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, which we’ve been compiling annually since 2011.
Choosing a bar is a personal matter, and just as every 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 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 dens of iniquity, there’s a bar for everyone. 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.
Whether you like it neat, dirty, on the rocks, up, with a twist, shaken, or stirred, there’s a watering hole on this list that’ll have your whistle wet in no time. So pull up a stool, tip your bartender, and check out our annual ranking of the 150 best bars in America for 2019.
For the full methodology, please click here.
Owner Jeff Cahill lovingly refers to Bar Liquorice — which he opened in Maryland 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 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 sandwich with pâté, kimchi, smoked Gouda, and red chili aioli) 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 for $4 (a promotion that carries over to Tuesday nights, too).
For 65 years, the family-owned Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge has been a popular Santa Fe spot, though it has changed locations several times. It’s well-known for beer (there are 34 varieties to choose from), steak, and Mexican fare like Frito pie (Fritos, ground beef, red chiles, and beans garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese), chile relleno (two jumbo Hatch green chiles stuffed with pepper jack cheese, dipped in house breading, and served with Spanish rice, pinto beans, and posole, a hominy soup), and char-broiled rib-eye. The old-school dining room — adorned with artwork by local artists — and patio both erupt with live music, karaoke, and dancing several nights a week. The New Mexico bar and dining area also boast one of the Southwest's largest decanter collections.
The folks at Dogfish Head Brewpub, who founded the brewpub in 1995, use atypical ingredients to craft a range of unique beers. Dogfish Head describes its brews as “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” The Rehoboth, Delaware, location has a rustic, beach-casual vibe and a small brewery where experimental batches are made. There are 23 Dogfish Head beers on tap, including cask and exclusive house-made brews. There is also a selection of Dogfish’s eponymous bottled beer, including vintage brews. For non-beer drinkers, the brewpub offers nearly a dozen cocktails made from Dogfish Head Distilling Co. spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, all distilled upstairs. The signature cocktail is the SeaMule (a keg-conditioned Moscow Mule topped with Dogfish Head’s very own SeaQuench Ale). Pair this with brewpub food like the crab and corn chowder, a staple of the menu and a favorite of regulars.
New to our list, The Genoa Bar in Genoa is the oldest "thirst parlor” in Nevada (it actually opened 11 years before Nevada was a state). Built in 1853, the bar provides a true Wild West experience with an eclectic décor of antiques, dive bar staples, and Raquel Welch’s bra. Famous 'regulars' have included Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt. Also, Carol Lombard and Clark Gable flocked to The Genoa Bar to play high-stakes poker games with the local cattle barons. Among the other famous and infamous, Lauren Bacall, Richard Boone, Ronnie Howard, Red Skelton, Cliff Robertson and every Nevada governor have come through the doors for a tipple or two. Try longtime bartender Peggy Casentini’s signature bloody mary or seasonal specials like the wintertime house-made hot buttered buccaneer and the summertime cucumber lemon spritzer. There’s no food here, but you might meet Lindsey McInnerny, daughter of the owners, who expertly pours from the bar’s four taps and hand-makes drinks from the list of 15 specialty cocktails and full bar.
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. The Oklahoma bar is turning 30 in 2019, and it’s on target to sell its 2 millionth Lunchbox before its anniversary in February.
Famed as the inspiration for the NBC sitcom “Cheers,” which ran for 11 seasons beginning in 1982, the Bull and Finch Pub is now called Cheers Bar Boston. After all, this is the Massachusetts bar “where everybody knows your name.” Long before the sitcom, the Bull and Finch was a landmark, esteemed as an exemplary Boston watering hole. Don’t write this off as a tourist trap replete with sitcom props and Boston sports memorabilia; it’s the quintessential Beantown experience. Pull up a stool at one of three bars (one which is a replica of the bar from “Cheers”) and order a cold mug of Samuel Adams Boston Brick Red, an Irish red ale that is only available on tap in Boston bars. The signature cocktail is the award-winning Cheers Bloody Mary, but another popular tipple is the Screaming Viking, a previously fictional drink introduced in season six of “Cheers,” made with Bacardi O and Bacardi Select rums, amaretto, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. No matter what you drink, the affable bartenders, who turn R’s into H’s, have encyclopedic knowledge of Boston, sports, and just about anything else.
California’s Sassafras Saloon has a strong Southern vibe, having been put together with pieces of a townhouse that was deconstructed in Savannah to be resurrected in Los Angeles. The entertainment is endless, with live music, DJs, and even burlesque shows, and the drinks options are pretty extensive too — including cocktails like Hot in Herre (So Take Off All Your Clothes), a potent mix of mezcal, lime, orange, jalapeño, habanero and agave, and the Hurricane, made with three different rums, passion fruit, lime, orange and Grenadine.
Russell Davis of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and industry experts Danny Ronen and Chris Daus opened Academia in December 2017 and almost immediately attracted a loyal following. The Texas bar, 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 patrons’ moods, and an aromatics system timed to produce ambient scents and pheromones. 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 that might actually be worth drinking (the cranberry juice is house-pressed and there's orange oil involved) to the Fresh Dill (Linie aquavit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, St-Germain, saline solution, dill, and salmon roe).
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 150 bars in the country. Order a Rescue Dawn Añejo & Reposado Tequila (smoked black pepper and cinnamon honey, lemon, Pedro Ximénez sherry) or a Maxie Fields Mezcal (Islay Scotch, roasted pineapple and chili, lemon, and black sea salt), just two of the more interesting cocktails on the menu. There's also a nice food menu at the Texas bar featuring such fare as steak tartare with habanero and tomatillo sauce, house-cured salmon with horseradish, seaweed and Texas honey, and a Paris-style roast chicken tartine with grain mustard aioli and micro greens.
The anti-Vegas Double Down Saloon is a gem. The world-famous punk rock dive bar — Anthony Bourdain once declared it one of his Top 5 Bars — thankfully never closes. Living up to its motto “The Happiest Place on Earth,” the Nevada bar’s bartenders serve every kind of booze imaginable. There’s trippy art on the walls and video poker, Keno, slots, and blackjack (it wouldn’t be Las Vegas without some type of gambling). There’s no food here except for a special comprised of a can of beer, a shot of their signature "Ass Juice" (a secret-formula vodka and juice concoction), and a Slim Jim for $6. The signature murky, pink-and-brown Ass Juice shot (the actual ingredients are a closely guarded secret) is served in a collectable Ass Juice toilet. More than 1 million 4-ounce shots have been served since the Double Down Saloon opened 25 years ago. The original bacon martini was introduced here in the early 1990s, so you should try that, too — as long as you promise to “shut up and drink!”
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar has more than 200 whiskeys, including a rolling list of the niche, century-old wooden bar’s own hand-selected single barrels. There are rare and nearly impossible-to-find bottles, weekly whiskey flights, a whiskey club, and one of Boston’s strongest craft cocktail programs. The signature drinks at the Massachusetts bar, which is punctuated with bubble glass pendant lights, local art, chalkboard drawings, and worn leather booths, are Fernet Branca on tap and the Ideal Manhattan (Maker’s Mark, St-Germain, Cinzano Rosso, Angostura bitters, and grapefruit bitters). The bar is known for its oysters, upscale tavern fare, and whole roasted pig dinner for 10.
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.
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.
Located right on the beach in legendary Waikiki, home of the original Outrigger Canoe Club from 1908 to 1963, is Duke’s Waikiki. Duke’s overlooks Diamond Head, and is named in honor of the Olympic gold medalist, the father of modern-day surfing and the original ambassador of aloha, Duke Kahanamoku. Duke's Waikiki is framed with koa wood adorned with over 200 photos that tell the story of Duke and the legacy of Waikiki Beach Boys. Kahanamoku’s favorite surfboards and vintage aloha shirts worn by true Hawaiian legends can also be found throughout the restaurant. Experience the aloha spirit among Waikiki beach boys during pau hana (happy hour). For drinks, try the Original Duke’s Mai Tai, a blend of fresh tropical fruit juices and two types of rum, a craft coconut mojito or a refreshing Duke’s Blonde Ale. For dinner, sample Hawaiian favorites like macadamia nut crusted fresh fish, Duke’s fish tacos, and Huli chicken, all made with locally sourced ingredients, highlighting the tastes of Hawaii. Live music played by legends like Henry Kapono add to the unforgettable experience. Complete your ohana (family) tradition in Honolulu with a Kimo’s Original Hula Pie, an iconic dessert that is a blend of macadamia nut and vanilla ice cream sliced over an Oreo cookie crust and topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, and finished with fresh macadamia nuts.
He’s Not Here is a true old-school college dive bar: “the oldest on-campus 50-year-old.” If you ever went to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or are just a Tar Heels fan, then you have probably had a 33-ounce Blue Cup — the classic $5 cup of beer — at He’s Not Here, which is located on the town’s main street. There are 38 beers on tap and 35 by the bottle on offer. Chapel Hill was originally a village, and the bar’s courtyard was originally “the green.” It pays homage to the North Carolina town’s history with bumper stickers that say “He’s Not Here — on the village green.” As for the name? There are many urban legends about its origin, but one popular story is that celebrities — like Michael Jordan — often frequent the bar, and folks call the bar to find them. The bartenders answer requests with “He’s not here.” Don’t miss the scene in the courtyard, which accommodates 1,000 rowdy college kids and hosts live bands three times each week, and where you’ll no doubt see hundreds of those iconic “Carolina blue” cups.
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 nearly 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 New Jersey bar survived the Newark riots in 1967, which led to the closure of many businesses, and today, after a recent renovation, serves up pints of Guinness and other brews and bar fare like a 10-inch bar pie pizza and a sandwich called the Dublin Decker (corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing served on rye bread).
Editor's note: When 150 Best Bars nominations were finalized in August 2018, McGovern's Tavern was undergoing renovations and scheduled to reopen in fall 2018. As we prepared our story, we hoped this treasured tavern would open in time for the publication of our list. As was reported by NJ.com, as of late January 2019, the beloved watering hole has still not reopened. While it may be peculiar to keep a yet-to-be-reopened bar on our list, we believe the accolade shouldn't be taken away because of a delayed reopening. Given the bar's long-standing excellence, devoted patrons, and impact on Newark; McGovern's Tavern remains on the list, appearing for the third time, because it is simply the best bar in New Jersey.
A bumper sticker on the wall of the Cadieux Cafe proclaims “It’s Beautiful To Be Belgian.” Indeed it is. Since its days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the Detroit bar has been a gathering spot for people who identify with — or just enjoy — Belgian and Flemish culture in the Motor City. The Michigan bar features more than a dozen Belgian beers, serves steamed mussels, and is host to live music and Flemish pastimes like feather bowling (a game similar to horseshoes and bocce). The bar also hosts live music daily.
Cook and Brown Public House is a modern New England-inspired take on a European gastropub. The Rhode Island bar, which has a separate restaurant area, is well known for its extensive selection of spirits with a predominant focus on whiskeys. The Providence back bar is crammed with 200 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and bitters. The seasonally changing drink menu is populated with a rotating punch, a hot drink, and a barrel-aged cocktail along with 12 cleverly named concoctions along the lines of Beta Testing (bourbon, carrot-ginger shrub, lemon, honey, and apple) and Matcha-Bliged (lemongrass shochu, rum, lemon, coconut, matcha, and honey). There are also six bubbly drinks like the Blossom (elderflower liqueur, orange blossom, and prosecco). The restaurant menu includes classic modern American fare like smoked codfish and potato cakes and comfort food like baked mac and cheese with buttered bread crumbs, house hot sauce and optional "lobstah.”
