As you may have noticed, this year's Best Of L.A. issue dropped on your doorstep, metaphorically if not actually, last week. There are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of listings, of breweries and hiking trails and burger joints and taco trucks, so many that you might get lost -- so many that we thought we'd pull out a few highlights. Drop some breadcrumbs, so to speak. In this case, some of the best ways to get drunk (or maybe not) on excellent craft beer and beautifully orchestrated cocktails in Los Angeles. Leave the driving to someone else, because God knows we all spend enough time behind the wheel as it is, and drink up.
A lot of local breweries make good India Pale Ales, but when it comes to variety, consistency and skill in making one of craft beer's most ubiquitous styles, no one even comes close to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing. Maybe that's because brewmaster Julian Shrago spent years perfecting recipes as one of Southern California's best-known IPA homebrewers. Or maybe it's all the good beer juju swirling around the Beachwood BBQ name (its Seal Beach sister bar is consistently ranked one of the top beer bars in the country). Either way, the downtown Long Beach brewpub for the last two years has been steadily churning out bitter, West Coast-style brews at a pace that makes hopheads nationwide weep for more keg distribution. From the flagship Melrose IPA to a seemingly endless stream of seasonals (the Falcon, Pole Position), one-offs (Fahrenheit 342) and double IPAs (Denver Jackhammer, Hop Ninja), Beachwood's coveted hoppy beers are best drunk fresh, so buy a bottle or a pint when you see it and savor some of the best palate wreckers in the biz. 20 E. Third St., Long Beach. (562) 436-4020, beachwoodbbq.com. --Sarah Bennett
"You've never had my strawberry balsamic drink, have you?" bartender Matthew Biancaniello calls out to a customer from behind the bar on Cliff's Edge Wednesday nights. "You'll love it. It's got kale and pear and St. Germain foam on it." Biancaniello's weekly stints behind the bar at Cliff's Edge give fans who came to love him at the Roosevelt Hotel's Library Bar a weekly dose of his highly seasonal, intensely botanical cocktails. So, at the height of summer, the bar was abloom with shallot and artichoke flowers, and the drinks had ingredients like local peaches and cherry tomatoes and lovage. Complex, often savory, and always gorgeous, Biancaniello continues to innovate and challenge our expectations of what to expect from our high-end cocktails. 3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 666-6116, cliffsedgecafe.com. --Besha Rodell
Exactingly curated and meticulously sourced mezcals are the focus at Petty Cash Taqueria, the newish taco joint from chef Walter Manzke and restaurateur Bill Chait. Beverage director Julian Cox is a man on a mission to introduce Angelenos to this obscure south-of-the-border beverage. Mezcal has been popping up on L.A. cocktail menus as bartenders discover its smoky versatility. If you're up for the palate challenge, Petty Cash offers a selection of little-known, traditional mezcals (Minotauro is Cox's current favorite) as well as far more esoteric, regional styles like bacanora and raicilla. Also on the menu is sotol, made from an agave relative called desert spoon; the spirit is so village-specific that it doesn't even have a U.S. distributor but is shipped to the restaurant directly from Mexico. Try a few straight samplers of these spirits side by side to get a sense of these authentic flavors, or go for a mezcal cocktail like the Oaxacan old-fashioned. And know that you are sipping history: Mezcal's predecessor was made way back when by some folks called the Aztecs. 7360 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax District. (323) 933-5300, pettycashtaqueria.com. --Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
See also: Best of L.A., 2013
Although it's one of the purest expressions of the bartender's art, it's still surprisingly easy to screw up an old-fashioned. That's why Seven Grand's no-bullshit take on the classic drink stands out. There's no flaming orange peel, no bacon-infused simple syrup, nothing called a "shrub" -- just carefully muddled sugar and Angostura bitters, a splash of soda water, some citrus for aromatics and a generous helping of the Maker's Mark that is, as it damn well should be, the star of the show. You can try a variation by calling for nearly any of the bar's 400-plus whiskeys (but please God, no single-malt Scotch), so long as you leave the other ingredients alone. As general manager Andrew Abrahamson puts it: "The beauty of the cocktail itself is that it really highlights the whiskey." Amen. 515 W. Seventh St., 2nd floor, dwntwn.; (213) 614-0737. sevengrandbars.com. --Andy Hermann
