Warm, dark and sensual, Copa d’Oro’s ambiance goes down like a good shot of whiskey. Despite its looks, Copa’s close proximity to the tourist-heavy Third Street Promenade helps keep this bar unpretentious while still serving good and fresh cocktails. It makes a point of fashioning them from local farmer’s market produce, and happy hour prices make these drinks an absolute steal. Copa fans flock to the weekend happy hour — ending at a generous 8pm — and all-night happy hour on Mondays.
Copa d’Oro, 217 Broadway Ave, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 576 3030
Father’s Office has been a Santa Monica staple since 1953. It’s a gastropub that keeps customers coming long after dinner hours with its thoughtful selection of craft beers. In the old days it was the only place where many of California’s original micro-brews — like Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada — were served within the same four walls. Now legendary for its Office Burger, Father’s Office still has plenty to boast about in the bar as well. It has a rotating selection of 36 seasonal craft beers on tap. But fame has a price: the place is small, and its popularity makes it a challenge to find seating.
Father’s Office, 1018 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 393 2337
The Daily Pint
The Daily Pint is where college bar vibes meet a scotch, whiskey and beer selection worthy of snobbery. It’s a local favorite, and while its unassuming Pico Boulevard storefront might slip under the radar for some, rest assured you can expect anyone of age in the neighborhood to be seated on the bar stools any given night of the week. The donut-shaped layout also houses games like pool, Jenga, and shuffleboard.
The Daily Pint, 2310 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 450 7631
The lower level of a renovated Victorian house, Basement Tavern occupies a prominent Main Street corner. Basement’s decor doesn’t seem sure of what it wants to be: sophisticated chandeliers cast a dim glow onto chalkboards and deer head wall trophies, while local bands crowd the corner stage blasting a mix of jazz, funk, and country. When you need to come up for air, mingle with hip millennials in the courtyard under trees dripping with fairy lights.
Basement Tavern, 2640 Main St, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 396 2469
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar
A spot run by local chefs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan (of Huckleberry and Milo & Olive fame), this upscale kitchen moonlights as one of the best spots for wine in Santa Monica. It’s a nice restaurant, so expect the pricing of fine dining. Glasses of wine average at around $14, while cocktails such as the gin-and-Prosecco-based Rosemary’s Baby run at about the same.
This swanky boudoir of a bar delights its guests with dreamy cocktails like its signature Lavender Gimlet. Chloe looks posh enough to belong to one of the neighboring beach-side hotels, with its low-lit chandeliers and cushy chaise lounge chairs. However, it ditches pretension for simple, good drinks. In keeping with the turn-of-the-century influence, there are Prohibition-era cocktails like the Tom Collins or Sidecar.
Chloe, 1449 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 899 6999
Barkowski’s name pays homage to writer and LA fixture Charles Bukowski, who Time Magazine once famously dubbed the ‘laureate of American lowlife.’ Bukowski was notorious for his penchant for alcohol, often patronizing bars in his native Los Angeles. Barkowski — a retro bar decorated with black tile, red vinyl, and framed quotes from Bukowski’s poetry — may be a touch classier than the places the author frequented. However, it still manages to maintain a likable, dive-y feel. Come for the extensive beer selection, minimal food, and all the fixings of a solid local bar.
Barkowski, 2819 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 998 0069
On a Friday or Saturday night, do yourself this favor, at least once: and visit The Gaslite. Get comfortable in worn-down red vinyl booths that look like they were last sat on by large cats, knock back a few mixed drinks, and steel yourself for some high-octane karaoke and dancing. This goes down seven days a week at this very lively dive bar. The sometimes-seedy vibe and occasionally bossy karaoke hosts are all part of the package. It can be a long wait to sing, though, so sign up early.
The Gaslite, 2030 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 829 2382
Downtown Santa Monica’s resident bad girl has a good reputation — for its service, its food, and its booze. Misfit is known for nailing sweet, summery drinks like its Basil Gimlet, Sangria, and Pimm’s Cup concoctions. During the day, savor the lengthy happy hour by sitting out in the sunshine. Don’t leave without sampling one of the delectable salted chocolate chip cookies.
The Misfit, 225 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 656 9800
Library Alehouse is a must-try for its ‘library of beer,’ a rotating selection that’s wisely paired with delicious food by manager and resident beer guru Alex Davis. Library takes beer as seriously as some take a good book, but all is warm and welcoming at this Main Street locale. Chat with one of the friendly hostesses before being seated either indoors or outside on the open-air patio, framed by exposed wood beams. Servers come full of recommendations for how to maximize the drinking and dining experience.
Library Alehouse, 2911 Main St, Santa Monica, CA, USA +1 310 314 4855