The Daily Meal walks into a bar and — we peruse the menu, the clientele, and the drinks list; we scrutinize the drink, the place, the vibe; we take mental notes. Then, we decide to grab a wad of cocktail napkins and start scribbling notes for a list like this.
Choosing a bar is a personal matter, and, just as each person is unique, so is each bar. Sure, there are plenty of cookie-cutter Irish pubs, tacky tourist joints with sticky-sweet frozen drinks, and lackluster lounges with watered-down booze, but there are also many thousands of wonderful drinking places across the United States, too.
From simple beach bars and swanky cocktail lounges to innovative houses of "molecular" mixology to dusty dive bars and other dens of iniquity, there’s a bar for every taste. Bars are ubiquitous and unifying. They are the great socioeconomic equalizer: Nearly anyone of legal age can enter a bar, pull up a stool, and buy him- or herself a refreshing glass of liquid luxury in its many forms, from a budget ice-cold brew to a fine wine to a potent shot to a classic cocktail to a spectacular modernist creation. Bars are relatable and welcoming; they are a comfort to many in good times and bad.
The Daily Meal set out to find the most iconic bars, famous pubs, and legendary cocktail lounges in America. The last time we did this was three years ago, so needless to say, a lot has changed since then.
This year’s ranked list includes 150 bars from 42 states and the District of Columbia. New York state dominated the list with 28 establishments, all but one of which are in New York City (counting nine in Brooklyn and one in Queens). California ended up with 18 bars on the list, with Los Angeles and San Francisco each having six make the cut. Texas placed third with eleven bars, while Illinois came in fourth with eight bars, all of them in Chicago. Not far behind was Oregon; six of its seven bars on the list come from Portland’s prolific drinking scene. Washington, DC also made a notable contribution; the nation’s capital has drinking establishments on the list.
Despite the number of bars from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA, this list should not be dismissed as big-city-centric. We offer choices in some 66 municipalities, including such smaller places as Jacksonville, Oregon, and Jupiter, Florida.
The Daily Meal’s list pays homage to bars that have become influencers, whether for their hoppy brews, kitschy drinks and décor, commitment to crafting classic cocktails, or penchant for pushing the bartending boundaries with ambitious ice programs and avant-garde mixology — and also to bars that are just, well, bars. We recognize places that specialize in one variety of liquor, as well as those that have encyclopedic back bars. We include beer bars, and establishments with world-class wine lists.
Our list was chosen by The Daily Meal’s well-traveled, bar-hopping editorial staff, with help from our readers, our far-flung city editors, our network of freelancers, and such food and drink luminaries as Daily Meal Council members Lidia Bastianich, television personality, cookbook author, and restaurateur; Rick Bayless, chef, restaurateur, and television personality; and Robb Walsh, award-winning food writer and restaurateur — as well as award-winning whisky blogger and author Gregg Dillon, cocktail blogger Stacie Grissom, and Kurtis Bosley, a Sydney-based but internationally conscious bartender and Group Bars Manager at Public House Management Group.
We judged — and asked our panelists to judge — bars on these criteria:
1. DRINKS: From innovative cocktails and traditional offerings to regional and house specialties, we evaluated each bar's drink menu according to 1) selection; 2) presentation; and 3) fidelity to tradition and/or innovative excellence.
2. MIXOLOGY: The quality of 1) drink preparation and "pour"; 2) presentation; and 3) adherence to hand-crafted excellence.
3. BARTENDER: 1) Professionalism; 2) skills; and 3) personality and style of the bar staff and how they contribute to the drink preparation and the bar's ambiance.
4. DECOR/EXPERIENCE: From the bar's interior to the ambiance to the service of all staff, we evaluated the bar for the overall experience it provides. (For very casual places, where ambiance and service are beside the point, panelists judged how appropriate the surroundings were for the drinks being served.)
5. CUISINE: While not a requirement to make the list, The Daily Meal wishes to recognize bars that offer an exceptional food menu in addition to drink menu. From innovative menu options and traditional regional cooking to modern international fare to plating/presentation to quality and taste, panelists evaluated the bar’s cuisine according to 1) freshness; 2) flavor; 3) presentation; and 4) either fidelity to tradition or innovative excellence.
6. ESSENTIALS: Panelists voted for the bars considered "don't miss" establishments, definitive of their city or region. (Think in these terms: You can't leave [given city/region] without drinking at…)
So if you’re looking for a new watering hole or trying to find the best bar in town on your next trip, check out our 150 Best Bars in America for 2018.
You’ll find one of the best Mexican restaurant bars in America within El Patio, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston. It first opened in the late 1960s as a members-only bar by the name of Club Villa Sana. A “No Minors” sign was posted underneath the word “Club” on the bar’s sign, and since then “Club No Minors” has stuck. Getting a little rowdy here is encouraged, and you may find some tabletop dancers in the form of other patrons. A mariachi band plays at least three nights a week, creating the perfect atmosphere for you to enjoy their intensely strong blue margaritas or a cold brew.
While some have described Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors — a liquor store is attached — as a dive bar, the late Walter “Wally” Updike once described it as “a neighborhood bar stepped in tradition.” Around since before even Walt Disney World, Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors has kept up with newer and hotter bars with a drinks menu full of beer, bourbon, mezcal, scotch, whiskey, tequila, vodka, wine and more. It’s got an old-school look, complete with a jukebox (which is actually a bit more new-school, considering it has a touch screen) and affordable prices.
Established in 1963, Mario’s Fishbowl continues to shine as the best bar in all of West Virginia, a state with quite a few of them thanks to the presence of West Virginia University and its party-hard populace. Mario no longer owns the place, but the namesake “fishbowl” glasses are still very much evident, a relic from the days when the building used to house the Richwood Avenue Confectionary. Signs on the walls display the victories of WVU students and other patrons in drinking and eating contests over the years. With new owners, an expanded menu, and an updated kitchen, Mario’s Fishbowl manages to stay nostalgic while also keeping up with its newer and younger customers.
Declared the No. 1 sports bar by The Dallas Observer, Frankie’s Downtown has been lauded by both local and national media, making an appearance on our list of the 50 best sports bars in America as well. In addition to exceptional bar food like their calamari steak diavolo or Frankie’s loaded fries, the bar also has 20 Texas craft beers on tap for you to enjoy while you watch a game on one of their 44 HD TVs.
Located at the historic Capital Hotel, the Capital Bar & Grill is a posh restaurant and bar frequented by many politicians and leading businessmen in Little Rock. It’s not hard to see why, as its culinary menu is an ode to Southern cuisine with modern elements — the kitchen deals as deftly with fried chicken and meatloaf as with artisan cheese and charcuterie. There’s also a lot offered here in the way of drinks, from classic cocktails like the Bee’s Knees or the Knickerbocker to more creative ones such as the Debutante (kai lychee vodka, St-Germain, and lime and grapefruit juice, with grapefruit bitters and a basil leaf corsage garnish) or the Eiffel Flower (Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, St-Germain with bubbles, and a lemon twist)
The Salty Dawg Saloon was established in 1957 and is housed in a late-nineteenth-century building, one of the original cabins from the town site in Homer. If you’re tall, you’ll have to duck to enter this low-ceilinged bar, but inside is some really fun décor that includes life rings, dollars, and endless bric-a-brac (for years, the eclectic curios even included a prosthetic leg, until someone stole it to take it back to its owner). Ask the friendly bar staff, some of whom have been tending the same bar for decades, for signature cocktails with the Salty Dog (vodka — the original was made with gin — and grapefruit juice with a salted rim) and the Duck Fart (a shot purportedly originating in Kodiak, composed of Kahlúa, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Crown Royal).
For over 50 years, Kon Tiki Restaurant & Lounge has brought an island vibe to Tucson. The tiki bar looks almost exactly as it did when it first opened — complete with gas-powered tiki torches, the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, and assorted island curios. With plenty of films being shot in the Tuscon area, the likes of Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and Robert Wagner have stopped in for a drink. Indulge in signature island drinks like the Koko Pino (tropical pineapple and coconut blended with shaved ice and rum) or the Kanaloa (banana, orange, and pineapple mixed with Absolut Mango). Kon Tiki’s frosty drinks also pair nicely with the delicious food offered by the restaurant. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki pupus (appetizers) like Monkeys on a Stick (tender cubes of sirloin skewered, marinated, and charbroiled, and served with a teriyaki glaze) and Birds on a Stick (same idea, but with chicken); Tiki Chips (sugar-coated wonton chips served with teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce); and Hawaiian barbecue chicken (seasoned, grilled, and finely basted chicken breast with house recipe barbecue sauce, all topped with a pineapple ring).
Connecticut’s best bar is as old as the nation itself. The Griswold Inn opened its doors in 1776, promising “First Class Accommodations, Fine Food and Spirits.” Some 240 years and six family owners later, the inn, its wine bar, and its Tap Room at The Gris (which opened in 1801) still lives up to that promise. Popular with yachters, locals, and celebrities alike (Katherine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billy Joel, and many others have had drinks here), the hotel and Tap Room are filled with maritime art, brass bells, and binnacles. There is live music every night, from Dixieland and swing to sea shanties. The Tap Room has an elegant domed ceiling that evokes a time gone by, part of what New York Magazine once called “the best looking drinking room anywhere in America.” Additionally, a Christmas tree sits year-round on top of a potbelly stove in the center of the room, and there’s an antique popcorn machine that continuously pops popcorn. There are several beers on tap including the bar’s own Revolutionary Ale. Cocktails change seasonally, but perennially popular ones are the Connecticut Mule and Liberty Lemonade in the summer, hot buttered rum in the winter, and the Bloody Mary all year round. Tavern food is served from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily, and includes award-winning New England clam chowder.
Although it was actually opened in 1976, Pengilly’s Saloon, in the Old Boise Historic District, has an early-twentieth-century theme that features pool tables, mounted animal heads, and vintage wallpaper. The 114-year-old hardwood Brunswick bar serves all kinds of drinks — including $2 well drinks and draft beers during the daily happy hours. Tabs are rung up on a turn-of-the-century National Cash Register, adding to the old-school vibe. On most nights, there is no cover charge for the live music.
The Red Key Tavern is an institution that has been in the Settle family since 1951, and it truly is a family establishment. The bar’s late proprietor, Russ Settle, was famous for his list of “the rules” that every patron had to follow. His wife Dollie has been the bartender for decades now, and along with her son Jim and granddaughter Leslie, continues to enforce those rules today: No feet on the furniture; no chairs in the aisle; cash only; hang up your coat and hat; use your indoor voice; don’t swear; and, most importantly, the bartender is always right! Frequented by locals, touring musicians, and writers, the bar is known for its ice-cold bottled beer and straightforward cocktails. The place itself is a throwback. From the neon sign over the door (four musical notes depict the old boozy song “How Dry I Am”) to the post-war selection of 45s on the jukebox to the original 1950s Formica tables and straight-back chairs, the bar’s décor has remained virtually untouched since the day Settle bought the place. The linoleum-tiled floor has a path worn between the jukebox and restrooms, and there’s plenty of kitsch here, too, like the stuffed antelope head behind the bar and the World War II-era model planes hanging from the ceiling. Don’t miss the cheeseburgers — cooked on a flattop grill — or Dollie’s potato salad.