It takes a lot of guts to brew exclusively Belgian-style beers in IPA-driven Southern California, but Henry Nguyen doesn't care. Since opening his small brewery in Torrance last spring, the theology professor-turned-brewmaster has stood by his decision to focus on the notoriously sweet brewing tradition and is using the niche to push the boundaries of what Belgian-style beer can taste like. You won't find some of the more common styles like Belgian wits or quadrupels here. Instead, the lineup at Monkish Brewing eschews expectations in lieu of peppercorn-spiced red table beers and experimental prickly pear-infused "Belgian-style it-is-what-it-is" ales, which all use a similar strain of Belgian yeast to give that distinctive European sweetness. Even though he will, once in a while, make a dry-hopped, Belgian-style beer (try the Por Toi or Lumen), most of Nguyen's creations find their balance with off-kilter ingredients such as chamomile, elderflowers, rose hips and thyme -- turning garden fodder into beer adjuncts in ways that no other L.A. brewer dares. 20311 S. Western Ave., Torrance. (310) 295-2157, monkishbrewing.com. --Sarah Bennett
It ain't easy being green, but at FEED Body & Soul on Abbot Kinney in Venice, it's a way of doing business -- even bar business. Cocktail wunderkind Marcos Tello of Tello Demarest Liquid Assets spent months sourcing organic spirits and other ingredients -- not an easy task in the booze biz -- and designing a menu with classic cocktail roots. Words like "organic," "biodynamic" and "local" pop up in almost every drink description, proving the restaurant's commitment to its creed. For the Pineapple Curry Swizzle, which features organic Vida mezcal, the kitchen makes its own organic pineapple curry juice; the old school-meets-new school Satsuma Whiskey Smash sources organic yacón syrup, organic mint and organic satsumas, which harmonize with organic Koval wheat whiskey from Chicago. If you try only one drink, make it the Celery Root Collins with 123 Tequila Blanco, made from sustainably cultivated agave, Imbue Vermouth, organic agave nectar, organic celery root juice and Q Tonic. (That's a LOT of organic.) Who knew "being healthy" could give you a buzz? 1239 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 450-5550, feedbodyandsoul.com. --Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
See also: Best of L.A., 2013: Food & Drink
There is no feeling better than drinking a beer at the source of its creation, especially if it's an Eagle Rock Brewery beer being consumed at its Atwater-adjacent tasting room, one of the most comfortable places in town to cozy up for a pint of local brew. While most production brewery taprooms are roped-off sections of the brewhouse -- which makes you feel like an intruder in someone's cavernous workspace -- Eagle Rock's is an actual room built inside the brewery building and is more than just a space to sell bottles and growler fills. Not only does the intimate tasting room host festivals, educational sessions and monthly meet-up groups, but there are also books and board games and often a food truck parked outside, encouraging visitors to make themselves at home. Scope the hilarious painted portraits of each brewery employee, which hang on the wall as if above a mantel, and fulfill your voyeuristic desires with the floor-to-ceiling window that allows a pristine view of brewery operations. Oh yeah, the beers aren't too shabby, either. 3056 Roswell St., Glassell Park. (323) 257-7866, eaglerockbrewery.com. --Sarah Bennett
When people talk about Providence, they usually talk about the hushed, refined dining room, where gorgeous, multicourse tasting menus are served, and eye-popping, multifigure checks are delivered at the meal's end. But recently we've become enamored of a different aspect of the place -- its comfortable, quiet nook of a bar. The hosts almost look surprised when you point to the bar as your destination, but once there, you have access to one of the city's best wine lists, as well as much of chef Michael Cimarusti's celebrated menu à la carte. The cocktails are incredibly well-crafted, which shouldn't come as a surprise, given the overall emphasis on perfection here, but somehow the creativity on display seems like a fun secret, much like the bar itself. The secret's out -- for a taste of Providence without the hefty financial commitment, its bar is an affordable slice of luxury. 5955 Melrose Ave., Hlywd. (323) 460-4170, providencela.com. --Besha Rodell
There are plenty of new places to enjoy some craft beer and a pint of sunshine these days, but none has quite the cachet of the Red Lion Tavern. The 1962 Silver Lake establishment comes with some seriously deep German roots, which means steins of beer, sausages and a year-round celebration of all things Oktoberfest. You can enjoy all of this and more on the upstairs patio, with ample bar seating and a mishmash of rustic patio furniture. The faux-brick walls hold up countless German beer signs and related bric-a-brac, and the unassuming clientele keeps the atmosphere fun and loose. There's something extremely satisfying about ending your night in the warm Silver Lake air, stein in hand and sausage juice on your chin, talking with old friends and clinking glasses with new. 2366 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 662-5337, redliontavern.net. --Farley Elliott
A stylishly dim basement of a pizza place located just below buzzy Picca on an otherwise forgotten stretch of West Pico, Sotto serves up what may well be the city's best pie. But that's not the only reason to come here. There's also an excellent list of Italian wines, and some lovely, well-crafted cocktails. And when you're coming straight from work in, say, Century City, Beverly Hills or Westwood, you're probably wearing a suit and tie -- so do you really want to slum it? Far better to belly up to the long, dark bar and, if you're lucky, take a seat, and wash down your troubles with a nice Barolo. OK, you might as well have a pizza, too. The wine list isn't cheap, but the pours are far from stingy, so drink up. 9575 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A. (310) 277-0210, sottorestaurant.com. --Sarah Fenske
