Drinking and nightlife in Los Angeles

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in West Hollywood & Mid-City


    It's been called the best gay bar in the world, and who are we to argue? Once a humble coffeehouse, the Abbey has expanded into the bar/club/restaurant of record in WeHo. It has so many different-flavored martinis and mojitos that you’d think they were invented here, plus a menu of upscale pub food (mains $14 to $21). Match your mood to the many different spaces: thumping dance floor, outdoor patios, Goth lounge, chill space. On weekends, they’re all busy.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

    Spire 73

    On the roof of the Intercontinental Hotel, Spire 73 proclaims to be the tallest rooftop bar in the western hemisphere. From its spot on the 73rd story, the breathtaking views extend all the way to the ocean. Cozy up on futuristic furniture, or sit around a fire pit, quaff whiskies, wines and cocktails, and toast your own s'mores. Signature cocktails include a kumquat old fashioned, green thumb (vodka and lime with agave, cucumber and mint) and Korean paloma (tequila with the Korean spirit makgeolli). It can get windy, so bring a jacket or wrap; there are heat lamps and staff offer blankets for snuggling. Expect a queue at peak times, especially weekend nights.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood & Westwood

    Polo Lounge

    For a classic LA experience, dress up and swill martinis in the Beverly Hills Hotel's legendary bar. Charlie Chaplin had a standing lunch reservation at booth 1 and it was here that HR Haldeman and John Ehrlichman learned of the Watergate break-in in 1972. There's a popular Sunday jazz brunch (adult/child $95/20). Veteran maître d' Pepe De Anda has a story for every booth, while the bar's name stems back to the days when polo players would head here after their games at Will Rogers Park. Don't miss the historical photographs of the hotel, hung both inside the venue and at its entrance. Note that the hotel has faced protests in recent years due to the anti-LGBT policies of its owner, the Sultan of Brunei.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

    Mikkeller DTLA

    This cool, influential Copenhagen import puts a contemporary spin on the old beer hall. Fitted out with booths, communal bar tables and cartoon artwork by Philly-based artist Keith Shore, the industrial loft peddles craft beers from some of the world's most interesting microbreweries. Look for LA brewers such as Eagle Rock and Mumford, as well as Mikkeller's own renowned suds. The place also serves inspired craft cocktails and a short, smart menu of competent dishes, including salads, flatbreads and house-smoked sausages. Last but not least is the venue's daytime coffee takeaway – Kaffebaren – serving pastries, locally roasted joe and gourmet salads and panini named after Copenhagen neighborhoods.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Long Beach & San Pedro


    Adjacent to Retro Row, this nautical-themed dive bar, owned by Chris Reece of the band Social Distortion, brings in the cool kids for live-music acts every night – with no cover, thank you – and serves beer by the pitcher or bottle, and cocktails such as the Mezcarita and Greenchelada (a michelada with cucumber, jalapeño and lime). From the big menu of vittles (mains $7 to $15), the fish and chips and burgers are big sellers. There's sidewalk terrace seating available in case you prefer fresh air or inside becomes too much. If you're not arriving by public transit, there's a tiny parking lot. Otherwise, it's street parking.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

    Clifton's Republic

    Opened in 1935 and back after a $10-million renovation, multilevel, mixed-crowd Clifton's defies description. Order drinks from a Gothic church altar amid taxidermied forest animals, watch burlesque performers shimmy in the shadow of a 40ft faux redwood, or slip through a glass-paneled door to a luxe tiki paradise where DJs spin in a repurposed speedboat. Located on the 4th floor, the tiki bar is our favorite of Clifton's booty of bars, its look a Polynesia-Manhattan mash-up and its smashing tropical libations including an addictive Painkiller (concocted with house-made coconut cream). Head up by 9:30pm to avoid the queues, especially on weekends.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights


    Cocktails, pinball machines and arcade games makes for oh-so-retro good times at this graffiti-soaked warehouse bar. Named for 1982 (the height of the 'Arcade Age'), its 40-plus consoles include classics Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Ms Pac-Man (with drink coasters for grown-up '80s kids). Nightly DJs and rotating food trucks fuel the crowds. Head in before 9pm to avoid long waits, especially later in the week. The venue also hosts regular tournaments; check the website for upcoming events.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights


    Accessed through easy-to-miss Harlem Pl alleyway, this extraordinary basement lounge sits in a century-old power plant. It's like a dimly lit, steampunk wonderland, punctuated with vintage generators, handsome leather lounges and secret nooks. Look for celebrity signatures in the original coal furnace and stick around for the live tunes (anything from jazz to folk), burlesque or aerialist performances. Remember to style up before heading in – men should be in collared shirt and dress shoes.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