Housed in a former tractor/farm implement store, Johnny’s Tavern was founded way back in 1953, and the original sign still hangs out front today. Since then, the bar has changed hands, undergone renovations to the upstairs to include an additional bar and party rooms, and expanded into eight other locations in Kansas and Missouri. Through all of that, people have never stopped coming back to the original location in Lawrence for the daily drink specials, the loyalty program, and Cajun Night on the first and third Wednesday of each month (Trivia Night takes over the other Wednesdays). As per Kansas state law, all bars must serve food, and Johnny’s honors this with some of the best pizza in town and about 25 topping options. It also happens to be the best place in town to watch a Jayhawks or Royals game on TV.
Right outside of Detroit, the Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar is, in fact, a martini bar, serving concoctions made with house-infused Tito’s vodka, among other variations — including raspberry-infused for the Vixen Martini, strawberry-infused for the Strawberry Mule, and pineapple-infused for the Pineapple Mule. There are 23 martinis in all, but there's also plenty of whisky/whiskey, with the house signature non-martini cocktail being the Kentucky Buck: Ridgemont Reserve 1792 (the bar’s exclusive single-barrel hand-selected blend) with freshly muddled strawberries, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and ginger beer. There's dark mood lighting, live music, and a lively dance floor, and a menu that includes sliders made with prime rib and “zip” cheese, crab cake, and chicken parmesan.
Courtesy of City Grocery
Since 1992, James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence has been crafting a conglomerate of eateries and bars in Oxford, Mississippi. The French-inspired Southern fare at City Grocery draws diners to its fine dining room, and the more casual upstairs bar, aptly titled The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery, has become a destination as well for its extensive wine list, short list of classic cocktails, and snacks. Try the Jesús María (Patrón tequila, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the Oxfordian (Maker’s Mark bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with prosecco) and pair them with bar snacks like crispy fried hot chicken with honey; the fried bologna sandwich with Cheese Whiz; and the shrimp and grits made from spicy Original GritGirl grits, sautéed shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, white wine, lemon juice, and Big Bad Bacon.
Charlie’s Bar (aka Charlie B’s) is a dive that has been around for decades. With a bar that runs down the entire space, cheap drinks, a pool table, and a small-town vibe, this cash-only establishment caters to everyone from college students to retirees, and makes even out-of-towners feel welcome..The back room, the Dinosaur Café, serves burgers and Cajun and Creole cuisine that’s absolutely worth trying.
For 80 years, McGovern’s Tavern, an Irish pub located six blocks from Newark’s Penn Station, has attracted a clientele of blue collar types, office workers, college students, and police officers and firefighters (many of whose hats and helmets hang from the ceiling). Originally opened by Frank McGovern in 1936 as a meeting place for Irish immigrants, the bar survived the Newark riots in 1967 (which led to the closure of many businesses) and today serves up pints of Guinness, other brews, and bar fare like a 10-inch pizza and a sandwich called the Dublin Decker (corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing served on rye bread). McGovern's is closed on weekends.
Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis and the bartenders of The Velvet Tango Room are “torchbearers of tradition.” Since 1996, long before it was trendy, the crew here have been featuring well-made versions of classic cocktails. There are also, though, about 30 house creations, including the India Lime Fizz (gin, rum, flora India limes, vanilla, and a whole egg). The bar is housed in a space that was once a speakeasy — bullet holes can still be seen in the ceiling — with the bars made of refinished mahogany and the front room featuring a baby grand piano at which music is played nightly by a three-piece jazz combo and a late-night pianist. The second room is reached by walking through a mirror in the coatroom. There’s another baby grand piano there, along with a cozy fireplace, comfy leather chairs, and, beyond the room, a patio where some of the bar’s cocktail ingredients are grown. Both rooms have old-fashioned black-and-white TVs showing classic movies with no sound. There are limited snacks, such as speck, which is locally sourced smoked pork belly.
The fact that Academia landed a spot on this list is pretty impressive, considering it just opened in December 2017. It’s not surprising, however, as it’s the latest venture from Russell Davis of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue and industry experts Danny Ronen and Chris Daus. Academia, which has an Ivy League theme, distinguishes itself not only through service and a great menu but with a lighting system designed by a Cirque du Soleil director that’s meant to influence your mood, and an aromatics system timed to produce “ambient scents and pheromones” according to a press release from the bar before its opening. The bar has even more unique features that cater to a younger, more tech-savvy crowd, and its cocktail menu, offering classics, new inventions, and "faculty signatures," features fresh-pressed juices and quite a bit of ingenuity, from a Cosmopolitan (above) that might actually be worth drinking (the cranberry juice is house-pressed and there's orange oil involved) to the bracing Fresh Dill (Linie Aquavit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, St-Germain, saline solution, dill, and salmon roe).
The claim to fame for Edna’s in Oklahoma City is that it’s “home of the original Lunchbox.” However, it’s not the kind of lunchbox you’re thinking of. Edna’s Lunchbox is a signature cocktail made of Coors Light, an amaretto shot, and a splash of orange juice. The food menu also includes the option to “Lunchbox up” your sweet potato fries by drizzling amaretto-infused marshmallow sauce on top and adding almonds.
Cook and Brown Public House is a modern New England-inspired take on a European gastropub. The bar, which has a separate restaurant area, is well-known for its extensive selection of spirits, with a focus on whiskeys. The back bar is crammed with 200 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and bitters. The seasonally changing drink menu features a rotating punch, a hot drink, and a barrel-aged cocktail along with 10 cleverly named concoctions along the lines of the Port-Tea Like It’s 1999 (Mellow Corn whiskey, Six Grapes port, Meletti amaro, lemon, and black tea) and the Vieux From the Flor (Tequila Ocho Reposado, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry, St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur, Cardamaro, and orange bitters). The seasonally changing food menu, curated by proprietor and head chef Nemo Bolin (who previously worked at L’Etoile on Martha’s Vineyard), pairs well with the drinks. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken liver pâté built up with beef bone marrow and served with a rotating selection of mustards, house-made jams and pickles, and crusty country toast.
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is as Wild West as it gets, complete with leather saddles atop their bar stools. The joint refers to itself as a “landmark watering hole,” which is hard to deny since you can’t miss the enormous glowing sign across the front of the building, topped with a neon cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Upon entering, guests are greeted by a giant grizzly bear before coming face to face with the largest selection of single-barrel Jack Daniel’s in the Northwest. The food at the attached steakhouse is great, and the live music is always entertaining, but there’s still nothing better than downing a drink at the bar of an old Western saloon — especially one that was the first in the state to receive a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition. Come here to one of the best dive bars in the United States for the hard stuff but also for specialties like Million Dollar Cowboy Bar Beer, a golden ale brewed by Grand Teton Brewing Company from pure Teton spring water, and wines from Sonoma County.
Serving Italian food with fresh locally-sourced ingredients, Aida Bistro & Wine Bar pairs excellent wine with an indulgent culinary experience through their Wine on Tap system, one of the largest in the country. Try red and white wines from around the world as well as premier American wine regions in California, Washington, and Oregon, as well as a couple from Aida’s home state of Maryland. Aida doesn’t just serve wine, however. You can join their official Wine Club, which offers multiple benefits such as exclusive special offers and promotions as well as member-only dinners and wine tastings.
The Alembic specializes in craft cocktails, but also has a good selection of drafts, bottled beer, and wine. Try the Southern Exposure (the bar’s version of the classic South Side with gin, lime juice, fresh celery juice, sugar, and mint) or something from classic “Canon” menu such as the bourbon old-fashioned (bourbon on the rocks with a couple dashes of bitters, sugar, and lemon peel). Built from the old bleachers of Kezar Stadium, the Alembic also serves some great food that changes with the seasons, and their small plates menu features dishes like jerk-spiced duck hearts and Josey Baker bread.
Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library offers not just whisky but craft cocktails, beer, wine, and all sorts of spirits, claiming that their collection represents “all major, and lesser, styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world.” The bartenders here pride themselves on their mixology as well as their knowledge of cocktail history and pairings.
In addition to casual dining, Room 11 provides a fantastic wine and beer selection as well as some of D.C.’s best cocktails. If you don’t see what you want listed, just tell the bartender exactly what you’re looking for. Order a Rite of Spring made with gin, chamomile honey, lemon, and lavender bitters, or go for something more intense like the Dragonslayer, made with Bonal, Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, Maurin Quina, and green Chartreuse with house orange bitters.
Bar Manager Drew Lucido and chef Gerard Craft are all about providing a mix of creative and classic cocktails with seasonal new American small plates at Taste Bar. The cocktail menu includes 35 classics and 15 originals served in the intimate, steampunk-style speakeasy. Current favorites on the ever-changing cocktail menu include A World Without Shrimp (Uncle Val's restorative, lemon, grapefruit cordial, cocchi rosa, charred sage, and pink salt) and the Game of Thrones-inspired Take the Black (kina l'aero d'or, fernet vallet, sotol, spicy tequila, and winter savory tincture). You can also go with Bar's Choice, in which Lucido and the bartending team will create a cocktail specifically catered to your preferences. You'll also find a number of small and large plates on the menu, meant to pair perfectly with different drinks. Go for the Deviled Eggs Benedict with English muffin, salmon rillete, and hollandaise, or try their popular Pork Burger with bacon, cheese, and fries.
Donna looks like a pretty typical Williamsburg joint — craft cocktails, an Instagrammable interior, and an artsy menu that would look great on your wall — but it’s quite exceptional in its entertainment, going that extra mile for its patrons. It’s also pretty affordable, with happy hours every day of the workweek and local tacos plus other Latin small plates. Enjoy their creative cocktail list featuring quite a bit of rum while watching local bands and DJs perform live.
The most popular Hawaiian bar on Yelp, Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar is a great place to party in paradise. Located inside the Stay Hotel Waikiki, it’s a popular gay bar that also features unique drinks such as their homemade ginger beer, different fruit-flavored mimosas, and martinis such as the mangotini and their popular lychee co-tini. There’s also great food that’s especially enjoyable at their Sunday brunch, which features an omelet bar and flowing mimosas.
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club is currently the pride of the state after being named The Daily Meal's Best Bar in Alabama and Southern Living's The South's Best Bar last year. Since 1946, Callaghan’s has been bringing together the local Irish community, as well as anyone else who wants to join in the fun of live music, drinks, and delicious burgers.
Named one of the top 10 bars in Chicago by both The Guardian and Condé Nast Traveller, Billy Sunday is a great gin and tonic bar that, in addition to plenty of beer and wine, also has four tonic cocktails on tap. Try the Octli, made from blanco tequila and tonic flavored with sweet woodruff and wormwood, or the Hart, which mixes rum with tonic infused with goji berry and wild cherry bark. The place is owned and managed by famed restaurateur Matthias Merges (Gideon Sweet, A10), so the food is fantastic too; try the cheesy monkey bread, duck rillettes, or steak tartare.
Connected to New York Distilling Company, Shanty features cocktails, craft brews, and of course distilled spirits both from its distillery next door and from around the world. Pick a gin- or rye-based cocktail from the menu to enjoy while listening to live music or stop by on the weekend for a distillery visit, which includes the special behind-the-scenes VIP tour as well as a complimentary 200-milliliter flask and a Shanty cocktail.
The Baldwin and Sons Trading Co. is located just a floor above its (similarly-named) sister, the Baldwin Bar, in Massachusetts’ Baldwin Mansion. This cocktail bar, which has just 45 seats and is only open from Thursday through Sunday, is run by acclaimed bartender Ran Duan, whose parents have the Chinese restaurant on the floor below. The names of the cocktails are almost as creative as their ingredients; the Time of Opportunity features Suntory Toki whiskey, matcha, coconut, banana, lime, egg whites, sesame, and tajín (a Mexican spice mixture), while the Two Roads Diverged serves two guests with Greenhook plum gin mixed with jade oolong and Maurin Rouge and infused with strawberry, cucumber, and lemon.
