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Where to Drink Martinis in LA

LA’s Martini hotspots, from Old Hollywood haunts to the new temples of molecular mixology.

More than a century after its creation, the Martini continues to captivate LA. Perhaps that’s because it’s been immortalized on the silver screen—or maybe the drink owes its due to the number of old-school venues still pouring the classic the same way they once did for the mid-century executives who came in to peruse scripts over a drink, or three.

Or is it that Angelenos are intrigued by the continuing evolution of the cocktail? The straightforward nature of the Martini certainly hasn’t prevented bartenders from experimenting. In fact, many regard the Martini as a fertile blank canvas – and that’s particularly true in LA, where forward-thinking bartenders at Harvard & Stone, The Walker Inn and several other destination-worth venues continue to push boundaries. It’s not unusual to find bottled Martinis pre-batched and diluted to perfection; molecular martinis chilled with liquid nitrogen; or variations that expand flavor frontiers, meaning versions that skew fashionably briny, pine-y or bitter.

Yet, no matter how bartenders tweak and “improve” upon the classic formula, one aspect doesn’t change: the ritual of the Martini. All these years later, it’s still poured and presented with care, and consumed with delight.

Here, sixteen places in town that should be on your Martini checklist.

The West Hollywood spot dubbed as “LA’s best new party restaurant” has two spaces to sample Martinis alongside French-American fare: a chic bistro setting reminiscent of old-world Paris, plus a lush garden room.

Bar Clacson
Downtown is home to this low-key Mediterranean spot, offering classic cocktails, drinks on tap and LA’s first indoor pétanque court. The “house Martini” here is adapted from The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1935) and calls for a dose of both amaro and orange bitters.

Bibo Ergo Sum
Art Deco decor and a cinema-inspired cocktail menu transport drinkers to a 1930s Hollywood; this is an intimate spot ideal for dates. Try the Niemeyer’s Martini, made with a split base of vodka and olive oil-washed gin that’s balanced out with dry vermouth and white cacao and garnished with a green olive.

Harvard & Stone
Known equally for live music and craft cocktails, this bar in a cavernous former factory space continues to pack ‘em in. Start with a classic Martini, then head to the R&D Bar in the back, where a top-notch, ever-rotating team of bartenders push boundaries with elaborately on-trend cocktails.

Hungry Cat
Think fresh seafood, in-house smoked meats, and a constantly-evolving cocktail menu based on what’s available at the farmer’s market that day. Look for the appropriately-named “Nine Lives” Martini from bartender Joseph Purshock.

This modern candle-lit tiki bar in the heart of Hollywood—named for the Hawaiian god of rainfall—dials down the kitsch factor and dials up the style, and offers an unexpectedly killer Martini variation.

Melrose Umbrella Co.
Segue from daytime macchiatos to nighttime Martinis at this coffeehouse-cum-cocktail bar that doubles as a favored bartender hangout.

Sip a breezy Fifty-Fifty on the tiki-themed patio at this Malibu mainstay perched over the Pacific Ocean.

Musso & Frank Grill
So Old Hollywood it hurts—supposedly, execs would come here to browse scripts over Martinis—bartenders with decades of experience still pour out excellent ‘tinis, with extra presented in a sidecar set in ice.

Sustainable seafood is the focus at this Michael Cimarusti restaurant. For those feeling flush, think uni, oysters and farm-raised caviar washed down with Martinis.

Rose Café
At this recently renovated Venice Beach all-day café featuring rustic Southern California cuisine, guests can sip a Martini variation under the stars on the sprawling patio.

Salt’s Cure
Locally-sourced dishes, including charcuterie, are the focus here. Finish a farm-to-table experience with the Pretty Floral, bartender Jordan Pino’s take on the Martini.

The Roger Room
Fancy but not fussy, this circus-themed watering hole has built a solid reputation for well-made craft cocktails with zero pretention. Look for Martini variations, or opt for the classic.

The Varnish
This dimly-lit, stylish speakeasy located within Cole’s French Dip is known for indoctrinating the devil-may-care “bartender’s choice” into the mixology lexicon. Look for precise, polished classic cocktails with historical backstory under the guidance of proprietor Eric Alperin. Request an expertly-made Martini, or a Tuxedo #2, which adds dashes of maraschino and absinthe to the mix.

The Walker Inn & The Normandie Club
Stay a while at Downtown’s The Normandie Club enjoying their Martini variation, or keep going to the back to get to the Walker Inn’s inventive, highly Instagrammable “cocktail omakase” experience. (A taste: When bartender Devon Tarby asks, “What would a Martini taste like on a mountaintop in December?” the resulting variation sees splashes of Douglas fir eau-de-vie and woodsy “après-ski tincture” for an Alpine forest effect as transportative as the bar itself.)

This list is just a start – there are more Martinis worth a stop at the bars below:

Big Bar
1927 Hillhurst Ave

Break Room 86
630 S Ardmore Ave

Black Rabbit Rose
1719 N Hudson Ave

Cole’s French Dip
118 E 6th St

Dirty Laundry
1725 N Hudson Ave

3123 Beverly Blvd

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
1611 N El Centro Ave

8022 W 3rd St

Malibu Beach Inn
22878 Pacific Coast Hwy

La Descarga
1159 N Western Ave

Lock and Key
239 S Vermont Ave

No Vacancy
1727 N Hudson Ave

6115 Sunset Blvd #100

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave

624 South La Brea Ave

The Know Where Bar
5634 Hollywood Blvd

The Lincoln
2536 Lincoln Blvd

The Pikey
7617 Sunset Blvd

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