Having spent a great deal of time in and around Culver City over the past ten years, I can assure you that any stories you've heard about "how different it used to be" are absolutely true. In this last decade, Culver City has catapulted itself from a kind of sketchy, drive-through town into a mostly-walkable mecca of highly-rated restaurants, bars, and art galleries. If you're looking for a quick stop after work, or want to make a full afternoon of it with some friends, here are a few of the best places to get a drink in Culver City.
Culver Hotel Bar
At the Culver Hotel Bar in Culver City's downtown district, a martini is all you need to feel transported back to the golden age of film (and drinking). The ninety year old hotel—famed for hosting the cast of Gone With the Wind (and Munchkin actors during the filming of The Wizard of Oz)—is also reputed to host a number of active ghosts... so keep a look out for "spirit orbs" floating in the background of your selfies. Every night the bar hosts musical acts, and it tends to attract locals and industry folks from the Culver Studio and Sony Studio locations down the street.
Bigfoot Lodge West
This sister bar to the Bigfoot in Los Feliz has a log cabin-feel and taxidermied game on the walls, but the menu's serious: classic cocktails and a whiskey list that's over 100 entries long! Bonus: the $5 happy hour runs every day from 5 to 9 p.m. (including a $5 Manhattan), and a neighboring tamale kitchen will take orders by phone and deliver direct to your bar stool.
An art bar in Culver City's arts district, the Mandrake often showcases projections, live DJs, and art installations. The cocktail list hasn't changed much over the last few years, but their takes on classics are solid. And their Tomato Water Martini, with Absolut Peppar and fresh muddled tomatoes, is a spicy and delicious sip.
With twenty California-brewed beers on tap, and more available in cans and large-format bottles, City Tavern is a must for beer lovers. If you need to impress multiple beer drinkers with a unique experience, you can reserve one of the booths with its own tap and a selection of three beers for you and up to five friends to self-pour. (On the other hand, if you'd rather have a cocktail, they're currently offering the Sleepy Hollow, made with Rittenhouse Rye, Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine, brown sugar, pumpkin, and spiced cider... it's pretty much the taste of fall.
The Cozy Inn
The Cozy Inn is everything you could hope for in a dive bar. Colorful clientele, cheap beer, a vaguely punny name, and shuffleboard. At the Cozy, you can feel confident that the granular soap powder in the bathroom is not an ironic touch. And if whiskey and beer leaves you with a hankering for Fritos, an idle comment to the bartender results in a fresh bag magically appearing from under the bar. (At least, it did for me!)
Cozy Inn: 11155 Washington Place Culver City, CA 90232 (map) 310-838-3826
Roy Choi's picnic-themed food aside, A-Frame has been a darling cocktail spot for some time now in Culver City. Celebrating its third year in a converted IHop, A-Frame's eight-seater bar has a cocktail menu with eclectic flavor combinations reminiscent of Choi's food (think: coconut milk, chilies, and passionfruit). Be warned that this hotspot gets crowded and loud as the night goes on, but it is definitely worth a drop-in earlier in the evening.
About the Author: Elana Lepkowski is a Los Angeles based home-schooled mixologist who photographs and shares her cocktail recipes at StirAndStrain.com. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @elanabean where she sometimes forgets she needs a filter.