    Everson Royce Bar

    Don't be fooled by the unceremonious grey exterior. Behind that wall lies a hopping Arts District hangout, with a buzzy, bulb-strung outdoor patio. The barkeeps here are some of the city's best, using craft liquor to concoct drinks such as the prickly-pear Mateo Street Margarita. Bar bites are equally scrumptious, including the roasted pork-belly steamed buns. Oenophiles will appreciate weekly Wine Wednesday, when $25 gets you a flight of three wines and bar bites to boot.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Venice, Marina Del Rey & Playa del Rey


    Venice's only rooftop bar is quite an experience, with 360-degree views from the shore to the Santa Monica Mountains – if you can take your eyes off the beautiful people. High serves creative seasonal cocktails (blood-orange julep, lemon apple hot toddy, Mexican hot chocolate with tequila) and dishes like beef or lamb sliders, meze plates and crab dip. Reservations recommended. No one under 21 permitted. You get 90 minutes of free valet parking with validation.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Silver Lake & Echo Park


    An atmospheric, vintage-styled neighborhood hangout serving quality cocktails to local hipsters and arty types. A stocked calendar of entertainment includes top-notch live-comedy nights, with hilarious, subversive erotic fan-fiction improv on the third Sunday of the month. Other rotating events include booze-fueled spelling bees, storytelling events, bands and themed club nights, including '80s-themed Funkmosphere on Thursdays. Did we mention the jukebox?

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Hollywood

    La Descarga

    This tastefully frayed, reservations-only rum and cigar lounge is a revelation. Behind the marble bar sit more than 100 types of rum from Haiti, Guyana, Guatemala and Venezuela. The bartenders mix specialty cocktails, but you’d do well to order something aged, and sip it neat as you enjoy the Mambo and Son sounds and the burlesque ballerina on the catwalk. Guys, wear smart shoes and shirts. No jeans. Ladies wear heels and a dress or dark pants.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Santa Monica

    Basement Tavern

    A creative speakeasy, housed in the basement of the Victorian, and our favorite well in Santa Monica. We love it for its craft cocktails, cozy booths, island bar and nightly live-music calendar that features blues, jazz, bluegrass and rock bands. It gets way too busy on weekends for our taste, but weeknights can be special. The Birdcage, Santa Monica's only LGBT bar, is right upstairs.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Los Feliz & Griffith Park


    Marty and Elayne have been a Los Feliz fixture since 1982 when they first brought their quirky Sinatra style to the Dresden’s mid-century lounge. He rumbles on the drums and the upright bass; she tickles the ivories and plays the flute. Both sing. Their fame peaked when they made a brief appearance in the film Swingers. You can tap your toes in their venerated presence Tuesday to Saturday.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood & Westwood

    Bar & Lounge at Hotel Bel-Air

    You'll be clinking crystal at the Hotel Bel-Air's dark, intimate hideaway, a deco-inspired bar-lounge graced with white-marble fireplace and blown-up photography by Norman Seeff. The grand piano is tickled nightly with silky jazz; try catching the fabulous Maria de la Vega Trio on Wednesday nights. Flawless cocktails aside, the bar offers an exceptional food menu by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Style up.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Hollywood

    Rooftop Bar at Mama Shelter

    Less a hotel rooftop bar and more lush, tropical-like oasis with killer views of the Hollywood sign and LA skyline, multicolored daybeds and tongue-in-cheek bar bites like 'boujee fries' and outré tacos. Pulling everyone from hotel guests to locals from the nearby Buzzfeed offices, it's a winner for languid cocktail sessions, landmark spotting and a game of giant Jenga. Reservations not accepted.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Hollywood

    Harvard & Stone

    With daily rotating craftsman whiskey, bourbon and cocktail specials, Harvard & Stone lures peeps with its live bands, solid DJs and burlesque troops working their saucy magic on Fridays and Saturdays. Think Colorado ski lodge meets steampunk industrial, with a blues and rockabilly soul. Note the dress code, which discourages shorts, shiny shirts, baggy clothes, sports gear and flip-flops.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

    Upstairs at the Ace Hotel

    What's not to love about a rooftop bar with knockout Downtown views, powerful cocktails and a luxe, safari-inspired fit out? Perched on the 14th floor of the Ace Hotel, this chilled, sophisticated space has on-point DJs and specially commissioned artworks that include an installation made using Skid Row blankets. Tip: the bar has servers, so grab a table and let them come to you.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Hollywood

    No Vacancy

    If you prefer your cocktail sessions with plenty of wow factor, make a reservation online, style up (no sportswear, shorts or logos) and head to this old shingled Victorian. A vintage scene of dark timber panels and elegant banquettes, it has bars in nearly every corner, tended by clever barkeeps while burlesque dancers and a tightrope walker entertain the droves of party people.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Westlake & Koreatown


    In the movie Chinatown, Faye Dunaway meets with Jack Nicholson at this snug, retro warren of semicircular booths, quirky lamps and, these days, Gen-Y hipsters. Also featured in hits such as Mad Men and New Girl, it's an atmospheric spot for '80s-inspired cocktails, a dose of soju and perhaps a serve of its rather fine Korean fried chicken.