A Cocktail Tour of L.A

Michael Darling

While the City of Angels doesn’t have a drinking culture as well established as New York, New Orleans or other legendary cocktail cities, Los Angeles does have its fair share of alcoholic innovation. Here are a few drinks, classic and modern, invented in Los Angeles.

The Moscow Mule, a classic coktail invented in Los Angeles over 70 years ago.

Moscow Mule

Perhaps the most famous drink born in Los Angeles is the Moscow Mule. This classic combination of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice was created in 1941 by Jack Morgan, the owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Morgan would serve the drink in a copper mug and its popularity among the Hollywood crowd is said to have driven America’s post-war vodka craze.


One of Los Angeles’ best known bartenders was the man who called himself Don the Beachcomber. The Beachcomber, along with his friendly rival ‘Trader’ Vic Bergeron, was the founding fathers of the tiki bar. In 1934, the Beachcomber opened Don’s Beachcomber Cafe in Hollywood and began serving Cantonese cuisine and tropical inspired cocktails like the Mai Tai. His most famous creation though was probably the Zombie. It’s said that the Beachcomber invented this drink when a hungover customer asked him to mix something to help him get through a business meeting. So, the famed bartender mixed together several highly potent rums and sent the customer on his way. The next day, the customer returned to Don’s Beachcomber Cafe and said that he was able to make it through the meeting just fine, but he felt ‘like a zombie’.

Brown Derby Cocktail

During the golden age of Hollywood, the best place to try to see stars was at the Brown Derby restaurants. A chain of four charming cafes, the Brown Derby was known as the place to see actors have lunch during film shoots, or watch studio executives work out business deals. In fact, the Hollywood Brown Derby featured caricatures of its celebrity clientele. The original Brown Derby opened in 1926, was shaped like a brown derby hat and became famous worldwide for its slogan ‘Eat in the hat!’ Strangely enough, according to cocktail historian Dale DeGroff, the Brown Derby cocktail was actually invented at Hollywood’s Vendome Club. This drink is a charming mix of bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey syrup.

The Enlightenment

One of Los Angeles’ hottest contemporary bars is the Edison. Located in the building that housed Los Angeles’ first private power plant, the bar is a modern take on the speakeasy, featuring sharp cocktails and burlesque performances. In 2009, Edison bartender Aidan Demarest introduced Imbibe Magazine to an Edison original called The Enlightenment, a quirky combination of bourbon, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup and light beer. Demarest described it as ‘The thinking man’s whiskey and a beer, or the poor man’s Champagne Cocktail’.

The Mullholland Drive

The W Hotel in Hollywood’s clubs and restaurants has made it one of the city’s swankiest nightlife destinations. The hotel’s stylish lounge, Station Hollywood, features cocktails inspired by Los Angeles landmarks. One of the bar’s best drinks is the Mullholland Drive, named after the twisty-turny street that snakes through the Hollywood Hills. As Mullholland Drive offers drivers beautiful views of both the city and the San Fernando Valley, it’s only fitting that this inventive mix of vanilla bean-infused tequila, ginger-infused simple syrup, lime juice and soda water is a bright and refreshing cocktail.

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