The self-proclaimed world’s largest biker bar is a sight to behold, particularly during the annual summertime Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, when some 700,000 motorcycle enthusiasts descend on this South Dakota town to drink beer — lots of beer. The Full Throttle Saloon, created by Michael Ballard, is an adult playground replete with the Flaunt Girls (a burlesque dance troupe), a burnout pit for bikes, a mechanical bull, a zip line and a body paint area. There’s a cabin area, open June 1 through the last day of the rally in August, and theme nights to add to all the shenanigans. The beloved bar burned to the ground in September 2015, but is back and as over-the-top as ever.
With nearly 36 Belgian beers on tap, plus several hundred bottles of various vintages in-house, there’s a reason why this remote Maine beer shack with a screened-in porch and beer garden claims that to drink here is “like you died and went to Belgium.” Ebenezer’s Pub and its head bartender "Sir" Christopher Lively (he was knighted in September 2014 by the Belgium Brewers Guild) have been racking up awards: the Lovell pub was voted No. 1 Beer Bar in America by Ratebeer and was twice named the No. 1 Beer Bar in the world by Beer Advocate. The signature beverage is the Black Albert, a filthy rich royal imperial stout that was brewed specifically for the bar by the top brewers De Struise (in 2008, this beer was named the top beer in the world). The pub also serves lambic and gueuze, Belgian beer styles seldom seen outside their native country. There is a wide variety of cuisines on offer, too, from local favorite lobster rolls to modern gastropub fare. Ebenezer hosts a 12-course beer dinner in August that is cooked by Belgium's top chefs.
Since 1951, Deep Eddy Cabaret has been the go-to neighborhood bar in Austin. Named after a deep swimming hole that used to exist in the Colorado River just behind the Texas bar, Deep Eddy Cabaret is a dive bar tucked away in a time capsule complete with pool tables, old televisions, and a jukebox. Manager J.T. Travis serves locals mini pitchers of Lone Star, whiskey, a short menu of beers, wines by the glass, and liquor. Basic snacks like chips, pretzels, and beef jerky are available for the truly hungry.
At 96-years-old, The Sink is the oldest watering hole and restaurant in Boulder. There are plenty of comforts on the Colorado college bar’s menu, like 18 craft beers on tap (more by the bottle and can) and grass-fed burgers and pizza, which have been sampled by the likes of Guy Fieri and President Obama. Non-beer drinkers should try the seasonally changing cocktails, like the tequila and vodka infusions or the Maple Old Fashioned with local Stranahan's whiskey. Located in the basement of a century-old former fraternity house, the bar’s walls are covered in murals painted by the late Boulder artist Lloyd Kavich; they depict life in Boulder and at the local branch of the University of Colorado in an eclectic cartoon fashion. Guests at The Sink are encouraged to leave their own marks by signing one of the low ceilings.
An oldie but a goodie, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is the oldest continuously running tiki bar in the U.S. — it opened in 1945 and recently completed a $1 million renovation. Located at the Fairmont San Francisco, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar delights guests with its South Seas décor (hanging globes in amber, blue, red, and opal; tribal wall coverings in fuchsia and orange), over-the-top libations, and Asian cuisine, making it an icon of tiki’s pop culture heyday during the 1940s and 1950s. The California bar is famed for its Mai Tai (a blend of rums from Trinidad and Jamaica, orange Curaçao, a locally made orgeat syrup, and fresh lime juice) created by Trader Vic, though its Zombie (a blend of three rums, fresh lemon, lime, pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, and Angostura bitters) is a top pick as well. In addition to 11 tiki cocktails, there are 57 rums, 10 white and red wines, and 14 bottled beers. Adding to the ambience is a Top 40 band that performs from a thatch-covered barge in the Olympic-sized pool, now partially covered by a dance floor built from the remains of the S.S. Forester, a lumber schooner that once traveled regularly between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands. As if that weren’t enough kitsch, the bar has periodic “tropical rainstorms,” complete with thunder and lightning. In 2012, on the Travel Channel series “The Layover,” Anthony Bourdain called Tonga Room “The best place in the history of the world.” We’ll raise an umbrella-accented drink to that!
The walled-in courtyard of this 100-year-old Queens, New York, beer garden is full of benches, the smell of sausage on open-air grills, and barmaids who bring round after round of Czech and craft beers like Brouczech, Czechvar, and Pilsner Urquell. Be sure to order Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden’s classic Czech dishes like beef goulash with Czech-style dumplings or svickova (slow-roasted beef in vegetable gravy with Czech-style dumplings).
As the name suggests, this small, coastal New England restaurant and bar in Mystic, Connecticut is famous for its oysters. They’re shucked at the raw bar, and the day’s offerings are scrawled on a driftwood chalkboard. With six draft beers; 200 wines by the bottle and 16 by the glass; a range of spirits focused on whiskey; and eight signature cocktails, there is a tipple to suit every taste. The Oyster Club’s knowledgeable bartenders serve a litany of drinks from behind the small zinc-topped bar, from traditional crisp Sancerre and absinthe-based cocktails to a locally brewed oyster stout from Beer'd Brewing Company to the Club Dark & Stormy (Gosling’s rum with infused ginger simple syrup, fresh lime, and a Sugar in the Raw rim). The handwritten, daily-changing, farm- and sea-to-table menu offers everything from 100-day dry-aged beef to pan-fried local smelts to the popular Beriah Lewis Farm beef burger. The latter is seared on cast iron and served with Grafton cheddar, smoky bacon, black pepper aioli, house pickles, and a Farm to Hearth Bakery brioche bun with house-cut fries.
With 300 beers available, The Bayou has one of the most extensive beer selections around (the bar calls it ‘Beervana’). You never know what will be on tap at this cozy Salt Lake City bar with exposed wood beam ceilings, red brick walls, and wood floors, but there’s a definite emphasis on Belgian and rare beers. There are 27 beers on draft, plus one hand-pumped cask ale each day. Every Friday, the Utah bar hosts Firkin Friday, during which one of nine participating breweries brings a one-off firkin (a 41-liter keg) of beer that is only available that day. The brewers usually add something interesting to the cask: a recent example is a cask-conditioned pale ale with Swedish Fish candy. Try the signature beer blend Dirty Ho, a 50/50 layered blend of Lindemann's Frambois (raspberry lambic) and Hoegaarden (Belgian white). Beer is taken so seriously here that the bar was updated with stacked Perlick glass door coolers running at three temperatures for different beer styles, and there is a specialized digital beer menu board that cycles through displays showing the hoppiest beers, highest alcohol beers, most popular beers, last served beers, highest rated beers, and a special screen with a random selection to help indecisive customers. The bar food is heavily Cajun- and Creole-influenced, but also features classic pub fare like burgers and pizza. The most popular dishes are Gumbolaya — jambalaya smothered with gumbo — and the Cajun burrito, a jambalaya-filled burrito smothered with crawfish etouffée.
Missouri’s Taste by Niche is all about providing a mix of creative and classic cocktails with seasonal new American small plates. The cocktail menu includes 35 classics and 15 originals served in the intimate, steampunk-style St. Louis speakeasy. Original cocktails include the Bitter Old Broad (Bols geniver, Bruto Americano, Amaro Erborista, oregat, Byrrh, lemon, black pepper, and sage) and Thots and Prayers (Old Forester 100, Rittenhouse rye, Domain Canton, chai-infused
sorghum, Suze bitters, and Angostura bitters). Bar food includes brown butter bourbon biscuits with banana jam, smoked chile honey, and sage; mulligatawny mussels with curry, shiitake mushroom, apple, and cilantro served with a baguette; and apple sorbet.
Honolulu’s 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. As the name suggests, the Mai Tai (Myers’s Dark Rum, Bacardi Gold Rum, Orange Curaçao Liqueur, Mai Tai juice mix, and orgeat syrup, topped with Kraken Black Spiced Rum) is a hallmark of the menu. The signature drink is the Icy Mai Tai, made with shaved ice and tropical fruit juices. To round out the experience, there is live music and a range of pupus (sharable appetizers). Diners can enjoy fried calamari rings served with pepperoncini and roasted red peppers, with chili ancho and cocktail sauce for dipping; seared rare ahi tuna (caught fresh daily) with a Cajun crust, served with wasabi and pickled ginger and soy sauce; and steak pupu: marinated steak thinly sliced over a bed of cabbage and served with jasmine rice, Asian slaw, and creamy soy cilantro garlic.
Opened in October 1964, the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package is a Gulf-front oyster bar, beach bar, and Florida Gulf Coast cultural landmark immortalized in songs by Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Jason Aldean. The honky-tonk roadhouse sits on the beach where Orange Beach, Alabama meets Perdido Key, Florida. There are three different live music stages and 12 bars adorned with memorabilia and scribbled names and notes — management encourages bar patrons to add graffiti to the walls. The bar is equally famous for its annual Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast's Greatest Beach Party, a fish toss across the state line held the last full weekend every year in (this year April 26-28, 2019), and for its signature Bushwacker, a locally popular, boozy, frozen milkshake-like concoction topped with a cherry.
Deep in the heart of Texas, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon is a center of Austin’s honky-tonk country music scene. Here, the cold draft beer only costs a dollar or two. Happy hour happens six days a week — Monday through Saturday — and on Sunday the dive bar hosts Chicken Shit Bingo, a locally popular game that involves a chicken leaving droppings on a bingo number. On other nights, you can catch live music by the likes of Dale Watson, Two Hoots and a Holler, and Redd Volkaert.
Stepping into Extra Fancy is like walking back in time. Evocative of a small coastal New England bar, the industrial space is lit with mid-century shop lights and Hollywood-esque stack lighting. The full service American-style bar’s most popular cocktail is the Go-To (gin, elderflower cordial, lime juice, mint, and cucumbers topped off with ginger beer). Beverage director Robert Kreuger helps curate the drink menu, which features 15 to 20 seasonal signature cocktails and eight draft beers, among other offerings. Extra Fancy was the first bar in New York City that poured Spanish vermouth on one of its draft wine lines. The friendly staff makes this a comfortable Brooklyn bar to retreat to night after night. Proof of this can be found after midnight, when you’ll find New York City’s best bartenders, chefs, and other industry folks tucking into the exceptional food served until 3:30 a.m., seven nights a week. Chef Sean Telo has developed a food menu that pays homage to New England and Southern classics, infusing them with new techniques and unexpected ingredients. Standouts include the New England-style fish and chips with fried pickles; sausage and crab roll with grilled fennel pork sausage, lump crab meat, green tomato, charred onion, pickled mustard seed, dill, and hot dog bun; and fresh oysters with "add-ons" like sturgeon caviar, smoked trout roe, quail egg yolks, and tuna bottarga.
The Baldwin and Sons Trading Co. is located just a floor above its (similarly-named) sister, the Baldwin Bar, in Massachusetts’ Baldwin Mansion. This Woburn cocktail bar, which has just 45 seats and is only open from Thursday through Sunday, is run by acclaimed bartender Ran Duan, whose parents own 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 Japanese whisky, 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 is infused with strawberry, cucumber, and lemon.
Proprietor Jimmy Yeager was one of the first buyers of 100 percent agave-based tequila, back in 1984 — the Chinaco and Caliente brands — and since then, Jimmy’s has been the pied piper of agave-based spirits. Since 1997, Yeager’s eponymous New York City railroad car-style bar has been serving more than 100 different tequilas and mezcals and sharing tequila expertise. The charming Colorado bar, with vaulted tin ceiling, L-shaped copper bar top, and wainscotted walls, is stocked with 86 tequilas and 28 mezcals. The drink menu includes a 600-bottle Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list and 24 specialty cocktails. Bartenders mix and pour the signature Jimmy’s Margarita (Tapatio reposado tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup), Jimmy's Negroni (Fords London dry gin, Campari, Carpano Antica, and Punt e Mes Sweet Vermouths), and the Jimmy Mac (The Macallan's worldwide signature cocktail of The Macallan 18-year-old single malt scotch and Bénédictine brandy). Jimmy’s bartenders started squeezing fresh juice into their cocktails and pouring from a premium well when only a handful of bars across the country were doing so. The Denver bar is also popular for its food, including specialties like filet with béarnaise, prime rib, and chicken parmesan, and jumbo lump blue crab cakes.
