Rob Roy at Musso & Frank Grill ($9.50)
Manny Aguirre, the 23-year veteran barkeep at Hollywood's classic restaurant and cocktail lounge, doesn't get much opportunity to make Rob Roys since the vast majority of drinkers here opt for the joint's stiff signature martini. But when given the chance, he delivers with aplomb, stirring together Old Smuggler Scotch (in a cocktail, he says this'll do just fine) with a little Cinzano to create a sweet, strong, slightly nutty three-ounce blend. Half goes into your martini glass, poured over a maraschino cherry; half into a small carafe to nurse a bit later; in total it's a nostalgic throwback without a dash of hipster irony. A real deal vintage cocktail.
Penicillin at Comme Ça ($12)
This is a dangerous drink—the kind that tempts you to down a few in rapid succession because it just tastes so good. The taste of smooth Famous Grouse and a spritz of rich tawny Laphroaig come through just fine, while the blend of lemon juice and ginger-laced honey gives this sunny cocktail a crisp brightness.
Four on the Floor at Hungry Cat ($13)
My lips had barely formed an "F" when my waiter at the Hollywood branch of this stalwart raw bar replied, "Good choice." He knew I wanted the Four on the Floor, and he knew I'd like it. Right he was. The potent blend of Pig's Nose Scotch, Buffalo trace bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, and Maraska maraschino is deep and boozy, but with a surprising refreshing lightness. Part citrusy cool, part dark and complex, it's a cocktail for any mood. And best of all, during happy hour, it's yours for $6.50.
Smoke on the Water (Pliska) at Bar Centro ($18)
As is the case with many of the avant garde concoctions at Jose Andres' Bar Centro in the SLS Hotel, watching as this stunner of a cocktail is created is half the pleasure. The first steps are straightforward—muddling gleaming blackberries with splashes of lime juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau; a hearty shake with a couple of ounces of Johnnie Walker Black; a serious strain through a super fine strainer. But then the real fun begins, as your glass is sprayed with a few breathy puffs of smoky Laphroaig spritz, and then with a quick turn of the hand, your able bartender throws in a piece of lemon zest, which he quickly lights on fire, creating billowing plumes of milky-white smoke. It's a great show, reminiscent of watching the Scottish fog roll in, but the fire also caramelizes the lemon's oils, bringing out its flavor, which plays nicely off the sweet tang of the berries and the slight smokiness from the peaty Islay. Yes, half the fun is in the journey, but it's pretty swell to drink this beauty too.
Dangy Taggart at Seven Grand ($14)
You'll need to rush to get in on the joys of this summer Scotch cocktail, which will soon be subbed out for a new set of autumnal concoctions, and rush you should. Extra smooth Glenlivet 12 meets Aperol and Torani liqueurs and a quick rinse of smoky 10-year-old Ardbeg for a hint of brawn. The whole thing is poured over a cool ice sphere and garnished with a fragrant orange zest. It's a gentle, comforting cocktail with a touch of sweet and an velvety finish. For the whisky-shy, this could be the gateway drink.