Wonho Frank Lee

It's the anti-rooftop bar.

Andy Wang
September 06, 2017

Broken Shaker is a rooftop bar that will likely become one of downtown L.A.'s buzziest spots. But in many ways, this cocktail destination atop the Freehand L.A. hotel is the anti-rooftop bar.

"We're definitely not going to run it like a nightclub," says Bar Lab's Elad Zvi, who opened Broken Shaker with partner Gabe Orta last Friday. "I can promise you that. We're not cherry-picking at the door. We're not going to have a guestlist. We're not going to have a velvet rope."

There will no doubt be capacity issues on busy nights at a spot that only holds about 250 people. But beyond that, this is a come-as-you-are place with fantastic drinks in a transporting and relaxed setting.

Here are five things you should know about Broken Shaker.

The Drinks Reflect L.A.'s Produce and Diversity

Broken Shaker was born as a Miami pop-up. In Miami, Zvi and Orta grow their own herbs for cocktails. In L.A., they can just visit bountiful farmers markets like the one in Santa Monica on Wednesdays and the one in Hollywood on Sundays.

"Every day, we're inspired by L.A.," Orta says. "We're always thinking about the markets and also where we like to eat."

So bar director Christine Wiseman merges tropical-drink fantasies with all kinds of L.A. flavors.

"You can really taste the mole in this," Wiseman says of her Mrs. Roper cocktail, which weaves mole in with two kinds of rum.

Wiseman loves Little Tokyo, so her O-Fish-Ally Open cocktail featuring gin and organic miso is topped with a "glitter nori nest" that adds umami. Her showstopping Shell Beach Caipirinha includes a melon Szechuan gomme syrup.

Wiseman's multicultural influences add depth to a collection of refreshing, balanced drinks. Many are nicely sweet without being overly sugary. The drink vessels, including a plastic pineapple, are on point. The garnishes, including a pipe-cleaner pink flamingo, are equally impressive.

Wonho Frank Lee

The Vibe Is Chill

Mismatched furniture. A collection of art (including a mural from L.A.'s Luke Pelletier) that doesn't feel like it belongs in the same space. Various found objects from flea markets around the L.A area, including Long Beach and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Assorted plants that could be part of your most eccentric uncle's home garden. You'll find all of it at Broken Shaker.

Zvi and Orta, with design team Roman and Williams, purposely created a new space that's rough around the edges.

"We wanted to fuck it up a little," Orta says.

"We wanted something a little more mom-and-pop looking," says Zvi, who notes that you'll see Mexican, African and lots of Californian elements as you look around. "It's kind of all banged up in a cool way."

Adding to the boho-chic vibe are DJs with playlists heavy on reggae, funk and soul. The overall result is something that feels a world away from shiny rooftop bars where entitled customers buy bottles and stare at their phones while a Calvin Harris banger blasts on the speakers. Broken Shaker takes you to an entirely different time and place.

The Food Is Pure L.A. Drinking Food

Chef Alex Chang, who cooks Israeli food downstairs at The Exchange, is Mexican-Chinese. His version of L.A. drinking food at Broken Shaker celebrates his heritage.

He's got guacamole alongside peanut salsa (not unlike what Orta recently tried at Mexico City's Pujol, where Chang once worked). There are crispy shrimp tacos inspired by Mariscos Jalisco, a stellar L.A. food truck Orta and Zvi adore. Chang isn't trying to recreate those tacos as much as he's riffing on them.

On the Asian side of things, Chang is making chicken yakitori with Chinese flavors. He's serving egg rolls with fillings that include parsley and celery scraps from The Exchange. You could pair those with Wiseman's Trash-Tini, a martini that features kitchen scraps like repurposed, then charred onions. This is a bar that loves produce and uses as much of it as possible.

It's Family-Friendly

The rooftop is also home to Freehand L.A.'s pool, so hotel guests are welcome to bring their kids for a burger and a swim. Wiseman is working on non-alcoholic concoctions that might appeal to underage guests.

"Everyone is welcome," Zvi says. "Little kids, older people, cool people, regular people. We don't give a shit. As long as you have the right vibe, you're welcome."

Having the right vibe in this case just means not being a jerk.

If It's Busy You Can Hang Out at the Lobby Bar 

Zvi understands rooftop bars can be a hassle. He hates places where you pay $20 to valet (at Freehand L.A., it's $8 for three hours with validation) and then have a surly doorman tell you there's no way you're getting upstairs.

He's told his Broken Shaker staff to be friendly, but he does realize the bar might be at capacity on some nights. Fortunately, Freehand L.A. also has Rudolph's Bar & Tea, a lively lobby lounge focusing on tea-infused cocktails. If Broken Shaker is packed, a large-format Louisiana peach/mint julep at Rudolph's is a fine way to start or end your night.