This two-story Pittsburgh bar is famous for its whiskey wall: a selection of more than 600 whiskeys arranged on shelves soaring two stories tall (the highest spirits are retrieved via a library ladder). The first floor bar features this amber-lit wall, while the second-floor Rye Bar is a more intimate craft cocktail bar and lounge where patrons can enjoy their drinks surrounded by vintage lighting, candles, and taxidermy. As the name suggests, rye whiskey is one of the main focuses at Butcher and the Rye. The selection includes: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year, 20 Year, and 23 Year, Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, Van Winkle Reserve 12 Year, Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash, and A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year. A James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, the Pennsylvania bar has an exemplary cocktail menu that changes seasonally, in addition to whiskey flights and seasonal punches. The signature cocktail is the Salinger Sling, which is a take on the old fashioned (Woodford Reserve, Grand Marnier, Demerara syrup, coconut and coffee bitters, all garnished with an orange peel). The food menu, designed by owner and executive chef Richard DeShantz, pays homage to rustic Americana, creating contemporary riffs on the classics, with dishes like braised rabbit with buttermilk dumplings, root vegetables, and mushrooms. There are small plates, like artisanal cheeses and house-made charcuterie boards, too. The bar staff, led by Christopher McKenzie, are constantly pushing the limits with new, innovative ways to present cocktails, from alcoholic gummy bears to a unique ice program.
ROKC (Ramen, Oysters, Kitchen and Cocktails) has raised the bar for innovative drinks in New York City’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood. The New York kitchen and bar takes its inspiration from Japanese restaurants that populated port towns during the Meiji period. The cocktail program is ever-changing and inspired by Tokyo’s cocktail scene. There are classic cocktails like the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s, ginger ale, and cucumber) and contemporary creations like the Burdock (dry gin, burdock, amaro, Dolin Blanc, xocolatl and mole bitters) and the Pineapple (passionfruit rum, pineapple, vanilla, and lime).
Cincinnati's oldest tavern has been welcoming locals and visitors for more than 150 years. Opened by Simon Arnold in 1861, Arnold's Bar and Grill is an institution. The comfy Ohio bar features old-school charm, antique fixtures, dark wood, walls covered with antique Cincinnati brewery memorabilia, and even a bathtub in one of the dining rooms rumored to have been used to make gin during Prohibition. The iconic bathtub has proven so popular that Cincinnati distillery Woodstone Creek has even named its new gin after it and Arnold's Prohibition-era owner Hugo Arnold. The bar sells the gin but promise that it was not actually made in the bathtub. There are 23 craft brews on tap, emphasizing beers crafted within 150 miles of Cincinnati. For non-beer drinkers, the signature cocktail is the DiebOld Fashioned (Old Overholt rye lightly infused with black cherries then briefly barrel-aged in-house, homemade bourbon vanilla sugar, and a giant blood orange- and Earl Grey-infused ice cube), named after Pam Diebold, one of Arnold's two head bartenders, who created the drink. The bar staff has done an excellent job preserving the bar’s decor and bohemian spirit while keeping up with the times by adding modern touches, like murals in the courtyard and exterior from world-famous street artists Shepard Fairey and JR and a brand new dinner program from one of Cincinnati's most highly regarded chefs, Kayla Robison. Definitely try the Greek spaghetti, made with Arnold's garlic sauce, olives, bacon, and linguini; it's been on the menu since 1957 for a reason.
Located within an old foundry building-turned-indoor marketplace called The Source, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project has 22 taps filled with a variety of sour beers, wild ales, and saisons. The industrial-chic bar’s sour beers have gained a cult following, and huge crowds come out for the specialty tappings on Tap-it! Tuesday. You won’t find cocktails on the menu here. Sour beer is where the Colorado bar made its name but if that's not your cup of tea, Crooked Stave also brews a variety of non-sours such as their Von Pilsner, IPA, and Coffee Baltic Porter. The Denver taproom features stainless-steel gates, brick walls awash in old graffiti, a custom wood tap tower, stave tap handles, and colorful murals. There’s no food, but the friendly bartenders, overseen by taproom manager Andrew Schroeder, allow customers to carry in food from two restaurants in The Source (Acorn and Comida), and Mondo Market prepares cheese and charcuterie plates and sandwiches for customers.
Deep Ellum serves craft cocktails made with fresh squeezed juices, house-made syrups, and artisanal spirits, plus a wide range of craft beers. There are no big brands like Absolut or Jack Daniels here. The Massachusetts bar makes its own bitters and mixers, including grenadine, ginger beer, and Picon (a caramel-colored bitter). Boston is an ale town, but Deep Ellum deviates from the typical offerings, serving drafts from Europe and beyond. Try the variations on the Manhattan, like the 1950s Manhattan (a classic bourbon-based drink with 2:1 bourbon to vermouth, house-made bitters, and a cherry), La Louisiana (a rye-based New Orleans variation from the 1930s that has a bit of Bénédictine and Peychaud's bitters); and the Toronto (a modern classic rye Manhattan variation that uses Fernet Branca in place of vermouth). The gastropub-style menu includes mussels, pork belly, pickles, locally baked pretzels, charcuterie, and artisanal cheese plates.
Nick’s English Hut 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, the Indiana sports bar is a great place for watching sports, tucking in to exceptional bar food, and playing Sink the Biz, a dexterity drinking game in which a team challenges an opposing team to sink a glass that is floating in a bucket of beer. The person that sinks the glass must drink the beer. Cheers.
Since 2009, folks have been coming to Blind Lady Ale House for beer tapped from “the cleanest draft system in Southern California,” according to the bar, whose staff clean the lines between each keg change and their draft tech breaks down the taps and shanks weekly for a deep cleaning. BLAH (as it’s known to regulars) is home to Automatic Brewing Co., headed by master brewer Lee Chase, who has a degree in malting science for UC Davis and was the original brewer at Stone. Housed in a historic brick building built in 1921, the San Diego bar’s most famous beer is Sex Panther IPA (formerly Will Powered IPA), brewed annually to benefit the Will Ferrell-backed charity Cancer for College. There are 26 curated, independent beers on tap, along with six draft wines. Pull up a seat at the bar and admire the vintage beer can and bottle collection donated by NFL legend Ben Davidson, who played for the Oakland Raiders and spent time drinking at BLAH. Try BLAH's Neapolitan-style pizza created by co-owner Clea Hantman, who is a Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizzaiola.
The Spare Room is a gaming parlor and cocktail lounge located in the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood. Best known for its bowling alley, which is located right in the middle of the bar, the California bar also has board games like Monopoly, Connect Four, and backgammon and a hidden photo booth. The Spare Room is a whimsical spot for sipping 150 kinds of spirits and 20 cocktails, arranged in categories like Gamma Rays, Supernovas, and Big Bangs. Cocktails include Walking in LA (clarified raspberry vanilla Scotch oat milk punch that is served with a shortbread cookie), It’s Complicated Being a Wizard (tequila, smoked juniper, grapefruit cordial, lime, and disco salt), and shareable punch bowls like the Nanu Nanu (Cognac, apricot, Rooibos tea, spiced pineapple, lemon, and sparkling wine). The food menu offers comfort foods like a warm soft-baked pretzel with coarse kosher salt with mustard dip; grilled cheese with cheddar, pepper jack, and Gruyère cheese with tomato dip; and a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich, with coconut oil-washed Campari ice cream, blood orange and passionfruit swirl, and candied pineapple whoopie pie.
Since 1949, Nepenthe has been a destination for artists, poets, millionaires, Hollywood stars, and denizens. It’s a stunningly beautiful setting; the film “The Sandpiper” was filmed here in the early 1960s). In its early days, patrons ordered the Nepenthe C&C (Courvoisier Cognac and Chartreuse); a poem on early menus described the cocktail as "as rich as a string of pearls, a box at the opera, or a sable foot stool..." Nowadays, the signature cocktail at the bar is the South Coast margarita (tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice). The California bar itself is as attractive as the surroundings. It was designed by Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, who teamed with Lolly and Bill Fassett to design an open-air pavilion from native redwood and adobe brick. The bar and restaurant offer a view of the Pacific Ocean and 40 miles of the Santa Lucia Mountains as they recede down the south coast of Big Sur. The outdoor terrace was modeled after an Italian piazza, with a large fireplace, cement bleachers, and long benches. Save room for the World Famous Ambrosia Burger, a memorable ground steak sandwich.
Taking its name from a famous collection of short stories by James Joyce, the Washington, D.C. is one of the best Irish pubs in America. 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 U.S.’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.
The Red Key Tavern is an Indianpolis institution that has been in the Settle family since 1951. The Indiana 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 Ann, 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.
Once named one of the top 10 whiskey bars in the nation by GQ, The Silver Dollar serves plenty of beers and drafts, but the Kentucky bar excels with its cocktails and bourbons. Popular drinks include the Gold Rush (Evan Williams BiB with honey syrup and lemon) and the Kentucky Mule (Wild Turkey 101 with ginger syrup and lime). The Louisville bar menu is full of Southern fare; the two-day-a-week brunch menu also has some classic Tex-Mex like huevos rancheros and smoked chicken enfrijoladas.
Simply put, Marvel Bar combines classic Japanese bartending methods with new American cocktail creativity yielding emulsified sours, hyper-diluted cocktails, charcoal-filtered cocktails, and alkaline cocktails. All the details are attended to, including hand-chipped ice, which makes a difference in the final temperature and dilution of each drink. 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. The Minnesota bar has ongoing collaborations with distillers locally and nationally, resulting in single-barrel selections from much smaller batches and unique barrelings of aquavit and gin. The bar also places a large emphasis on bottle-conditioning cocktails in house, which results in its own brandy, whiskey, and rum blends designed with specific cocktails in mind. “As Marvel comes into its own, an indirect Japanese influence remains. We still try to minimize superfluous ingredients so that no component parts are overshadowed by another in an original cocktail. But we’ve consistently been exploring spirit categories to stretch our own abilities to find ideal ingredient parings that become greater than the sum of their parts. We’ve purchased many single barrels from large producers, but we’ve been working more and more to develop products with smaller producers to create singular cocktail ingredients like gin, aquavit, whiskey, and bitters,” said General manager Peder Schweigert, who 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 the bar dubbed an “emulsified sour.” The Minneapolis bar’s martini in also noteworthy; the recipe was adapted from a French cocktail book published in 1904: three parts gin to one part dry vermouth with a single dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist.
The 50-seat copper-topped wood bar at the Old Absinthe House has been a mainstay in New Orleans’ French Quarter for 200 years, attracting luminaries like Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Frank Sinatra. Jerseys and helmets of football legends and antique chandeliers are suspended from the exposed cypress beams; marble fountains with brass faucets that once used to drip cool water over sugar cubes into glasses of absinthe line the bar. It’s a delight to sit and admire one of Louisiana’s most charming settings. Sip the signature Absinthe Frappe, created in 1860 by Cayetano Ferrer and made with Herbsaint and anisette topped with a splash of soda water. Don’t forget to add your card to the millions of business cards on the walls, a testimony to the bar’s motto “Everyone you have known or ever will know eventually ends up at the Old Absinthe House.” It’s rumored that pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson planned their victory in the battle of New Orleans on the second floor (now the newly-renovated Jean Lafitte’s Bistro), and, if you ask, the bartenders will share their Lafitte ghost stories with you.
