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The Varnish

The Varnish

Speakeasy, Cocktail Bar, and Lounge$$$$
Central City East, Los Angeles
128 Tips and reviews
  • cocktails
  • eric alperin
  • spirits
  • detroit daisy
  • romantic
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  • Adrian P.
    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.
  • 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.
    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
  • Party Earth
    Party EarthJuly 9, 2012
    Order a drink with tonic – it’s served with an individual bottle of Q Tonic made with organic agave nectar. The stuff is absolutely delicious and makes your drink all the more special. Read more
  • Claudia H.
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • C. P. B.
    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.
    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.
  • Angel C.
    Angel C.January 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.
  • Jennifer
    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.
    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.
    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.
  • 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
  • Tiago L.
    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!
  • 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
  • @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!
  • Matthew G.
    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.
  • Bon Appetit Magazine
    Here, the city's best bartenders, including Eric Alperin & Marcos Tello, mix cocktails in a speakeasy-like space. Try the Holland Red Light, a cocktail made with Genever, the Dutch-style gin. Read more
  • Blanca L.
    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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • The Artificial
    The Artificial2 weeks ago
    My favorite speakeasy. Hidden in the back room of a well-known sandwich shop, the atmosphere and drinks are truly spectacular.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
    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
  • Karen S.
    Karen SolomonDecember 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.
  • Edward K.
    Edward KMay 12, 2015
    No cellphone reception here! Make sure to contact all the people you're meeting up with outside, before stepping into this speakeasy 1920's time machine.
  • Amber
    AmberJuly 8
    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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Justin L.
    Justin LukNovember 11, 2011
    When you've got visitors and you really want to make them jealous of your city, knock on the door at the back of Cole's. They'll be amazed, and you'll look like a bad ass.
  • Jeremiah C.
    Jeremiah ChuaJune 6, 2015
    Their whiskey drinks are made very well. I enjoyed their old-fashioned and Manhattan cocktails.
  • AskMen
    AskMenDecember 2, 2010
    Coolest backroom downtown. This ain’t no sports bar, so order a cocktail and carry yourself with some class because that’s what this crowd demands. Read more
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Luiz C.
    Luiz CentenaroAugust 6, 2014
    Daniel makes the best old fashioned ever. You will feel like Don Draper here.
  • FabFitFun
    FabFitFunNovember 16, 2011
    This hidden speakeasy plays the role well with dimmed lights, organic drinks, an antique piano, and themed dressed staff.
  • Nicholas S.
    Nicholas SlaytonOctober 25, 2011
    Been here 10+ times
    Be sure Devon's your bartender. She's friendly and very good at what she does. The Los Angeles cocktail is amazing.
  • Elle C.
    Elle CameronOctober 19, 2013
    This place is amazing! Bartenders choice is a great way to go!! All their drinks are delicious
  • 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.
  • Roger M.
    Roger MaMarch 10, 2015
    Great whiskey based cocktails! Go early to grab a spot!
  • Deanna R.
    Deanna RJanuary 12, 2014
    Ask for bartenders choice drinks. I've never been disappointed with what they make me!
  • 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.
  • Stephen S.
    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.
  • Alex's Lemonade
    Alex's LemonadeOctober 5, 2011
    We are honored to have Chef Eric Alperin of The Varnish Bar be a Chef at our L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade Event on 11/6. Join us:
  • Marc B.
    Marc BossermanJanuary 26, 2013
    Been here 5+ times
    Tues night and Monday night-live piano music. 8:30-1:00-approximately . Very awesome vibe! : )
  • Bravo
    BravoNovember 12, 2010
    During the week it's really cool to go to the roof and check out the view of downtown L.A. -Danielle Keene, Top Chef Just Desserts
  • Mic H.
    Mic HoJune 21, 2016
    Great speakeasy atmosphere and the drinks are well made and nostalgic.
  • ThirstyinLA
    ThirstyinLAFebruary 17, 2011
    Been here 10+ times
    The bartenders are some of the best in the city, so name the spirit and put yourself in their hands with the Bartender's Choice.
  • LA Weekly
    LA WeeklyMarch 23, 2011
    Featured in LA Weekly's "L.A.'s Best Cocktails: Our 55 favorites and where to find them." (Click 'More Info') Read more
  • Caroline O.
    Caroline On CrackMarch 16, 2013
    Been here 10+ times
    Come by Sunday nights for some live jazz to enjoy with your well-made classic cocktails.
  • Nikolai F.