True to its name, Tradition is a bar dedicated to honoring America’s strong drinking traditions. There’s a reservations-only area of the bar that we suggest you take advantage of so that you can get a hold of the big leather-bound menu with every option from the bar’s eight themes, each of which reflects a part of drinking history, such as Public House, Dive Bar, Scottish Pub, or Grand Hotel. If you’re not a cocktail fan, that’s all right, as they do have a full bar with plenty of options for you to enjoy in one of their cozy and private wooden booths.
You can find some of the best food and the best drinks in the Atlanta in the Little Five Points neighborhood, at the Porter Beer Bar. Try their amazing Belgian fries, goat cheese fritters, or "Porn Dog" (an over-the-top hot dog). Over 700 bottled beers and 44 draft beers populate the menu here, which also includes whiskey, wine, and cocktails.
ROKC raised the bar for innovative drinks when it opened up last year in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Hamilton Heights. ROKC — which stands for Ramen, Oysters, Kitchen, Cocktails — takes its inspiration from Tokyo, where owner and beverage director Shigefumi Kabashima studied under the Japanese cocktail master Kazuo Uyeda of the city's Tender Bar. Simple yet refreshingly different, some popular drinks include the pistachio cocktail which consists of dry gin, house pistachio cream, Campari, and clementine, and a Thai tea cocktail made of cachaça, Thai tea, condensed milk, egg white, and absinthe.
Located in downtown Kansas City, the Kill Devil Club is a classy spot for craft cocktails and small plates. Named one of Food & Wine’s Best Bars to visit in the U.S., the bar not only serves great drinks but holds tasting sessions and offers lessons in how to make your own. Enjoy live music as you try the She Loves Me Not (Citadelle gin, Green Chartreuse, ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, and Bar Keep Apple Bitters) or the the Kill Devil Punch (Don Q light rum and Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum with Batavia Arrack, cinnamon bark syrup, and fresh lime juice.)
Marvel Bar combines classic Japanese bartending methods with new American cocktail creativity. “Our minimalist, outside-the-box style of innovation has led to the invention of new genres of drinks, such as emulsified sours, hyper-diluted cocktails, charcoal-filtered cocktails, and alkaline cocktails,” says beverage director Pip Hanson, whose own favorite is the dry martini. His preferred recipe was adapted from a French cocktail book published in 1904: a 3-to-1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth with a single dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. “Hand-chipped ice, one of our signature Japanese influences, makes an enormous difference in the final temperature and dilution of this drink,” explains Hanson, who tended bar at Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo and studied classic Japanese cocktail technique. Marvel Bar has 400 different spirits, 11 single barrels of bourbon and rye from Kentucky, and a constantly rotating cocktail menu featuring classics and avant-garde original creations crafted with the perfectionism of Ginza cocktail masters. Additionally, general manager Peder Schweigert was a culinary producer on Top Chef Season 5, worked the kitchen at Alinea in Chicago, and won Iron Bartender in 2010 after less than a year of working with spirits. He crafts Marvel Bar’s signature cocktails like the Oliveto, a combination of an egg white gin sour with olive oil that the bar dubbed an "emulsified sour.”
Executive Chef Bryan Voltaggio — a finalist on both Top Chef Season 6 and Top Chef Masters Season 55 — opened up a market-style restaurant in 2013 that has gone on to become one of Food & Wine’s Best Bars to visit in the U.S. and now part of our top 150 as well. In addition to its modern seasonal menu centering ingredients from the mid-Atlantic region, Range’s bar also has a wine program and a cocktail program featuring a extensive selection. The wine list is organized by style instead of region and the cocktails feature creations by head mixologist Kathryn Nakamura such as 99 Problems (cognac and dark rum with passion fruit, Angostura bitters, and lime) and Gettin’ Figgy With It (rye, bourbon, fig and maple gastrique, and Dolin vermouth with bitters).
Maison Première has made a name for itself by offering serious craft cocktails and fresh seafood in a beautiful space with a garden. There's a New Orleans vibe to the place, emphasized by antiques, skillful lighting, and appropriate music. The bar, led by bar director Maxwell Britten and head bartender William Elliot, specializes in absinthe cocktails like the signature Maison Absinthe Colada (Mansinthe absinthe, Rhum JM, crème de menthe, pineapple, and coconut syrup). Chef Lisa Giffen serves a variety of French-inspired shared plates and entrées, including 30 types of oysters and assorted crudos.
The folks behind No Vacancy at the Juniper Hotel — which is a bar, with no hotel attached — have worked hard to evoke 1930s nostalgia, from its vintage hotel decor — including a detailed lobby — in the Victorian-style former residence to its dress code, which discourages not only shorts, sports gear, logos, flip flops, and most hats, but also shiny shirts and loud colors. Guests can enjoy a list of 12 cocktails, known as The Dirty Dozen, at the antique bar on the patio or in the lush outdoor garden. There's live music, and sometimes burlesque, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays.
Prairie School has only been open for a few months, but it has quickly become a key player in the Chicago cocktail world. The bar pays homage to the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright with a modern, minimalistic interior, and serves an assortment of cocktails that change every couple of weeks. Recently available are drinks like a straightforward Whisky Highball made with Suntory Toki and sparkling water, and the Eve, made with Death’s Door gin, Dolin Génépy des Alpes, Cyril Zangs Cedre Eau de Vie, and lemon juice.
Opened more than 40 years ago by the son of the proprietor of Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub in Syracuse, New York, The Dubliner is the United States’s largest purveyor of Guinness, and the only place in the country you’ll find the bar’s exclusive Amber Ale and Irish Lager, brewed in County Kilkenny, Ireland specially for The Dubliner. Taking its name from a famous collection of short stories by James Joyce, it’s one of the best Irish pubs in America.
Dutch Kills is cocktail bar in Long Island City with a strong speakeasy vibe thanks to its somewhat hidden entrance and dark, chic ambiance. Although there is some beer and wine available, cocktails are the specialty here, with the menu featuring drinks like the Headless Horseman (vodka and fresh lime juice with house-made ginger syrup, Angostura bitters, and soda water) and the Whiskey Fix (bourbon or rye and fresh lemon juice with sugar). What really makes the place stand out, though, is its ice; Dutch Kills is one of a handful of bars with an in-house Clinebell machine, which means that their ice is frozen in-house and cut by hand so that they can control the water content in a cocktail, giving you drinks that are truly ice-cold and really packed with flavor.
Dick’s Place is a nice local spot where you can enjoy regional brews and bands with a fantastic ocean view. You can even take your dog, as there’s a small outdoor patio in the back, and inside you can play with pinball machines or darts after picking a song on the old-school jukebox. The locals who frequent this place bring about a laid-back, friendly vibe, and the Bloody Marys are famous. We should note that it’s cash-only at Dick's, although there’s an ATM inside if you come unprepared.
The Beachcomber offers one of the best views in Cape Cod as well as a full raw bar and an assortment of specialty drinks. It's closed during the winter, but this is the top summer spot for food, friends, and drinks, all day long. Enjoy a lobster roll and some Cape Cod potato chips with one of the Beachcomber’s jumbo-sized specialty drinks. Their Goombay Smash is undeniably a popular pick, while the Cape Cod Bloody Mary is a perfect choice for midday drinkers. You can also try the Cruzan Confusion — a heavy-hitting tropical blend of Cruzan Mango and Coconut rums and pineapple juice. On balmy days, there’s no better choice than the classic Dark 'n' Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer). But don’t leave yet! The bar turns into a nightclub after the sun sets, featuring live music with a full calendar of summer performers!
Once named one of the top 10 whiskey bars in the nation by GQ, The Silver Dollar serves plenty of beers and drafts but excels with its cocktails and bourbons. Popular drinks include the Gold Rush (Old Fitzgerald with honey syrup and lemon) and the Kentucky Mule (Wild Turkey 101 with ginger syrup and lime). The menu is full of Southern fare as well as some classic Tex-Mex like huevos rancheros and smoked chicken enfrijoladas.
Spirit of 77’s website calls it “a Portland-centric bar for the sporting enthusiast,” and indeed, Esquire magazine once called it an “inspired re-imaginging of the American sports bar.” You won’t be lacking in draft beers or games to watch, as they’ve got the NFL Sunday Ticket, ESPN Gameplan, and the NBA League Pass. Throw your game day party in their upstairs event space, called the Lil’ Spirit, which features flatscreen TVs and its own mini-bar.
McMahon’s Public House is in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, just a block away from Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders, which is part of why it’s the perfect sports bar. Fifteen large-screen HDTVs and three large projection screens help, too, as does the array of craft and draft beers available. McMahon's is a beautiful bar, too, with a true Irish touch — an Irish carpenter made the interior — and classic bar food like nachos, wings, and quesadillas.
If you’re judging bars by how they suit the needs of simply sports fans, 33 Taps comes out on top. True to its name, there are 33 rotating draft beers on tap at this LA sports bar, where fun food like breakfast burgers and bacon mac-n-cheese make chowing down while watching the game extra enjoyable. Stop by for Dodgers game day specials, which start with the first pitch.
Cited over and over as one of New York’s most authentic Irish pubs, Molly’s has been around for more than 50 years, serving its famous shepherd’s pie and an ample beer selection. This cozy establishment has operated as one public house or another since 1895, and still sports its original Honduran mahogany bar and wood-burning fireplace.
Polite Provisions calls itself “manufacturers of local tonics, elixirs, and cures.” With a friendly and determinedly laid-back attitude — reservations aren’t accepted — there’s lots to explore, not only on the beer and wine list (extensive and constantly changing) but with the cocktail selection. House favorites include the Brave Companion (bourbon, fresh lemon, crème de cacao and vanilla gomme) and the Zombie (gold, Jamaican, and 151-proof rums, lime, grapefruit, grenadine, cinnamon, absinthe, and bitters). They don’t offer any food, but you can stop next door at Soda & Swine to place an order that they’ll deliver to you at the bar.
Breaking into the top 100, Square Grouper Tiki Bar’s Jupiter location (there’s one in Fort Pierce, too) is a national landmark in the realm of beach bars, and not just because it’s where Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” music video was filmed. (The curious term “square grouper” is a nickname given to “bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of planes,” according to Urban Dictionary.) Enjoy live music on their stage along with one of their many margaritas, frozen drinks, and other cocktails — like the Frozen Joe (whipped cream vodka and Kahlúa with cappuccino and cream) or the Sunrise Breakfast (Van Gogh Pineapple and Stoli O vodka, peach schnapps, and fresh fruit juices). It’s always 5 o’clock in Jupiter.
Located in the uptown New Orleans neighborhood of Black Pearl, this popular tavern caters primarily to sports lovers with its 17 flatscreen TVs, but its 400 brands of domestic and imported beers, including some 60 brews on tap, are sure to draw in any beer lover, even those who don't care about watching the game. Famous for its freakishly oversized raw oysters, the place also serves such pub grub perfect for game day as po'boys, mac and cheese bites, and chili cheese fries.
Not much has changed since the late Ray Buhen opened the Tiki-Ti on the far eastern end of Sunset Boulevard in 1961. Today, his son and grandson, Michael and Mike Buhen, along with bartender Greg Bansuelo, carry on the tradition of exotic cocktail-making at the family-owned and -operated tropical bar that serves 92 different tiki drinks. The place is tiny — there are just 12 stools and a handful of tables against the walls. Regular customers are immortalized with nameplates on the bar’s walls, and almost all the tiki pictures and items adorning the bar were donated by long-time patrons. Those in the know understand the bar’s quirks — from the strict no-in-and-out policy to the odd opening schedule (Wednesday through Saturday only) to the fact that smoking is permitted. Don’t be surprised to see a long line outside — it’s worth the wait. Try the orange-flavored Blood and Sand, with your choice of bourbon, Scotch, or tequila.
