What does summer mean to you? Beach, travel, friends? How about the fact that you can order a cocktail, or ideally several cocktails, at any time of day and not feel judged? But unlike, say, domestic beer, there's something of a quality threshold. Good cocktails need good ingredients and skilled labor, and that's going to cost you. Summer never lasts forever, so don't waste your money on bad cocktails at bad bars. Instead, why don't you take our advice on the best summer drinks and bars you're sure to love?
Go to Suite 700 and order an Upper East Side
The Santa Monica Pier, like many landmarks, is best admired from a distance. Sure, it seems like a cool place to take visitors for an afternoon, but what are you really going to do once you get there? Ride the Ferris Wheel with some kid who just pooped his pants? Eat at Bubba Gump's? No, the way to enjoy the Pier is to watch it from a half-mile away, on a swanky rooftop bar, with an excellent cocktail.
Luckily, Suite 700, in the newly renovated Shangri-La hotel, is such a place, an actual former penthouse suite that's now a private-feeling, extremely comfortable lounge with suit-fabric-upholstered chairs, mini firepits, and the Upper East Side, a Manhattan spinoff made with Basil Hayden bourbon and Carpano Antica, often considered to be the best vermouth in the world. Served cold and sweet enough to drink even in these 90-degree days we're having, there's no better way to experience Santa Monica without letting Santa Monica experience you.
Suite 700 at the Hotel Shangri-La, 1301 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, 310-394-2791
Go to The Thirsty Crow and order The Thirsty Crow
Not every cool spot in Silverlake has a skinny jeans only policy. At The Thirsty Crow, which my good friends at Esquire named one of the best bars in America (and I don't disagree), irony is jettisoned in favor of pure class in the form of a throwback speakeasy vibe that makes you feel like Al Capone, or at least Steve Buscemi.
And while it might be difficult to pass up their extensive list of high-quality and rare bourbons, ryes, and scotches, you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to try their signature drink, made with rye, ginger beer, citrus juices and bitters. Served in a handled mason jar, two or three of these bad boys will leave you extremely, um, refreshed.
So leave your tommy gun at home.
The Thirsty Crow, 2939 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-661-6007
Go to Harvard & Stone and order a Trinidad Sour
"Made In America" doesn't necessarily carry the caché it used to. Between the Ford Focus, Green Lantern, and the Army Corps of Engineers, we've had a few shaky products lately that don't paint our country's manufacturing prowess in the best light. Well, up-and-coming Thai Town hotspot Harvard & Stone is looking to change that with a full menu of small batch made-in-America booze-based cocktails and a hip, industrial factory atmosphere that does what all great bars do: make you feel cool for drinking.
And what you should be drinking is the Trinidad Sour: ROOT liqueur, St. Vincent's orgeat syrup, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters over hand-crushed ice. Exotic but not at all cloying, it's taken up permanent residence in many L.A. cocktail enthusiasts' top-10 lists.
Harvard & Stone, 5221 Hollywood Blvd, Thai Town, 323-466-6063
Go to Paradise Cove and order a Pineapple Mojito
Okay, okay, at least one place on this summer cocktails list should be a spot where you can actually put your feet in the sand. So what better place than the most exclusive trailer park in human history, Malibu's Paradise Cove? Pull up a chair at the Beach Café and grab some lunch, or just hit the private beach and start ordering drinks.
And if the words "pineapple mojito" don't make your mouth water, I don't really know if we have anything in common. Freshly-muddled pineapple puree and mint, sugar cane juice, lime and a generous pour of rum should be all you need for a day of total relaxation, surf and celebrity-watching. And if you happen to hear bongo music coming from the trailer park, your inhibitions should be lowered enough to track down Matthew McConaughey and try to snag a hit of whatever he's blazing on.
We cannot guarantee that he will be wearing pants.
Paradise Cove Beach Café, 28128 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, 310-457-2503
Go to Tiki-Ti and Spin The Wheel
Bars, unfortunately, come and go all the time. It's the nature of the business, we suppose, but there's still something magical about finding a true capital-I Institution, the kind of bar that's been around forever and bleeds history so much that you figure you might find a fossilized crumb on Don Draper's vomit in the men's room. Bonus points if that bar is a crazy, 14-seat, smoky, super-boozy Tiki lounge hidden in a scuzzy stretch of Sunset Blvd with a set of house rules that make the Soup Nazi seem permissive.
But as long as you can get past the extremely sporadic hours (they close down for random weeks at a time with little warning), the Manifest-Destiny style seating (unless you're a true regular, never go outside to make a phone call or you'll go to the back of the line), and the cash-only, no bar tabs ordering policy, you'll find an amazing collection of closely guarded secret family recipe drinks that make Trader Vic's look like T.G.I. Friday's. And did I mention that due to a grandfathered-in loophole, it's pretty much the only bar in L.A. where you can smoke inside?
So how are you supposed to choose between 85 unique drinks with names like "Strip and Go Naked," "Ray's Mistake" (an original classic), and "Missionary's Downfall?" Why, spin the wheel, of course:
Behold The Wheel of Tiki-Ti Drinks, the most glorious innovation in drink ordering since the first time someone said "Make it a double." Spin the wheel, once only, and you are stone cold locked into ordering whatever comes up. No exceptions, unless you've specified before your spin that you don't drink gin/tequila/liqueur/vodka—given that more than half the wheel is rum, they frown on excluding that. It's not a game or gambling method (there's no "free drink" spot), but rather the most sophisticated tropical drink tool known to mankind. So whether you're a Vanna White fan, or just an alcoholic, it's worth your time.
Just check the website to make sure they're open this week.
Tiki-Ti, 4427 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-669-9381
Enjoy the drinks people, and tell them Guest of a Guest sent you.
[top photo via]