Hope Ewing is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Vervet, an LA-based line of farm-to-can sparkling cocktails.
"Los Angeles is not only one of the best places in the country to get a drink, but is also a wellspring of women in the booze business. In Movers & Shakers: Women Making Waves in Spirits, Beer, and Wine, I interviewed women around the country who have built careers in the beverage industries, but came back time and again to Los Angeles, where the talent runs deep. The following are a few of L.A.’s finest in the beer, wine, spirits, and bar worlds that are shaking things up and making a better culture (along with fantastic drinks)."
NOTE: Hours and opening dates change frequently. Check individual websites for updated information.
“Nomadic Distillery” AMASS chose Los Angeles as the site and inspiration for the production of its flagship gin, which enjoyed meteoric growth locally and internationally at its launch. Billed as “a celebration of both the abundant natural terroir and diverse cultural landscape of contemporary,” AMASS Dry Gin incorporates native botanicals along with ingredients such as chaga mushrooms that nod to the city’s health-conscious bent. At the root of the gin’s earthy, citrusy, herbaceous goodness is the genius of master distiller Morgan McLachlan, whose creations also include Astral Pacific Gin and Vapid Vodka for The Spirit Guild and Future Gin. The AMASS product line now includes Botanic Vodka, Riverine Non-Alcoholic Spirit, and Clean Botanics for social and self-care rituals.
Future Gin is a brand inspired by and made in L.A., created by a veritable supergroup of local food and beverage talent: Amy Atwood, producer of Oeno Wines and owner of Amy Atwood Selections; longtime hospitality professional Mary Bartlett, formerly of the Ace Hotel and Proprietors LLC; and ice cream empire architects Freya Estreller and Natasha Case (Coolhaus Ice Cream, Tea Drops).
Find the fruit of their “collective 50+ years of experience in food and beverage” at retail stores and the city’s finest drinking establishments, such as Everson Royce Bar, Normandie Club, The Mermaid, Majordomo and Botanica to name a few.
Hera the Dog Vodka
After more than two decades operating animal rescues in the nonprofit sector, Allison Lange and Julia Pennington continued their mission with the launch of LA-based Hera the Dog Vodka in December 2018. A portion of proceeds from every bottle sold are donated to create a sustainable funding resource for grassroots animal rescues around the world. Crafted from 100% organic, non-GMO wheat, Hera the Dog is produced at Pennington Distilling Co, Julia's family distillery in Nashville - distilled seven times and slow-filtered through charcoal.
Support Hera's mission by ordering cocktails at local spots like Chatterbox Bar, Jones Hollywood, Lost Property and Nic's On Beverly; and picking up a bottle or two at retail stores throughout LA, including Bar Keeper, K&L Wine Merchants, and numerous Mission Wine & Spirits locations.
Pomp & Whimsy
Founded and distilled in Los Angeles, Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur has become a fixture in bars across the country. Dr. Nicola Nice founded the brand in 2017 with a mission to “give women back their rightful place in the history of spirits, and inspire the modern female mixologist.” In 2018, she founded the Women’s Cocktail Collective – an industry group of women spirits producers who join forces through collaboration and cross-promotion of their brands, raising the profiles of women-owned beverage companies and raising money for important causes. Pomp & Whimsy and the WCC host events at numerous area bars, and bottles can be found at retail stores and bars all over Southern California.
Genever (3123 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles 90057) is an Art Deco oasis, a cozy haven for gin lovers and cocktail fans at large. Its story is anything but standard: founded by Roselma Samala, Patricia Perez, and Christine Sumiller with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, the spot prides itself on being a Filipina-owned business in the heart of Historic Filipinotown. Slick and stylish all through the details, this is a peak cocktail den experience for fans of glassware and local ingredients.
To celebrate Women's History Month, beverage director Kelso Norris launched her Spring 2022 Cocktail Menu with drinks inspired by women who’ve shaped her life, and numerous brands that are owned or distilled by women. Highlights include Polly Wants a Cocktail, named for Kelso's mom and made with Kasama Rum; and Que Linda, an homage to her grandmother that features Fawn Weaver's award-winning Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey.
