Los Angeles is roughly halfway between Japan and Scotland. A coincidence, then, that LA’s bar scene includes some of the country’s best places to drink whiskey/whisky? No way. Whether you’re looking for a $5 happy hour old fashioned or an ultra-rare Stitzel-Weller cask release, we have you covered. The following are some of our favorite places to imbibe the water of life.
The Two Big Ones
No list would be complete without DTLA’s Seven Grand and Santa Monica’s The Daily Pint. Not only are these the best known names in the dram-hunters’ scene, they offer diametrically opposite atmospheres. Seven Grand boasts stately shelves with dozens of rare Bourbons, ryes, Scotches, et al, in a scene that calls to mind a happening Illuminati hunting lodge. Bonus points if an insider guides you to Bar Jackalope, the “secret” back room bar, for an even more exclusive experience. Meanwhile, down by the beach, Brit Phillip McGovern has built a little local pub with one of the most impressive whisky/whiskey collections in the world at The Daily Pint. The Pint may be the only “dive bar” where you can comfortably sip on a 47-year-old Scotch while your neighbor downs Beam and coke, no judgment either way.
Japanese whisky fans rejoice at the selection of Suntory, Nikka, and Kavalam bottles at Little Tokyo’s Wolf and Crane. You can throw back a can of Sapporo and a shot of Japanese whisky for $10, or indulge in a $160 pour of Hibiki 21 while talking shop with the laid-back/knowledgeable bartenders. If you’re craving upscale Italian food with world whiskies, Miro has a basement whiskey room that boasts a number of “unicorn” bottles from Bardstown to Hokkaido.
Echo Park scenesters with a taste for small batch American whiskey flock to The Thirsty Crow, while a lower-key vibe and similarly impressive collection exists down Sunset at Jay’s Bar. Bonus: homesick East Coasters can get pizza by the slice across the plaza at Garage Pizza and bring it in.
Irish whiskey is finally gaining on its Scottish cousins in terms of variety, and if you’re looking to sample plenty of each (while feeling like you’re sitting in an Elizabethan cottage), Atwater Village’s Tam O’Shanter is it. If the Tam feels a little camp to you, you’ll likely be able to find some Yellow Spot at The Morrison, right down the street.
Far East/Far West
Finally, in Pasadena, The Blind Donkey is a far-east-side destination with a sizable collection of “oddball” bottles, good ice, and a relaxed, communal atmosphere. Coming full-circle, they also have a location in Long Beach, so you never have to go thirsty regardless of where your travels take you.
Photo courtesy of Dylan de Jonge