Whether bourbon is your bag, you’re passionate for pints, or a good lively scene always trumps the spirit of choice there is a Hollywood bar for you. You can grab a quick drink at a British pub or don a costume at a themed bar, regardless you'll have a great time at these choice spots.
The best things in life come in small packages. Such is the case with the 32-seat nook quietly occupying a ground floor corner of the Hollywood Hills Best Western. It produces classic drinks with subtle tweaks like a house-pickled mushroom and a salt-cured olive garnishing their martinis. Jeremy Allen, the certified sommelier with a Wine Spectator Award helped dream up the ‘70s drinking den with the Little Dom's team. Allen affably chats up regulars and newbies alike and relishes the challenge of pairing drinks to dilettantes. Live music often fills the room. There’s also free parking.
This trendy time machine taking customers to the '70s for a swill-filled spell comes courtesy of the wonder twin duo behind Houston Hospitality. They’ve got a knack for themed hangs, but this one is particularly spot-on, likely because its thrust is so personal. It’s a tribute to their dad and the memories they built together tinkering in the garage late into the night. To enter, you pass through a stocked carport and enter via the fridge. It nails the unique grooviness of a '70s childhood home with its retro beer can walls, shag carpeting, novelty mugs and koozies, vinyl records, macramé hanging chairs, and pinball machine. Make your way to the back yard where you might find a rooftop roller-skating show or a repurposed trailer handing out sno-cones.
Adjacent to the Pantages Theatre, the stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame align outside the door of this iconic dive bar that started life as a prohibition-era speakeasy. Its neon sign has been lighting up late nights since the '30s despite many of its peers falling prey to increased rents, gentrification, and changes in ownership. The no-frills hangout — except for an Al Hirschfield mural and well-curated jukebox — is a reliable place to get liquored up on red barstools alongside similarly determined imbibers under the glow of low-hanging pendant lights. A reminder of Hollywood’s grittier times, it was the last place the Black Dahlia was seen alive and a regular haunt of Charles Bukowski.
Warning: this is not your grandpa’s (or grandma’s despite the name) piano bar. "The Assassination of Gianni Versace" star and Emmy winner Darren Criss, his fiancée Mia Swier, and startup guru Danny Massare bring music to the masses about 100 people at a time in the glammed-up ex-Beauty Bar space on Cahuenga. Belly up to the metallic bar to grab a cocktail with a naughty name (like Tug & Blow or Nice Rac), glittery rim, or a disco ball swizzle stick. Then gather around Criss’ own Yamaha to belt out show tunes, Disney hits, ABBA, and other feel-good pop anthems. There’s a good chance Criss will be tickling the ivories or that his "Glee" co-stars or other Hollywood stars like Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Hamm or Emma Stone will be handling the chorus.
Need a break from the concrete jungle? Let this tiki temple by the Umbrella Hospitality Group temporarily transport you to a partakers’ paradise. Soak up the sun on the naturally lit patio while sipping strong punch bowls (try Release The Kraken) or retire to the inner sanctum where leafy wallpaper, model ships, rattan furniture, the occasional fire dancer and more help sell the concept. Classic tiki drinks abound including piña coladas and painkillers, but most have been updated. For instance, the Ring of Fire is flavored with aged fermented sugarcane juice, habanero and togarashi. Before 9 p.m., minors are allowed. The aloha hour and late night menus discount South Pacific- and Asian-influenced munchies like jackfruit sliders, Kauai fried chicken and yakisoba noodles.
This authentic British pub was started 37 years and two locations ago by an English transplant/in-demand musician, but is still the cat’s pajamas (couldn’t be helped). Imported and domestic brews pair well with traditional across-the-pond vittles like bangers-n-mash and fish-n-chips, especially on the shaded patio. Quiz nights and board game battles get intense.
What began as a pop-up for "Star Wars" superfans is now a full-time gathering place for geeks of all stripes offering: (inter)stellar adult beverages inspired by popular sci-fi, comic book, and fantasy franchises; cosmic comfort food; trivia nights; and stimulating debates about who shot first or "Endgame" Easter eggs. The look is based on Jabba the Hut's Mos Eisley cantina, but occasionally it’s reimagined for special events like a recent "Game of Thrones" takeover complete with Bran’s favorite tree. Children are welcome until 8 p.m. and costumes are encouraged. Show a Scum & Villainy Cantina challenge coin to the waiter for a discount.
Sleek and stylish with a hint of homage to midcentury modern school, just like the newish Kimpton Hotel it resides in, this expansive lobby-level lounge in the shadow of the Capitol Records Building is trying hard to change hearts and minds about hotel bars with Calder-esque light fixtures, conversation-starting art, a pool table, visiting DJs and gourmet snacks like avocado fries and mussels. The wine and beer programs focus on California companies like Boomtown, Paragon Vineyard, and Golden State. But the most important tools in the opinion-changing arsenal are the creative cocktails by certified cicerone Dan Rook, who dared to put an elevated version of Sex on the Beach made with peach jam and honey vinegar and fresh riffs on eggnog, sidecars and gimlets on his roster.