    Nikolai FromMay 2, 2010
    If you're into scotch/whiskey, ask for a Mamie Taylor. Scotch, ginger beer, and lime juice. Strong, delicious and refreshing.
  • Julia V
    Julia VMarch 21
    Cody and hidden bar ... with a cosy piano concert. Great cocktails
  • Paige F.
    Paige FinnOctober 20, 2010
    I'm a fan of the Brown Derby. Whiskey, grapefruit and honey. It sounds weird yet it's amazing. Or maybe I just have a drinking problem...
  • cynthia w.
    cynthia wangMay 21, 2013
    stunning cocktails made in the beloved speakeasy style. gin!
  • Christian G.
    Christian GonzalezFebruary 10, 2011
    I told the bartender I wanted something sweet to drink. He delivered. I love that this place reminds me of a speakeasy.
  • Pueblo Viejo Tequila
    If you want to freshen up with a delicious cocktail at The Varnish, try a Paloma mixed with Pueblo Viejo Blanco.
  • D L.
    D LoveOctober 22, 2012
    Let the bartenders choose for you. Fresh ingredients make it worth it.
    CityTop20.comDecember 6, 2010
    Been here 5+ times
    Customed ordered drinks at one of the better bars in all of Los Angeles. Can't go wrong.
  • Katrina Z.
    Katrina ZaiNovember 19, 2014
    One of the coolest speakeasy bars in the city.
  • Allegra T.
    Allegra TepperJune 16, 2014
    Grab a french dip at Cole's, then come here! If you like citrus+chocolate, ask for a Twentieth Century.
  • Placi P.
    Placi PazAugust 3, 2015
    Amazing crafted cocktails and súper cute bartender😍
  • Pueblo Viejo Tequila
    Pueblo Viejo TequilaFebruary 10, 2016
    When you visit The Varnish, start by ordering a delicious cocktail mixed with Pueblo Viejo Blanco.
  • Beth V.
    Beth Van DamMarch 19, 2012
    Max is amazing! My new fave: the ultra aromatic Vieux Carre'
  • James E.
    James EasonJanuary 28, 2013
    Sinful Sundays every Sunday night with the fantastic Niki Lindgren!
  • Loretta
    LorettaNovember 28, 2011
    Name the spirit you want and leave it up to the bartender to mix up something awesome to your liking.
  • Jason R.
    Jason RosenbergAugust 16, 2011
    Allow the bartender to make their favorite drink. You'll be amazed by what you get back.
  • Eric T.
    Eric TanMarch 13, 2011
    Best kept 'secret' in LA -downtown! Cozy, Cocktails, Ambience...
  • Atif S.
    Atif SiddiqiAugust 27, 2011
    Order the following (in no particular orde)r: Cameron's Kick, Pop Quiz, Safety Word
  • Pueblo Viejo Tequila
    Pueblo Viejo TequilaMarch 28, 2016
    The Easter colors reflect in a Margarita mixed with Pueblo Viejo. Get yours here at The Varnish!
  • Lily T.
    Lily TanMarch 27, 2012
    Orchard warmer is so good... like hot apple cider with a kick!
  • James E.
    James EasonJanuary 14, 2013
    Sunday night there's a great singer and band !!
  • Jenny L.
    Jenny L.July 6, 2015
    Let the bartender make you something off menu.
  • Scots C.
    Scots ChrisJanuary 22, 2014
    The White Russian is an interesting take on a classic cocktail. Good ambience!
  • Peter B.
    Peter BoyceJuly 3, 2015
    Bespoke cocktails, back room, romantic lighting
  • Jessie W.
    Jessie WebsterAugust 30, 2014
    best cocktails in LA. very romantic
  • Matt L.
    Matt LawlerOctober 12, 2009
    Ask for a Ramos Gin Fizz (if you drink gin), otherwise tell the Bar Maestros what your poison is and let them take it from there.
  • ashley
    ashleyDecember 20, 2014
    Great drinks and lovely service
  • Nichole M.
    Nichole M.September 21, 2013
    Ask for something smokey and spicy
  • Abi P.
    Abi PanickerNovember 2, 2014
    Nice speakeasy ambiance
  • Pueblo Viejo Tequila
    Pueblo Viejo TequilaDecember 4, 2015
    If you are in The Varnish, try a Margarita with Pueblo Viejo Blanco.
  • The Golden S.
    The Golden Scallop (Movie)April 4, 2013
    Been here 25+ times
    check out the Golden Scallop trailer:
  • Ricardo H.
