Don't call them Madam Mixologists. Or ladytenders. Or even bartendresses. Just bartenders will do. Home to a huge and growing community of very talented libation artists, Los Angeles is one of the world's best cities to explore if you're thirsty for a well-crafted cocktail.
However, like many fields, the bar community is still mostly governed by men—from owners to barbacks and the bartenders in between. Even so, lady Angelenos are swinging their bar spoons and cracking that glass ceiling. Some longtime stalwarts leading the way include: Brent Falco (former Cole's bar manager), Naomi Schimek (former Spare Room bar director), Christine Wiseman (Break Room 86's bar manager), Mia Mastroianni (barkeep at Soho House West Hollywood and celebrity bartender) and Devon Tarby, (co-founder of cocktail consulting company, Proprietors, LLC).
Well, it's time we recognized the women behind the bar, and these aren't the only ladies slinging drinks. So who else is mixing up magic while smashing stereotypes? We tapped some of LA's best food and travel writers for their top picks:
Big Bar, Los Feliz
Heather Platt (YouTuber/Food Writer): She’s really nice and is happy to make whatever her guests are really craving. In my case, it is usually a classic Penicillin. Also, her New Zealand roots make for some interesting Kiwi concoctions like the Kiwi Burger Sour: gin, beet simple and lemon garnished with a pickled beet.
Image of Florence at Big Bar courtesy of Eugene Lee
Sotto, West LA
Caroline Juen (Fashion/Food blogger): Because she is just a ray of sunshine, she is incredibly talented, and clearly has so much fun doing what she does. She makes ME want to bartend and be a badass “fancy bar wench”—her words.
Jason Horn (spirits columnist for Playboy Magazine/Daily Beast): This is a really tough one, as LA has about a billion great lady bartenders. But I'm gonna say Gaby Mlynarczyk at Birch, because she's doing some of the most creative things I've seen in cocktails anywhere in the last few months. There's a drink with browned-butter-banana-infused rum and 5-spice that's served in a Chinese takeout container and will make your head explode.
Gaby’s famous takeout tipple. Image courtesy of @lalovingcup
Big Bar, Los Feliz
Jenn Wong (Food/Drink Blogger): ‘Tiger Mom’ Cari brings such joy to her menus and the bar teams that she mentors. The care that she takes with her program trickles down to her staff, so you can always see her mark, even when she is not there.
Esther Tseng (food/drink blogger): Cari makes super classy and balanced drinks.
The Spare Room, Hollywood
JW: Yael is a legitimate badass, bringing technique, and balls to the Spare Room’s menu. Always adding a bit of tongue in cheek and playfulness to her menus, she is having way too much fun, and wants you to come along for the ride.
Yael having her way with the watermelon. Image courtesy of @spareroomhwood
Belcampo, Santa Monica
JW: Una is all class. She has an exquisite palate and radiates hospitality. To sit across from her at a bar is to watch an artist at work, making beautiful creations that are, despite seeming effortless, often thoughtful, layered and complex.
Una Green at Belcampo's bar. Image courtesy of @unagreen
The Varnish, DTLA
The Minty (Food/Drink blogger): There are so many lady bartenders I love. But I think perhaps Aly at The Varnish might not get the recognition she deserves. She's always so welcoming and lovely. She really listens to you and makes drinks that are just sexy to drink. And you can count on a pineapple daiquiri shot at some point of your visit.
For Minty’s picks on best outdoor summer bars in LA, head HERE.
Aly at Here's Looking at You. Image courtesy of @theminty and Cari Hah
Venice Whaler, Venice Beach
Spencer Spellman (travel/drink writer and photographer): What I love about Brittini is that she takes your favorite things about your favorite bartenders, speed, creativity, and personality, and has it in one package. While I love the classics, when I’m going out to a cocktail bar in L.A., I want an invention or re-invention, and she’s done a great job with re-inventions of classic cocktails.
Brittini won Miss Speed Rack 2015, a nationwide all-female bartender competition. Image courtesy of Gabi Porter and Speed Rack.
Caroline On Crack (LA Magazine drinks/spirits writer): One of my favorite L.A. bartenders is Gabriella Mlynarczyk. I've known her since she worked at Michael Voltaggio's Ink and have followed her to other bar gigs. Thankfully, she's at Birch in Hollywood now where she turned around that bar program to be on par with Chef Brendan Collins exquisite dishes. I always hold her up as the standard for someone who does restaurant cocktails right. She's just naturally talented, not trying to show off or push the next big trend. She always creates inventive flavor combinations, not to mention some of the most Instagrammable cocktail presentations. See her Negroni dust or her cocktail served in a Chinese takeout box.
Find out which LA bars Caroline heads to when she’s in the mood for high-end whiskey HERE.
Gabriella Mlynarczyk (L). Image courtesy of @lalovingcup
Christina Xenos (editor/writer SoCalPulse.com): Suzanne is no nonsense and she makes a mean drink and is passionate about everything she does at Terroni. It’s summer, and hot downtown so I’ve been ordering Terroni Spritzes with Aperol from her all summer long. But, if you're undecided and you tell her what you like, she'll come up with some amazing potion. She will also forage for an obscure wine from Terroni’s massive Italian wine collection if you ask nicely.
Sotto, West LA
Nastassia Johnson (dessert/food blogger): Brynn is a badass babe that kills it behind the bar. She executes classic cocktails perfectly and also creates some of her own fun twists. She loves talking to guests about cocktails and brings out the inner cocktail geek in all of us when it comes to cocktails. She just really makes you love what she is doing and what you are drinking. Insider tip - if you can't make it to Sotto's bar to see Brynn you can read her blog bartendingpretty.com and find some great recipes to whip up your own cocktails at home.
Brynn at Sotto. Image courtesy of Mary Costa
Lanee Lee is the co-founder of VoyageVixens.com, an award-winning, female-centric travel blog. She also is a food, drink and travel writer for mags like Nat Geo Traveler, Rachael Ray and Robb Report. Follow her on Instagram @laneelee.
Header Image courtesy of Eugene Lee