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7 Women Running the Cocktail Bar Scene in LA

By / June 9, 2017

We already know who runs the world—and now, it’s time to find out which girls professional working women are running the cocktail scene in LA. Whether they’re crafting cocktail recipes or slinging drinks with style, these women aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—or in this case, wet—behind the bar. Turns out, females aren’t just strong as hell, they also make strong-as-hell drinks.

Courtesy of China Morbosa)

China Morbosa, Bar Manager at The Eveleigh

“Earning respect, being treated equally, and being taken seriously can be profoundly challenging in an industry like mine that has a long history of misogyny. The most important thing is to continue to believe in yourself and value feedback from those you know have your best interest in mind. The rest is just noise.”

A New Mexico native who brewed her first beer at age 10, China Morbosa’s love affair with beverages started even before she began a long career working at various hotspots across the country. These days, she puts her vast beverage knowledge to work behind the bar at The Eveleigh, where she brings a signature swagger to her shakes and stirs. A certifiable badass, who is unafraid to take chances, she’s constantly pushing the limits in terms of flavor, ingredients, and spirits.

Courtesy of Tara Shadzi


Tara Shadzi, Lead Bartender at BOA Steakhouse

“I always watch people from afar to see their reaction to the first sip of my concoction. It’s very rewarding to awaken someone’s tastebuds and then see their mood change. Great bars are a place of transformation.”

Tara Shadzi’s almost 10 years of bartending include experience learning from some of the industry’s best—aka Tony Abou-Ganim (Iron Chef), Dale DeGroff (Rainbow Room), and John Lermayer (The Florida Room). After getting her start—and spark for cocktail mixing—working with these heavy hitters, Tara went on to win the Damrak Gin Cocktail Competition, judged by Los Angeles Times food critics, and attend the Bols Bartending Academy. She is also a certified Level 2 Sommelier and runs Miss Mixologist, a bartending web series.


Courtesy of Michael's Santa Monica


Meredith Hayman, Bar Manager at Michael’s Santa Monica

“I think about a lot of things—different spirits to use, or produce to feature, and even how to vary the texture of each drink—but above all, I want my menu to be inviting and intriguing, not a scary list where you need to Google every ingredient. That’s the goal that guides me when I’m playing around with cocktails to put on the menu.”

After winning over guests at Bestia and Faith & Flower, it was no surprise when Meredith Hayman was tapped to overhaul the Michael’s Santa Monica bar program for the historic restaurant’s reopening in September 2016. Alongside Chef Miles Thompson, Meredith gets inspiration from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market for cocktails like her signature El Paseo, a granita-based drink featuring a shrub base in rotating, seasonal flavors.


Courtesy of Kimpton Hotel Palomar Los Angeles Beverly Hills


Sarah Mengoni, Lead Bartender at Double Take

“As a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry, I’ve found that when people initially talk to me, they’re less likely to view me as an authority, even when I am. However, since moving to Los Angeles from Chicago two years ago, I’ve found that there are so many more female bartenders in leadership positions here, which is really refreshing.”

Drawing on her background as an actress, Sarah Mengoni feels right at home creating experiences—and cocktails—from behind the bar. What originally started as a side hustle in Chicago has turned into a full-time career in LA, where she has led the beverage program at the Hotel Palomar Los Angeles – Beverly Hills since 2015. Sarah is inspired by California’s sunny climate and fresh produce, and can be spotted perusing the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market for ingredients for her signature Farmers’ Market Cocktail.


Courtesy of Patina Restaurant Group


Christina Russo, Lead Bartender at The BoardRoom

“We wanted people to have a place in downtown Los Angeles where they could enjoy themselves and friends, live music, and delicious food and drinks. Above all, the customer’s experience is most important to me. The cocktails augment that experience, rather than create it on their own.”

The genius behind the literary-inspired cocktails at speakeasy The BoardRoom, Christina Russo has the remarkable ability to capture the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein in her vibrant interpretations. She’s also responsible for a special rotating menu themed around a particular brand of spirit or show at the adjacent Music Center and, this summer, she’ll launch a menu around singers and actors, including Barry Manilow and Meryl Streep. Before joining The BoardRoom at its opening in March, Christina created equally creative recipes as a mixologist at Salazar.


Courtesy of Nicki Andrade


Nicki Andrade, Mixologist at Mixology 101

“I want to create unique cocktails that are interesting and approachable. If I can help someone ‘level up’ their palate or try something new, then I’m satisfied.”

Nicki Andrade has been in the restaurant industry since she started bussing tables at the age of 16, and has been bartending for over a decade—so you’re in good hands when getting your drink on at the Original Farmers Market’s Mixology 101. Grab a seat on the patio and grab a cocktail—or two—from the extensive menu, featuring everything from effervescent Champagne cocktails to sophisticated after-dinner nightcaps.


Courtesy of Big Bar/ eugeneshoots

Cari Hah, Bar Manager at Big Bar

“The team at Big Bar has such a special quality about them. Every single one of my team is 100% dedicated to providing the BEST service and hospitality they can. They are also amazing drink makers. Their passion and enthusiasm for what we do is so inspiring for me to keep pushing ahead to make our bar the best it can be.”

A beloved veteran of the LA bar scene, Cari Hah is a cocktail “tiger mom,” whose résumé includes consultancy, bartending, and brand representation for local legends like Cole’s, Three Clubs, and Clifton’s Cafeteria. Customers love her craft recipes, and cocktail competitions (including the G’vine Gin global competition and Jameson Black Barrel Competition) have recognized her expertise in showcasing the flavors of spirits. In her current role at Alcove’s Big Bar in Los Feliz, Cari is a fearless leader and advocate both for her team and for the local bartending community.


Nile Cappello is obsessed with: words, cotton candy, Southern California and eating her way across the world. She’s an online and offline over-sharer, screenwriter, only child and total klutz. She’s an expert in LA coffee shops, iced tea varieties and uncovering compelling and unique true stories.

More articles by Nile Cappello



  1. Stopping at 7 and leaving off Christine Wiseman, Yael Vengroff, Karen Grille, Brooke Arthur, Lindsay Nader, Tina Ross, Brittany Olsen, Cait Pfeiffer, Devin Tarby?

    Don’t think a lot of homework was done for this article, other than checking emails from your PR contacts.

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