Opened in 2018, The Mermaid (428 E. 2nd St, Los Angeles 90012) offers the relaxed vibe of a comfortable neighborhood bar with the light kitsch its nautical theme commands. Industry vets Katie Kildow and Arelene Roldan set out to make the space—formerly a hostess bar—a safe and comfortable place for people of all genders to relax and enjoy tropical cocktails.
The generous Happy Hour (5-8pm Monday-Friday, all-day on Sunday) draws a loyal crowd of locals and Little Tokyo visitors alike. Like any great neighborhood joint, there's a calendar of rotating DJs, karaoke, and guest bartender nights featuring women bartenders that raise money for a range of causes. Going a step further, the owners have a stated commitment to carry women-owned or -helmed spirits brands with a list that includes Appleton Estate Rum, Yola Mezcal, and Future Gin.
Alyson Iwamoto - Pinky's
If there's a new must-try bar program in town, it's more than likely Alyson Iwamoto is on the bar team. She's bartended at many of LA's best bars and restaurants, including Thunderbolt, Death & Co, The Varnish, Bavel, Here's Looking At You, and the late, great Bibo Ergo Sum. Iwamoto is currently the beverage director at Pinky’s (1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles 90027), a hidden gem in Los Feliz from the team behind Atrium.
Inspired by '80s beach culture, Aly's cocktails include the Three Day Weekend (bourbon, pineapple rum, banana), Lunar Wake (mezcal, Cynar, apple, celery, lime, black salt), Midnight Jolt (vodka, espresso, nuts, citrus, fennel) and the frozen Rip Tai’d – date infused Scotch, dark rum, Madeira, sunflower orgeat, curaçao, and lemon.
Iwamoto is also active in the LA bar community - in 2021, she organized “Liquid Love Letters,” a fundraising event that featured 10 AAPI bartenders with proceeds donated to Hate is a Virus.
Amber Adcock - Little Bear
At Little Bear (1855 Industrial St, Los Angeles 90021), Amber Adcock wears many hats - GM, bartender and artist/art curator. The Goat Group brought her on board the Arts District bar in the fall of 2020 to help with its reopening in the COVID era. In a previous gig as bartender/assistant manager at Surly Goat, Amber started creating chalk art menus - a hint at what was to come. Goat Group partner Ryan Sweeney gave her the opportunity to paint her first mural on the patio. She subsequently opened The Phoenix with the Goat Group, Imperial Western with Pouring With Heart, and picked up work with a commercial mural painting company (Mural Painter LA) and music marketing company (Complex).
Amber took over the walls at Little Bear to make the space warm and welcoming to the Arts District neighborhood - she invited artists like Kat Bing, Vasco Del Rey, Bethanie Lynne, and Joey Colombo to bring their energy into the space. She painted her favorite Duvel glass design by Nina Vandeweghe above the bar and saved a wall for herself - stay tuned! A point of pride is the bathroom re-model that includes hundreds of photographs of people drinking from the 1800s to the 1990s (including one of her great-grandmother). Amber's projects also include Mr. Brainwash's Kawhi Leonard mural at Crypto.com Arena, and the exterior of Titmouse Studios in Burbank.
Cari Hah - Dream Hollywood
Cari Hah built her impressive resume as a freelance guest bartender, doing liquor brand promotion, and working alongside some of the industry’s biggest names at places such as Cole’s in Downtown LA and Neat in Glendale. Her tenure at Big Bar in Los Feliz really cemented Cari's place as a leader in the L.A. bar community. With their "Tiger Mom" at the helm, the Big Bar crew was named Best Bar Family at the Time Out LA Bar Awards two years in a row.
As Cari said in Movers & Shakers, “In my bar family, it should not matter who is behind the bar, your drink should always taste the same, and you should always feel welcome and you should always get great service.” She's now the beverage director at Dream Hollywood, overseeing all the bars at the celeb-favorite hotel: Tao Asian Bistro, Beauty & Essex, and the rooftop Highlight Room. Coming soon is her bar program at Tao Group's LAVO Ristorante on the Sunset Strip (9201 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood 90069).
Karla Flores-Mercado - Bar Flores
Karla Flores-Mercado went from a regular at Wolf & Crane 's Top Shelf Mondays, to jumping behind the bar when her favorite bartender was in the weeds, to bartending at and eventually managing the Little Tokyo bar. In August 2019, Karla opened Bar Flores (1542 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90026) in the former Barragan's space above another Park Hospitality bar, Lowboy. Bar Flores began as Sip, an immersive speakeasy with cocktails and live music that popped up in locations throughout LA.