Located on the rooftop of the Rio Las Vegas, VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub is a great bar and lounge where you can take advantage of the stunning sights of the Strip. Fifty floors above street level, it’s a great place for dancing, with live DJs and VIP bottle service available. Their bartenders are known for having an extra flair, conjuring up drinks like expensive yet Instagram-worthy Witch Doctor, filled with rum and dry ice.
Established in 1995, George & Dragon styles itself as a traditional English pub, serving classic British foods such as their award-winning fish and chips, as well as imported stout, lager, and what they claim is the largest selection of imported draft beer and Scotch in the Phoenix area. It’s a local favorite, named Best Pub multiple times by the Phoenix New Times, and also appeared in 2016 on Bar Rescue, which gave the place a makeover.
Yard House claims to have the world’s largest selection of draft beer, and we don’t doubt them: They offer over 125 examples on tap. At this popular sports bar, you can come in to watch a game and then stay for late-night happy hour, which includes $5 vampire tacos and $4 off craft and import half yards (literally, half a yard of beer in a very long glass).
Going strong since 1860, McGillin’s is Philly’s oldest tavern, and also one of the city’s very best, frequented by locals, including city politicians, and visitors alike. They have 30 draft beers, particularly from local microbreweries, as well as bottled beers. European ales, lagers, and pilsners are also available, and they serve three house specialties: McGillin’s Real Ale, McGillin’s Genuine Lager, and McGillin’s 1860 IPA. Be generous to your server: The ship's bell behind the bar tolls for bad tippers.
A self-described “pan-Latin cocktail bar,” Leyenda is unusual in that its owner, bartender, and head chef are all women. Cocktail icon Julie Reiner, founder of Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge, opened the place with her longtime employee, Ivy Mix. Not only has Mix made our own list of America’s best bartenders, but she has also been named Mixologist of the Year (in 2016) by Wine Enthusiast and declared one of the most influential bartenders of the last century by Supercall. Popular drinks include the Tia Mia (espadin mezcal and Jamaican rum with Orange Curaçao, lime, and orgeat syrup) and the frozen Headless Horseman (cachaça and allspice dram with pumpkin, coconut, cinnamon, orange, and lime). Chef Sue Torres complements these Latin-inspired drinks with Latin food of her own such as spinach and manchego empanadas, tequila-flamed shrimp arepas, and Grandma Torres’s pernil and mofongo (Puerto Rican-style roast pork shoulder with mashed green plantains, garlic, and parsley).
Spirit isn’t just a cocktail bar, but also a pizzeria and event space. The pizza truly is good, but its their local brews on tap and interesting cocktails such as the Ole Smokey Dog (Ole Smokey Mango-Habanero Whiskey, grapefruit, orange, and Straub beer) and Magic Beer (Hop Farm Cream Ale, Root Beer Schnapps, and lemon) that earn this lounge a place on this list.
Libertine Liquor Bar’s website proclaims that “a productive drunk is the bane of moralists.” That attitude is definitely reflected in their celebration of the American drinking tradition, built around a solid menu of cocktails, wines, and beers, as well as an impressive level of hospitality. Featured cocktails, which often change, have included the Minero Fumador (Rayu Mezcal with hazelnut falernum, fresh lime, honey, and black walnut bitters) and the Citricos Amargos (Casa Pacific Blanco Tequila with fresh lime, grapefruit salt, grapefruit Jarritos, and cotton candy).
Owner Jeff Cahill lovingly refers to Bar Liquorice — which he opened with partners Tom Looney and Ed Scherer in 2014 — as the “little corner bar that could.” In fact, it has risen to become one of Baltimore’s top cocktail lounges, with a cozy, slightly upscale vibe in a space equipped with chandelier lights and cozy lounge chairs. Bartenders will customize cocktails for their customers, and the food is fresh and fun — from the Bang Mi (a cherry-bourbon-and-espresso-infused pulled barbecue pork dish) to Jeff’s Attitude Adjustment, a Nutella bread pudding. Come in on a Monday night for Monday Movies and enjoy one of the creative cocktails or one of the wines selected daily for serving at just $4 a glass (a promotion that carries over to Tuesday nights, too).
The Bella Union is quite well known locally for its pizza, but it’s also got a great bar with an extensive menu of craft beers and wines, the latter of which are sure to impress — as the place is located in the Rogue Valley, famous for its vintages. Try one of the Rogue Valley wines offered here such as the Roxy Ann Pinot Gris or the South Stage Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon for a taste of regional excellence.
With a theme that combines 1920s and 1950s nostalgia, Yvonne’s is a “supper club” with an internationally influenced menu featuring dishes like jamón ibérico croquettes and chicken and quinoa meatballs. One of Food & Wine’s Best Bars in America, they also have a solid list of wine and beer in addition to such creative cocktails as the Money Make Her Smile (vodka with pear shrub, lemon, and bubbles) and Judo Chop (Japanese whisky with chamomile, plum bitters, and lemon).
Galaxie is restaurant that turns into a party bar at night, known for "Wakatakas," their handmade flatbread spin on tacos, and Vader Fries (French fries loaded with tahini cheese sauce, avocado crema, pickled red onion, feta cheese, and cilantro) but, more to the point, for such cocktails as their spicy margaritas and the gin-based Rosy Crucifixion.
Modeled after a nineteenth-century saloon, with twentieth-century updates, Clover Club was one of the first serious cocktail bars to open in modern-day Brooklyn, way back in 2008. The standards here are high, but the tone is laid-back. The bar menu lists 30 to 35 cocktails, most which change seasonally, including its namesake Clover Club cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white). Since Brooklynites prefer whiskey, according to the Clover Club, its Improved Whiskey cocktail, a riff on the old fashioned made with rye whiskey, maraschino, absinthe, and bitters, is quite popular in the neighborhood. The quaint bar is paneled in dark wood and punctuated with wrought iron, a tin ceiling, an ornately carved bar from 1897, and leather seats. The seasonally changing food menu features small and medium plates, like house-made potato crisps tossed in duck fat, mac and cheese, a lamb burger, and deviled eggs. There’s brunch on the weekends, too.
Distil calls itself “Milwaukee’s House of Bourbon,” as can be seen in such bourbon cocktails as the Saffron Sour (a spin on the amaretto sour, made with Lazzaroni Amaretto, Knob Creek Bourbon, saffron orange syrup, egg white, and orange and Angostura bitters) and Distil Manhattan (Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino with cherry park vanilla and Angostura bitters). They also serve a few red and white wines along with a couple of sparkling choices, but cocktails are the focus. Distil also serves pretty good burgers, nachos, steak, and other classic bar fare. (Distil is currently closed for renovations. Check their website for news on when they will reopen.)
It’s said that the cocktail originated from New Orleans with the invention of the Sazerac. Whether or not it's true, the Big Easy sure knows to mix them, and the Carousel Bar & Lounge is no exception. The birthplace of the Goody and Vieux Carré cocktails, it’s located within the Hotel Monteleone in the city’s French Quarter and has been a local favorite since 1949, still going strong. There’s an Old World France feel to the place, which has a revolving bar that looks like a carousel without the animals. Decorated with glass chandeliers, antique mirrors, hand-painted chairs, and French limestone floors, the interior of the Carousel Bar & Lounge complements its lavish menu. In addition to their famed Vieux Carré (Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Pierre Ferrand 1840, sweet vermouth, and Bénédictine with bitters), the bar is also known for their Sazerac (made with Sazerac rye and Herbsaint absinthe, bitters, and simple syrup) and the Fleur des Lis, made with Hendrick’s Gin and St. Germain mixed with lemon juice, cucumber, ginger ale, and soda.
Nick’s has been a staple in Bloomington since 1927, and became famous partly because of longtime waitress Ruthie Collier Stewart (1927-2011), who was legendary for her sass and wit. Serving local meats and beers, it’s a great bar for watching sports but also has some pretty sweet bar food (try Nick’s hot chicken wings or the Sink the Biz fries) and a good selection of brews, including craft beers. Weekly early evening bar specials include $3 "hot shots" of Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Jameson, or Ketel 1; a double Absolut Bloody Mary ($7), and Avion margaritas ($5)
This Austin classic (which has several other locations around Texas) started with one piano in 1992 and in true Texan fashion soon went bigger with a second one. Foot-stomping, cheering, singing along, and lots of drinking are the keys to making even the shyest and crankiest patrons smile and belt out classic songs. Have one of Pete's 52-ounce “schooners” to get into the mood, the most popular of which is the Pineapple Express, made with Colorado High Vodka, Cruzan Coconut Rum, banana liqueur, pineapple juice, orange juice, and melon liqueur with a garnish of pineapple chunks and an orange wedge.
Considering that Clyde Common’s ahead-of-the-curve bartender, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, is the guy who pretty much put barrel-aged cocktails on the map and has been experimenting with carbonated and bottled cocktails, it seems only fitting that his bar has been an industry touchstone. There are plenty of draft and craft beers here, and wine by the glass and bottle, but what you really need to try is one or more of Morgenthaler's house cocktails, including the Fifth Quadrant (Irish whiskey, cold brew coffee, vanilla, and water, carbonated and bottled in-house) and the Southbound Suarez (reposado tequila, lime, agave, Becherovka bitters, and house horchata).
The bar at New York’s Beekman Hotel managed to earn a spot on Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America list, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s the venture of chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, adjacent to his Temple Court restaurant. The gorgeous interior has an old New York feel and the menu of Colicchio-conceived small plates and brochettes ups the ante. Among the cocktails both classic and innovative are some named for famed New York architects and builders of the past — like the Pierre Charles L'Enfant (Maestro Dobel Diamante tequila, grenadine, lime, Angostura bitters, and sparkling wine) and the Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (Rittenhouse rye, Campari, green Chartreuse, and fennel).
The Violet Hour consistently raises the bar, so to speak, on refined handcrafted cocktails. The façade features an ever-changing mural without major signage. Its three salons sport high-backed blue leather chairs clustered around small white tables illuminated by candlelight. A marble bar spans the length of the room, with its cornflower blue walls, white crown molding, crystal chandeliers, and hardwood floors, giving the space an elegant feel. Tipples include four wines by the glass, an ever-changing list of 10 beers, and 35 seasonally changing cocktails, made with an average of 15 house syrups, four juices that are squeezed daily, and more than 20 house bitters. Drinks to try include the Juliet and Romeo (London dry gin, muddled cucumber, mint, and rose water); Of Grit and Grace (bourbon, muddled marasca cherries, and mint); and El Topo (mezcal, house diablo sauce, and muddled cucumber and strawberry). Chef Justin Large has created a fantastic selection of shareable small plates to go with the drinks, like crispy stuffed dates with manchego cheese, smoked almond, and basil, all wrapped in bacon; and roasted red pepper dip (red peppers whipped with walnuts and pomegranate, served with seeded crackers and crispy pita).
Enjoy a cocktail or craft brew at Occidental, a bar with a very decidedly "counterculture" vibe (they even have a definition of the term on their website). Drink inside where the TVs are playing sports or old mixed martial arts movies, or outside on the back patio with its fantastic view of downtown Denver. In addition to classics, the bar has original house cocktails with interesting names, some inspired by punk rock songs such as the Last Caress (vodka with strawberry bitters, lemon, syrup, and soda); the Paid Vacation (rum and herbal liqueur with lemon and lemongrass); and the Pretty Vacant (fino sherry and herbal liqueur with white grape soda and salt).
