Beverly Hills is often overlooked for cocktailing. It’s more a champagne and fine wine kind of town, n’est-ce pas? But there have been a few developments that have kept me coming back to ol’ fancy town and now I can connect the dots for a full-on bar crawl.
As with the Sunset Boulevard bar hop, all of the recommended bars are within stumbling distance of one other for your boozing convenience. I’ve even done a variation of it, for “research,” with unforgettable results. Beverly Hills is the land of $18 cocktails, but if you don’t have Benjamins burning a hole in your pocket, there are some happy hours here, as well.
Pro tip: Have your designated driver park in the metered garages off Little Santa Monica Boulevard, which are free after 6 p.m.
↪ La Dolce Vita: What better way to start off a swank night of drinking than at Frank Sinatra’s old haunt. La Dolce Vita was his favorite Italian restaurant. Snag that corner booth in the bar area facing the entrance and you’ll be sitting where he sat. Forget what that plaque at that other booth in the dining room says, Frankie liked this bar spot best as it gave him the best vantage point of the room. You can go ahead and order his drink of choice, Jack Daniels on the rocks, but I prefer the classic Vesper.
↪ Sidebar: Walk in a straight line along Wilshire Boulevard til you hit the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Toward the back of the hotel across from Wolfgang Puck’s Cut is Sidebar. If you get there between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, you’ll make it for happy hour. But I like the classic Aviation here. Or if you want something autumnal, Sidebar bartender Una Green counts the “Locked and Loaded” cocktail—a Woodford Reserve whiskey sour with maple, Carpano Antica, and a Laphroaig rinse—as one of her personal favorites.
↪ Scarpetta Bar: Mixologist Rob Floyd (formerly of SLS Beverly Hills) redid the cocktail program at this once overlooked bar, where diners awaited their reservations for Scott Conant’s restaurant. I like Floyd’s “Noce” cocktail, a turn on the 1895 Old Fashioned recipe but with rye, Angostura bitters, and a pecan reduction. They serve it with candied pecans and encourage you to take a sip of the drink between each bite of the pecans. If you make it to the bar between 4 and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, you’ll enjoy happy hour prices where small bites and cocktails are $8.
↪ 10 Pound: You can’t leave Beverly Hills without a stop at Macallan’s reservations-only bar located over Scarpetta in the Montage Hotel. It’s not a members-only bar, mind you, but you do have to call ahead to get in. Needless to say, I have their number programmed into my phone as there’s nothing like having your own personal bartender and sipping on high-end scotch cocktails, even if the minimum you’re allowed to spend is $50. Try the “Alt 0163,” a cocktail of Macallan 18, Lazzaroni Amaretto, Amaro Nonino, and Jerry Thomas bitters. Usually I’d cringe at the idea of using an expensive scotch in a cocktail but it works here. Its drink creator, Cash Black, wanted to complement the 18. He explains, “So what I did was pick a cordial I wanted to base it with, Amaretto which is way out of the realm. Because you have to have something to stand up to the scotch, I chose Amaro Nonino. Very herbal, very strong but very lovely.”
↪ Hakkasan Beverly Hills: For an “out of body” experience just sit at the bar here. There's so much fanciness, what with the colored lighting, the elegant glassware, and even the Rolls-Royce of all barware. You really feel like you're in the movie version of Beverly Hills. Barman Armando Conway did the cocktail program for this, the 11th Hakkasan location. If you’d like a little show with your cocktail, order the Smoky Negroni which starts off with Rusty Blade gin, Antica Formula vermouth, and Campari—and finishes with a Grand Marnier smoke infusion.
↪ Buena Vista Cigar Club: End the night, and return to earth, at this dimly lit cigar bar back on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. There’s a full bar but, come on, a glass of scotch goes best with a stogie. Don’t know which cigar to buy? Ask proprietor Rigo Hernandez for some suggestions. Then settle into one of the cozy couches for the rest of the night—the place stays open til 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays.