by Kelly Wardle - 21 Reviews - 17 List
Cocktail culture is alive and well in Los Angeles, and 2010 brought plenty of exciting new bars to quench our thirst, from intimate spots (Covell Wine Bar in Los Feliz) to spaces showcasing a specific liquor (rum den La Descarga and whiskey wonderland the Thirsty Crow). Swanky lounges, low-key neighborhood hangouts, even a dive bar--in no particular order, here are the best new bars of 2010 in LA. (Pictured, Villains Tavern; photo by Kelly Wardle)
Updated: March 11, 2011
Since opening in July, this retro, steampunk-inspired Downtown LA bar has offered sinisterly delicious drinks such as the Fatal Hour and Belladonna in the red-hued upstairs lounge or outside on the large patio, where barbershop quartets and quirky trios play. Sure, the location's a little isolated, but that's part of the intrigue. And if all that searching and sipping makes you hungry, dig into the menu of fancier-than-usual bar bites while you plan your next caper with your partners in crime.
Covell is a welcome addition to the city's oenophile scene with a dimly lit, cozy interior and cool crowd. But it's the interactive wine list and attractive, friendly bar staff that really make this new neighborhood wine bar a keeper. Led by Matthew Kaner (formerly of Silverlake Wine), the knowledgeable employees let guests sample wines until they find the perfect glass to accompany one of the decadent cheese and charcuterie plates or a toasty Croque Monsieur. Wine dining, indeed.
2010 brought several bars devoted to celebrating a single type of liquor, and it's all about rum at La Descarga, the new Hollywood bar and lounge that proves you don't need to go to a faraway tropical isle to get your rum fix. Duck through the wardrobe door at the entrance and enter a magical world filled with cocktails, cigars, live music and burlesque. There are other liquors offered, but it's the rum that shines in drinks that include Tapping the Admiral and Papa's Daiquiri.
Thirsty Crow opened in the old Stinkers location, offering an impressive selection of whiskey and a themed decor scheme that you?d expect from the same group behind Bigfoot Lounge and Bigfoot West, with classic bar fixtures, suspender-wearing bartenders and a retro, record-playing jukebox. While there are non-whiskey drinks on the menu, the excellent mint julep (made with Maker's Mark, mint, sugar and crushed ice) and the thirst-quenching Thirsty Crow (with rye, citrus and ginger beer), are can't-miss cocktails.
The handcrafted cocktail trend shows no signs of slowing, but this low-key Hollywood spot focuses on beer--and lots of it. The latest bar from ?beer sommelier? Ryan Sweeney (Verdugo Bar) and nightlife entrepreneur Adolfo Suaya features two dozen popular craft beers and rare microbrews on tap, including brews made exclusively for the Goat, as well as 100 bottled beer varieties and a full bar. If you're wondering about all the goat-themed artwork, it's an homage to ?bock,? which refers to both 'strong beer? and ?billy goat? in German.
The latest venture from Craig Trager's Vintage Bar Group (The Well, The Fifth), the Parlour Room brings a sophisticated-but-not-snooty neighborhood cocktail saloon to Hollywood. From the non-descript (read: gritty) exterior, you?d never guess the inside evokes old Hollywood decor with green flocked velvet wallpaper and crystal chandeliers. There's a large, low-key lounge as well as a spacious outdoor patio where patrons will feel as comfortable sipping one of the well-made cocktails as a bottle of beer.
Tequila, tequila, and more tequila fill the bar at this casual Downtown LA from Cedd Moses? 213 Group. An impressive list of south-of-the-border tequila and mezcal varieties are used to create cocktails such as the spicy Poblano Escobar and the 400 Rabbits, making Las Perlas the spot that wipes away tequila's Spring Break-shots reputation and gives it the respect it deserves. There's also a good selection of beer, a pool table and salty Mexican peanuts and pork rinds to add to the festive cantina atmosphere.
This isn't your parents' basement: The newest addition to Santa Monica's Main Street bar scene brought the now-ubiquitous speakeasy vibe to the beach, with a semi-hidden entrance, dramatic chandeliers and chalkboard walls underneath The Victorian. Sip one of the affordable handcrafted cocktails and catch live music by local bands on many nights; weekend crowds are lively and often spill out onto the upstairs outdoor patio, but the candlelit nooks and glass-walled back room provide a sultry setting for drinks on quieter evenings.
Want to sing ?Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum? without anyone giving you funny looks? Step into Cana Rum Bar, another new bar from the 213 Group, where more than 100 rum varieties and an extensive menu of cocktails await amidst the dreamy gypsy caravan-meets-jazz-lounge setting. There's a $20 annual membership on the first visit, but the money is donated to charity causes, making it a more worthwhile expense to sip some rum in style.
Party like it's 1886 at the new 1886 Bar at the back of Pasadena's Raymond restaurant, where decor details like a pressed-tin ceiling and antique fixtures take guests back to a different era. Choose from a cocktail menu that references the history of the area, with drinks such as the Rose Parade Punch (gin, roses, cucumber and soda) and Honey-Nut Old-Fashioned (peanut-infused bourbon, honey, Angostura bitters and orange zest), and sample small bites from the Raymond kitchen while you sip.
Ernest Hemingway famously liked to drink, and he would have found plenty of liquid inspiration at this namesake watering hole in Hollywood from Johnny Zander, the nightlife guru also behind Teddy's and Green Door. Like your libations with a splash of literature? Sink into one of the plush booths, take in the book-filled floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls, and get some inspiration of your own as you sip a Hemingway-inspired cocktail such as Death in the Afternoon or For Whom the Bell Tolls. Papa might approve.
Dive bars are a dying breed on the Westside, as old watering holes are often snapped up for their liquor licenses and converted into much fancier digs. Mom's Bar, which comes from the group behind Culver City karaoke haven Backstage Bar & Lounge and replaces longtime West L.A. spot Del's Saloon, is a cleaned-up space that retains the dive-bar essentials: a pool table, jukebox, eclectic crowd and--most importantly--cheap drinks. Food trucks also park out front nightly so bar-goers can grab a bite--after all, Mom wouldn't want you to only drink your dinner.