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The Varnish

The Varnish

Speakeasy, Cocktail Bar, and Lounge$$$$
Fashion District, Los Angeles
  • Stars
  • Stars
    The experts at Food & Wine and Bon Appetit Magazine recommend this place
    • Food & Wine
    • Bon Appetit Magazine
  • Tips
    "... their hands with the Bartender's Choice."(8 Tips)
    Alex's Lemonade
    "Chef Eric Alperin of The Varnish Bar be a Chef"(4 Tips)
    "cozy Downtown bar hosts live jazz piano each Monday night"(6 Tips)
    Caroline O.
    "Best American Cocktail Bar via 2012 Spirited Awards"(3 Tips)
Tips and Reviews icon123 Tips and reviews
  • cocktails
  • live jazz
  • spirits
  • eric alperin
  • grenadine with mint
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  • Popular
  • Recent
    PUNCHSeptember 25, 2015
    This barebones speakeasy aims to perfect overlooked classic cocktails. Even when the bar is full, it can take on a reverential hush, cushioned only by the sound of soft jazz and clinking glasses Read more
  • Lara
    LaraOctober 23, 2014
    Enter through Cole's back door. Small space so come before 9 to get in without waiting. If you're looking for a light fresh drink, get the Elevensies. If something stronger, then try the Brown Derby.
  • Adrian P.heart icon on user image
    Adrian PhillipsOctober 11, 2014
    In the back of Cole's, just open the door and put your name in for a table. Penicillin is my drink of choice. If you have to wait for a table just go to the Cole's bar and enjoy the excellent drinks.
  • Claudia H.
    Claudia HernándezMarch 22, 2017
    First, get a sandwich (and a Moscow Mule, if it's gonna be that kind of night) at Cole's, then continue to the door in the back, and turn the knob. Come early -- seats are first come, first served.
  • C. P. B.heart icon on user image
    C. P. BisgaardJune 18, 2015
    The staff was great. You can choose to have the bartender make one for you ... which is always fun, and, in this case, it was delicious. Would be an amazing place to take a date.
  • Franco C.heart icon on user image
    Franco CalizFebruary 11, 2015
    This might be the best bar in America. The drinks in the menu are fine. The bartenders choice is a better idea. I was introduced to new drinks that were great. Awesome ambiance too.
  • Becherovka Voyager
    Becherovka VoyagerSeptember 4, 2013
    Enjoy live jazz as you're being transported back in time to prohibition days, with the classic drinks of LA's notorious mobsters or new additions to the menu, like the Bohemian favorite, Becherovka.
  • Los Angeles
    Los AngelesNovember 5, 2013
    A speakeasy hidden inside Cole's, you're bound to find a drink right up your alley at The Varnish, where bartenders at this classic-driven cocktail bar will shake or stir your libation to your liking.
  • Jenniferheart icon on user image
    JenniferSeptember 3, 2014
    The best bar in Los Angeles. Go on a weekday, chat with the knowledgable staff, and enjoy a fantastic cocktail. I love anything with creme de violette - try something new!
  • Daria Z.heart icon on user image
    Daria ZlobinaDecember 23, 2014
    Loved this place! They've live music Sunday-Tuesday. Prices are reasonable, but the best thing is the ambiance and secret location: this speakeasy is in the back of Cole's bar.
  • Eater
    EaterMay 28, 2014
    LA Mag blogger Caroline Pardilla says, "Your phone won't work here, so give yourself over to this bar from another era and enjoy live jazz and a simple but straightforward classic cocktail list." Read more
  • Justin O.heart icon on user image
    Justin OrdovezaJanuary 3, 2015
    Love the craft cocktails here. It's a nice cozy space that's very dark. Be prepared to wait a while to get a table.
  • Angel
    AngelJanuary 27, 2013
    Small, dark, and private. A few cast members from the show Homeland were sitting in the booth behind us! Took a while for the drinks to come, but everyone said they were very good and perfectly made.
  • Tasting Table
    Tasting TableMarch 24, 2016
    For a clandestine cocktail in a sultry secret hideaway, go to this speakeasy hidden inside Cole's. Enjoy live jazz and pretend you're back in prohibition days all night. Read more
  • Yheart icon on user image
    YSeptember 27, 2018
    Cozy speakeasy bar with friendly and knowledgeable mixologists. Nice added touch with live jazz performances.
  • Tiago L.heart icon on user image
    Tiago LobaoDecember 13, 2014
    Imerge in the Speakeasy vibe, finding this hidden bar. You can always trust the bartenders choice on drinks for you. You're on a speakeasy, take the risk!
  • Blanca L.heart icon on user image
    Blanca LlarmaMarch 26, 2015
    this place is great they have the bets whiskey ever.. I enjoy coming here with friends and fellow co workers it is a great way to hang out
  • naveen
    naveenFebruary 23, 2011
    a very new york-like speakeasy feel in the back room here – you know, if you're feeling nostalgic for home. snag a table in one of the booths by the back wall and have them mix up your faves
  • @JaumePrimero
    @JaumePrimeroNovember 7, 2012
    The Varnish was named the best cocktail bar in the US at this year's Tales of the Cocktail (the Oscars equivalent of the mixology world). Just go!
  • The Artificial
    The ArtificialNovember 27, 2017
    My favorite speakeasy. Hidden in the back room of a well-known sandwich shop, the atmosphere and drinks are truly spectacular.
  • Matthew G.heart icon on user image
    Matthew GoldFebruary 18, 2015
    Very loud, very crowded (small room in the back of Coles), but the cocktails are some of the best I've ever had. Bonus points if you come dressed in 1920s attire.
  • David H.heart icon on user image
    David HeiserNovember 27, 2019
    Wasn’t blown away by the cocktails, and it was 1000 degrees inside the bar. Cool space to have a drink, though.
