L.A.’s 10 Best Bars for Discerning Day Drinkers

Tasty cocktails to pause your day without getting knocked down for the count
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As much as we’d all love it if they brought back those three-martini lunches and office bar carts (swoon!) from the Mad Men-era, our big bosses won’t allow it. Fortunately, Redbird launched a lunch menu last month and, along with it, a daytime-dedicated drink menu by bar manager Tobin Shea, which not only includes low-ABV cocktails but some low-ABV martinis, too, so you can actually do a virtually guilt-free three-martini lunch.

One of the martinis was inspired by Julia Child, who liked to drink her martini 5 to 1, vermouth to gin. Shea uses Dolin vermouth for that drink, which he named after Child.

“With Dolin it was awesome, any other vermouth is so-so, but the Dolin really makes it shine,” says Shea.

The other cocktails on offer range from the tropical-inspired Bamboo Swizzle with amontillado sherry and French vermouth to one of the easiest scotch cocktails to knock back, the Bonnie Doone with orolosso sherry.

And it turns out Redbird isn’t the only day-drinking option in town. Here’s a list of spots for the discerning imbiber who wants more than just a place to grab a beer—these places also have gorgeous patios to enjoy a sunny L.A. day.

Terrine isn’t open for lunch on the weekdays, but it does, thankfully, extend weekend brunch by starting on Friday. It simply is the perfect way to end the week: Sit on one of the most beautiful patios in L.A. and enjoy one of barman Ryan Wainwright’s day-friendly drinks, like an Italian Soda (Campari, Cynar, prosecco) or the Cocchi Spritz (Cocchi Rosa and prosecco), while indulging in that Croque Madame.

Big Bar in Los Feliz not only serves cocktails starting at 11 a.m. on weekdays, but it also just kicked off its Green Hour pastis service again yesterday. But during lunch time, try out sunny-day favorite Into Her Arms made with Absolut Elyx vodka, strawberry shrub, Cocchi Americano, lemon, and strawberry thyme jam or Mixed Blessings, which barman Eugene Lee describes as “paloma meets margarita meets awesome.”

Gracias Madre is open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m., and beverage director Jason Eisner has created plenty of beautiful and delicious day-drinking options this spring. Treat yourself to unusual Micheladas like the dessert-y Freaky Styley made with Smith chocolate stout, spicy peanut ice, and coconut horchata foam or the most unusual margarita you’ve ever met the Three Miracles, which features three blue absinthe ice balls and juniper-infused mezcal.

The Wallaces Greg Bryson swears by his No KumTree for Old Gin, a tall, refreshing cocktail, which you can enjoy on the patio off Main Street in Culver City. (Lunchtime hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) “It’s one of my favorite seasonal drinks. Having some bubbles from the cava and a light spirit of gin, most of my guests are drinking two,” he says. But three of these, and you should probably call it a day.

AOC in West Hollywood is always good for day-drinking options and even includes some of the most delicious mocktails for those who really want to be on their best behavior during the work week, all courtesy of bartender Christiaan Rollich. But Rollich says his beer cocktail, the Lee Enfield with Eagle Rock IPA, is the way to go if you just want a pause in your day. “The idea is to bring down the ABV, depending how much beer and how much liquor you use, of course. It has to be refreshing with nice acid and multiple layers. You are still drinking a cocktail without worrying about having number two.”

Not too far from Hollywood and down the street from the Guitar Center is The Pikey on Sunset Boulevard, really convenient to rock-n-rollers in need of nursing a hangover. Grab a seat on the patio to get some rays and order a light, bright cocktail like Hades’ Lady made with Amaro di Angostura and prosecco or the Laddie Dill with vodka and cucumber. “From the cucumber notes to the savory ginger and peppery finish, the Laddie Dill is reminiscent of drinking outdoors in a garden that lasts through every sip,” says general manager Eric Shani.

After hanging out at the beach in Santa Monica, swing by The Independence, which is open Tuesday through Sunday at noon to service your daytime cocktail needs. Drink creator Vincenzo Marianella suggests his Ocean Park cocktail for something “low in alcohol, citrus, fresh, and sparkling with a little hint of smoke.” Or, if you want to be extra good, there’s actually a mocktail section on the menu, which includes drinks like the Paradise Cove with an innocent mix of passion fruit, almond syrup, lime, and coconut water.

If you love negronis but want to go light without losing the gin for an Americano, try the Negroni Sour by Gabriella Mlynarczyk at Freddy Smalls. Made with gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, lime, grapefruit, and Campari dust, it’s best enjoyed on the patio off Pico Boulevard.

Melrose Umbrella Co. is one of the few good straight-up cocktail bars that are open at noon on weekends. Have a liquid brunch with the Maid of the Garden, a light and savory play on a bloody mary by bartender Dave Purcell. Or, really, you can ask for any brunch time classic, like a Ramos Gin Fizz, Pimm’s Cup, or Aperol Flip. The bartenders here are extra skilled.

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