Where to Drink in Long Beach, California - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Where to Drink in Long Beach, California

“Long Beach has been considered LA’s little sister for a long time but recently has started to step out on her own,” says Christy Caldwell, proprietor of Long Beach tavern The Ordinarie. Sitting approximately 20 miles south of downtown LA, Long Beach manages to feel a world away (and, in fact, is often used to portray Miami in TV shows like Dexter and CSI). But a wave of new establishments, from cocktail bars and coffee shops to the city’s first distillery, has opened over the last few years alongside Long Beach stalwarts to create an evolving flavor all the city’s own. “Long Beach’s diversity, mix of cultures, and large LGBTQ+ community add greatly to the feel and identity of the city,” says Caldwell. Originally from Ireland, Caldwell moved to Long Beach in 2005, and here he offers a tour of some of his favorite watering holes in his adopted hometown.

Beachwood Brewing Though Long Beach has no shortage of breweries, Caldwell heads to Beachwood for his favorites. “They have multiple, nationally award-winning beers on tap; my go-to is Amalgamator, a West Coast IPA,” Caldwell says. Established in 2011 by the founders of Beachwood BBQ and Julian Shrago, the brewery pours a multitude of West Coast–style IPAs alongside hoppy pilsners and pastry stouts. In 2014, Beachwood launched The Blendery to craft both traditional and modern versions of Belgian lambic beers, like the Strawberry Provenance, an oak-aged sour ale with strawberries and herbes de Provence. “Their barrel room is set to mimic conditions in Belgium,” notes Caldwell. 

The Ordinarie Long Beach
The Ordinarie. | Photo by Meredith Gradishar and Dayna Gayon.

The Ordinarie “Having grown up working in a bar in Ireland, I’m fascinated by the history of hospitality in the U.S.,” says Caldwell, who opened The Ordinarie in 2019. Taking a modern approach to cocktails with a menu of classics and playful riffs like the South of Saturn (mezcal, tequila, orgeat, house-made fassionola, and falernum), the bar and restaurant keeps the atmosphere warm and inviting. The name itself pays homage to the 17th-century ordinaries for “receiving refreshment and entertainment of travelers and strangers,” which were required in each community by Massachusetts law. “I thought that was a worthy ideal, and a grand name for an American tavern,” says Caldwell.

The Hawk Breathing new life into a long-beloved Willmore neighborhood dive bar, The Hawk opened in 2017 at the hands of bartender Kyle Flavin, already locally known for his expansive whiskey knowledge from years of managing the downtown bar The Blind Donkey. “This hidden gem located north of the downtown area produces great cocktails with cool, vinyl vibes,” says Caldwell. The casual neighborhood-joint atmosphere remains intact—pool tables, jukebox, vinyl elbow pads on the bar—while the drink menu aims to please all comers with beers both craft and commercial, clever-yet-affordable cocktails, and a solid selection of whiskies, of course.

Portuguese Bend Long Beach
A seasonal cocktail at Portuguese Bend Distilling. | Photo by Cara Harman.

Portuguese Bend Distilling Founded in 2019 by Long Beach natives Simon Haxton and Luis and Brenda Navarro, and named after the nearby stretch of coastline frequented by smugglers during Prohibition, Portuguese Bend Distilling is the first of its kind in the city. Operating a 600-gallon system inside a sprawling 4,000-square-foot space with a full restaurant and bar, the grain-to-glass distillery is currently producing three rum expressions, two gins, and two vodkas including the award-winning Premium Breakwater, which can be sampled in cocktails like the Moonlighter with Ancho Reyes, falernum, lime, and chile de arbol syrup. 

Alex’s Bar Fans of the HBO series True Blood might experience a little déjà vu upon entering Alex’s Bar, which served as the set for vampire hangout Fangtasia. In reality, the bar has long been a local favorite for punk rock shows—their slogan is “Turning down the suck since 2000.” But the drinks hold their own against the entertainment. “The extensive craft beer and cocktail menu sits comfortably next to the cans of Hamm’s beer,” says Caldwell. “My go-to mixed drink is the Black Sleep of Kali Ma: rye, port, lemon, agave, and winter spices.”

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