Best bars in North America: Look to Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown, DTLA

By Giuliana Mayo

Kelso Norris, Genever’s beverage director, shows off one of her colorful gin creations. Photo by Eugene Lee.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the word “mixology” entered the lexicon, and going to a bar suddenly meant more than just grabbing a beer with a friend. Drinks became a thoughtfully prepared, complicated bit of business. Bartenders grew mustaches and started making their own hand-cut ice. Things behind the bar got serious.

The business of cocktails remains serious, especially in LA. Now, the hospitality industry has ranked three LA cocktail bars among the best bars in North America: Historic Filipinotown’s Genever, downtown’s Death & Co., and Echo Park’s Thunderbolt.

Genever’s Patricia Perez believes hospitality is the most important part of the business. “It's about just creating a really warm and inviting experience through beverages and food in general, for our guests to come in, and make them feel at home,” she says. “Anything after that, in terms of recognition awards, is just going to be the icing on top.”

Filipinotown’s female-owned and operated Genever features a cozy candlelit corner. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee.

Both Genever and Death & Co. struggled through the pandemic as bars were shut down, then opened at limited capacity or were forced to build makeshift seating outside, which has made receiving this recognition even more notable to Death & Co.’s general manager, Matthew Bellinger. 

“It's really kind of emotional, just to have persevered through the last few years. And to receive this kind of acknowledgment is a testament to the hard work that everybody on my team has done,” he says.

A gin-fueled tableau is seen at Death and Co.’s subterranean side bar. Photo by Eugene Lee.

Fancy bespoke ice brings the heat to Death & Co.’s cocktails. Photo by Eugene Lee.