With a new season comes the arrival of many recently opened places to quench our thirst, perfect for going classy in Hollywood, drinking seaside in Santa Monica or spending a late night in West Hollywood.
Whether you're in the mood for fancypants cocktails, wines by the glass or beer on draft, here are the best new bars to spend a night out.
Brilliantshine, Santa Monica
Most L.A. cocktail bars seem to start with Julian Cox. The barman behind Petty Cash, Bestia, Picca et al. recently debuted his Santa Monica flagship with partner Josh Goldman. The theme: seaside saloon. Grab a stool at the charming old-timey bar (think: vintage piano, brass fixtures) and order a Rome with a View ($10)—Campari, dry vermouth, soda and a lime wheel—or Spread Love, It's the Brooklyn Way ($12) with rye whiskey, China-China bitters, dry vermouth and maraschino. There are Peruvian bites, too—we love the shrimp ceviche ($11) and lobster uni rice ($21). You can even post up for the night on the alfresco patio.
Grandpa Johnson's, Hollywood
Keep it classy with a taste of Old Hollywood. Blink and you'll miss the unmarked entrance. Once inside, the Art Deco bar reveals wall-to-ceiling chevron panels, white marble tops, mirrored walls and a swanky 24-foot-long brass bar. The cocktails are just as fancy, dressed up in Darjeeling syrup, rose water and guava purée. Toast to T-Bizz ($14), named after owner Johnny Zander's grandfather, made with bourbon, ginger syrup, apple cider, amaro, lemon juice, bitters and a lemon wedge.
The Nice Guy, West Hollywood
Continuing on the throwback theme, the Nice Guy serves cocktails with a side of mafiosa. Translation: red-sauce shared plates, old-school cocktails, booths (even a family chef's table) and a sultry songstress. Go for a Moscow Mule ($15) served in a proper copper mug—you can upgrade to a punch bowl ($350) like a boss—or Mother's Milk ($15), a frothy mix of vodka, house-made chocolate milk and soda water. Also of note: a dedicated whiskey menu, because that's what men do.
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Grain, Playa del Rey
As the name suggests, whiskey is the order of the day. Ask for it straight up, on the rocks or in a cocktail at Playa Provisions' bar. Your evening will go something like this: oysters followed by clams casino and a lobster roll on an outdoor patio, then a visit to the back room for a night cap. There are more than 60 whiskies from 21-year Elijah Craig Kentucky bourbon ($22) to Nikka Taketsuru Japanese whisky ($28). And even bar bites are made with the brown spirit—don't miss boozy bourbon milk and warm chocolate cookies ($8).
The Chestnut Club, Santa Monica
This Santa Monica bar is serious about one thing: cocktails. With Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of Black Market Liquor as the duo also behind the scenes (err, bar), the drinks here are worth a visit alone. But the lofty, den-like watering hole also has a relaxed neighborhood hangout feel, with comfortable leather booths. The mixed drinks are simple: All 13 list no more than five ingredients. And beer geeks can get into the impressive craft brew list, ranging from local barleywines to double IPAs.
Murph's, Sherman Oaks
This Americana-themed bar is the latest to rouse the SFV after-hours scene. Designed to look like a 1930s gas station, Murph's offers 11 local brews on tap (pulled from wrench handles) and even more by the can. If cocktails are calling, we suggest a standard Oil Change ($10)—a mix of bourbon, ginger and honey—or a rum-laced vanilla Coke float ($10) layered with bitters and vanilla liqueur. Fuel up with bro bar food such as a pimento cheese-topped burger ($14) and spicy fried chicken sandwich ($14). Bonus: Get $20 off your first Uber ride to make the trek back over the hill.
Bacari PDR, Playa del Rey
Winos can belly up and cheers at this beachside bar. And for good reason: Happy hour brings half-off wines by the glass and $10 liters of sangria, and "open bar" ($20) means 90 minutes of limitless red, white, champagne and sangria (and beer, too). If that doesn't whet your taste buds, the kitchen slings grilled pizza ($8) and tapas-style cicchetti. Order individual plates ($8) or sample a trio of tastes ($21) ranging from crab crostini to lamb-stuffed eggplant with lemon garlic emulsion.
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