The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS South Beach is a sight to behold. Like many South Beach bars, The Bazaar is the type of place where you dress to impress while sipping equally stylish cocktails. The alfresco Bar Centro, adjacent to The Bazaar and overlooking an infinity pool, features a living room motif designed by Philippe Starck. The Florida bar turns out craft cocktails like the Ultimate Gin & Tonic, for which the bar staff infuse botanicals into the gin, topping it off with Fever-Tree tonic. One of the hotel bar’s signature cocktails is the Landing Gear (bourbon, amontillado sherry, Bénédictine, and a spiced pear liqueur). There are more than 300 bottles of wine, mostly Spanish-influenced, and a variety of sherries for non-cocktail drinkers. The food menu, by James Beard Award-winning chef Andrés, consists of Spanish tapas infused with the Latin flavors of Miami. Try the bao con lechón (pork belly, black mojo, pickled chayote, and a chicharrón nestled in a Chinese steamed bun).
A stylish tropical oasis-meets-flotsam-strewn island hut, Lost Lake evokes both the glamorous tropical escapism of 1930s Hollywood and the rugged nautical, island aesthetic of the world's first tiki bar, the original Don’s Beachcomber Café (the reincarnated version of the Huntington Beach, California. institution closed in April 2018, but is looking to reopen soon). Under a roof of lauhala, between walls of iconic banana leaf-print wallpaper, the Illinois bar’s cocktail program pays homage to 80-plus years of exotic cocktail history with a menu of original tropical recipes and selections from the classic tiki canon. Decked out in tropical attire and well-versed in rum (and rhum, and ron), Lost Lake’s talented team of friendly and knowledgeable beverage professionals is ready to take you on a mini-vacation, by way of a wildly garnished tiki cocktail. Lost Lake, named Best American Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail’s 2018 Spirited Awards, is a three-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program (2016, 2017, 2018) and was named one of Esquire’s Best Bars in America in 2017. The Chicago bar changes its cocktail menu bi-annually, but there is a “whisper” menu of cocktails, which has the 100-plus cocktail recipes the bar has been making since 2015. Signature cocktails include Bunny's Banana Daiquiri (overproof Jamaican rum, overproof Demerara rum, spiced rum, banana, coconut, and lime) and Lost Lake (aged Jamaican rum, passionfruit, lime, pineapple, Maraschino and Campari). Lost Lake offers a menu of Asian-island inspired dishes combining Asian, Korean, Polynesian, Chinese and Vietnamese influences. Our favorite dish is the pork dumplings with scallion and ginger, seaweed salad, radish, and Zhenjiang vinegar-soy sauce.
The apothecary-esque Polite Provisions has a seasonally changing menu of libations that include the rich walnut and dark cherry Ken Burns Effect (rye whiskey, oloroso sherry, Maraschino liqueur, and Angostura bitters) and Promise of Paradise (blanco tequila, strawberry, sparkling rosé, lemon, and Aperitivo). Patrons feeling peckish can order from the California bar’s sister property, Soda and Swine, which is adjacent to the San Diego bar.
Craig Nelson’s Proof is an intimate craft cocktail bar in South Carolina with an extensive wine-by-the-glass list and a beer list full of pilsners, lagers, stouts, sours, and ciders. But the real attraction at the Charleston bar is the cocktail list — 32 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). There is a daily changing menu of small plates, which are scribbled on the bar’s chalkboard.
Since 1923, the Lobby Bar in the elegant Georgian revival Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville’s “Magic Corner” has offered handcrafted classic cocktails, live piano music and quintessential Kentucky charm that transports guests to a bygone era. A popular spot for the next generation of Louisville merrymakers, this glamorous, gilded space balances its history with modern touches and sophisticated tastes. Ever attuned to the dining desires of its clientele, patrons can enjoy the English Grill menu items from the comfort of the Lobby Bar. Indulge in classic comfort food and kick back with a hand-crafted cocktail. The lobster mac and cheese or the legendary Hot Brown pair perfectly with the hand-selected bourbon flight. Finish your meal with a slice of Derby Pie, made with walnuts and chocolate chips.
Named after a popular tiki drink from the 1940s, Three Dots and a Dash is a speakeasy take on a traditional tiki bar and one of Illinois’s craft cocktail destinations. Hidden down an alley in the middle of downtown Chicago, the tiki bar was named one of The World’s 50 Best Bars by Drinks International and is led by cocktail expert Kevin Beary. His team works tirelessly to source and create the best possible tiki cocktails using the freshest exotic fruits and spices, the finest rums and distilled spirits, and cold-pressed juices and elixirs. Three Dots and a Dash’s rum-soaked menu features classic, modern, and large format tiki drinks and a selection of Polynesian-inspired bites. Bring a crowd and try the Port Royal — made with an entire bottle of Appleton Estate 21-year-aged Jamaican rum that is poured tableside and mixed with oak-aged yellow Chartreuse, freshly pressed lime juice, cold pressed pineapple juice and clarified mango and rambutan purée that is served in a huge pirate ship vessel with dry ice escaping the lower decks — or the Shotstopus, which holds an individual shot in each tentacle. If you’re here solo, go for Beary’s signature Idle Hands cocktail, a crystal-clear concoction of clarified banana rum, cane sugar, and “Lime 2.0” that looks like water but tastes like a banana daiquiri.
The Hawthorne pairs the finest elements of the craft cocktail movement with a heightened focus on hospitality, comfort and geniality. Opened in 2011 by nationally-recognized bartender Jackson Cannon, the Massachusetts bar is a space dedicated to thoughtfully crafted cocktails, continued spirits education, and exceptional guest experiences. Under Jackson’s guidance, the Boston bar has received local and national acclaim since opening, including Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar in 2017 and several nods as a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for “Outstanding Bar Program.”
Libertine Liquor Bar in Indianapolis is a respite from the typical. The Indiana bar celebrates cocktail creativity with a solid menu of cocktails (along with wines, beers, and an impressive level of hospitality). Quirky yet exceptional cocktails on the bar menu (which changes often) include Patrick Starburst (pink Starburst-infused vodka, lime, ruby Port pineapple, vanilla, and rosé) and Florida Man (yam-infused Bourbon, coffee liqueur, and marshmallow coconut cream).
Since 1933, Redwood Room has been a hot spot for handcrafted cocktails and a glamorous California bar scene. Located inside The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel, the Redwood Room interior features an enormous etched glass bar and the original redwood paneling, which was carved from a single redwood tree. Philippe Starck-designed lounge furniture and digital artwork add modern touches to the classic San Francisco bar. There are 23 cocktails on offer, including the Premium Redwood Room Martini (Fords 86 Co gin Or Ketel One vodka, dry vermouth, and blue cheese olives) and the Bay to Breakers (Union mezcal, Cherry Heering, ruby red grapefruit juice, and sweet vermouth). Hearty snacks include Chips & Poke (House made Kennebec potato chips with ahi tuna and wasabi aioli) and the grass-fed Clift Burger (cheddar, all the usual toppings, house ketchup, and mustard aioli).
Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philly
Going strong since 1860, McGillin’s Old Ale House is Philly’s oldest tavern, and also one of the city’s very best, frequented by locals, including city politicians and visitors alike. The Pennsylvania bar has 30 draft beers, many from local microbreweries, as well as bottled beers. European ales, lagers, and pilsners are also available, and McGillin’s 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 good tippers, great singers at karaoke, and when the home team scores.
The Griswold Inn opened its doors in 1776, promising “First Class Accommodations, Fine Food and Spirits.” Some 243 years and six owning-families later, the inn, its wine bar, and its Tap Room at The Gris, which opened in 1801, still live 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 at the Connecticut bar), 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. Housed in what was once Essex’s first schoolhouse (the structure was rolled down the street on logs to its present location on Main Street in 1801), the Tap Room has an elegant domed ceiling that evokes a time gone by. 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. Tavern food is served from 2:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily, and includes an award-winning New England clam chowder.
Housed in a former Daphne gas station that was rumored to have sold alcohol during Prohibition, Manci’s Antique Club is, as the name suggests, filled to the brim with antiques, including one of the world’s largest collections of decorative Jim Beam decanters. The Alabama bar, making its debut on our list, also has a quirky “surprise” in the ladies room; women who can’t resist peeking under Adam’s fig leaf are greeted with the blare of an alarm that signals for the locals to laugh and heckle peeping patrons. (Note: the fig leaf is turned off during live music events so as to not disrupt the live shows.) Don’t miss the bloody mary.
Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco boasts the perfect pour, serving each of its beers at the optimal drinking temperature with a custom “on the fly” gas-blending system, variable storage, and delivery system. The California bar brings beer from the best breweries around the world to its 42 taps. Temperature is key for the bartenders at Mikkeller Bar. Some 13 beers, like their famous Beer Geek Breakfast, an oatmeal stout, are served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit; 20 beers, like their juicy Windy Hill NE Style IPA & fun coffee Berliner Weisse Raspberry Blush, are served at 45 degrees Fahrenheit; and five beers, like the Mahr’s Bräu Ungespundet Hefetrüb, are served at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The seasonally changing menu includes charcuterie and cheeses, snacks, small plates, and sausages.
Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis and the bartenders of The Velvet Tango Room are “torchbearers of tradition.” The bartenders at the Ohio bar have been serving classic cocktails since 1996, long before it was trendy. There are more than 80 cocktails on the menu; about 30 of them are house creations, including the India Lime Fizz (a rich, creamy, and powerful cocktail that combines 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. The bar and back bar are made of refinished mahogany, and the front room features 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, further beyond, a patio where some of the bar’s cocktail ingredients are grown. Both rooms have an old-fashioned black-and-white TV that shows classic movies with no sound. There are limited snacks, like speck, which is locally sourced smoked pork belly made by a German family in Cleveland.
There’s much to see and drink at Colorado’s Williams & Graham, which boasts 500 bottles of spirits from around the world. Cocktail options at the Denver bar include 60 classic cocktails, some up to 200-years-old, and bespoke cocktails created by the bartenders just for you. Try the Bridge to Terabithia (Tanqueray 10 gin, Campari, Cocchi Americano, and St-Germain) and the Paloma (Espolón blanco tequila, lime juice, grapefruit soda, and a pinch of salt). Pair the potent drinks with small plates and sweets, like black tea-smoked quail with pine nut polenta and braised greens; bone marrow, the award-winning Williams and Graham Burger with Western Daughters ground beef, Port Salut, caramelized onions, soft bun, and fries; and namelaka (white chocolate, oloroso currants, dark chocolate, almond brittle, and Glenfiddich 15-year-old).
The storied history of the Ball & Chain, which is new to our list, is riveting: Opened in 1935, the Little Havana bar was purchased in the 1950s by a group of folks who were less than upstanding. Luminaries like Billie Holiday and Count Basie graced the stage before the Miami bar closed in 1957. At the turn of this century, the Florida bar was renovated and features live music from its pineapple-shaped stage all day every day and night. Making its debut on our list this year, the bar’s signature drinks, available by the glass and the pitcher, are refreshing. Try the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned (Bacardi 8 aged rum, Demerara sugar, tobacco-infused bitters, and tobacco leaf) and the mojito, which is made with Bacardi rum, fresh lime juice, sugar, and mint sprigs. Pair these with modern Cuban tapas-style menu items like the Cuban spring rolls with ham, mojo pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard aioli. Don’t miss the desserts like dark chocolate tres leches with 12-year rum and chocolate soil.
The folks behind California’s No Vacancy at the Juniper Hotel — which is a Hollywood bar, with no hotel attached — have worked hard to evoke 1930s nostalgia, from the former Victorian-style residence in which it makes its home and its vintage hotel décor (including a detailed lobby) to the surprises around every corner and the dress code (cocktail attire is encouraged). Guests can enjoy a list of seasonal cocktails at the greenhouse bar on the patio or in the lush outdoor garden. There's live music, and sometimes burlesque, on weekends.
Modeled after a 19th-century saloon but with 20th-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 the 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 New York 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.
