I think we’re all thankful that 80 years ago today, prohibition was repealed and Americans were able to get legally drunk again. A positive aesthetic that came from prohibition and that has been growing in popularity today, are the speakeasy-type bars. From Hollywood hipsters to vacationing tourists, everyone loves the classic vibe of a speakeasy, and Los Angeles definitely holds some of the best of them. Serving up a delicious bevy of craft cocktails from your basic Manhattan to a brilliantly concocted new age cocktail, L.A. mixologists have tailored these beautiful drinks into their own personal masterpieces. With so many speakeasies Los Angeles has to offer, we’ve visited many of these fine establishments over the years, even just last week — and some of them have become our own personal Cheers.
Below are 5 of the best speakeasies in Los Angeles.
1. The Varnish – Nestled in a secret back room of the historic French dip haunt, Cole’s, the Varnish is a true L.A. gem. The small dark room boasts minimal booths and tables, and sometimes they have piano players and singers performing right next to you. With a most polite staff dressed in classic 1920s attire, the bartenders here serve up the best crafted drinks you can get in L.A. You might wait a good 15 minutes for your drink, but it’s totally worth the wait. Not to mention, the Varnish plays the speakeasy role so well that they even use dental supplies for their napkins and stirrers as it was done during prohibition.
Pro Tip: Get there early if you want to grab a seat, and order a bartender’s choice.
2. Dirty Laundry – While this joint is not a historic landmark, although rumour has it that it was once Rudolph Valentino’s private speakeasy, Dirty Laundry is by far the hippest speakeasy to be seen and heard. Opened by the Houston brothers (La Descarga and No Vacancy) just a couple months ago, Dirty Laundry is all things dark and sexy, and you will literally see the sexy factor as soon as you walk into this thrilling booty basement. The young Hollywood patrons are all pretty damn good looking here and the music is straight up on point, just like their clever cocktails. If you’re a fan of underground, indie and old school dance vibes, you will love the music and scene at Dirty Laundry (ain’t no shitty top-40 here).
Pro-Tip: Follow their Twitter for entry passwords, or just look damn good when you arrive at the stairwell.
3. Townhouse / Del Monte Speakeasy – Not only is this bar as prohibition as it gets, but it’s just steps away from the grimy sands of Venice Beach. Established in 1915, the basement below the Townhouse was a true speakeasy (now the Del Monte Speakeasy) during prohibition where some of the most menacing and infamous characters would spend their debaucherous evenings. It is said that there are still secret tunnels below the speakeasy, and a couple ghosts. Aside from their creative hand-crafted cocktails, the Del Monte Speakesy has live music and some rad soul, funk, blues and boogaloo DJs.
Pro Tip: Prepare to get hot and sweaty in that basement especially if you’re dancing. It gets real hot in there, real quick.
4. No Vacancy – Yet another fine new establishment from the Houston Brothers (see above Dirty Laundry). No Vacancy is a winner here because of their clever entrance that will have you worried if you walked in on something that you shouldn’t have, and because of its gorgeous backyard setting and sexy entertainment. We don’t want to spoil too much for you here, but you should definitely check it out to see what all the fuss is about. Their craft cocktails are an oragasm to your taste buds, but they come at a hefty wait time (and it’s surely worth the wait).
Pro Tip: Know someone if you want to get in here (or reserve a table, or arrive when the doors open, or just go around the corner to Dirty Laundry). The lines can be horrendous and filled with Hollywood douches that have now caught on to this delightful speakeasy.
5. Crane’s Downtown – Um, hello! This speakeasy is inside of an underground bank vault in the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles! Coming back from the dead, but way better than the now closed Crane’s Hollywood — Crane’s Downtown just opened its doors last week and is hot on the bar buzz. Enjoy a cocktail in their vintage inspired red vinyl booths or get cozy in their Boot Nugget Room, it has no speakers and is great for chatting and canoodling. Crane’s has a very relaxed and homey feel to it. It’s not your typical high end speakeasy, but it’s definitely a comfortable hidden Los Angeles gem.
Pro Tip: Crane’s is located in the basement of the National City Tower Lofts at Spring and 8th. Look for Terroni and head downstairs.
What’s your favorite speakeasy-typ bar? Let us know in a comment below!
Insights via Sandra Burciaga