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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
1159 N Western Ave
Lock and Key
239 S Vermont Ave
1727 N Hudson Ave
6115 Sunset Blvd #100
5574 Melrose Ave
624 South La Brea Ave
The Know Where Bar
5634 Hollywood Blvd
2536 Lincoln Blvd
7617 Sunset Blvd