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Alcohol & Spirits

5 Great Hidden Cocktail Bars in Los Angeles

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Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 1:32 PM
click to enlarge cocktails at The Varnish - ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Anne Fishbein
  • cocktails at The Varnish

With so many bars to choose from across L.A., some owners have opted to make themselves so special that you almost can't find them -- or maybe they've been there for years, but you just didn't know it. Groping around in the dark or stumbling down a back alley may be some people's idea of an unforgettable night out, but if you want to sip a cocktail in these places -- or look like you're no newbie to this rabbit hole -- then you're going to have to work a little harder. There are no thick-necked bouncers with velvet ropes here.

click to enlarge Underneath the arches at LAX - JAMES BARTLETT
  • James Bartlett
  • Underneath the arches at LAX

5. Encounter Restaurant:

These huge white arches look like a spaceship has landed and the invasion's begun, but -- though most people think it's the airport's control tower -- the "cockpit" is a retro-futuristic hangout. Disney-designed in 1997, it's a mix of The Jetsons and Austin Powers, and you can choose one of the galactic cocktails like a Black Hole (Absolut vodka with a splash of Chambord), or beer from the silver alien head beer tap -- and then go up to the Observation Deck for some plane-spotting. 209 World Way, Los Angeles; 310-215-5151.

4. The Crocker Club

A very secure bar/lounge in the basement of the Spring Arts Tower -- a former bank -- the lounge features a massive 1960s-era stainless steel bank vault door. The booths are the place where customers used to examine the contents of their safe deposit boxes. There are chambers and rooms all over, and you can try a "ghostini" at the Ghost Bar, a bar-within-a-bar -- and a nod to the fact that this old building has strange stories to tell. 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles; 213-239-9099.

click to enlarge The Basement Tavern - LA WEEKLY
  • LA Weekly
  • The Basement Tavern

3. The Basement Tavern

Located under The Victorian, a vintage building originally moved here back in 1973 from near the Fairmont Miramar to become part of the living museum-esque "Heritage Square," this glittery chandelier bar opened in 2010. You have to go round the back and past the dumpsters to find the red door with an angel knocker and a big, blue eye on it. Try the "Delia Elixir" (bourbon, agave, raspberries and lemon), a creation in honor of a ghostly regular. 2640 Main St., Santa Monica; 310-396-2469.

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