For the last two years, Ann-Marie Verdi has been busy building the bar of her dreams. As beverage director and co-owner of the Bellwether in Studio City, Verdi is aiming for the perfect mix of beers, wines and cocktails that are exciting and ambitious but also approachable and appropriate for a neighborhood bar and restaurant.
With that in mind, Verdi has spent a lot of time thinking about what the San Fernando Valley already has in terms of bars, and what it needs. As such, she's become a bit of an expert on the best places to drink. Here are her five favorite bars in the Valley.
5. Laurel Tavern
“Laurel Tavern reminds me of my days [working] at Father’s Office in Santa Monica. Walk in, order at the bar, grab a table. Pretty easy and usually just what I’m looking for after a long night at work. I enjoy their cocktail list and they have a good selection of whiskey, but I always end up ordering their Duke of Earl with Earl Grey–infused gin. I’m a sucker for infusions. And gin.”
11938 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 506-0777, laureltavern.com.
4. The Local Peasant
“I love the beer list at the Local Peasant! It’s constantly changing, and I can always count on seasonal releases from my favorites, like Craftsman and Beachwood. They even have a few beer cocktails that are innovative and fun. It’s mellow on the weekdays, but I’m sure the weekends can get crazy.”
14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 501-0234, thelocalpeasants.com.
3. Augustine Wine Bar
“When I’m in the mood for a glass of wine, I head over to Augustine. It has a great ambiance, it’s intimate and comfortable. The perfect combination to relax and unwind. The bartenders are so knowledgeable and friendly, and the by-the-glass selections are fantastic! The chalkboard features wines by the glass that are so rare and special, you’ll probably never have the chance to taste them again. Where else can you get a glass from a 1958 bottle of Bordeaux?”
13456 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; (818) 990-0938, augustinewinebar.com.
2. Boneyard Bistro
“I love BBQ! And I love beer! And I love cocktails! Boneyard is my personal trifecta. They make a killer mai tai, probably the best in the city, and I also really enjoy Fernando’s Last Word, which is made with a prickly pear spirit. The bartenders and staff are super friendly, helpful and creative as well. When I’m indecisive I’ll ask for something similar to a negroni, and they always surprise me with delicious cocktails in the same bitter spectrum.”
13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 906-7427, boneyardbistro.com.
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1. The Chimneysweep Lounge
“At the end of the day, I’ll always be a bartender. When you’re done working, you really just want a place to sit down and enjoy a drink. Nothing fancy. Nothing too loud. Nothing too pretentious. Chimneysweep is exactly what I am always in the mood for. Grabbing a Jameson and ginger from the bar and sliding into those dark leather banquettes is my idea of perfection. I don’t have to talk to anybody, and no one bothers me. Old habits die hard, I guess.”
4354 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks; (818) 783-3348.