-6007.
The Surly Goat
Just because you prefer a cold beer to a snifter of firewater doesn’t mean you aren’t serious about your potables. At this thinking man’s pub, 27 taps and a cask dispense prime small-batch brews. The walls are plastered with beer ads from around the world, most of which star the mighty bock, or goat. A stuffed version watches from above; don’t worry, he doesn’t drink much. » 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-650-4628.
Forget the juice bar. Matt Biancaniello, the enthusiastic mixologist at this minuscule cocktail lounge off the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, hits up the farmers’ market for the inspiration behind and the ingredients in his fresh drinks. He fuses ripe strawberries with balsamic and gin, aged rum with white peaches, and lavender flowers with Kentucky whiskey. He’ll even dress up a manhattan with shiitakes and chanterelles when they’re in season. We also love the bar’s over-the-top zebra motif. » 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-466-7000.