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