Heat Up, Cool Down: L.A.'s Best Summer Cocktails

Summer lushin', happened so fast ... ahh, the season of longer days and shorter hemlines is upon us, and with it comes the perfect excuse for soaking up more than just the eternal SoCal sunshine--yeah, we're talking about a nice cold one. (And no, we don't mean beer.) We've taste-tested our way through the city to find the best, most creative summer cocktails in Los Angeles and now it's your turn to enjoy the booze of our labor. Bottoms up! (Photo by Lauren Avila, Ortega 120)

Updated: July 15, 2009

Los Angeles Summer Cocktails


1155 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

There will be bloood ... orange fizz, that is. This laidback Highland Avenue favorite is adding a little zazz to their scene with one of the tastiest drinks for summer. The Blood-Orange Fizz is an incredibly refreshing, easygoing mix of Soligo prosecco, freshly squeezed juice from one of the crimson-colored oranges (half of one, to be exact) and just-picked thyme, served in a tall glass over ice. So far, it's been the best $12 we've spent for a drink.

Fig Santa Monica

101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Forget the old hotel dining image of stuffy stiffs--this easygoing poolside spot inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel is keeping the good vibrations going all summer long with some tasty additions to their already stellar cocktail list. (We love the Fig Mojito and Blueberry & Thyme). One new must-try is the Pineapple & Aloe Martini ($12) made with Bombay Sapphire, sweetened aloe vera juice, pineapple juice, cilantro, lime juice and simple syrup. It was first served during a small media lunch in May and we all loved it so much Fig decided to add it to its permanent cocktail list. Delish!

Shade Hotel

1221 N Valley Dr, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Host to Manhattan Beach's hottest weekend scene--seriously, it's cougar central come Saturday night--this hotel's widly popular Zinc Lounge is serving up the uber-cool Subzero Martini, a concoction housed in a glass made of pure ice. Offered in three flavors--Arctic Orange Blossom (Grey Goose Orange, Grand Mariner and a fresh squeeze of orange); Frozen Orchid (Smirnoff, Chateau des Charmes ice wine) and Frostbitten Chocolatini (Smirnoff Vanilla, white Creme de Cacao and Frangelico)--the $12 drink is the best way to chill out ... in every sense of the word.

Bond Street Beverly Hills

9360 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hils, CA 90212

This swanky restaurant/lounge's new $14 Blueberry Martini Infusion is so exclusive it's only available in the restaurant's main dining room. That's because each one is made by Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski himself. After he macerates blueberries in vodka, he separately sous vides fresh blueberries and lemon, then combines the mixture with the vodka. The cocktail is then topped with a nest of spun sugar and lemon zest which you press into the drink before your first sip. It's oh-so pretty and deceptively potent.

Little Dom's

2128 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

This perpetually popular, parlor-esque hangout in Los Feliz might dish out hot stuff like Neapolitan wood-fire pizzas, but the cool cocktails are the real stars of the show. Snag a seat at the bar or kick back at one of the sidewalk tables while sipping the nostalgic Cream Soda, a blend of housemade vanilla bean-infused vodka and ginger ale ($9) or the Strawberry Sour ($10), a delicious mix of fresh muddled strawberries, Rittenhouse Rye, egg whites and lemon. It's like a strawberry shake. For grown-ups.

Bottega Louie Restaurant And Gourmet Market

700 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Downtown L.A.'s sprawling space of gorgeousness is indeed something to behold, especially at night. But this buzz-worthy newcomer is more than just eye candy. That's because the 'tenders here are whipping up modern takes on old-school drinks. If your palate likes it potent, try the Ward 8--a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail where whiskey is shaken with cracked ice, fresh squeezed lime juice and Bottega's homemade grenadine--or the 38 Degree Manhattan, a martini (served at 38 degrees, naturally) of 9-year-old KnobCreek, Antica Carpana sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, garnished with kirsch-soaked morello cherries. Salud!

The Standard Hotel Hollywood

8300 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

It's not just the model in the glass box, the swinging bubble chairs or the superfluous use of shag that make this the grooviest place to crash on the Strip. Nah, this retro-glam hang has always had an extra factor of cool for its recession-friendly prices even before there was a recession. And the same goes for their tasty summer drinks. For $9 you can get the Guava Mojito, a refreshing mix of mint, sugar, guava rum, lime juice, triple sec and soda water; for $1 more, try the Standardish White Sangria, a blend of white wine, triple sec, peach schnapps, apple juice, sliced peaches and apples, white grapes and sage leaves. Even on a budget you'll feel like a jet setter.

Ortega 120

1814 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

There's a lot going on south of the border this summer ... the 405 freeway border, that is. Redondo Beach's popular Mexican hangout not only dishes yummy hot stuff, but it's also serving up one of the season's coolest drinks: 120 Pomegranate Ginger Margarita. Poured in a tall iced tea tumbler, the fruity concoction--made with uber-smooth Partida Blanco Tequila, 120 Citrus Sour, pomegranate and Elixir G Ginger--is so drinkable you won't feel its effects 'til you stand up. Even better, what would easily cost you twice as much on some fancy rooftop in L.A. is only $9 here. Gotta love the South Bay.


5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

Even if you're not going to drop a handful of Franklins eating at this dining mecca off the beaten Melrose path, you can still get a taste of the good life at its glowing white onyx bar. Those who like it strong would be wise to try the Martini Fresca, a masterful mix of pineapple-infused Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, limoncello, St. Germain, fresh squeezed lemon and mint or the Original Mai Tai, a blend of Appleton Estate Jamaica V/X Rum, Marie Brizard Orange Curacao, fresh squeezed lime and Monin almond syrup served over ice. Both are $14. Both will rock your world.

Katsuya Downtown At La Live

800 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

L.A.'s sceniest sushi house has finally gone downtown and its famed "liquid kitchen" is still whipping up those delicious specialty cocktails. (You can never go wrong with the $12 Watermelon Cucumber Mojito made with crushed seedless watermelon, English cucumber and fresh mint that's intertwined with strokes of Bacardi Light Rum and lime juice.) But if you want to try something new, go for two drinks that you cannot find at any other Katsuya location: Shiso-Sexy, a mix of muddled Japanese shiso leaves, essenced vodka and sour cherry juice and the Dragon, a tasty combo of Grey Goose vodka shaken with yuzu and ginger. Better still, the drinks can be had for $7 during the weekday happy hour from 5pm-8pm.

Chaya Downtown

525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

The latest addition to the Chaya family, this sprawling downtown space is a chic oasis of Japanese-inspired dining and potent cocktails (which taste all the better when they're just $5 during the weekday happy hour from 3pm-7pm <i>and </i>Saturdays from 5pm-7pm). Try the Russian Blues--a blend of Skyy Citrus, blueberry puree, housemade sweet and sour, and a splash of soda--and the Kool as a Kucumber, a combo of Hendrick's gin, St. Germaine, sliced cucumber and a splash of soda. Both are regularly $12 and both are best enjoyed on Chaya's perfect-for-summer outdoor patio.