The Whining Pig has four locations, but the downtown Phoenix iteration offers the best experience. It’s the best bar in Arizona, and maybe even the country, according to Yelp users, and it seems to be popular largely because of the great service and friendly bar crowd. The drink options are abundant, from sangria to beers to cocktails and spirits of all sorts. If you’re not sure what to pick from their massive beer selection, get the $4 White Bag Special and the bartender will grab a beer of his choice and serve it to you in bag so that you don’t know what you’re drinking (until you peek).
Seamstress has a pretty low-key entrance: you go through a small store-like room to get into the bar — yet another place with a would-be speakeasy vibe. The menu suggests beer, wine, and cider, as well as creative cocktails, the majority of which are seasonal. Particularly popular here are the No Say (Ilegal Mezcal and Aperol with coconut, lemongrass, and pineapple) and the Mortimer & Mauve (a mix of Redemption Rye, chai-infused vermouth, and Barrow’s Intense Ginger). It’s also a great place for rosé in the summer; last year it transformed into the Seamstress Rosé Bar, serving 35 rosés by the glass and a range of rosé-based cocktails.
In 2013, famous chef José Andrés opened up barmini — right next door to his avant-garde tasting-counter restaurant, minibar. With over 100 drinks on the menu, it’s won countless awards, thanks to such creative cocktails as the Cross-Eyed Mary (aged rum with honey, lime, absinthe, and passion fruit foam) and the Mohan Travels to Peru and Gets a Haircut (a mix of pisco, demerara rum, walnut liqueur, and chicha morada with lime, ginger, vanilla, and Amargo Chuncho Peruvian bitters.) It’s also a great spot for a date, being one of America’s most romantic bars.
One of the most romantic bars in the country is located in New York’s Chinatown, with a super-discreet entrance; it's behind what used to be the façade of a Chinese restaurant but now looks like a shuttered storefront with a simple sign above it reading “Chemist.” That might not be an inaccurate description, given the chemistry here involved in the production of amazing cocktails using house-infused spirits and homemade tinctures. Feel daring with the spicy Matador (tequila with red bell pepper, fresh cantaloupe, habanero bitters, lime, agave, and a sea salt rim) or unwind with a Siren’s Call (gin mixed with roasted seaweed, cucumber, squid ink, fresh-cut ginger, candy pearl, and a black smoked lava salt rim.) While more of a relaxed speakeasy earlier in the evening, a strict “elegant sophisticated attire” dress code is enforced after 9 p.m., when Apothéke becomes more of an upscale bar, with dancing.
Courtesy of Blackberry Farm
Blackberry Farm is a hotel and resort with an award-winning restaurant, but their vast selection wine and spirits and the knowledgeable staff that dispenses both earned the “wine tunnel” connecting its underground wine cellars a place on Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America list — and on our list, too. You’ll find around 155,000 bottles of wine and nearly 3,000 bottles of bourbon here, and the dining room wine list, while pricey, has been hailed as one of the best in America. From big-name Burgundies and Bordeaux to trophy wines from California and all the best from Tuscany and Piedmont, Blackberry has the world of wine covered, including various vintages of many lesser-known wines. If that’s not enough, the Barn at Blackberry Farm also made the top 15 in our list of the best restaurants in America, as well as our ranking of the nation’s best fried chicken spots.
Home of traditional country music, rockabilly, and more (and host to a much-loved house band, Brazilbilly), Robert’s Western World is a legendary honky-tonk. Plenty of stars of the Grand Ole Opry and actors on shows like Hee Haw and Nashville Now have called the place home in the years since it opened, on the site of what was once a famous steel guitar factory. Currently owned by singer Jesse Lee Jones, the bar brings back the Golden Era of country music and pays homage to its past with quintessential hillbilly flair: shelves of boots, fresh-grilled Angus burgers, fried bologna sandwiches — piled high with seven slices of bologna and served slightly grilled with lettuce and tomato — moon pies, live music, and cold PBR.
Hailed by numerous publications and websites as one of Atlanta's best bars, Ticonderoga Club has made a name for itself with its imaginative wine list, selection of rare sherries, and such memorable cocktails as the Ticonderoga Cup (Plantation Grand Reserve rum, cognac, sherry, pineapple, lemon, and mint). It has also made contributions to the recent low-proof cocktail trends with drinks such as the Hootchy Cider Punch (made with a housemade variation on Amer Picon and French cider). The bar serves a small menu of hearty fare, and a well-regarded Sunday brunch. Don't try to sample its wares on a Wednesday, though: That's the day the bar closes.
This legendary Irish pub in New York’s East Village is also the city’s oldest continuously operating bar. And you need but look around at the dust-caked chandeliers, sawdust on the floor, and walls stacked with memories to believe McSorley’s Old Ale House hasn’t changed much since 1854 — though it did abandon its men-only policy in 1970. Drinkers are crammed into the cozy bar, seated anywhere the bar staff can find space, forcing patrons to become fast friends. There are only two beer choices — dark or light — served until the wee hours of the morning, but it’s still one of the best Irish pubs in the country.
BackBar is a Malaysian-Thai fusion restaurant with a small yet intriguing menu and a strong tiki vibe. In addition to beer and wine, they have drinks like the slushy Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire (mescal, Thai-chile-infused Aperol, lime, smoked agave, and sumac) and the Monk’s Hot Harlot (Żubrówka vodka, yellow Chartreuse, and spiced apple cider reduction, served hot). Some patrons prefer the outdoor seating, but the interior has a good feeling, too, located behind an antique store and decorated with hanging vintage lights.
Located in Manhattan’s Alphabet City neighborhood, The Wayland is a dark and intimate bar with a fantastic happy hour and some great cocktails, putting it in the top 70 bars in the country. Try the Garden Variety Margarita (blanco tequila, ginger and kale juice, lime, agave nectar, and smoked sea salt) or the I Hear Banjos-encore! (apple pie moonshine, rye, house-made apple-spice bitters, and applewood-cinnamon bark smoke). Weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. there are $7 cocktails and $1 oysters.
Barnacle styles itself in the fashion of Italian aperitivo bars with a large selection of wines by the glass, earning it features in Food & Wine, the Zagat guide, Thrillist, and Seattle Eater, among other places. Along with a menu of mostly seafood small plates are some inspired cocktails such as the Barnacle Americano (Cappalletti, Amaro Abano, and soda) and their Cobble Hill Variation (Amaro Sibilla, Chinotto, and lemon bitters).
Expertly executed classic cocktails are what make The Varnish, a vintage bar at the back of Cole’s French Dip (the 106-year-old establishment that invented the French dip sandwich), a draw in Los Angeles. Their piña coladas are perfect for the summertime, but if that’s not to your taste, there are more than 1,000 variations of classic cocktails on the list. The Bartender’s Choice helps folks whittle down the selections: Bartenders work individually with guests to select the perfect classic cocktail for their taste and mood. Plus, you’re free to drop by Cole’s to order one of their iconic sandwiches, made using USDA prime beef, pork, pastrami, turkey, or lamb — with optional cheese — and served with a bowl of "au jus" for dipping. Enjoy yours right at the wood-, leather-, and steel-adorned bar, which also happens to be one of the most romantic bars in the country.
McGreevy's calls itself "America's First Sports Bar." Pro athletes and politicians have been known to stop by for a brew (or to serve one as a celebrity bartender) if they are in town. Over 15 HDTVs and a handful of projection screens are tuned into the game, and all-day game celebrations, including confetti cannons and menu specials (beer buckets and 25-cent wings included), make this a fun time every time. Cocktails are available too, such as the Great King Cider (Great King St. Glasgow Blend Scotch, rosemary/lemon smash, and apple cider) or the Fig Jam Old-Fashioned (Eagle Rare Bourbon, amaretto, fig jam purée, and orange).
Frequently named as one of the best bars in America, The Sound Table lives up to the honor with both classic cocktails and their own creations. Go with The Wrong Man (mate-infused vodka, agave, lemon, and Angostura and chocolate bitters), or try Yakuza in Winter (mescal, Scotch, yuzu, lemon, peach liqueur, and smoked chile bitters). Come after 11 p.m. and you’ll find a bar-turned-dance-club for some more fast-paced fun.
One of only two Rhode Island bars on the list, the Magdalenae Room, hidden behind a set of heavy velvet curtains in the Dean Hotel, was designed evoke the feeling of fancy European hotel bars. Velvet booths are surrounded by murals of nude women, and candles light the room. Try the Carmen Sandiego (mescal, yellow Chartreuse, ginger liquor, Carpano Bianco, and black pepper) or the Norwegian Cruise Line (aquavit, Aperol, and dry vermouth).
Half Step is a laid-back bar with soft jazz and dimmed lights creating a super-chill ambiance — unless there's live music playing (which happens Tuesday through Thursday), in which case things tend to heat up nicely. The usual beer and wine are served, but the cocktails are the star of the show. Bartenders carve out ice from a huge block to fit your drink. Recently seen on the menu were such creations as the Prescription Julep (cognac, rye, mint, and sugar) and the Kentucky Colonel (bourbon, Bénédictine, and Angostura bitters).
Visit Seattle’s hipster Ballard neighborhood for this great restaurant and bar. A modern minimalist interior and a nice garden patio provide plenty of places to sit. They’ve got interesting snacks like tapioca puff chips and pickled oyster shooter and solid entrées including duck confit, but the star is the drinks menu. Current cocktails include the B&H Mule (shochu, ginger, lemon grass, Sichuan pepper, and soda) and The General Washington (applejack, rye, turbinado, and bitters).
Located in an old row house built in the early 1900s, The Brewer’s Art is famous for its Belgian-style ales. Two bars and a dining room provide three different atmospheres united by superb beers. The upstairs bar is light and classic with high-top tables, an ornate bar area, and a lounge area with a working fireplace; the downstairs bar is dark, loud, and popular with college students and locals; and the casual dining room serves chef Ray Kumm's seasonally changing European continental cuisine. There are six house-brewed beers offered, as well as plenty of options for non-beer drinkers: the bar serves several bourbon cocktails such as the Stein (Buffalo Trace bourbon, citrus black tea syrup, Charm City Meadworks honey, and cardamom bitters).
Gooski’s is a no-nonsense dive bar with rules posted behind the bar that include “Know what you want; have your money ready; don’t make us kill you.” There’s a pretty extensive draft beer selection with dozens of microbrews, and you’d be remiss to not try the local-favorite wings and pierogies. When there’s not a live band playing, you can entertain yourself with the classic bar jukebox and pool table.
Located in Logan Square, Spilt Milk offers a bit of a hipster vibe and a lot of attentive service. If you’re not feeling the dark and well-decorated interior, there’s a nice patio for the warmer season where you can enjoy their cocktails like the Daily Dose (Hank’s vodka, white port, clarified milk, and pink lemonade) or the Sarsaparilla Zazerac (Old Forester Bonded Bourbon, sarsaparilla, roasted grain, almond, and absinthe).
Sassafras Saloon has a strong Southern vibe, having been put together with pieces of a townhouse that was deconstructed in Savannah to be resurrected here. The entertainment is endless, with live music, DJs, and even burlesque shows, and the drinks options are pretty extensive too — including cocktails like the Sex on the Bayou (vodka, peach, strawberry lime shrub, cranberry, and orange) or the Hurricane (rum, passion fruit, grenadine, citrus, and bitters).