  • Bravo
    BravoDecember 2, 2010
    Cedd Moses owns a number of bars downtown. The best one, The Doheny, you can’t go to because it’s private. This one is among of the best of the rest. -Mark Peel, Top Chef
  • eric b.heart icon on user image
    eric bornemannFebruary 17, 2019
    Wonderful cocktails in an intimate back room. Great “speakeasy” in downtown LA that feels very noir.
  • Amber
    AmberJuly 8, 2017
    Classic craft cocktail aficionado Sasha Petraske launched one of Los Angeles' first sophisticated bars, now considered the godfather of L.A.'s craft cocktail movement.
  • Buzz A.
    Buzz AndersenMarch 28, 2012
    New York style cocktails in downtown LA, from the people behind Gotham's Milk & Honey. The drinks lean toward perfect executions of simple classics.
  • Jeremiah C.heart icon on user image
    Jeremiah ChuaJune 6, 2015
    Their whiskey drinks are made very well. I enjoyed their old-fashioned and Manhattan cocktails.
  • Open Air P.
    Open Air PublishingApril 16, 2012
    Our favorite rum based cocktail is the "Detroit Daisy" (rum, lime juice, grenadine with mint). Make it at home with the book "Speakeasy Cocktails" created for iPads."
  • Gilt City
    Gilt CityJanuary 26, 2011
    A Master Cognac class on 2/5 finds Eric Alperin divulging his secrets: in addition to getting the sidecar and vieux carré down pat, you’ll mix up a cognac Manhattan and original Varnish masterpiece.
  • Jane C.
    Jane ChuJune 8, 2012
    This always makes everyone's list, but the drinks really are that good here and you can ask the mixologist to make whatever they want too.
  • DAN C.
    DAN COXAugust 23, 2011
    No need for a menu. Just relax, leave your ordering in the hands of the staff (who will do a much better job than you ever could!) and allow them to make your evening perfection.
  • Food & Wine
    Food & WineApril 20, 2011
    A collaboration between cocktail heroes Sasha Petraske and Eric Alperin, the Varnish is accessible only through a secret door at the newly renovated Cole's, downtown L.A.'s century-old public house.
  • Caroline O.
    Caroline On CrackMarch 16, 2013
    Been here 10+ times
    Order the Old Fashioned, which is the best anywhere. Fun fact: Bartender Eric Alperin taught Ryan Gosling how to make one for film Crazy Stupid Love.
  • Luiz C.heart icon on user image
    Luiz CentenaroAugust 6, 2014
    Daniel makes the best old fashioned ever. You will feel like Don Draper here.
  • Mucho C.
    Mucho Comida™October 28, 2012
    I think they're going with the 'hot bartenders on the weekend' concept. (they still make good cocktails no complaints). Enjoy.
  • Elle C.
    Elle CameronOctober 19, 2013
    This place is amazing! Bartenders choice is a great way to go!! All their drinks are delicious
  • Karen S.
    Karen SDecember 4, 2010
    Varnish is small speakeasy style bar at the backside of Cole's restaurant. The silver metal stirring straw/spoon is definitely a signature of The Varnish. Checkout the Bartender's choice.
  • Roger M.heart icon on user image
    Roger MaMarch 10, 2015
    Great whiskey based cocktails! Go early to grab a spot!
  • Esquire
    EsquireFebruary 1, 2011
    Congratulations, you've found one of Esquire's Best Bars in America. The cocktails are flawless, and all of them are consumed right-side up. Order a Remember the Maine, with rye and Cherry Heering.
    DowntownLA.comMay 9, 2011
    This cozy Downtown bar hosts live jazz piano each Monday night -- so cure your case of the Mondays with a retreat to a hidden urban oasis. Read more
  • Meiko
    MeikoMay 11, 2012
    It's a little speakeasy place in the back of Cole's Sandwich Shop. I think Devon is the best bartender, ask for her.
  • Heather H.
    Heather HermanJuly 29, 2010
    Prohibition-era drinks. get the bartender's choice on the menu, tell them what liquor you like, and they will make you something that was sold back in the day :) (but...glad I wasn't paying!!) Read more
  • Christine T.
    Christine TranFebruary 15, 2011
    Seriously one of the best bars I've been to. Amazing cocktails made with the freshest ingredients. Try the Eastside martini made with cucumber and gin
  • Jimmy F.
    Jimmy FerreroOctober 14, 2010
    Great drinks but do yourself a favor if its busy; when you're about a 1/4 of the way through your first drink, order your next drink. It could take "forever" to get a drink there at times.
  • Stephen S.heart icon on user image
    Stephen SmytheNovember 7, 2015
    Sneak by the hordes in Coles to the unmarked door in the back for a drink wonderland. Just let the bartender close for you.
  • Open Air Publishing
    Open Air PublishingApril 24, 2012
    Try the "Detroit Daisy" (rum, lime juice, grenadine with mint). Make it at home with the book "Speakeasy Cocktails" created for iPads.
  • FabFitFun
    FabFitFunNovember 16, 2011
    This hidden speakeasy plays the role well with dimmed lights, organic drinks, an antique piano, and themed dressed staff.
  • Mic H.heart icon on user image
    Mic HoJune 21, 2016
    Great speakeasy atmosphere and the drinks are well made and nostalgic.
  • Anik J.heart icon on user image
    Anik JoshiFebruary 1, 2018
    The vibe is just breathtaking and when you open the door you feel like you're being taken back in time.
  • Caroline O.
    Caroline On CrackMarch 16, 2013
    Been here 10+ times
    Enjoy. You're currently in the Best American Cocktail Bar via 2012 Spirited Awards from Tales of the Cocktail.
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