Located in a building built in 1883 and subsequently home to a local doctor, the Colorado Women’s Relief Corps, Soapy Smith’s Double Eagle Bar, and the Masons — Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen is a fixture in Denver, Colorado. There are more than 80 globetrotting beers (and more than 50 whiskeys and seasonally changing cocktails for non-beer drinkers), a selection of beer cocktails, including the Paw Paw (Bear Creek spiced rum, Cognac, Apfel, orange bitters, and Diebolt Postcard Porter), and an adventurous pub food menu with items like pig ear pad thai, Boulder Lamb “Loco Moco” (Moco lamb patty, spicy black rice, mushroom-bacon gravy, sunny-side-up egg, lemongrass syrup, and black garlic molasses), house-made hand-cranked sausages, and the more familiar poutine and schnitzels — all prepared in the open kitchen.
Established in 1963, during the second coming of the tiki rise and revolution, Kon Tiki is now one of the last remaining original outposts to survive what could be considered a "tiki bar depression." Kon Tiki is a purveyor of aloha and proud practitioner of hospitality. The Arizona bar is home to original gas-powered tiki torches, the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, and assorted island curios. The likes of Clint Eastwood and Robert Wagner stopped by Kon Tiki when filming was frequent in and around Tucson. Today, Kon Tiki is still a neighborhood-centric destination that is best known for a cocktail menu of 50-plus tiki-inspired libations, such as the Scorpion, Painkiller, Volcano Bowl, and a few versions of the Mai Tai. Kon Tiki also has a full kitchen, offering a collection of island and inland comfort foods.
Minneapolis’ “Fermentation bar” GYST (an old English word for yeast) only serves fermented drinks and foods. On the surface, “fermented” doesn’t evoke excitement, but the Minnesota bar caught our attention just for this, making its debut on our list at No. 82. The bar’s menu is populated with naturally fermented drinks like wine, beer, cider, kombucha, and coffee as well as light bites like cheese, salumi, pickles, and chocolate. Try the Kombucha Spritzer with sparkling white wine and the Caramel Apple with Le Brun cider and Amontillado sherry.
Considering that Clyde Common’s ahead-of-the-curve cocktail master 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 Portland, Oregon, bar has been an industry touchstone. There are plenty of draft and craft beers 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 that is carbonated and bottled in-house) and the Southbound Suarez (reposado tequila, lime, agave, Becherovka, and house horchata) paired with executive chef Clayton Allen’s comfort food.
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 twists to classic (and pricey) cocktails. The hotel bar’s menu includes a dozen modern classics and 30 wines by the glass. The California 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.
The Bar Room at New York’s The 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 Salty Dawg Saloon is housed in a late-19th-century building, one of the original cabins from the town site in Homer. Opened in 1957, the low-ceiling bar (tall folks have to duck to enter) is an Alaska institution. The fun décor includes life rings, dollars, and endless bric-a-brac (for years, the eclectic curios included a prosthetic leg, until someone stole it to take it back to its owner). Ask the friendly bar staff, who have been tending the bar for decades, for signature cocktails like 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, comprised of Kahlúa, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Crown Royal).
Not much has changed since the late Ray Buhen opened the Tiki-Ti on the far eastern end of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard in 1961. Today, his son and grandson, Michael and Mike Buhen, carry on the tradition of exotic cocktail-making at the family-owned and -operated tropical bar that serves 94 different drinks. The cash-only 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 (Don't ask for one, the bar will ask you to sign one when it is time). Almost all the tiki pictures and items adorning the California bar were donated by long-time patrons. 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. The most popular drink is the Ray’s Mistake (made with “Super Secret Flavor,” botanic liqueurs and passionfruit, and floated with dark Coruba rum), and the strongest is Stealth, a concoction of various liquors like Kahlua, 151 rum, amaretto, Grand Marnier, and Baileys.
New Orleans’ greatest Colonial-era saloon, Napoleon House Bar & Cafe, has been charming locals and tourists for 200 years. It captures the essence of the Big Easy. The building’s first occupant was the mayor of New Orleans, who lived there from 1812 to 1815; he offered his residence to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. Napoleon didn’t make it, but the name stuck. The bar has been a haven for artists and writers ever since. Walking through the Louisiana bar’s doors and sipping the signature Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No. 1 and lemonade topped off with 7-Up and garnished with a cucumber) quickly evokes a bygone era. Pair it with the Muffuletta sandwich, a quintessential New Orleans sandwich of cured meats, cheese, and tangy olive salad dressing on a sesame-crusted Italian loaf that is a nod to the Italian immigrants who opened grocery and deli stores along the riverfront of the French Market in New Orleans.
New York City’s Seamstress has a pretty low-key entrance: you go through a small store-like room to get into the bar — yet another New York place with a would-be speakeasy vibe. The menu features beer, wine, and cider, as well as 50 American classic cocktails and 18 legacy sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami cocktails poured by head bartender Luis Hernández. Particularly popular is the No Say (Ilegal mezcal, Aperol, coconut, lemongrass, and pineapple) and the Mortimer & Mauve (Redemption rye, chai-infused vermouth, and Barrow’s Intense Ginger).
In 2013, Chef José Andrés opened up barmini — right next door to his avant-garde tasting-counter restaurant minibar in Washington, D.C. With more than 50 drinks on the menu, barmini has won countless awards, thanks to such creative cocktails as the Cross-Eyed Mary (aged rum with honey, lime, absinthe, and passion fruit espuma) 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.
Located in The St. Regis New York, the King Cole Bar is believed to be the first bar in the U.S. to serve the Red Snapper — later more popularly known as the bloody mary. Whether or not the cocktail was actually invented at the New York bar or in a bar in France is up for debate, but King Cole Bar continues to serve it in style, with patrons over the years including the likes of Salvador Dali, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon. This upscale New York bar features an extensive drink list full of great wines and whiskeys, the latter of which have been known to sometimes cost up to $700.
One visit to Boston’s Backbar and you will understand why it is a newcomer to our list. The high-end Massachusetts cocktail bar in a humble, homey space mixes cocktails like the Ford Cocktail (Fords gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Bénédictine, and orange bitters) and Millennial Falcon (Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Amontillado sherry, Amaro Nonino, and cinnamon) with bar snacks like spiced nuts, ranch popcorn, and Castelvetrano olives with orange, chili flakes, and Sichuan peppercorn.
Home of traditional country music, rockabilly, and more (and host to a much-loved house band, Brazilbilly), Robert’s Western World is a legendary Nashville 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 Tennessee 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). The Georgia bar has also made contributions to the recent low-proof cocktail trends with drinks, such as the Hootchy Cider Punch made with a house-made 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 is closed.
This legendary Irish pub in New York City’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 the New York pub is still one of the best Irish pubs in the country.
Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere has made a name for itself turning out craft cocktails and fresh seafood in a beautiful space and garden. The décor emphasizes American and New Orleans design with antiques, lighting, and music. The New York bar, led by bar director William Elliott, specializes in absinthe cocktails like the signature Maison Absinthe Colada (Mansinthe, Rhum JM, crème de menthe, pineapple, and coconut syrup). Chef Jacob Clark serves a variety of Cajun-inspired plates and entrées, in addition to an expansive raw bar with over 30 types of oysters, assorted crudo, and sea urchin.
The Haymarket Whiskey Bar & Bottle Shop offers nearly 500 whiskeys by the drink from around the world, ranging from more than 350 Kentucky bourbons and rye whiskeys with additional collections of single malt Scotch and Japanese whiskeys. In addition, The Haymarket also offers more than 100 different bourbons for sale to go by the bottle. A proud member of the Urban Bourbon Trail, Haymarket champions the deep tradition and history of bourbon country while offering serious hospitality and a relaxing atmosphere. With more than 30 bourbon flights, the largest collection of vintage whiskey in Kentucky and dozens of private single barrel selections, the Louisville bar welcomes all its guests no matter how much bourbon knowledge they may have. The Haymarket is a must-visit bar in downtown Louisville with vintage pinballs, skee-ball and arcade games, a jukebox, and a soon-to-be introduced charcuterie menu.
Opened in 1991, the Portsmouth Brewery was New Hampshire’s first brewpub. Housed in a 19th-century brick building in Portsmouth’s historic downtown, the two-story establishment is the quintessential New England neighborhood bar. The beer is brewed in-house and there are whiskey-based cocktails, too, like the In Cider Job (Bulleit bourbon, sweet vermouth, cider, cherries and orange slice). The drink offerings include 12 draft beers upstairs, 16 downstairs, two cask-conditioned beers, 18 wines, 25 high-end bottled beers, and cider offerings curated by head brewer Matt Gallagher. You’ll also find 10 cocktails and a few mocktails. The bar’s décor includes eclectic art, rolled-steel tabletops, high ceilings, a cupola, a seasonal outdoor beer garden, and a view of the beer-making process. The downstairs Jimmy LaPanza Lounge is a more laid-back affair, with velvet nude paintings on the walls, low ceilings, a pool table, and a tabletop shuffleboard game. Try the Thaizenheimer, a wheat ale brewed with ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass that pairs well with the spicy curried mussels cooked in a broth infused with curry spice, coconut milk, lemongrass, and a touch of spicy chile sauce.
Those seeking forgotten drinks made with accuracy should seek out Nevada’s Herbs and Rye, which has a cocktail list arranged in chronological order from the early 19th century to the present day. Open since 2009, the neighborhood Las Vegas bar features drinks from the Gothic Age (pre-1865) like the Brandy Crusta (brandy, Maraschino, orange Curaçao, lemon, and bitters) and the Jack Rose (applejack, lime, and homemade grenadine); drinks from the Golden Age (1865 to 1900) like the Widows Kiss (calvados, Bénédictine, yellow Chartreuse, and bitters), the Ford Cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, Bénédictine, and orange bitters), and the Ward Eight (rye, lemon, orange, and homemade grenadine); drinks from the Old School Age (1900 to 1919) like the Aviation (gin, Maraschino, lemon, crème de violette); drinks from the Prohibition era (1920 to 1933) like the Holland House (Bols genever, Maraschino, dry vermouth, and lemon juice) and the Scofflaw (rye, dry vermouth, lemon, grenadine, and orange bitters); the Years of Reform (1933 to 1948) like the Blinker (rye, grapefruit juice, and raspberry syrup); the Dark Age (1949 to 1989) like the Bramble (gin, lemon, cassis, and blackberries); and the Revival Age (1990 to present) like the Jungle Bird (black strap rum, pineapple, Campari, lime juice, and bar syrup). The bar is also known for its quality meats cut the old-fashioned way, like bone-in pork chop, flatiron steak, and rib-eye.
One of the pioneers in the return of cocktail culture, Elixir is a neighborhood saloon in San Francisco that serves a substantial collection of spirits at its late-19th-century mahogany bar. The handsomely decorated space includes Victorian lighting fixtures; a collection of antique cocktail and bartending tools, photos, and bottles; and memorabilia from the neighborhood and the California bar’s past. There are more than 350 individual bottles of whiskey, half American, half imported; 15 rotating taps of beer; and a rare tequila collection. Try classic cocktails like the San Francisco original, Pisco Punch (Barsol Pisco Quebranta, Small Hand Foods pineapple gum syrup, and lemon juice, shaken and served short and over fresh ice) and classic whiskey cocktails like the Rusty Nail (Old Pulteney 12-year single malt scotch and Stroma Single Malt Liqueur, built short and over ice with a lemon twist).
Open since 2008, Frankie’s Tiki Room was designed and built by Bamboo Ben, the grandson of Eli Hedley, who himself designed the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. The Nevada bar features carvings, paintings, and custom drinkware created by a who’s who of tropical artists. Frankie’s Tiki Room is inspired by the South Seas, with a hint of Las Vegas kitsch (you’ll find video poker, blackjack, keno and slots by the bar). There are 70 original drinks and 17 classics to try, like Lava Letch (Demon rum, brandy, raspberry liqueur, and ginger beer) and eight classics, like the delicious rum, allspice dram, and honey concoction Three Dots and a Dash (Morse code for “victory”).