Step back into 1940s and '50s Hollywood, complete with space-age jazz on the sound system and an Art Déco interior, at Slowly Shirley. Located below the Happiest Hour — another bar, plus restaurant, under the same ownership, from which you can order food — this speakeasy-style cocktail bar is great for an intimate date or friends' catch-up. Popular drinks include the Village Bicycle (vodka or Dorothy Parker gin, blanc vermouth, kaffir lime, lychee, ginger, and lemon) and the Monkey Man (George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, El Dorado 15-year rum, banana, cinnamon, vanilla, pineapple, and lime).
According to the Santa Fe Reporter, locals consider Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge to be the best karaoke spot in town. For 65 years, the family-owned establishment has stayed popular, though it has changed locations several times. It’s well-known for beer (there are 34 varieties to choose from), steak, and New Mexican fare like chicken guacamole tacos and Frito pie (Fritos, ground beef, red chiles, and beans garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese). Several nights a week, the old-school dining room — adorned with artwork by local artists — and patio erupt with live music, dancing, and, of course, karaoke. The bar and dining area also boast one of the Southwest's largest decanter collections.
Located in the Carriage House, a gorgeous two-story 1883 Victorian office building in downtown Portland, Raven & Rose styles itself after British and Irish pubs in the best way. The restaurant downstairs serves a fantastic menu that prizes sustainability and top-quality ingredients, and the bar upstairs has plenty of English bar food to keep you satisfied, such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and corned-beef-stuffed Yorkshire pudding. The drinks here include house cocktails like the Bird is the Word (Aviation gin, grapefruit liqueur, lemon, bitter herbs, up) or single-barrel creations like the Sim’s Old Fashioned, (Eagle Rare 10-year bourbon, muscovado, Angostura and orange bitters).
The blue-accented interior of the Diamond Reef has a tropical vibe to it, even though it’s located in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. The New Yorker referred to it as the “the anti-speakeasy,” due to the laid-back attitude of the bar staff (and the no-reservations policy). There’s a heated backyard and grill out back to really heighten the island feel even though you’re in oft-chilly New York. Cocktails on the current menu include the traditional (Planter’s Punch: dark rum, lime, orange, bitters, and soda) and the innovative (Remember the Alimony: gin, Cynar, and fino sherry).
Kask is a popular cocktail bar with good service and creativity to spare, featuring such inventions as the Slapintheface (Stumptown Cold Brew, overproof bourbon, and rhubarb and chamomile bitters) or the Friendzone (Amaro Ramazotti, bourbon, grapefruit, lime, cane syrup, and egg white). The food menu is seafood-heavy, with dishes like salmon ceviche served with spicy ají panca and fried squid or seared ocean scallops served with bok choy and king trumpet mushrooms.
Named for Bessie Dee Riley, the daughter of an Irish immigrant to Texas, B.D. Riley’s boasts an impressive selection of beer — Irish, Texan, and otherwise — and Irish whiskey. Sourcing much of the interior furnishings directly from Ireland, the bar’s proprietors have succeeded in making the place both authentic and unique. The award-winning pub-food menu is a favorite of Irish expats, key soccer games are shown on TV, and of course, it being Austin and all, there’s great music as well. (There's a second location of the pub in the planned community of Mueller, a few miles from downtown.)
Beach bars aren’t always about sand in your toes, and neither are they necessarily synonymous with buckets of beer. Watch the sun go down over the ocean in “barefoot elegance” at this breathtaking open-air bar situated in the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island's exclusive Kona-Kohala Coast. The Beach Tree Bar, one of the best beach bars in America, delivers as one of the best places to catch a gorgeous sunset and No. 50 on our list. Snag one of the seats at water's edge and enjoy the nightly live Hawaiian music as you sip a Beach Tree Smash, a tasty blend of Grey Goose Pear, limoncello, absinthe, Asian pears, and lime juice nectar. Another idyllic delight worth imbibing is the Blissed-Out Zen, a light, refreshing mix of soju, cucumber-honeydew nectar, and aloe vera. Or, as you gaze out at the evening sun’s green flash, put your lips around The Cure, a delectable combo of Plymouth Gin, green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino, and fresh-squeezed lime juice.
Portland’s Bit House Saloon has a hefty collection of beer, wine, and spirits, and uses a lot of in-house ingredients for their cocktails, which attempt to honor classic American tastes as do the snacks and small plates. In addition to the usual classics, the bar also spotlights seasonal concoctions like the Bit House Toddy (Wild Turkey 101, lemon, and medicinal honey) and the Firefly (rye, fig shrub, and sweet potato fly, a lacto-fermented potion related to kvass) currently being served in the cold months.
Named for a cocktail (a martini variation made with gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet) favored by 007 in the original James Bond novel, Casino Royale, Vesper Bar, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, juxtaposes modern sophistication with the elegance of the past. Vesper Bar offers a menu of 20 beers, 11 wines by the glass, and a rotating list of cocktail specials in two styles: traditional renderings of classic drinks and Vesper interpretations ( based on the originals but infused with modern additions to show off the evolution of the industry). Las Vegas native and chief mixologist Mariena Mercer brings her extensive knowledge to the operation, incorporating "molecular" mixology and edible cocktails in the mix — making this a must-visit bar.
Gustav Holland/The Hawthorne
Jackson Cannon’s The Hawthorne is an all-around exceptional bar: Bartenders with personality and encyclopedia knowledge and stories to tell; well-crafted cocktails from an expansive drink list that includes 400 cocktails, 30 craft beers and ciders, and 20 fine wines; and an inviting ambiance are all found here. Located at the Hotel Commonwealth, it won the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar. Try the signature cocktail, the Dutch Oven (barrel-aged Bols Genever, sugar cubes, Peychaud’s bitters, Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6, and St. George absinthe) or one of the six cocktails that are highlighted weekly. Finger foods, a cheese program, and sweet nibbles pair well with the potables.
Prizefighter is dedicated to creating "world class cocktails in a casual and fun environment." Most cocktails are $12, and they're refreshingly straightforward. Get a Russian Fix (vodka, pineapple, Chartreuse, and lime), a Jack Rose (calvados, lime, and "real grenadine"), or a Democrat (bourbon, peach, honey, and lemon), and if you’re not feeling a cocktail, Prizefighter has plenty of draft beers, a good selection of sherries, and more spirits than they can list on their menu.
Vena’s Fizz House has something for everyone, from cocktails to mocktails — including, of course, fizzes, some of them alcohol-free, "for the whole family," like the Lumberjack Love (spruce pine syrup, lemon, and spiced tonic) or Vena’s Vengeance (lemon-lime shrub, mint, and ghost pepper). These and the more potent drinks alike are made from freshly-squeezed juices, purées, and house-crafted bitters. Grownups might like to try the Green Beast (Tree Spirits absinthe, lime juice, simple syrup, and house-made ginger beer) or the Cider Smash (bourbon, Vena's cider syrup, lemon, and orange bitters).
If you thought Grant Achatz's innovative bar The Aviary was exclusive, wait until you encounter this 14-seat VIP lounge underneath it. The Office — which requires not just advance reservations but advance tickets through the Tock system developed by Achatz and his business partner, Nick Kokonas — lures patrons with rare spirits and intriguing reinterpretations of classic cocktails. (The bar staff here are just as much historians as they are bartenders.) Pick a drink from the 50-plus-page menu and enjoy it alongside a $25 ice cream sundae or some $50 beef tartare.
Go to Bar Goto on the Lower East Side for some of New York’s finest craft cocktails and great Japanese bar food. One of Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America, Bar Goto has good selections of beer, Champagne, sake, and wine, but the big draw is the array of exotic potions like the Sakura Martini (sake, gin, and maraschino cherry blossom) or the Umami Mary (vodka, shiitake, dashi, miso, lemon, tomato, and Clamato).
Bar Crudo, opened in 2015 by Kenta Goto, a veteran of the celebrated Pegu Club, offers imaginative craft cocktails next door to Crudo, noted for its modern Italian cuisine. Customer favorites include the Ramble On (Arizona Distilling Mission Vodka, banana, blackberry, ginger, and lime) and the Shot in the Arm (Maker’s Mark bourbon, Borsci amaro, passion fruit, lemon, grapefruit, and chocolate bitters). A bargain-priced happy hour, from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, offers $3 beers, $5 glasses of wine (and similarly priced "bar bites"), and $7 cocktails, including classics like the daiquiri, the French 75, and the Negroni.
The quintessential Beverly Hills experience and an ideal place to people watch, The Polo Lounge, in the classic Beverly Hills Hotel, specializes in adding modern (and pricey) twists to classic cocktails, and also offers 30 wines by the glass. Try the $35 Forbes Five Star Martini (dill and cucumber-infused Double Cross Vodka and dry vermouth served up in a metal martini glass and accompanied by a lobster, avocado, and caviar parfait). The hotel’s signature green and white strip motif is incorporated into the bar’s décor, complementing the wood-paneled walls and cozy banquettes. There is live entertainment nightly, but the cocktails and clientele are the real stars.
Mace managed to make it to No. 40 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list even though it had only opened a few months prior to publication of the ranking, and it's ranking on our list is pretty similar at No. 43. This East Village bar has great service, a sleek, Instagrammable interior, and a great Spotify soundtrack. Mace celebrates the flavors of the world by using many kinds of spices in its cocktails. Have an Indian-inspired drink with the Garam Masala (ghee-washed cognac, garam masala syrup, lemon juice, and Champagne) or a taste of Japan with the Wasabi (wasabi-infused blanco tequila, amontillado sherry, smoked pomelo cordial, wasabi salt, and soda).
It’s said that F. Scott Fitzgerald first started writing his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, on cocktail napkins at the Old Seelbach Bar at the historic Seelbach Hilton. Whether or not that’s true, the place has seen many celebrities, including Grammy-winning musicians, gangsters, and even presidents, in the years since it opened back in 1905. Try the signature Seelbach cocktail (Old Forester bourbon, triple sec, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and Champagne, served in a fluted glass adorned with fresh orange), which was created in 1917, disappeared during Prohibition, and was rediscovered by a hotel manager in 1995. Located off the hotel lobby, the turn-of-the-century bar also offers more than 70 bourbons and a comforting, warm bourbon chocolate pecan pie. The bar food menu features a variety of Kentucky-accented dishes like Kentucky bison sliders with Kenny’s horseradish cheddar and mini brioche buns, “cheese fries” (beer-battered fries with chorizo, sriracha, and warm cheddar sauce), and funnel cake fries with powdered sugar and bourbon caramel.
This vegan cocktail bar — some liquors, wines, and beers use animal products in their production — seems right at home in Philadelphia’s hipster-central Midtown Village. In addition to some good beers and wines, the possibilities here include such drinks as the Girl With Grenade (Johnnie Walker Red and Lagavulin with rosemary-smoked pear, boardroom orange, and orgeat syrup); the Great Dictator No. 4 (Banhez Joven mezcal and Cazadores Blanco tequila with a cranberry and shishito switchel, Amaro Averna, and lemon); and the Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Old Overholt and Cynar with blackstrap molasses, Angostura bitters, and applewood smoke). If you’re wondering just who Charlie is, the bar gives a pretty Fight Club-esque answer on their website: “We don’t talk about Charlie.”
Formerly based in Galveston, Robb Walsh told us about a bar in the town where “Brad Stringer and Ian Ramirez shake up playful and delicious tropical craft cocktails at the beach.” In 2016, the bartending duo and their partner Robert Hollis opened Daiquiri Time Out, where you can have drinks such as El Diablo (tequila, lime, cassis, chile, and ginger beer) or the Painkiller (a creamy rum and coconut milk delight) as well as the eponymous daiquiris and almost anything you can think of, thanks to the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders.