    Ricardo HernandezNovember 3, 2016
    Overhyped cocktail bar. Small place, average prices.
  • Marc B.
    Marc BossermanMarch 27, 2013
    Been here 5+ times
    The Marc Bosserman trio is the last Tuesday of the month!! :-)
  • Omer Z.
    Omer ZachAugust 31, 2015
    Go for the Bartender's Choice.
  • Alexandra
    AlexandraMarch 11, 2011
    The sister to NYCs Milk & Honey and Little Branch...need I say more?
  • Marc Bosserman-Perfect Piano Music
    Tuesdays! 8:30 to 12;30. Last Tues of the month....TRIO!!
  • LA Weekly
    LA WeeklyDecember 1, 2010
    LA Weekly's Best of LA 2010 pick - Best Speakeasy!
  • JacQue D.
    JacQue DelgadoMay 26, 2011
    Or million dollar coctail get a metail straw Fun experience
  • Paul K.
    Paul KimOctober 25, 2010
    Great drinks. Make sure to order the Bartender's choice!
  • Jussi H.
    Jussi HäyhäJanuary 7, 2016
    Coctail lovers paradise.
  • Raina R.
    Raina RichterMarch 16, 2011
    Order a whiskey ginger - it is so yum.
  • Michelle L.
    Michelle LeeApril 7, 2015
    Been here 5+ times
    wifi: Coles / pw: 2136224090
  • James E.
    James EasonJuly 8, 2015
    The bartenders are magical
  • Chris B.
    Chris BFebruary 6, 2011
    Gold Rush and Bitter Bee are amazing!
  • Sam A.
    Sam AlonMay 6, 2015
    Well-balanced cocktails
  • clafc
    clafcNovember 16
    Cocktails were not that special
  • Michael P.
    Michael PetraliaAugust 9, 2014
    Shhh. It's a poorly kept secret!
  • Marc B.
    Marc BossermanApril 17, 2013
    Been here 5+ times
    Tuesday nights are jazz-wild!!
  • Tiffany S.
    Tiffany StithJune 11, 2009
    Have the Palma Fizz...enjoy the conversation...and the cool darkly paneled speak-easy vibe. A bien tot!
  • LA Weekly
    LA WeeklyMay 4, 2011
    Featured in '10 Cinco de Mayo Alternatives to the Margarita' Read more
  • Sterling R.
    Sterling RoseAugust 27, 2013
    Trust your bartender.
  • Joe J.
    Joe JunterealApril 28, 2012
    Death and co/raines law room, but in a bad way
  • Tim P.
    Tim PedersenJuly 16, 2011
    Irish Mule. tasty bev
  • Marine M.
    Marine MinasyanJanuary 19, 2010
    Loved the cosmopolitan 1927. Most drinks are very smooth and distinct in flavor.
  • conbon
    conbonJuly 27, 2010
    Been here 5+ times
    Hot Buttered Rum is perfect for a cold day
  • Deborah B.
    Deborah BeckmanFebruary 20, 2010
    Been here 5+ times
    Have Chris make you a Bitter Bee. Anything he makes is delish
  • Gabriela A.
    Gabriela AbigailSeptember 4, 2013
    Bartenders choice it is!
  • Max P.
    Max ParsonsOctober 24, 2015
    downtown speak
  • Carl B.
    Carl BoehmDecember 22, 2012
  • Rachael  D.
    Rachael  DeppOctober 19, 2010
    Refreshing drink: The Holland Fix. <3
  • Jackie J.
    Jackie JoyrideSeptember 12, 2011
    Been here 5+ times
    Ask for Devon's "Pop Quiz"
  • DJ P.
    DJ PJanuary 27
    Bartender's choice!
  • Edgar A.
    Edgar AriasAugust 25, 2013
  • Sal E.
    Sal EliazoOctober 10, 2010
    Make sure get the Eastsider!!
  • Max M.
    Max MullenAugust 23, 2010
    Been here 10+ times
    Order a Monte Carlo!
  • Aline C.
    Aline CJuly 24, 2011
    Been here 5+ times
    Bartender's choice
  • Gina R.
    Gina RamosJune 5, 2016
    Never heard of a "speakeasy" that took down your name & you had to wait 15 mins to get in. After the 15 mins, we left. Maybe another time
  • Kali H.
    Kali HeitholtMarch 21, 2011
    Get a Medicina Latina
  • Lorenzo Ivan H.
    Lorenzo Ivan HernandezJanuary 23, 2015
    El trago Oh Henry de los mejores cócteles
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