Sure, we all know the latest and greatest joints to head to on a Friday night. But, we also all know the frustration of a arriving at one of these said hot spots, only to find the bar packed, and not an empty stool in sight. So, rather than waste you're time and tell you about the places you're well aware of, it's time to push aside the velvet ropes, ditch the crowds, and saddle up someplace a little more off the radar.
Whether you're looking for a members' only joint, a password at the door, or an underground tavern (literally), we've rounded up L.A.'s 9 best secret libation locations guaranteed to lift your spirits. Salut!
The Wellesbourne is one dapper dandy. This cozy, leather- and wood-trimmed lounge has the look and drink menu of an older gentlemen. And, we couldn’t mean that as a bigger compliment! Slip into a wooden booth and take in the handsome library scene while ordering up classic drinks like The Manhattan and Sazerac. Or head over to the gaming room and get in on a foosball match with your Tom Collins in hand. Either way, you’ll be transported to another era by the end of happy hour.
The Wellesbourne, 10929 West Pico Boulevard (at Kelton Avenue); 310-474-0102.
Photographed by Phoebe Chuason.
One Eyed Gypsy
The Basement Tavern
If you like a side dish of quirk served with your cocktail, check out One Eyed Gypsy, which offers an eclectic mix of entertainment alongside carnival-like décor. Many of the drinks are cheap and uncomplicated (think cans of White Raskal and PBR), while the cocktails are as strong as some of their names suggest (read: The Banshee). Make sure you bring your quarters to partake in carnival games like the love-o-meter and fortuneteller. This is one side-show act not to be missed!
One Eyed Gypsy, 901 East 1st Street (at North Vignes Street); 626-340-3529.
Located underneath The Victorian, an elegant and historical event space, you’d never expect to find something quite like The Basement Tavern. In fact, getting there sounds a bit like a treasure hunt: Head around the back, behind the dumpsters, and look for a red door, adorned with an knocker and blue eye. With live music every night of the week, this speakeasy bourbon bar is quite the hidden escape from the usual happy hour haunts.
The Basement Tavern
, 2640 Main Street (between Hill Street and Ocean Park Boulevard); 310-396-2469.
Caña Rum Bar
Upon first visit, one can feel a little disoriented trying to locate Caña Rum Bar. The entrance is in the back of a parking garage behind a small kiosk that could be mistaken for a valet stand. Membership is only $20 for the year and absolutely worth the investment, which allows you to bring along seven of your friends on any visit and unlocks the opportunity to attend rum tastings and other various spirited events. Grab a seat at the main bar to watch tropical concoctions come to life, or slink out to the back patio to get some fresh air while sitting in front of the fire.Caña Rum Bar
, 714 West Olympic Boulevard (at Flower Street); 213-745-7090.
Photographed by Phoebe Chuason.
The Lock & Key
Located on an unassuming block across the street from a major grocery store, The Lock & Key is definitely a Korean Town diamond in the rough. The entrance is covered with a massive collection of locks and doorknobs, making the search for the actual entrance quite the initial challenge. Inside, the space is handsome and the cocktails are crafted with care. Head over to Stall 239, the lounge’s adjacent take-out window, and order up some global street food while throwing back a Razzel-Dazzel cocktail or two. Dress code is encouraged, so break out that LBD you’ve been dying to take out for a spin.
The Lock & Key, 239 South Vermont Avenue (at 3rd Street); 213-389-5625.
This swanky restaurant and lounge sits on the quickly changing stretch of York Boulevard and offers quite the impressive cocktail program. You can’t go wrong with any of the libations listed on the menu, but we highly suggest ordering the bartender's choice, thanks to the spot's diverse collection of bitters and spirits. Sit back in a leather booth for a full-on feast or just partake in the spirited action at the bar. No matter your choice, make sure to sop up those divine drinks with a heavenly plate of ricotta dumplings.Sonny’s Hideaway
, 5137 York Boulevard (between Avenues 51 & 52); 323-255-2000.
Ebanos quietly opened its doors just a few weeks ago and has us flocking downtown. The menu focuses mostly on tequila and mezcal, but definitely makes a prominent nod to Prohibition-era spirits such as gin and whiskey. We suggest repping some downtown pride and ordering The Angelos Flight or kicking up the spice with The First Battle Of Tabasco, a jalapeño-infused shrub cocktail Ebanos Crossing
, 200 South Hill Street (at 2nd Street); 213.935.8829.
Photo: Courtesy of Seventy7 Lounge.Seventy7 Lounge
Located in a back alley behind a bank, the Seventy7 lounge has just a glowing red “cocktail” sign as its only marker. Once inside, the setting is retro, intimate, and dimly lit, making it a perfect elixir escape any evening of the week. Looking for an absinthe fix? It's got five kinds for you to explore as well as one super-delicious cocktail, “The Moulin Rouge.” We love to sit back and sip on the occasional “Plaid Bikini” with a spiced mix of whiskey and elderflower. Instagraming your night? Use the hashtag #Seventy7Lounge and show the bartender for $5 specialty cocktails all evening long.
Seventy7 Lounge, 3843 Main Street (at Culver Boulevard); 310-559-7707.
One of the greatest (and oldest) tiki bars in our fair city, the Tonga Hut has been serving rum-tastic creations for 55 years in all it’s authentic Polynesian glory. With an expansive drink menu that even includes three kinds of Mai Tais, you’ll want to bring along a group to try a variety of sips while soaking up the tropical scene. Hawaiian shirts optional.Tonga Hut
, 12808 Victory Boulevard (at Goodland Avenue); 818-769-0708.