While called a restaurant, Tommy’s is actually a tequila capital, serving only 100 percent agave tequilas. It’s been around for over 50 years, cultivating a loyal local following that has turned this restaurant and bar into a friendly and homey kind of place. With more than 300 types of tequila available, it’s easy to find your favorite. The margarita variation invented here by co-owner Julio Bermejo almost a quarter of a century ago, is made without triple sec or Cointreau, which he thought overpowered the drink; agave syrup provides the sweetness, and the only alcohol present is tequila.
Holeman and Finch Public House was at the forefront of the burgeoning craft cocktail movement in Atlanta back when it opened in 2008, and it remains a leader in the industry. To keep things exciting, head bartender Kaleb Cribb rotates the cocktail offerings seasonally; each new cocktail menu has a thematic continuity. There are six beers on tap, plus a rotating bottle and can list of a dozen or so brews; a carefully curated 50-bottle wine list; and a cocktail list offering 10 original creations and six specially highlighted classic cocktails. The Atlanta establishment originally served only 24 burgers a night — if you were 25th in line, you were out of luck —but they were so popular that they are now offered on the daily menu and at H&F Burger locations across the city.
Open every day from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Mission District of San Francisco, ABV serves beer, wine, and cider aplenty, but specializes in cocktails with enough expertise to earn it the No. 46 spot in the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Try the Drifter (Japanese whisky and vermouth with amaro and bitters) or the Land’s End (Jamaican rum with lemon, dry curaçao, and raspberry). They even have a few zero percent ABV drinks for your designated driver. What’s even more interesting, however, is the bar within a bar; Over Proof is a new spot inside ABV, located upstairs and requiring reservations to experience its preset food and cocktails menu.
Award-winning food critic and Texas native (and Daily Meal Council member) Robb Walsh told us that you “must try Alba Huerta’s story-telling cocktails if you visit Space City.” Huerta's Julep, a Houstonian bar that was named one of Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America, specializes in craft cocktails with a distinct Southern flavor, such as the Guatemalan Man-Bun (Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, corn whiskey, and peach liqueur with lemon, agave nectar, and cucumber) and the Tycoon’s Wife (a mix of bourbon, Americano Rosa, and Strega with Peychaud’s bitters).
While it’s on our list at No. 32 overall, Altitude Sky Lounge is No. 1 among rooftop bars in the country, located at the top of the Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter with a stunning view of the city. It’s a fantastic place to both eat and dance, but especially to drink, with a good selection of wine, beer, and cocktails such as a strawberry cucumber mojito or a blue moon.
Stop by for Social’s Social Hour (their version of the Happy Hour) between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a hardcore speakeasy vibe (the place is located in a basement with no windows). They have three categories of cocktails, each with an intriguing mix of options. Try one of their Social Standards such as the Lavender Sour (vodka, ginger cognac, and house lavender sour) or the Silent Monk (Pimm’s No. 1 with fresh lemon, ginger beer, Chartreuse, and mint). They also have Social Experiments such as the Shipwreck (aged rum and Drambuie with demerara-cinnamon syrup, smokey scotch, and burnt orange) and Throwbacks like the Whiskey Smash (bourbon with fresh lemon, mint, and syrup).
Mai Tai Bar is the quintessential Hawaiian experience, complete with open-air bar, palm trees, koa wood couches, and one of the best pau hanas (happy hours) on the island. Of course, the Mai Tai (Bacardi Gold Rum, Myers’s Dark Rum, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, and freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juices) is a staple of the drinks menu, but the bar’s signature drink is the Icy Mai Tai, made with shaved ice and tropical fruit juices. Live music is also offered at the Mai Tai Bar, along with a range of shareable appetizers. Diners can enjoy fried calamari rings served with pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, and chile ancho, with cocktail sauce for dipping; seared rare ahi tuna (caught fresh daily) with a Cajun crust, served with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce; and Baja-style fish tacos served blackened with tomatillo sauce on soft corn tortillas. While not as top-tier as this location, Mai Tai also has another great bar in Daytona Beach.
BlackTail is a Manhattan bar with a very specific 1920s, prohibition-era Cuban theme, founded by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, who co-founded The Dead Rabbit. That’s not all it is, however, as it did make it to No. 32 in the World’s Best Bars list and the top 25 on this one. Both the food and drink reflect the theme, with the drinks list divided into five categories (highball, punch, sour, old-fashioned, and cocktail), with eight examples of each, each with a specific type of glass.
Once a “gentlemen only area” inside Arnaud Cazenave’s eponymous French Quarter restaurant (Arnaud’s began turning out exceptional Creole food in 1918), the space that is now French 75 was opened to ladies when the restaurant switched owners in in 1979. In 2003, the latest iteration of the place was reincarnated as the quintessential Big Easy cocktail bar. It is vintage through and through; its nineteenth-century bar was even purchased from a local antique dealer. The seasonally changing cocktail menu offers nine to 12 cocktails, though far more are available upon request. The signature drink is the French 75 (Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice, and Moët & Chandon Champagne), made by head bartender Chris Hannah, one of The Daily Meal’s America’s 25 Best Bartenders. The food items offered at the French 75 bar are just as intricately prepared as the cocktails themselves, particularly the oysters en brochette (Gulf oysters wrapped with bacon, deep-fried, and served with marchand de vin sauce) and Arnaud’s signature soufflé potatoes.
Award-winning Employees Only was the focal point in the documentary Hey Bartender, the first cocktail bartender-focused movie of its kind, but that accolade isn’t the only reason to grab a drink or two at this Art Deco-style, speakeasy-esque hideaway, which served more than 180,000 cocktails last year (not including beer, wines, shots, highballs, and so on). The neighborhood joint serves exceptional drinks with impeccable hospitality. The speed and precision of the bartenders here is a testament to the bar’s apprenticeship training program; it takes a minimum of three years to achieve the rank of principal bartender. There are 23 cocktails on the menu, including “EO Classics,” eight cocktails that have defined the bar over the past decade; “Apértifs, Cocktails and Long Drinks,” and “Fancy Cocktails.” The New American but Eastern-European-influenced food menu features dishes like steak tartare, which is available until the wee hours of the morning. Employees Only, which made it to No. 37 on the World’s Best Bars list, also opened up a branch in Miami last year.
The only establishment of its kind in the Bay Area to be twice reviewed by and awarded three stars from long-time San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, Trick Dog is a neighborhood cocktail bar that has all the essentials: great music, well-made drinks, and exceptional food served until closing time — and then some. Every six months, Trick Dog undergoes a complete, meticulous renovation of its décor and drinks, introducing a brand new theme. With each new itineration, the Trick Dog bartenders known as the Bon Vivants (Scott Baird and Josh Harris) roll out 12 new cocktails, which you know are sure to be amazing considering that the two are collectively ranked sixth in our list of America’s best bartenders.
Although it does have locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Weather Up’s Austin bar is exceptional, having been named one of Food & Wine’s Best Bars to Visit in the U.S. as well as making it into our top 25 bars in the country. Order a Bigger & Better (vodka and Galliano with blood orange, fresh lime juice, and soda) or try the Holland Razorblade (genever and fresh lime juice with simple syrup and cayenne pepper), just two of the more interesting cocktails on the menu. There's also a nice food menu featuring such fare as crab cakes in bacon aïoli with asparagus and roasted tomato relish and red curry and coconut mussels with a toasted baguette.
For over 10 years, Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy has been serving Detroit, contributing to the city’s rise as an emerging destination. Get thrown back in time to the atmosphere of a 1920s speakeasy with the eccentric, era-specific décor and live music. Go for their signature Detroit Brown, made with Crown Royal whiskey, Vernors ginger ale, and bitters, as well as a secret ingredient.
Previously known as Caffè Dante, Dante is Greenwich Village bar that has been around since 1915. The likes of Bob Dylan, Al Pacino, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alec Baldwin were once regulars. Now a younger crowd comes here to sample the Italian-influenced menu and impressive Negroni and cocktail list which helped Dante crack the top 25 of this list. Try their Pumpernickel Sazerac (cognac, rye, absinthe, toasted caraway, demerara, and brown butter) or the Negroni Bianco (Brooklyn gin, quinquina apéritif, Alessio Bianco, and lemon bitters) — one of 10 Negronis offered.
Monk’s Café is a Belgian beer emporium with a repertoire of rotating beers on tap and hundreds by the bottle, from the limited supply Chimay Dorée, to the drier Tripel Karmeliet on tap, to Achel Blond and Westmalle Tripel by the bottle. The bar also stocks locally made Belgian-style beers, so there is something for everyone. The hearty sandwiches, burgers, and mussels pair well with the beer.
The staff at Big Bar, open every day of the week, creates such a great ambience that TimeOut named it the Best Bar Family in Los Angeles. Serving a solid list of beer, wine, as well as good bar food, their list of house cocktails is as creative as their names. Go for the #Tigermom Gimlet (lemongrass kefir lime with lime, Bombay Sapphire East, quinquina, and Miracle Mile Bergamot bitters) or the Pancho’s Sancho (Avion blanco tequila with prickly pear, Anchor Eyes Chile Liqueur, lime, cilantro, and a chile-salt-sugar rim).
Craig Nelson’s Proof is an intimate craft cocktail bar with an extensive wine-by-the-glass list and a beer selection full of pilsners, lagers, stouts, and sours (plus ciders) — but the real attractions are the creative concoctions like the Pink Rabbit (Ancho Reyes liqueur, Hendrick’s gin, Proof’s house-made strawberry “quick,” and mole bitters); Knuckle Ball (Old Grand-Dad 114 bourbon, Mexican Coca-Cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts); and the Charleston Buck (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Tuaca, citrus, egg white, Proof’s ginger beer, and blood orange bitters). Since it won a place on our Best Bars list last year, Proof has added 19 more cocktails to its menu, rising to No. 20. There is also a daily changing menu of small plates scribbled on the bar’s chalkboard.
Also named by Esquire as one of the 24 best bars in America, Lost Lake made it to the top twenty thanks to its tropical drinks and its island vibe. A tiki bar in the middle of Chicago, Lost Lake offers a menu curated by one of the best bartenders in the country, Paul McGee, and his staff — clad in tropical attire — are well-versed in their drinks as well as quality service. While you’re here, try the Tic-Tac-Taxi (aged multi-island rum mixed with overproof Jamaican rum, coconut, passion fruit, and lime) or the Bourbon Barrel, Bourbon Barreled (bourbon, both aged Guatemalan and Dominican rum, pineapple, lemon, pomegranate, curaçao, honey, falernum, allspice, Angostura bitters, and absinthe.)
Located in the St. Regis New York, King Cole Bar is believed to be the first hotel in the U.S. to serve the Red Snapper, later more popularly known as the Blood Mary. Whether or not it was actually invented there or in a bar in France is up for debate, but King Cole continues to serve it in style, with patrons over the years the likes of Salvador Dali, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon. This upscale bar features an extensive drinks list full of great wines and whiskeys, the latter of which have been known to sometimes cost up to $700.
Milk Room is a cozy microbar with just eight seats, located on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association. They pride themselves on their creative cocktails made with rare and vintage spirits and ingredients that are hard to find, and you know they’re going to be good, as they were created by Paul McGee, considered one of America's best mixologists. Executive chef Pete Coenen has fashioned a small menu of shared plates to accompany those drinks, creating a combination that has earned this bar mentions on best bar lists in Esquire and Food & Wine.
