Three cocktails for a taste of LA at home

Ariana DiValentino


The city of palm trees and celebrities, beaches and mountains, taco trucks and fine sushi! For many, Los Angeles is a site of fascination and fantasy. And when you're far away, missing the warm California breeze – or just mentally distant – the right flavours can transport you to a night in Hollywood. Three mixology professionals who call L.A. home shared their recipes for cocktails that they feel capture the city of Los Angeles.

Start your day the L.A. way: with a spicy beer cocktail

Where in other cities, the Bloody Mary might be the supreme daytime cocktail, in L.A. that role goes to the Michelada. And according to Bricia Lopez, co-owner of Los Angeles restaurant Guelaguetza, cookbook author, and entrepreneur, it’s not just a drink – it’s a way of life.

“From Disneyland, to any sporting event, Micheladas are a must have in every Angeleno’s life,” Lopez said. Infuse your brunch with some heat and a little L.A. flavour by making this lager-based drink that features Morita peppers, a variation of the Michelada served at Guelaguetza. If you’re not drinking, she suggests swapping the beer for a lime- or grapefruit-flavoured sparkling water.

Make it yourself: Morita Michelada

1-2 dried Morita pepper

¾ cups tomato juice

5 oz orange juice

¼ cup lime juice

1 ¼ TBSP sugar

1 TBSP sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

3 TBSP worcestershire sauce

Tajin for rimming

Cold Mexican lager

Fill a small saucepan with enough water to cover the chiles and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chiles to the hot water and allow them to soften and get tender for about 20 minutes.

Remove the chiles from the water. Allow to cool and come to room temperature. Add chiles and the rest of the ingredients (minus the Tajin and beer) to a blender and blend everything until smooth. Strain into a cup with a pouring spout.

Rim a cold beer glass with Tajin. Pour about 3 ounces of the mix and then 12 ounces of cold lager to combine. Serve cold. 

Hollywood types love a vodka martini

Geena Truman is a Los Angeles bartender who has extensive experience mixing drinks in Studio City, an obvious hub for those in the film industry.

“Our bar would be filled day and night with businessmen, writers, actors, camera-crew, all killing time with a martini in hand,” Truman said. “There is no drink more quintessentially Los Angeles.”

And according to Truman, Angelenos prefer their martinis made with vodka rather than the traditional gin. “Los Angeles drinks more vodka than any other city I've ever worked in. It could be the warm weather, the low calorie count, or just that it's quite effective at inducing a buzz even in seasoned drinkers.”

L.A. drinkers, Truman says, also prefer their martinis very dry, with just a whisper of vermouth, and that Ketel One and Tito’s are the regional favourites for vodka. Her method for the perfect vodkatini is as follows.

Make it yourself: Angels’ Martini

Bar spoonful of dry vermouth

74 - 89 mL vodka (In original U.S. measurements, 2.5 to 3 oz)

Olive for garnish

Give a chilled glass a dainty rinse with no more than a bar spoonful of dry vermouth, promptly dumped into the sink. Add a heavy pour of vodka, shake vigorously, and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a single olive. 

Everything Old Fashioned is new again

North of L.A. proper, in the San Fernando Valley, 101 North Eatery & Bar is nestled in Westlake Village, by the swanky suburb of Calabasas and not far from the beach paradise of Malibu. The establishment’s bar team gravitates to the simple and sophisticated – but with a distinctly L.A. twist. The team offered up their version of the classic rye cocktail, the Old Fashioned, but with one unusual addition: mezcal.

Mezcal, the agave-based spirits family to which tequila belongs, originates from Oaxaca, Mexico, and is virtually ubiquitous on cocktail menus around the City of Angels. This is due in part, of course, to the large and influential Mexican heritage community of Los Angeles. Loved for its roasted flavour, the spirit is a strong and adventurous choice that certainly captures the feel of the city. They call their creation Going West, and the recipe is as follows.

Make it yourself: Going West

Orange peel

Large ice cube

44 mL rye whiskey or bourbon

30 mL mezcal

15 mL Averna Amaro

7 mL simple syrup

3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Build this cocktail in a mixing glass, add ice, stir 30-40 times, strain into a rocks glass, and add ice or a large cube if you prefer. Peel a generous portion of an orange, express the oil from the rind over the drink, drop it in the cocktail and enjoy. 

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