As soon as you enter the lively indoor-outdoor space, you'll see a large portrait of Karla's grandmother - she explained to Voyage LA, "Paying respect to our grandmothers is something that is important to me. The bar has a wall adorned with pictures of the grandmothers of all our staff and our regulars." Stop by for live music on Tuesdays and order a pitcher of Flores Margaritas: tequila or mezcal, lemon, lime, naranja, triple sec, azúcar and hibiscus salt.
Though Karla recently stepped away from her position as Director of Operations at Bar Flores, she's still a partner and continues to craft drink menus for all three of the Park Hospitality bars.
Kat Corbo - The Roger Room
Kat Corbo made LA proud when she won Speed Rack - a high-stakes, women-only national bartending competition - in 2019. After proving herself faster and more precise than countless bartenders around the country, Corbo returned home as a vibrant presence on the scene running The Study, tucked in the back of Arts District Brewing. In 2021, Corbo became the first female bartender in the decade-plus history of The Roger Room (370 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles 90048), the neo-speakeasy discreetly located adjacent to the Largo at The Coronet cabaret. Follow Kat's Instagram, @theyogibartender for yoga poses, breathing techniques and more to "balance your body and your glass."
Marie King - Tonga Hut
Tonga Hut (12808 Victory Blvd, North Hollywood 91606) is a venerated institution - the legendary Tiki bar that weathered the decades of cocktail dark ages before it reemerged—along with the Tiki style itself—into its current glory. A healthy part of that resurgence was due to Marie King, who recently celebrated her 10th anniversary as Tonga Hut's bar manager. A hospitality pro with firm footing in modern cocktailing, King’s menu and presentation manages to perfectly straddle the divide between old school cheese and new school class. The Hut remains a welcoming spot for locals while bringing on appreciative fans from all over the city and beyond. Its second location in Palm Springs attests that some things are actually timeless, particularly if they contain rum.
Marlene Olarra - Nativo
As one of LA's top beverage directors, music seems to be a common thread for Marlene Olarra, from her Wednesday night Jazz menus at Faith & Flower in Downtown LA, to the mariachi and DJs at her current bar, Nativo (5137 York Blvd, Los Angeles 90042) in Highland Park. Recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, Nativo serves up agave-based signatures like the Cucurrucucu (Milagro Tequila Reposado, Pamplemousse, Lime, Hopped Grapefruit Bitters, Grapefruit Soda, Kosher Salt), Ojo de Tigre (Mezcal, Martini & Rossi Fiero, Lemon, Honey), and Lena de Pirul (Abasolo Mexican Whisky, Nixta Licor, Mexican "Campari", Mole Biters); along with classics like the Daiquiri, Negroni, Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Gimlet.
Naomi Schimek - Soulmate
One of the OGs of the LA bar scene, Naomi Schimek's career has taken her from the divey R Bar in Koreatown to slinging craft cocktails at The Tar Pit, to The Spare Room as its opening beverage director, and several years traveling the world spreading the gospel of Cognac Park.
Luckily for Angelenos, Schimek landed back in LA to open Soulmate (631 N. Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood 90069) in May 2021. To pair with Chef Rudy Lopez's Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine, Schimek features local herbs and fruits in cocktails that are ideal to sip on the expansive outdoor patio: the signature Soulmate (gin, bay laurel, lemon), Fanny Flutters (bubbles, guava, lemon, butterfly pea flower), and A Little Bit Alexis - the house sangria with red wine, curaçao, citrus and mint.
Selene Martinez - Big Bar
Selene Martinez has been at Big Bar (1929 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles 90027) for nine years, a tenure nearly as long as her co-manager and beloved bar industry photographer, Eugene Lee. As LA slowly emerged from the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Selene and Eugene kept the creative spirit of Big Bar alive with inventive cocktails to-go like the Three Martini Lunch, a flight of Sipsmith Martinis; and at-home movie packages like The Shining Box, a Halloween-themed cocktail kit with a Redrum cocktail and Overlook Hotel maze map, hotel postcard and Room 237 keychain.