Anvil Bar and Refuge was one of the first bars in the United States to serve classically styled cocktails like The Brave (mezcal, tequila, amaro, Curaçao, and Angostura bitters, presented at room temperature) at lower-than-usual prices (the Brave is $12). There are 110 cocktails on the menu, but the bartenders can make far more. The lively space, opened by Bobby Heugel when he was just 24 years old, features a bar running the length of the space and a huge spirit collection. Heugel is also one of the bar owners behind OKRA Charity Saloon, a not-for-profit bar. There is a small food menu of nibbles like cheese, charcuterie, and snacks.
Dram & Grain is a craft cocktail bar, located in the basement of Jack Rose Dining Saloon. It’s a speakeasy in the true tradition of speakeasies. You’ll need a reservation, and we suggest you make it ahead of time as they have only two timings (6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) during which 20 people are allowed in through the locked door for two hours. They don’t even have a website — just a Twitter page which lists the number you have to call or text to reserve. There’s a two-drink minimum and prices are a bit steep, but it’s worth it considering creative cocktails like Down the Rabbit Hole (Absolut Elyx Vodka, Cyner, carrot ginger beer, fresh carrot, ginger, and lemon) or Shochu-Colada (Mizu Shochu with Cynar 70 and coconut, pineapple, and yuzu).
If you’re walking down King Street in Alexandria and you see a blue light outside PX (Person Extraordinaire) or a pirate flag at full mast, that’s your signal that the 1920s-style lounge above Eamonn's, A Dublin Chipper (owned by Eat Good Food Group, the folks also behind PX) is open. Sommelier and mixologist Todd Thrasher, a native Virginian, handcrafts memorable cocktails at this intimate, 38-seat place. The limited hours (it's open Wednesday to Saturday nights only), the dress code (jackets required for men), and the fact that reservations are strongly encouraged give PX an air of exclusivity and glamour. The 18 seasonally changing "avant farm" drinks like the This Is Snow Cream! (Buffalo Trace bourbon and vanilla whey) and the Grog and Sweet Basil (a mix of rum and lemon verbena tea served in a pirate's mug with a see-through bottom), are equally classy and memorable. Be sure to try the Irish-style fish and chips served with a choice of seven different house-made sauces.
Many people visit Washington, D.C., for its history, so it makes sense that when looking for a drink, one should check out the oldest saloon in the city and one of the oldest in the country. Established in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill has served most of our presidents since then, starting with Ulysses S. Grant. It’s moved several times over the years, but it’s currently less than a block from the White House itself. Old Ebbitt Grill bartenders can make nearly any cocktail, but there are a dozen seasonal cocktails on offer, too, like the signature Bloody Maryland. It’s the bar’s take on the classic Bloody Mary, with the addition of a jumbo shrimp and a glass rimmed with Old Bay seasoning. The deep mahogany bar is a sight to behold: A beautiful antique stein collection runs along the top, punctuated by animal head trophies purportedly bagged by Teddy Roosevelt. Try the oysters; there is an oyster happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily and again from 11 p.m. until close. Feeling fancy? Go for the wine, as Old Ebbitt won Wine Spectator magazine’s “Award of Excellence” for 18 years in a row, from 1998 to 2015.
Known for its craft cocktails, Attaboy is a Lower East Side speakeasy bar run by mixologists Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross with a chic and intimate atmosphere. To enter, you have to knock and wait for someone to open the door before you can enjoy… whatever you like. There’s no menu here, and the bartenders here really listen. Tell them how you’re feeling and they’ll make you a drink to go along with that or you can ask for something that tastes like your favorite movie or a cherished memory. With that kind of ingenuity, it’s no wonder the bar placed eighthon the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Seattle’s Canon lays claim to the largest collection of spirits in the Western Hemisphere, with 3,500 labels and counting. There’s so much whiskey here that there’s even some in the bathroom, which was dubbed one of the top three bathrooms in Seattle by Seattle Refined on account of its vintage radio and “spa-like experience.” The “whiskey and bitters emporium” is a small place, so they can only accommodate parties of four people or fewer, and we suggest you make a reservation to guarantee yourself a seat. We also recommend dressing up a bit for Canon’s swanky atmosphere.
Since its debut a few years back, Everson Royce Bar has climbed to the top of the scene in Los Angeles, not only thanks to its burgers, but also because of its creative cocktails and selection of wine and beer. Try Japanese High Ball (Suntory Toki whiskey with Hoshizaki ice, soda, and lemon twist) or The Newest Old Fashioned (bourbon, Amaro Angeleno, and Forbidden Bitters). All of that has earned it the title of Best Bar from TimeOut Los Angeles and a place on Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America.
Just sneaking into the top ten, Please Don’t Tell, also known as PDT, is hidden within East Village hot dog restaurant Crif Dogs and accessible via a phone booth. The cozy bar — with banquette seating, low ceilings, a copper-topped bar, leather seats, and taxidermy — offers a short menu of 10 cocktails, four wines by the glass, and four beers on tap. Try the signature Benton’s old fashioned: a Benton's bacon-fat-washed Bourbon old fashioned sweetened with Grade B maple syrup. The bar also serves Crif Dogs’ famous handmade, naturally smoked beef and pork hot dogs with your choice of toppings; it’s a winning combination.
Sweet Liberty, another one of Miami Beach’s best bars, makes it into the top ten of the nation with a bit of sophistication and style. Its excellence has been noted, as it made the No. 27 spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list and was also named the Best High Volume Cocktail Bar in Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards. TimeOut declared it the Best Bar in Miami and anointed its friendly staff as the Best Bar Family. Their fancy cocktails include Iggy’s Pop (Amaro Montenegro mixed with Campari and Coca-Cola); the Rye Tai (Jamaican rum, overproof rye with lime orgeat, and passion fruit bitters); and the Simple Summer Cup, made with Absolut ELYX, strawberry, fennel seed, lemon, and soda.
Our seventh-place bar is named after the Sazerac, a cocktail that many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink. The Sazerac Bar’s décor evokes old New Orleans, with some elegant updates: Paul Ninas’ murals flank the African walnut bar. The bar, including its bar stools and banquettes, has been fully restored to its original splendor. A small collection of white and red wines by the glass and beers supports the main drink menu focus: the cocktails. Classics like the Sazerac (Sazerac 6-year-old rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar in an Herbsaint-rinsed glass) and the Pink Squirrel (crème de almond, light crème de cacao, and cream) are given equal weight as new classics like the Thibodeaux Tickle (Oryza Gin, rhubarb bitters, cranberry bitters, sugar, and soda) and the Prickly Pear (pear vodka, Chambord, fresh citrus, and ginger beer).
The Lower East Side bar Death + Company embraces the Golden Age of cocktails (1865 to 1900). The drink menu includes beer and wine plus gin-, rum-, agave-, whiskey-, and brandy-based cocktails along with classics, punches, and seasonal selections. If you come with a group, try the Shotgun Wedding Punch (Black Grouse blended Scotch, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Appleton V/X rum, fresh lemon juice, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot, acacia honey syrup, cinnamon syrup, Jerry Thomas Decanter bitters, and seltzer) that serves four to six people. For solo imbibing, sample the Shattered Glasser (El Tesoro reposado tequila, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Batavia Arrack van Oosten, Bénédictine, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, and Bittermen’s mole bitters) or the 7 Year Itch (Lemorton Selection Calvados Domfrontais, Yellow Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, Bitter Truth aromatic bitters, sugar cane syrup, and sparkling wine).
The stylish NoMad Hotel itself has several bars: The Elephant Bar, The Fireplace, and The Library. Next door, though, lies our fifth best bar, the mahogany-filled The NoMad Bar, which has its own separate entrance. The NoMad Bar’s popularity has grown exponentially (it came in at No. 3 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list) thanks to its seasonal craft cocktails and its food, both of which are carefully orchestrated by James Beard Award-winning bar director Leo Robitschek. The NoMad Bar’s cocktail collaborations — one with Brooklyn Brewery and the other with Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum — are popular, but the seasonally changing menu of 50 to 65 cocktails means there is something new to try each visit (there are also six draft beers, one wine on draft, 30 wines by the glass, and more than 1,000 wines by the bottle). A tavern at heart, the classic Beaux Arts-style bar is a relaxing neighborhood pub at which patrons can enjoy hearty “luxury pub food” like chicken pot pie made with black truffles and foie gras.
Coming in at No. 4, you’d think California’s best bar would be located somewhere in Los Angeles, given the city’s legendary food & drinks scene, but it’s actually right in the Bay Area. Another one of Esquire’s best bars in America, as well as Food & Wine’s, Bar Agricole (which means “farm bar” in French) is still quintessentially Californian. With a true contemporary look, their menu offers natural wines, farmhouse-distilled drinks, and delicious NorCal food full of organic ingredients from local and biodynamic farms.
Our third place winner, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, is not your run-of-the-mill Irish pub; food critic and restaurateur Robb Walsh (a member of The Daily Meal Council) described it to us as a “twenty-first-century Irish bar where Green Spot and Yellow Spot single-pot still Irish whiskeys were introduced to the U.S.A.” The three-level, mid-nineteenth-century-style saloon has only been open for four years, but the bar has been racking up accolades, being named the best bar in the world on more than one occasion by multiple outlets, most notably by Drink International’s World’s 50 Best Bars. The pub’s specialization is Irish whiskey; they serve more than 150 whiskeys in all, and the number is growing. Half of the bar’s 72 cocktails, served in the second-story sit-down parlor, are dedicated to Irish whiskey. Whiskey blogger Gregg Dillon, of GreatDrams.com, told us the Dead Rabbit has “stunning drinks, really pushing the boundaries of mixology and how to take a bar brand and extend.” Try the expertly executed Irish coffee, made with quality filtered coffee, not espresso; cream with more than 36 percent fat content; and low-pot still/high-grain-blend whiskey like Jameson’s Original or Clontarf 1014. No wonder 200 to 300 Irish coffees are sold here daily! Always bustling, the ground-level taproom serves craft beers, Irish whiskey, and basic cocktails. The hearty Irish and British food menu has all the requisites, like fish and chips, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs, along with some modernized offerings like burgers and truffle fries.
Courtesy of The Aviary
Runner-up to the top spot is The Aviary, a cocktail venture by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas that has been lauded as the Best Cocktail Lounge in Chicago by Chicago Magazine and also made it to No. 41 in the World’s 50 Best Bars list. (See also the same team's basement speakeasy, The Office, No. 44, below.) No detail gets overlooked at this “redefined” cocktail bar, from the setting and cocktails to the food and service. Even the ice that is used to craft the cocktails is elevated to high art; the ambitious ice program churns out more than 25 types of ice, from miniscule ice balls to flavored spheres to enormous blocks for hand-chipped ice. Don't expect to just drop in here, though — tickets, sold on the bar’s website, come in three varieties: as a deposit that goes toward your bill, a three-course package that includes three cocktails, and a five-course package of five cocktails, each paired with food ranging from one bite to a small course. You can also try your luck at the door. If you’re on the East Coast, you can still get a taste of this bar without flying out, as it’s opened up a new branch in New York City.
Florida’s best bar came out on top as America’s best bar overall: the very small and quite romantic Broken Shaker. (Newer locations have also opened in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.). Enter from inside the Freehand Hostel to access its spacious courtyard and creative cocktails like the Star Gazing (Leblon Cachaca, pimento dram, apricot, star anise and chartreuse shaken with hand-pressed lime) or the Cranberry Gobbler (Absolut Elyx, Amontillado sherry, and cranberry muddled with fresh raspberries). The Broken Shaker also made it to the eighteenth spot on the World’s Best 50 Bars list and was featured in Esquire’s 24 Best Bars in America. It’s the perfect drinks spot for your tropical vacation.