Toast the town with a hip sip from the cool and creative Santa Monica bar scene. Whether your drink of choice is a Napa pinot, a Central Coast chardonnay, a farm-to-glass craft cocktail, or a locally brewed craft beer, you’ll find countless reasons to raise a glass in Santa Monica. Head up to a rooftop bar or chill on a sprawling sunlit patio—the city’s settings for sipping suit every mood, every day of the week. By Shelley Levitt
With dim lighting, dark woods, and leather; a no-flip-flops-and-baseball-caps policy; and a curated collection of more than 400 spirits, liqueurs, and fortified wines, The Chestnut Club is a modern cocktail bar for the sophisticated set. The craft cocktails are unfussy, strong, and impeccably mixed, like the four-ingredient Cameron’s Kick (whiskey, scotch, lemon, and orgeat).
Whatever your pleasure, you’ll find it at this bustling bar just off the Third Street Promenade. The vibe is so warm, you’ll want to take a piece of The Misfit Restaurant + Bar home with you. And you can: The vintage cocktail shakers are for sale.
Moscow Mule, Manhattan, The Big Easy, Saigon Seduction…the craft cocktail list may pay homage to some of the world’s great cities, but with a view of the Pacific from ONYX, this rooftop hotel bar, there’s no mistaking you’re in Santa Monica. Stop in for happy hour (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) on weekdays or for the sounds of the resident DJ on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Local Santa Monica Wines
“Have fun” is rule No. 1 on Bodega Wine Bar’s “manifesto.” You’re certain to do that at this cozy, neighborly spot where the wines, including the bubbly, are affordable and the hit-the-spot bites, from bacon-wrapped dates to a brownie sundae, are made to be shared. Happy hour lasts all day on Monday, and on Tuesdays the beers are half price and the tacos are just $2.
Shop, sip, and nibble at Esters Wine Shop & Bar, which is housed in a beautiful 1937 Art Deco building. Compare first impressions with the knowledgeable staff and other guests at the three-sided bar, communal table, or patio. Or deepen your knowledge of Esters’ favorite small wine producers at the weekly Sunday tastings. Eats range from snacks and charcuterie to a full menu after 4 p.m.
There’s a little piece of wine country on the rooftop dining deck at Sonoma Wine Garden in Santa Monica Place. The vino is sourced from all over the world, while the Mediterranean-Cali menu spotlights ingredients from local farmers and purveyors. There’s no better place for weekend brunch than here, where the eats are rustic and the champagne cocktails bottomless.
Unpretentious but not to be underestimated, the quarter-century-old The Daily Pint has a rotating list of 33 beers on tap and the largest and rarest collection of single-malt whisky west of the Mississippi. You can watch the local teams on the 12-foot big screen or challenge your buds to a friendly game of pool, shuffleboard, or foosball.
This gastropub has been pouring craft beer at The Library Alehouse on Main Street for more than two decades. Locals flock here not just for the two-dozen-plus lagers, ales, stouts, and malts on tap at any given time, but for the acclaimed Hell Burger (topped with a habanero aioli), fish tacos, beer-braised mussels, and for weekend brunch, huevos rancheros and sourdough French toast.
“Drink really local” is the motto of the first and only craft brewery in Santa Monica, Santa Monica Brew Works. Now, with the opening of their long-awaited tasting room, that’s easier than ever to accomplish. Sample the five core “beach-brewed” beers and up to 10 specialty suds Wednesday to Friday evenings and beginning at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Specialty craft brews include Blanco Bronco, Breakfast Beer, Cucumber Kolsch, Chile Pepper Pale, Hazy Does It, and Head in the Clouds, a must-have juicy double IPA. Also look for Santa Monica Brew Works craft beers on many local restaurant and bar menus.