See also: Best of L.A., 2013: Food & Drink
Forget draft beer, infused sodas or anything else you thought could be carbonated and poured straight from the handle. Bludso's Bar & Que on La Brea is here, and it has kegged up some seriously strong mint juleps. As far as we know, there's no other place in town (or anywhere else, for that matter) tapping its own strong Southern bourbon drinks, which makes the version at Bludso's northern outpost pretty special. Don't be confused: There's still a lot for the amiable bartenders to do to finish your next draft mint julep, from adding the crushed ice to slapping around your sprig of mint. The refreshing but boozy beverage also must be served properly, which means a rimmed silver cup and a touch of Southern hospitality. 609 N. La Brea Ave. (323) 931-2583, barandque.com. --Farley Elliott
Want to hang with L.A.'s cocktail coterie? Head on over to the R&D Bar at Harvard & Stone. As general manager Steven Sué will tell you, the R&D is a bartenders' bar, a place where L.A.'s food and beverage industry comes to hang out. R&D -- short for "research and development" -- has featured an original cocktail menu every night since Harvard & Stone opened in 2011. On Mondays the place is hopping, with a different guest bartender every week -- past participants have included Simon Ford (co-founder of the 86 Company), Dushan Zaric (co-owner of Employees Only and the Macao Trading Company and co-founder of the 86 Company) and Chris Amirault of L.A. hot spot Eveleigh. No set menus here. The bartenders have free rein, designing their own limited (three to five) drink selection, and can hold court at center stage for the evening. 5221 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz. (323) 466-6063, harvardandstone.com. --Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
Many of the finest beers in Southern California are made in sterile, 1980s-era industrial buildings with little to offer in the way of ambience. If you crave finely crafted ales and lagers in a setting where you can pleasantly spend a day or bring a visitor, look no farther than Angel City Brewing Co. in downtown Los Angeles. Originally home to the 1913 John A. Roebling's Sons Co. steel cable manufacturer (of Brooklyn Bridge fame), the existing historical industrial elements -- especially the two-story cable slide -- perfectly complement the art deco splashes. From the statuesque Egyptian lady tap handles to the choice in font above geometric doorways and gold-leaf detailing on the columns, there is no shortage of visual substance. Meander the facility with a pint of Eureka Wit or Angeleno IPA (or, better yet, a more experimental choice from brewer Dieter Foerstner) while you enjoy modern perks like food trucks and a friendly game of corn hole. 216 S. Alameda St., dwntwn. (213) 622-1261, angelcitybrewery.com. --Erika Bolden
In 2010, Strand Brewing Co. opened its modest taproom in the depths of an industrial park somewhere off Lomita and Crenshaw Boulevard. Two years later, Belgian-style brewers at Monkish moved in up the road at Western and Del Amo. And in the last six months, two more breweries -- the Dudes' and Smog City Brewing -- both began making beer in the city of Torrance. Combine all of these new breweries with the 13-year-old Red Car Brewery in historic Old Town, and Torrance easily possesses the largest concentration of beer brands in Greater Los Angeles. From Monkish's chamomile Belgian blonde to Strand's classic 24th Street Pale Ale, the diverse range of quality craft beer coming out of Torrance has put the South Bay's largest city on the map for suds seekers. And with Mayor Frank Scotto being one of the biggest civic supporters of Torrance's craft beer tourism potential (he recently cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Smog City's taproom), it'll be a while before anywhere else catches up. --Sarah Bennett
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Intense cartoon animals may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of an image to cover a beer receptacle, but it's exactly what makes the growler at Smog City Brewing so ingenious. While most breweries are satisfied just to print a logo and address on these refillable, take-home beer jugs, a Soviet propaganda-worthy scene of squawking chickens, screaming rabbits and a hostile gorilla casually hugs Smog City's 64-ounce glass version. "I didn't want to have a growler that looked like anyone else's," co-owner Laurie Porter said when asked why she recruited an artist friend to help with the design when the brewery's taproom opened in May. The resulting fresco of animals spouting their noises (inspired by the term "growl-er") is so out of place in the beer world that it works to Smog City's benefit, reminding everyone who sees it that beers from the new Torrance brewery have as much quirk and personality as their container. 1901 Del Amo Blvd., Ste. B, Torrance. (310) 320-7664, smogcitybrewing.com. --Sarah Bennett