Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Mar 11, 2010 08:21 AM

Cocktails & Mixology

Need some help here Chow-downers!

I am looking for the best cocktails and mixologists in Hollywood / Downtown. However - looking for the up and comers who bring classic style to the bar ... I have been to the usuals: The Hungry Cat, Seven Grand, The Bar, Comme Ca ... etc. Whose changing the game out there?

Please send some recommendations!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm not sure what this caveat means: "However - looking for the up and comers who bring classic style to the bar ..." but I'll add Rivera, the Roger Room, the Tar Pit, and the Varnish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mollyomormon

      hey thanks!

      I was talking about new bars that are turning out classic cocktails with a bit of an updated/modern twist .... sorry for the confusion ;)

      1. re: barrett_woodhaven

        okay, I thought that's probably what you were saying, just wasn't sure. I think all the ones I listed would be very good options, then. I know District in Hollywood is not too far from opening and they're supposedly planning to have an excellent cocktail program as well.

    2. You know, I've been to a lot of the places that people mention, but I haven't yet seen better drinks with more consistency than The Varnish. I have only been there on an off night once, and even their worst night was better than many place's best night. I don't know about changing the game (nor is that really what I'm looking for), but they are solid, and devote the time needed to make a drink right. The drinks on their actual menu are usually riffs on classics, and they can make pretty much any classic drink you can think up well. The ingredients are right, the preparation is right, the ice / dilution are right. I think the only way you will get a better drink in LA is to make it yourself. The main downside is that it's not really somewhere you can easily go with a large group most of the time.

      I thought Tar Pit was pretty decent. Even though the place was packed, the bartenders seemed to take their time -- still not as good as Varnish IMHO, and I think it may have been a little more expensive. Have not tried the Edison, but (even though it's large) have heard good things about their drinks. Haven't been to 7 Grand in a while, but the drinks I've had there were solid; the down side is that it can be a bit of a zoo.

      I went to Hungry Cat once, and I don't think it was in the league of these other places, based on that experience, at least. The ice was wet, the drink a bit too sweet, and the bartending a little sloppy. Maybe some good ideas on their drink menu, but that doesn't matter if they're not executed well, and consistently.

      6 Replies
      1. re: will47

        Went to Roger Room the other night, and while it was a bit of a zoo on a weekend evening, was very impressed with Jason Bran, who's apparently formerly of Celadon, who was our bartender for the evening. Even though the staff free-pours many of their drinks, it didn't seem to adversely affect the quality of the drinks I tried. Their ice looked pretty dry, and the dilution of the drinks seemed right to me, and both classic and modern drinks were mixed properly. Even better, I felt the bartender managed to quickly get a sense of our individual preferences. Definitely hoping to go back on a quieter night.

        Some of the stuff seemed a little gimicky; the plastic monkey garnish holders, the use of an atomizer to spray on bitters, etc., and they even did a little "spraypainting" (using a stencil) with bitters on the foam of one of their sours. Also, I would have preferred if they let fewer people in, so that it's a little quieter, but I'm glad they still seemed to keep the quality of their drinks up.

        Despite the suspenders etc. on the folks behind the bar, the ambience is a little more like a standard bar than some of the other wannabe-speakeasy bars. This is both good and bad... it's less pretentious, but I'm old enough that I tend to prefer places that are just a little bit quieter. The crowd was a little meat-markety, but not horrible - good people-watching at any rate.

        1. re: will47

          I, too, wish it were quieter at the Roger Room. The bartenders are excellent, and I'd go way more often if it wasn't such a scene.

          1. re: will47

            A little further west than the OP was asking about, but we recently saw a post about The Tasting Kitchen (on Abbot Kinney), and had a chance to check it out last night.

            The bartender mentioned in that post wasn't there, but Devin Espinosa (who also curates the Hatchi Mix series at Breadbar) was tending bar, and I thought he did a great job. Drinks were excellent, both the classics and their own creations. They make a lot of their own drams, bitters, and garnishes (we were happy to see that the cherries are house-made rather than the Luxardo ones), and have a fairly good collection of spirits.

            I would like to visit a few more times, but based on this experience, it's definitely one of the best places on the west side, and worth a visit even for those of us closer to DTLA / Hollywood.

            1. re: will47

              The Tasting Kitchen is the only place on the Westside that hits the highs that The Varnish regular operates at, and in some cases exceed it. There is a sense of adventure and creativity that I don't find tapped into quite as much at The Varnish.

              Case in point, Justin (who seems to be the creative force behind the bar) mixed me an excellent spin on a Red Hook using some housemade mamajuana in lieu of the maraschino. Pretty amazing results.

              My first visit to The Tasting Kitchen, I asked Justin to mix me something that would be a cocktail pairing for a dessert which I've since forgotten the details of, other than it focused on strawberries. What he came up with was an extemporaneous hit playing off a strawberry liqueur with depth provided by some Amaro Nonino.

              And to me that illustrated the niche that Justin has carved out for the Bar at The Tasking Kitchen -- exploration of various amaros in cocktails. For a relatively small bar, he's built up a very interesting collection of these behind the stick and he's willing to use it in really interesting, yet balanced ways.

              Try the Four Square next time you're there. It's like a bizarro world Last Word. Equal parts bourbon, campari, dry vermouth, Amaro Cio Ciara.

              And if the OP hasn't yet been to La Descarga, on Western between Koreatown and Los Feliz, then do so post haste. Focus on rum, naturally, which is often a bit of a thin spot at The Varnish and The Tasting Kitchen.

              La Descarga
              1159 North Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006

          2. re: will47

            re: the hungry cat
            although it gets a lot of love on this board, to my palate all the drinks that i tried there would have benefited by halving the amount of sugar they used.

            1. re: will47

              Hit the Varnish tonight. It was lovely. Cocktails were spot on. Well-balanced concoctions.

              Hit the X-bar in our hotel (Hyatt Regency in Beverly Hills) last night. While they advertised artisanal cocktails (yeah, I should have known better) - they were appalling. One drink went largely untouched, the other wasn't worth half what we paid for it.

            2. You might want to check into Joshua Lurie's blog, linked here, which discusses drinks, mixology, and all the venues that specialize in which ones.
              This link mentions those in downtown LA that are operated by Cedd Moses. Each has a different speciality.
              Cannot imagine you can't find at least one or two of interest.

              1. Really impressed with Rivera's mixology...

                1 Reply
                1. I usually drink my booze straight up but St. Felix makes some pretty fancy drinks. One of their bartenders recently competed in a mixologist contest and did well.