The Varnish

Address: Behind Cole’s Bar, 118 East 6th Street (@ S. Main St), Los Angeles, California, 90014, United States
Tel: +1 213 622 9999
Website: view The Varnish’s website
Style: Speakeasy
Food: Bar Snacks
Established: 2009


Cole's is every bit your all-American bar with solid mahogany counter and sports screens either side behind it. Its bartenders can knock up a decent selection of old school classic cocktails, and the French dip sandwich is worth a look. However, this 100-year-old landmark is also the portal to a hidden speakeasy.

An unmarked door opens at the back of the room leads to The Varnish, a Sasha Petraske-esque drinking den (the late bar empresario was a part owner) dimly lit by vintage industrial lighting and electrified Victorian oil lamps on wood panelled walls, where mellow jazz fills the room. Behind the bar is Marcos Tello, a self-taught cocktailer who has now written most of the drinks lists in town, and Eric Alperin, a Petraske protégé who has worked in his New York bars, now making cocktails from a list of just five at a surprisingly reasonable $13 - all relatively simple, expertly made drinks with intriguing flavours. There's the Floradora (gin, lime, ginger, raspberry and soda); the Brazilian Fix (Cachaça, lime, honey, Yellow Chartreuse); or the Fancy Free (bourbon, maraschino, bitters and orange Peel) for example. Or just go for the bartender's choice and you won't be disappointed.