Frequently named as one of the best bars in America, The Sound Table in Atlanta 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 in Georgia.
Once an actual speakeasy, Bourbon & Branch, which opened in San Francisco in 1867, operated illegally during Prohibition as The Ipswitch ± A Beverage Parlor from 1921 to 1923. John J. Russell purchased the business in 1923 and called it “JJ Russell’s Cigar Shop.” Russell, who had connections to bootleggers in Vancouver, British Columbia, didn’t sell many cigars. The well-heeled arrived and those who asked for a certain cigar were escorted through a trapdoor to his underground bar, which was fitted with five secret exit tunnels that remain along with the bar today. Patrons followed a strict set of house rules (a similar set remains in use today), including ordering alcohol without raising suspicion (bartenders told patrons to be quiet and “speak easy” — thus the term speakeasy). There are four rooms: Bourbon & Branch, The Library, Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency, and the JJ Russells Room. On the four menus, you’ll find 100 cocktails. The bourbon selection includes actual hand-numbered Noah’s Mill, Buffalo Trace, and Rittenhouse 21-year. You’ll also find rare scotches, like Monkey Shoulder, Glenmorangie Margaux Finish (one of 1,200 bottles in the U.S.), and Balvenie 1971. There is only one Canadian whisky — a Crown XR (only 7,500 cases were produced). It’s the rare, carefully curated collection of bourbons and respect for the past that keep patrons coming to this California bar, which also has a main bar and the Library (enter the Library by ringing the buzzer and using the password “books”).
Expertly executed classic cocktails are what make The Varnish, a vintage bar at the back of Cole’s French Dip (the 110-year-old California establishment that invented the French dip sandwich), a draw in Los Angeles. There are more than 1,000 variations of classic cocktails on the list, but 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.
Located in the original loading dock of the Nabisco factory building in Los Angeles, built in 1925, the bar at French bistro Church & State has become known for its revolving, seasonally-inspired cocktail selection and its cocktail of the day. The drink menu includes six house cocktails, five bottled beers, and 75 French wines by the bottle with 12 more by the glass. Located at one end of the California restaurant, overlooking the dining area and open kitchen, is the 10-seat marble bar. The drinks are made with small-batch and artisanal spirits and liqueurs. The full restaurant menu is available at the bar. Popular dishes are the moules marinières (P.E.I. mussels with french fries and aioli), os à moelle (roasted bone marrow with marinated radish salad), steak tartare (Sun Fed Ranch grass-fed beef heart tartare with mesclun salad and french fries), a four-cheese plate with P’tit Basque, Tomme de Chèvre, Gruyère and Bleu d'Auvergne served with a toasted baguette and the pork rillettes, pâtés de campagne and chicken liver mousse are offered à la carte.
There are two bars on property here: Bar ‘21’ and Lounge in the lobby and, inside the main dining room, the historic Bar Room. Bar ‘21’ features an award-winning wine list with 1,500 selections from 30 regions in 15 countries. There are 21 wines by the glass and over 125 bottles under $60, as well as an “Opportunities” section showcasing a selection of excess stock fine wines that are available at incredible prices. There is also an extensive assortment of spirits and artisanal beers on tap at this New York watering hole. The cocktail menu tends to focus on the classics, like the signature Southside (gin, mint, and citrus), a favorite since the 1930s that pairs wonderfully with the light seafood dishes, such as the tuna tartare and fresh oysters. However, seasonal, in-house creations like the Gingerbread Old Fashioned and Maple-Berry Mule are becoming guest favorites. The Bar ‘21’ cocktail lounge is a welcoming New York spot with a cozy fireplace and high-back leather chairs — it’s perfect for a quick drink or a long afternoon.
The Bar Room is a more sophisticated affair where guests can savor seasonally driven contemporary American dishes under a canopy of colorful “toys” donated by a legion of legendary sports stars, presidents, movie stars, and business leaders. Evidence of the Bar Room’s Prohibition-era heritage is evident: the secret wine cellar used to hide illegal liquor bottles is still in use.
Located in Chicago’s 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 the Illinois bar’s cocktails like the Frozen Coffee (Irish whiskey, Metric "Hellion" cold brew coffee, chocolate, and espresso liqueur) or the Sarsaparilla Zazerac (house bourbon, sarsaparilla, roasted grain, almond, and absinthe).
It’s all about craft beer here at El Bait Shop, a rustic bar populated with taxidermy, beer signs, and bicycles. The Iowa bar also doubles as Des Moines’ “unofficial bicycle headquarters,” given its proximity to a number of bike trails in downtown Des Moines. With 262 beers on tap and 100 by the bottle, this is a beer-lover’s paradise. Try the Root Down shot, made with locally produced Millstream Root Beer and Jägermeister, and enjoy the fish tacos and bacon-wrapped tater tots, while having a chat with beloved bartender Joe Tolpingrud.
Since 1919, The Musso & Frank Grill has been serving the perfect martini with timeless Hollywood class. Entrepreneur Frank Toulet and Oregon restaurateur Joseph Musso hired French chef Jean Rue soon after opening; he created the superb menu, which has remained mostly unchanged. In 1927, the California restaurant/bar was sold and in 1934 moved one door down on Hollywood Boulevard, where it remains today. To sit at the grill is to be steeped in Hollywood history. Deals were made on the payphone, the first installed in Hollywood; scripts were discussed over martinis; and contracts were signed over dinner. Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and other big names frequented the bar and restaurant; loyal waiters have tended to the well-heeled clientele for decades. At Musso’s, they treat locals like celebrities and celebrities like locals.
Walking into Bemelmans Bar in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is like taking a stroll through times gone by. It retains the ambiance of Big Apple bars of the 1940s and 1950s. Servers in white jackets and bow ties, live jazz piano, and superb martinis are fixtures that have stood the test of time. But the New York bar isn't out of touch (though the prices might be for some). The bar is named for Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the children’s book series “Madeline,” and Bemelmans’ paintings deck the walls of this sophisticated room, which also features comfortable leather banquettes. Order one of the double-size martinis, served in a classic martini glass with a dividend on the side that remains chilled on crushed ice until ready to drink. The latest offering by head bartender Luis Serrano is the Agave Gingerita with Casamigos tequila, which pairs nicely with the bar’s food menu; the emphasis is on shareable plates, like sliders, and Mediterranean spreads.
On a side street of New York City's Chinatown is Apothéke, an unmarked spot (the New York bar's façade is that of an old noodle shop called Gold Flower Restaurant) that features a menu of "prescriptions" prepared with organic produce from local greenmarkets or picked straight from the bar’s rooftop herb garden. Proprietors Heather Tierney and Christopher Tierney have created a throwback space anchored by a 30-foot marble bar where creative elixirs are made in dramatic fashion. Farm-to-bar options include Belle Époque “aphrodisiacs” like Deal Closer (vodka, local Chinatown aphrodisiacs, cucumber, mint, lime and agave, and vanilla essence) and “psychotrophics” like Remember My Name (scotch, Italian sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur, ancho chile cordial, and Angostura bitters with an absinthe rinse and peated scotch mist) on the “Prohibition Prescriptions” menu.
New to our list this year, Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge is a must-visit. Exotic lighting, plush velvet walls, and exceptional cocktails has made Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge a popular watering hole since the 1930s. Originally opened as a Miller Brewing “tied house,” its namesake Bryant Sharpe opened the Wisconsin spot as a beer hall in 1936 and then switched to cocktails two years later — the rest is history. There isn’t a cocktail menu here, Sharp thought cocktail menus limited the choice of the customer. Instead, bartenders discuss the possibilities, all 450 of them, with patrons.
Since The Elk Room opened, it has brought a level of novelty back to the cocktail scene in Baltimore, demonstrating that mixology does not have to be stuffy, uptight, or pretentious. Modern techniques are used at every juncture at this Baltimore bar, but they are only employed to create tastier drinks. A selection of 600-plus spirits inspires endless creativity for the cocktail menu, which changes twice a year (in April and October). The Maryland bar, making its debut on our list, is known for pushing the envelope of flavor, presentation, and technique. Designed by Patrick Sutton, The Elk Room has a very dark atmosphere illuminated only by candlelight. A giant elk head sits above the bar overlooking the space. To enhance the speakeasy theme, The Elk Room doesn’t have any signage outside. You have to find the unmarked door down a long courtyard and ring the doorbell for access. The most popular cocktail is Fool's Gold, a combination of Eagle Rare 10-Year bourbon, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, Letherbee Fernet, lemon, honey, and eucalyptus. Executive chef Julian Marucci has created shareable plates like pork belly steam buns, Burgundy snails, chicken liver bruschetta, dry-aged beef sliders, and crispy oysters.
ChurchKey is known for its impressive, ever-changing selection of 555 imported and domestic beers. The breakdown: 500 bottles, 50 drafts, and five casks. ChurchKey is the upstairs bar to sister Washington, D.C., restaurant Birch & Barley. The space blends Victorian and industrial touches, juxtaposing lush curtains, plush banquettes, and reclaimed chandeliers with metal beams. Copper pipes deliver the suds to the 50 taps behind the 55-foot-long bar. Beer director Greg Engert puts together an expansive list of beers on a nightly basis, and his highly trained staff members guide guests through the list using seven flavor categories created by Engert (crisp, hop, malt, roast, smoke, fruit, and spice). Since its opening in 2009, ChurchKey has been the first beer bar to use temperature-controlled taps (serving its beers at 42, 48, 50 to 52, and 54 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the style) and serves all its beers in the appropriate glassware. ChurchKey regularly hosts a range of events, from tap takeovers to draft debuts to beer dinners. There’s also a food menu that includes fresh pastas, house-made charcuterie and handmade “tater tots.”
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, served at room temperature) at lower prices. There are 114 cocktails on the menu, but the bartenders can make far more. The lively Houston 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 at the Texas bar.
Based on a British colonial officer’s club in Burma in the late 1800s, The Pegu Club preserves the art of cocktail culture in an upstairs space in SoHo. The namesake Pegu Club cocktail (London dry gin, bitters, lime juice, and orange Curaçao) is a must-try here; the tables have droppers of lemon, lime, simple syrup, and bitters. Small nibbles, like trout deviled eggs, are also on offer.
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 Jesus 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 Tiger Sauce chicken wings and the shrimp and grits made from spicy Original Grit Girl grits cheese grits, sautéed shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, white wine, lemon juice, and Big Bad Bacon.
Sipping a cocktail at Pouring Ribbons is an education. The graphic cocktail menu, curated by award-winning bartender Joaquín Simó and his business partner, Jason Cott of Alchemy Consulting, features 15 house cocktails and 15 classic cocktails mapped out on a Cartesian plane with one axis spanning from refreshing to spirituous and the other from comforting to adventurous. Each drink's placement on the scale is also found underneath the longer drink descriptions. The most popular cocktail is Death & Taxes (the split base includes Dorothy Parker American gin, Clear Creek blue plum brandy, lavender-infused Cinzano Bianco vermouth, fresh lemon juice, wildflower honey syrup and a dash of grapefruit bitters). In addition to its impressive mixed drinks, this New York bar is also known for possessing the largest collection of vintage and rare bottles of Chartreuse in North America.
Designed by WarrenRed, the Pouring Ribbons has a modern yet timeless décor that incorporates bright colors, punctuated by a large window in the front of the room that’s beautifully framed by a walnut wood arch. The bar partners with Beecher's Handmade Cheeses to provide individually wrapped portions of cheese, charcuterie, and traditional accoutrements for guests seeking a light snack pairing.