Nestled in an unassuming Sunset Boulevard strip mall, this canteen caters to cinephiles and anyone who feels nostalgic pangs at the mere mention of Blockbuster Video. They’re the ones who will understand the cleverly disguised entrance and the cheeky name that blinks to life in pink neon as the sun drops low. For youngsters who never knew the joy of a Friday night rental run, it’s a nod to video store’s curtained-off adult video section. Inside, the design morphs into a club mixed with a church with re-upholstered pews, stained glass, an old-timey bar, and distressed paint. Cult classics are projected on the wall above the billiards room.
Celebrating its 49th year, Jumbo’s started as a big top-themed neighborhood bar with a drinking team, pajama parties and a “clown of the month” award before evolving into a disco, a country-and-western joint, and finally in 1982 a strip club. (Important note: dancers don't get nude.) Frequented by the late Anthony Bourdain and now run by Jumbo’s daughter, female bartenders line up shots and uncap beers while even more scantily clad ladies pole dance. Splits on the ceiling are not an uncommon sight in this dark punk-rock alternative to Spearmint Rhino or Sunset Boulevard’s plastic dolls.
This Houston Hospitality magically minded establishment will reach out and grab you with tableside trickery, tarot readings by the restrooms, red velvet accents, and a seductive, convivial atmosphere that’s no illusion. The strong libations — expertly layered with craft spirits like turmeric-infused cognac and unique ingredients like mango candy, habanero tincture, and activated charcoal — are made with skill, not smoke and mirrors. (Except for the Smoke & Mirrors, which does contain actual fumes.) If you seek more than sleight of hand, get tickets to the full-scale weekend shows, which often utilize audience participation, in the sumptuous theater. Thai food by neighbor Crying Tiger completes the hat trick.
The South has risen again. This watering hole from 1933 Group, the folks behind Bigfoot Lodge and Oldfield's Liquor Room, contains an entire townhouse disassembled and moved from Savannah and reassembled with all the fixings — ferns, oil paintings of mustachioed patriarchs, fringed lamps, shutters, a stuffed bear, and a New Orleans-style balcony for live jazz and blues — needed to truly sell the motif. If you enjoy Southern comfort food like crawfish étouffée-smothered hotdogs and hushpuppies or bottle-aged concoctions heavy on bourbon and rye (which constantly spin overhead on a creaky conveyor belt), we reckon this should be the first stop of your Hollywood crawl. Be sure to try the Sazerac or Southern Hospitali-Tea.
A buzzy social hub inside the W hotel, this lobby bar provides a lower-key taste of Hollywood nightlife than the clubby pool party on the roof. Without ever leaving the hotel, you can eat, drink, be merry, catch a performance, converse under giant lamps, curl into a barrel shaped chair, or pose for a post on the spiral staircase. They also recently introduced two vinyl record listening stations in partnership with Goldenvoice and Crosley featuring artists playing venues across LA.
It was old school when it opened in 1991 and even more so now with its mostly untouched mahogany bars, tufted leather banquettes and doors, flocked wallpaper, glittery black ceiling, casino carpeting, and stiff dirty martinis or Manhattans. Score $4 PBRs and $5 old-fashioneds made with rye, mezcal, or bourbon during the daily happy hour. As evenings progress, the vibe gets less lounge lizard as the side room stage heats up with Trashcan Shakespeare readings, burlesque, cabaret performers, live bands, or karaoke. One of LA’s best taco trucks is almost always parked outside the door if you work up an appetite.
Another fully immersive experience borne from the brains of the brothers behind Houston Hospitality, this East Hollywood installment inside an apartment building ships sippers to 1940s Cuba. Candles flicker at leather booths (which usually require reservations) and their light bounces off distressed ceilings and antique furnishings. Burlesque is given a salsa spin, the horn section pops off, and there's an open-roofed cigar lounge. The drinks are rum-centric and pull from an extensive collection. Upscale dress code enforced.
The Spare Room
Decamp from the din of the bustling tourist zone in this elegant Art Deco gaming parlor tucked away on the mezzanine level of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where some genius had a brilliant idea to combine sophisticated booze and bowling. It’s an unusual combination, but also, as it turns out, a super fun one. If knocking down pins isn’t your thing, come on burlesque bingo night or Yahtzee, Mancala, or other classic games from the games hostess. Only drawback? The vintage wood lanes always motivate at least one guy to do his best “I drink your milkshake” Daniel Day Lewis impression.
Yes, officially, this dimly lit circus-themed bar is in West Hollywood. We’re pretty sure you'll forgive that technicality the minute you slide through the curtain and into this dark woody haven, manned by barkeeps in vests and decorated with three-ring knick-knacks and murals. The house’s most special creations are organized into seven categories including absinthe, sparkling, and gin and come with punchy names like Cad, Old Sport, and Death In The Afternoon. Can be hard to find. Plug Largo into Google Maps and then look for a neon sign signaling the old fortuneteller’s parlor.