Selene's creativity shines in cocktails featured throughout Big Bar's seasonal menus and monthly specials. For Lunar New Year, Selene created a fantastic Year of the Tigress cocktail made with Ming River Baijiu, Ten to One Rum, Sichuan peppercorn, sunflower seed orgeat, Brovo Spirits Lucky Falernum and orange bitters. On Big Bar's current menu, Selene's Martinez is a global riff on the classic Martinez, featuring La Higuera Sotol (a nod to Selene's family roots in Chihuahua, Mexico), Bols Barrel Aged Genever, Leopold Bros. Cherry Liqueur, and the best "garnish" ever - a photo of young Selene!
Taylor Cloyes - Bavel
In December 2021, Taylor Cloyes took the reins as Beverage Director at Bavel (500 Mateo St, Los Angeles 90013), the wildly popular Middle Eastern restaurant from Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. Bavel is a five-minute walk from Cloyes' previous gig, Here & Now at One Santa Fe. With a "juggernaut" like Bavel, Cloyes counts on her team - "...all of whom I'd go over the cliff with."
Cloyes has three cocktails on the current nine-drink menu: the Heka, a spritz with Kina L'Aéro d'Or, manzanilla sherry, dry prosecco, lemon oil, and dried citrus; the Remi (cognac, lemon, pear, vadouvan curry, orange curaçao); and the Martini-style Tierra, made with Old Tom gin or fruit & grain vodka, and golden beet bianco vermouth. Taylor notes, "I support a team focus on menu building, so other members of my team past or present have cocktails on [it] as well."
Cloyes also showcases her skills in cocktail competitions like Bacardi Legacy Global, where she represented the U.S. and finished in the Top 8.
Tess Anne Sawyer - The Spare Room
During its 19-month pandemic hiatus, The Spare Room (7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) marked its 10-year anniversary and was named Best American Hotel Bar at the 2020 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards - an accolade that was long overdue. The Spare Room reopened in November 2021 with a new beverage director, Tess Anne Sawyer, who brings a wealth of bar experience that includes stints at New York's Mother's Ruin, Toronto's Mahjong Bar, and a Speed Rack Canada national title.
Sawyer pays homage to her Korean heritage with the Player 001, made with cucumber vodka, soju, dry vermouth and kimchi brine. The highballs feature infused ice options like Pierde Almas Espadin, Fords Officers Reserve, Tequila Ocho Plata, and Haku Vodka. Punch bowls (for groups of 4 to 20) and the large-format Cielo Drive (serves 8-10) are designed for those in the mood for a vintage game or bowling (recommended just for the bespoke George Esquivel shoes).
Yael Vengroff - S Bar and Katsuya
When Yael Vengroff won the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best American Bartender, it was kind of a big deal for L.A. Not only was she the first Angeleno to crack the category, it also marked only the second time in the entirety of the awards’ 12-year history that Los Angeles was represented in the winners’ circle. Her LA resume speaks for itself: Harvard & Stone, Honeycut, The Spare Room and Genghis Cohen. Fun fact: Yael was the first-ever Speed Rack national champion back in May 2012.
Vengroff is now with hospitality management company SBE, overseeing the cocktail menus and training staff at numerous Katsuya and S Bar locations. Opened in January 2020, S Bar Brentwood (11777 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles 90049) is adjacent to the Philippe Starck-designed Katsuya that's a longtime favorite of the upscale neighborhood. In an interview with Tasting Panel, Vengroff said that the lounge functions as an R&D bar, where she can introduce new drinks to more adventurous guests and tweak the recipes before they're added to menus at other locations. Highlights include the anime-inspired Shinigami Eyes (Green Chile Vodka, passionfruit, almond, orange juice, Galliano) and the Tiger Julius, a clarified milk punch riff made with Mandarin Vodka, Cognac, Campari, cinnamon, black tea and hazelnut.
You can also stop by your local and pick up a 4-pack of Yael's Crystal Shiso Mojito from LiveWire, featuring artwork by Tom Haubrick and made with Casa Magdalena Rum, shochu, shiso, coconut and Indian lime.
Clare Ward is something of a community organizer for the Los Angeles cocktail world. Ward’s first foray into bar management was at Culver City’s Sambar, where her spice-driven cocktail program gained significant press coverage. In 2018, Ward was the force behind the bar at Highland Park’s Hippo, working alongside James Beard Award-winning chef Matt Molina. She currently works as a private bartender/beverage director and continues to consult on projects around town.