Restaurateur Garrett Harker has created a gem in Kenmore Square, a once-seedy part of Boston, Massachusetts. Since opening the restaurant nearly 10 years ago, Eastern Standard has garnered numerous awards; among other honors, Harker was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur for the past two years in a row. The high-ceilinged lounge, with red leather banquettes, features 110 eclectic wines by the bottle and an impressive beer list, but the bartenders who handcraft drinks from the 46-foot marble bar, the longest bar in Beantown, really excel at craft cocktails like the signature Dartmouth Highball (Pimm’s No. 1, Plymouth gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and mint leaves). There is an expansive, rotating selection of craft cocktails, divided into playful subsections that riff on the classics and feature more innovative elixirs. Beverage director Jackson Cannon deftly leads his staff in the execution and evolution of Eastern Standard’s seasonally changing list, ensuring they can both perfect the drinks on offer and confidently go off-menu to suit guests’ whims at brunch, lunch, and dinner. The New England brasserie menu, which changes seasonally, includes twists on classic French brasserie fare like baked rigatoni with lamb and pork sausage, pink sauce, and ricotta.
A few blocks from San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf is The Buena Vista Café, where the American version of the Irish coffee was invented. The original was first mixed up in 1942 in the port of Foynes in western Ireland, predecessor of Shannon International Airport. Jack Koeppler, the then-co-owner of the Buena Vista, brought it to San Francisco in 1952 at the urging of Pulitzer Prize-winning travel writer Stan Delaplane of the San Francisco Chronicle. The secret to the Irish coffee, they discovered, was the cream that floats on top of the mixture of hot coffee, two sugar cubes, and Irish whiskey. Koeppler and his team of drinkers found that the cream had to be aged for 48 hours and whipped "to a precise consistency," according to the café's website. The California bar also serves hearty fare like eggs Blackstone and bread pudding.
This aptly named bar serves drinks — and damn good ones at that. Dedicated to cocktails, Drink’s bartenders, under the guidance of general manager and head bartender Ezra Star, custom-make them according to the tastes of each patron. Housed in an old wool warehouse, the Massachusetts bar specializes in old-school techniques and classic Prohibition-era recipes that are infused with modern innovation and artisanal ingredients. The Boston bar weaves throughout the room, creating six corners for guests to gather to watch the bar staff in action — chipping away at a 50-pound block of ice, muddling herbs, and shaking vibrant libations. The menu of seasonal light fare includes french fries, house-made charcuterie, steak tartare, and line-caught swordfish pastrami.
Smuggler’s Cove claims to have the largest premium rum selection in the U.S. (there are more than 550 rare and premium varieties), but the vintage California tiki bar also has an enviable repertoire of 70 exotic craft cocktails. Try the Smuggler’s Rum Barrel, a secret blend of rums and spices with fresh citrus. There is no food or pretension here, just rum and nautical paraphernalia galore. As if you needed an incentive, the San Francisco bar offers patrons the chance to try multiple rums and earn status in its trilevel Rumbustion Society. Begin the journey by trying and learning about 20 rums. After taking a quiz to demonstrate your new knowledge, you’ll get a membership card, merit badge, access to the vault of rare rums, and your name entered into the Smuggler’s Cove Manifesto. The next level involves sampling 80 one-ounce pours of your choice of rums from the Vault. Once completed, you become a Guardian of the Cove, and are bestowed special prizes, a certificate of completion, and a merit badge; your name also is emblazoned on the walls of Smuggler’s Cove. The final level of the club requires knocking back 200 additional rums to earn the title of Master of the Cove. As a master, you are given the opportunity to join owner Martin Cate on a private distillery trip.
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. The beverage team at the Georgia bar rotates the cocktail offerings seasonally. There are six beers on tap, plus a rotating bottle-and-can list of a dozen or so brews; a carefully curated wine list; and the cocktail list, which has 13 classics and 10 rotating signature cocktails created by members of the bar team. Check out the custom-built charcuterie and wine cave, and sample some of chef Linton Hopkins’ whole animal and Southern vegetable cookery. Standouts include beef tartare with egg yolk and shoestring potatoes; his wife and co-owner Gina Hopkins’ pimento cheese; tea-braised collards with bacon and sorghum; and the famous burger, a house-ground double stack with American cheese and red onion, served with hand-cut fries alongside house-made ketchup and mustard. Originally, only 24 burgers were served nightly, but they became so popular that they are now offered on the daily menu. Plus, H&F Burger, a stand-alone shop, is available daily at Ponce City Market in Atlanta and inside SunTrust Park on Atlanta Braves game days.
One of the world’s best bars, Mace is unlike any cocktail bar you’ve ever seen before. The premier New York establishment was opened in 2015 by acclaimed French bartender Nico de Soto along with Greg Boehm of New York bar Cocktail Kingdom and Zach Sharaga of the now-shuttered Louis 649. With this dynamic team, Mace has risen to the top of the cocktail world and transformed cocktails as we know them. As the name suggests, Mace is dedicated to incorporating unique spices handpicked from around the world 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).
Please Don’t Tell (aka PDT), hidden within East Village hot dog joint Crif Dogs and accessible via a phone booth, is a New York City gem. The cozy bar — with banquette seating, low ceilings, a copper-topped bar, leather seats, and taxidermy — offers a short menu of 18 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 Vermont maple syrup. The New York bar also serves tater tots, waffle fries, and Crif Dogs’ famous hot dogs garnished with condiments supplied by local chefs, including David Chang, Alex Stupak, Fabian von Hauske, and Jeremiah Stone.
When Sportsman’s Club was transferred into the hands of Heisler Hospitality (the folks behind Chicago bars like Queen Mary, Lone Wolf, Pub Royale, The Revel Room, and Estereo) in 2013, the Windy City was (and still is) abuzz about the bar’s daily blend of amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur) served chilled in a shot glass. Heisler also gave the 60-year-old Illinois bar an overhaul, transforming it into a classic Chicago establishment that feels charmingly timeless. It’s complete with taxidermy, carved checkerboards in the tables, tunes that play from a vintage reel-to-reel, brass chandeliers, and chicken-wire windows. Try the signature Sportsman’s cocktail, a stirred mix of bonded bourbon, Zucca Rabarbaro, Luxardo bitters, Angostura bitters, and absinthe. Award-winning head bartender and general manager Laura Kelton creates, shakes, and stirs four cocktails that change daily in addition to the mainstays, which include the Sportsman’s Cocktail, amaro blend, house-barrel old fashioned, and Low Life. The bar also offers carry-out wine and beer and retail bar goods. During the summer, the bar hosts backyard barbecues — as if you needed another reason to visit this space.
The intimate neighborhood bar Alembic has become an iconic San Francisco destination. Known for its hospitality, creative new-school cocktails, expertly prepared classics, local beers on tap, and strong whiskey selection, Alembic hits all the right notes. The California bar, built from the old bleachers of Kezar Stadium, is packed with patrons sipping craft cocktails like the Southern Exposure (a spin on the classic South Side, with gin, fresh mint, lime juice, sugar, and fresh celery juice) and the Brown Butter old fashioned (brown butter washed bourbon on the rocks with a couple of dashes of roasted sugar and bitters). There are nine house cocktails to try as well as several seasonal cocktails, including the Farmer's Market smash with locally sourced fruits and herbs. The modern food menu, which changes seasonally, features small plates like truffle cream deviled eggs, sausage and sage Scotch egg, and roasted bone marrow. The bar recently completed a makeover and expansion that warms the space with intimate lighting, comfy booth seating, and plenty of nooks to curl up in.
The gin-focused Scofflaw, which will celebrate its seventh anniversary in March, is a Chicago gem — a neighborhood bar in Logan Square that warmly welcomes all to settle onto barstools or settees for cocktails, from tiki drinks to absinthe sprays to American craft beers. There are exceptional small plates that are worth a taste, too, at this Illinois bar.
There’s a full Bar Room at The Modern, but the one that made our list is the no-name 20-seat bar within The Bar Room at The Modern, the à la carte part of The Modern tasting menu restaurant that is closest to the hotel’s sculpture garden. The bar is a triple threat, notable for its selection of spirits, its fine food menu, and the relaxed, hospitable style. The incredible selection of spirits at the New York bar includes old single malts and French brandies dating to the 1950s — all prominently featured in the tiered display behind the 36-foot-long marble bar. Every night, guests approach the New York bar from the dining area and spend a few moments just appreciating the selection. You won't find pretentious mixologists who smirk when you're in the mood for a cosmopolitan or vodka and soda. What you will find are skilled bartenders who execute a fantastic Sazerac, can recommend an artisanal gin to try in a martini, and help guests navigate through the wine-by-the-glass offerings. The Bar Room kitchen serves seasonal and contemporary American cuisine like carrot rillettes, black truffle cavatelli, shrimp fritters, and tarte flambée.
Billy Sunday isn’t a run-of-the-mill craft cocktail spot. Designed by Rachel Crowl of FC Studios, the Illinois bar evokes Prohibition-era Americana. Bar director Stephanie Andrews impeccably prepares and presents a craft cocktail collection of nearly two dozen concoctions, including the Victorian (Dutch gin, wormwood bitters, Amaro Sibilia, and Fernet) along with draft libations and large-format punches. Don’t overlook the spirits collection; sample the extensive Scotch selection (the Chicago bar boasts nearly 100) and try the amaro (there are 500 types of the Italian herbal liqueurs available). The food at Billy Sunday is a play on Sunday supper at grandma's house, with dishes like pork meatballs served with sweet potato and chimichurri; chicken fried chicken with okra bread pudding and house hot sauce; and pound cake with cranberry and passionfruit.
Seating just 18 people, this intimate, speakeasy-style Illinois spirits haven is reminiscent of the fantan (Chinese gambling halls) and red light districts that proliferated around Macau in the mid-19th and 20th centuries. Adjacent to the award-winning restaurant Fat Rice (it is a six-time Michelin Bib Gourmand Recipient, among other awards), The Ladies Room is decorated with vintage 1920s Chinese pinup posters and a six-and-a-half-foot mural of an Asian Madonna to create the space’s sensuous, dimly lit aesthetic. The Ladies Room is famous for its exploratory menu of house-made tinctures, spirits, and cocktails. The Chicago bar experiments with a variety of house-made spirits in addition to ingredients that are unusual to typical cocktail recipes. Bar manager Annie Beebe-Tron revisits basic chemistry to develop her own liqueurs, infusions, and chartreuses and create out-of-the-box cocktail ingredients like pho-vermouth, which is included in her Saigon Street Breakfast (Pho vermouth, Pierre Ferrand, cognac, Rare Tea Cellar’s truffle bitters, and Thai basil).
The Ladies’ Room currently offers 15 cocktails, eight house-made spirits that are poured à la carte, and upward of 50 additional house-made spirits, tinctures, and bitters that are rotated through different cocktails. Try the Side Hustle (Guotai Baijiu, Punt e Mes St. George gins, and orange bitters) and Run the Jewels (Hayman’s Old Tom Punt e Mes and house-made chartruese). Like the menu at Fat Rice, The Ladies’ Room is a global exploration of home-style comfort food that blends the exotic ingredients and flavors of China, India, and Southeast Asia with the colonial roots of the Portuguese travelers who were influenced by these ports over the past 500 years.
Award-winning food critic and Texas native (and The Daily Meal Council member) Robb Walsh told us that you “must try Alba Huerta’s storytelling 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).
Pennsylvania’s 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 and the drier Tripel Karmeliet on tap to Achel Blond and Westmalle Tripel by the bottle. The Philadelphia bar also stocks locally made Belgian-style brews, so there is something for everyone. The hearty sandwiches, burgers, and mussels pair well with the beer.
Creative craft cocktails that change to fit the distinct seasons of Chicago and exemplary savory and sweet culinary options have made Blackbird a hit. There are six seasonal cocktails and four Captain’s List cocktails like the Blackbird old fashioned (Woodford Reserve Personal Selection 2017, Demerara, Angostura, orange peel), plus a wine list of nearly 200 varieties on offer. The minimalist Illinois bar, with white space, mahogany red oak, and a stainless steel kitchen, is a comfortable spot for a tipple or two, along with Midwestern food by James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan and chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer. Don’t miss the signature salad of endives with crispy potatoes, basil, Dijon mustard, pancetta, and poached egg. Save room for sweet treats by pastry chef Dana Cree, like the bourbon gooey butter cake with whipped goat cheese, caramelized strudel, sweet potato pie, pecans, and sorghum; and the teff flour crêpe (coffee mascarpone, chicory crumble, candied hazelnut, espresso, and rum).