As the production manager of LA-based Art Beyond the Glass - an annual fundraiser celebrating the artistic talents of the bartender community - she organized a virtual telethon to support bartenders in need during the pandemic, and is overseeing the 10th ABTG in 2022.
Cocktail consulting is a bustling industry these days, and no consultancy better embodies the marriage of classic and contemporary L.A. glamor than Sunset Boulevardier. Co-founders Danielle Motor and Sabrina Minks have decades of industry experience between them, and have trained staff and set up cocktail programs at venues including the Chateau Marmont, Petit Trois and Gold Diggers.
Coly Den Haan - Vinovore
After opening successful bar/restaurants Perch and The Must, sommelier and third-generation restaurateur Coly Den Haan decided to venture into wine retail. Her Silver Lake shop, Vinovore (616 N Hoover, Los Angeles 90004) was already in the works when the 2016 election led her to a decision: she would only carry wine made by women (and multi-gender partnerships). On your way to finding the perfect lady-made wine, the shop’s classification system helps by sorting wines by flavor according to a zodiac-like chart: fans of big reds look for “red lion” bottles, while those looking for something bright and vegetal steer toward “green snakes.” The shop offers books by women and wine- and book-related gift items galore, so all your birthday/dinner party/night in needs are covered.
Courtney Kaplan - Tsubaki and Ototo
Echo Park’s Tsubaki (1356 Allison Ave, Los Angeles 90026) is a modern Japanese neighborhood drinking den with a commitment to the izakaya’s purpose: food, drink, and revelry. While the food does not disappoint by any stretch, co-owner and sommelier Courtney Kaplan’s wine and sake list has earned national attention since she and Chef Charles Namba opened up shop in 2017. Focusing on small-producer/craft sake and shochu difficult to find anywhere else, and a selection of interesting French wines, Kaplan’s izakaya experience satisfies both traditionalists and those looking for a new discovery.
In 2019, the duo opened neighboring Ototo ("little brother"), a boisterous sake bar where you won’t even realize you’re learning something new with every sip.
Miriam Yoo - Flask & Field
Miriam Yoo opened Flask & Field (767 S Alameda St, #180 Los Angeles 90021), the wine and spirits shop and tasting room of her dreams, across from Go Get Em Tiger in the concrete retail playground that is ROW DTLA. Driven by a “lifelong passion for wine, hospitality and design,” and unsatisfied with the selection of spirits and supplies at other stores, the former entertainment attorney created a space where you can find a great Pet Nat, organic Tequila, a set of timeless cocktail glasses and a great coffee table book. Weekly tastings, classes and events highlight an ever-rotating stock of local beverages—including canned wine, beer, and cocktails available cold to take home.
Eagle Rock Brewery
When Ting Su co-founded Eagle Rock Brewery (3056 Roswell St, Los Angeles 90065) in 2009 with her husband and father-in-law, L.A.’s craft brewing scene had tumbleweeds blowing through it. In fact, they were the “first microbrewery to open its operations in the City of Los Angeles in over 60 years.” Over the past decade, the brewery has amassed an impressive line of community-inspired beers with names such as “Solidarity” and “Populist,” and has continually asserted its role as a community organization. In 2011, Su started the Women’s Beer Forum, a monthly meeting for women to explore and learn about different styles of beer and the brewing industry, to avoid the all-too-familiar experience of “getting pigeon-holed into drinking the worst-tasting, syrupy-sweet, weak cocktails or bland, industrial light lager.”
Three Weavers Brewing Company
Since opening their doors in 2014, Three Weavers Brewing Company (1031 W. Manchester Blvd., Unit A-B, Inglewood 90301) has stood out for creating hit after hit on the local beer scene. From perfectly balanced IPAs to an intense Imperial Stout to traditional (quaffable) styles such as an ESB and a light-bodied porter, brewmaster Alexandra Nowell can’t seem to go wrong, and the bustling Inglewood tasting room is a testament to this. The company also happens to be woman-owned, founded by homebrewer Lynne Weaver with “the mission to promote a positive sense of community through our passion for craft beer.” Find Three Weavers on tap, in cans, bottles, and crowlers all over Southern California.