Originally called The Homey Inn (all the letters wouldn’t fit on the original sign), the Nebraska bar is a homey place, with charming vintage Americana lining the walls, like tap handles, rare baseball cards, and political buttons. Opened in 1956 by Maynard Finkle (today his son Terry Finkle runs the bar), The Homy Inn quickly gained a following in Omaha for its Champagne on tap, which comes in four varieties: dry, sweet, strawberry, and peach. It’s served by the flute — for less than $5 — or by the pitcher. If you run up a $100 tab, you get a free T-shirt. Classic.
Once a “gentlemen only area” inside Arnaud Cazenave’s namesake French Quarter restaurant (Arnaud’s began turning out exceptional Creole food in 1918), the space that is now French 75 was opened to the ladies when the New Orleans restaurant switched owners in 1979. In 2003, the latest iteration, French 75, was reincarnated as the quintessential Big Easy cocktail bar. It is vintage through and through; its 19th-century bar was even purchased from a local antique dealer. The seasonally changing cocktail menu offers nine to 12 seasonal cocktails, though far more are available upon request. The signature drink is the French 75 (Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice, and Moët and Chandon Champagne), made by head bartender Christoph Doreman. The food items offered at the Louisiana 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.
There is no other bar like The Interval. Run by the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to long-term thinking, The Interval uses the evolution of cocktails to explore its ever-changing relationship to the world around us. Each page on the California bar’s menu expands on a particular theme: the evolution of the martini, for example, or cocktails that were born in New York or San Francisco. Part library, part museum, part café and bar, The Interval has an extensive historical cocktail menu of 40-plus drinks. A large orrery greets guests at the entry, and a luminous, ever-changing ambient painting (by Brian Eno, who is on the board of directors of the nonprofit foundation that owns the bar) mesmerizes patrons from the center of its back bar. Try the signature Navy Gimlet (Navy strength gin, lime zest, lime juice, and sugar). The bar takes the ingredients of a traditional gimlet (gin, lime juice, zest, sugar) and infuses, extracts, and clarifies it over three days, resulting in an ice-cold, pearlescent cocktail far superior to the original.
Located in an elegant townhouse in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, No. 9 Park welcomes guests with its polished wood bar, the perfect place to perch before a six-course tasting menu. The intimate, European-style dining room, aglow in a taupe palette with hardwood floors, antique chandeliers, and enviable views of Boston Common, is the perfect setting for chef Barbara Lynch’s regionally inspired Italian and French dishes. The back dining room is a cozier spot, with warm leather and sage velvet banquettes. The wine list includes a number of Old World wines — primarily from boutique vintners in France, Italy, Austria, and Germany — each selected by James Beard Award-winning wine director Cat Silirie. The Massachusetts bar crafts classic cocktails that pair perfectly with the food menu.
Cure, which turns 10 this year, was one of New Orleans’ first stand-alone craft cocktail bars and one of the first in the United States to have one foot in the modern era and one in the golden age of cocktails. Opened by the group behind New Orleans’ Cane & Table, this welcoming bar with 14-foot ceilings, old brick, dark walnut wood, and dark leather seating has an industrial feel and an abundance of light streaming through the building’s two large arches. Located in an horse-and-buggy firehouse that was built in 1903, the Louisiana bar is equal parts destination and neighborhood bar. The drink menu, which changes eight times a year, has a few sections: Cocktail Book List (featuring interpretations of drinks from famous cocktail books); Cure Classics (cocktails Cure has done in the past); and Reserved Classics (rarer spirits or high-priced spirit-based drinks), like the bar’s signature Gunshot Fizz. Based on a Pimm’s Cup, the drink contains Peychaud’s bitters, macerated citrus peel, cucumber, strawberries, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with bitter soda. The food menu features a country ham plate with Allan Benton's 16-month-aged ham, biscuits, whipped Steen’s cane syrup, and Creole mustard, and the Midnight Cuban. Bodenheimer’s mission is to make Cure into a classic Big Easy bar that outlasts its creators; he is well on his way to achieving his goal.
Courtesy of Vesper Bar
Named for the 1953 cocktail in the original James Bond novel Casino Royale, Vesper Bar inside the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is an example of modern sophistication juxtaposed with firm roots in the elegance of the past. Surrounded by mirrored tiles and centering on an ornate wooden liquor cabinet, the bar is certainly charming. Vesper Bar has a menu of nine beers, 11 wines by the glass, and 14 cocktails separated into two styles: classic and Vesper interpretations (drinks based on the originals but infused with modern additions to show off the evolution of the industry). Specializing in "molecular" mixology, edible cocktails, and tequilas, Las Vegas native and chef mixologist Mariena Mercer brings extensive knowledge to the operation — making this a must-visit bar in Nevada.
Milk Room is a cozy microbar with just eight seats, located on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association. The Illinois bar prides itself on its creative cocktails made with rare and vintage spirits and ingredients that are hard to find. You know they’re going to be good, as they were created by Paul McGee, considered one of America's best mixologists (McGee’s accolades include the 2013 Chicago Tribune’s Beverage Professional of the Year, the 2014 Jean Banchet Best Mixologist, one of Chicago magazine's 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans in 2015, and the city’s Best Bartender from 2010 to 2017). There is a small menu of elegant shared plates to accompany those drinks, creating a combination that has earned this Chicago bar mentions on best bar lists in Esquire and Food & Wine.
One of the best people-watching venues in the city of Birmingham, Highlands Bar & Grill is a cozy, classic 20-seat bar inside the Highlands restaurant that serves as a destination in itself. The Alabama bar, run by beverage director Matt Gilpin, offers a full restaurant menu — including fresh-shucked oysters — plus 20 wines by the glass, 300 by the bottle, and 12 cocktails. The most popular drink at the white, U-shaped Alabama marble bar is the pecan old fashioned (Knob Creek bourbon, house-made pecan orgeat, orange peel, and bitters).
Since its debut a few years back, Everson Royce Bar has distinguished itself in Los Angeles’ competitive bar scene with its creative cocktails and selection of wine and beer. One sip of the Japanese High Ball (Suntory Toki whisky with Hoshizaki ice, soda, and lemon twist) or the Newest Old Fashioned (bourbon, Amaro Angeleno, and Forbidden Bitters) and patrons quickly see why this California bar has earned accolades from Time Out Los Angeles and Esquire.
The unpretentious and relaxed Sweet Liberty is a respite for Miami locals to have a tipple or two in an American industrial space accented with kitsch wallpaper. Manager Fraser Hamilton helms the bar, which boasts more than 1,000 back-bar spirits. Try the piña colada, which the bar gives a modern spin with coffee beans and sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry. The fare is elevated with the Florida bar’s take on the classics, including confit Buffalo wings and roasted cauliflower nachos.
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, but the bartenders ask for a little direction to help find the best drink for each patron at that moment. The bartenders here really listen to guests’ spirit preferences, particular flavors each enjoys, and preferred style of drink. With this kind of attention to detail, it’s no wonder the bar placed 15th on the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Walk into Noble Experiment, an eclectically decorated bar with 1,600 handmade gold skulls adorning one wall, French artwork on the ceiling, and sophisticated whiskeys and old-fashioned cocktails, and ask the bartender to make you a drink. Chances are you will get precisely what you wish for. After all, Noble Experiment has made a name for itself for expertly executing dealer’s choice cocktails. They make up 70 percent of the orders placed at the cozy California bar — it’s about the size of a closet. Here, bartenders, under the direction of Ryan Kuntz, take the time to get to know each patron, have a dialogue about what guests want to drink, and even hand-cut ice cubes for stirred drinks on the rocks. Try the stirred and straightforward Timber cocktail by Ryan Kuntz Old (Henry McKenna 10 Year, Amaro Averna, Noble Experiment Signature Falernum, dash of orange bitters, float of Smith & Cross, expressed with lemon and garnished with fresh mint for the nose). In a beer town like San Diego, Noble Experiment is a welcome and celebrated alternative.
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 Louisiana 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 beer 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 Ramos Gin Fizz (Hayman’s Old Tom gin, lime and lemon, sugar, egg whites, cream, orange flower, water, and seltzer) are given equal weight with new classics like the Champagne Lady (Tito’s Vodka, St-Germain, lemon, blackberries, and sparkling wine) and Silver Water Cooler (Wheatley vodka, lime, sugar, cucumber, mint, and seltzer).
The award-winning Employees Only was the focal point in the documentary Hey Bartender, the first cocktail-bartender-focused movie of its kind, but the accolades aren’t the only reason to grab a drink or two at the Art Deco-style, speakeasy-esque New York bar, which serves more than 180,000 cocktails annually (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 22 cocktails on the menu, including EO Classics, eight cocktails that have defined the bar over the past decade; Aperitifs; Cocktails & Long Drinks; and Fancy Cocktails. The New American with Eastern European-influenced food menu features dishes like hand-cut steak tartar with crostini and mixed green salad, which is available until the wee hours of the morning.
Tucked inside a Japanese restaurant, Angel’s Share is one of the oldest modern speakeasy bars in America. The elegant, dimly lit parlor, featuring its namesake angels on the ceiling over the bar, has been impressing guests since its establishment in 2002. The New York bar made a name for itself with its 40 Japanese-style craft cocktails, like the signature award-winning Speak Low. Created by head bartender Shingo Gokan, who was the first guest bartender at the historic Savoy hotel in London, it includes Bacardi eight-year-old rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and matcha green tea powder. If you’re peckish, the small plates of Japanese-style tebasaki chicken wings, house-made pickles, and assorted sashimi are excellent.
Walk along Alexandria’s King Street and look for a blue light, the landmark for PX (Person Extraordinaire). If the light is lit or if the pirate flag is flying, 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 the Virginia bar an air of exclusivity and glamour. The 18 seasonally changing "avant farm" drinks, like This Is Snow Cream! (Buffalo Trace bourbon and vanilla whey) and 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.
Courtesy of Old Ebbitt Grill
The oldest saloon in Washington, D.C. (it opened in 1856 and has served most U.S. presidents, beginning with Ulysses S. Grant, though it has moved several times — most recently in 1983), is a legendary watering hole less than one block from the White House. 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 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and again from 11 p.m. until close.
Seattle’s Canon lays claim to the largest collection of spirits in the Western Hemisphere, with 4,000 labels and counting. There’s so much whiskey at the Washington bar 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 it 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.
It’s said that the cocktail originated in 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 New Orleans bar complements its lavish menu.
In addition to the Louisiana bar’s famed Vieux Carré (Bulleit rye whiskey, Pierre Ferrand 1840, sweet vermouth, and Bénédictine with bitters), the bar is also known for its Sazerac (made with Sazerac rye and Herbsaint absinthe, bitters, and simple syrup) and Fleur des Lis (made with Hendrick’s gin and St-Germain mixed with lemon juice, cucumber, ginger ale, and soda).
San Francisco’s Bar Agricole has racked up the accolades for both its drinks and its décor (it's LEED-certified platinum and has a James Beard Award-winning design), which integrates Nikolas Weinstein glass sculpture installations and reclaimed whiskey barrels, wine barrels, and barn wood. The California bar specializes in traditional cocktails made with barrel selections of French brandies (cognac, armagnac, and calvados); the selection of eight to 12 drinks rotates regularly. Order the house old fashioned, made by head bartender Craig Lane with the bar’s very own barrel of cognac and two house-made bitters.
The world’s only ski-in gastro-distillery, High West Distillery & Saloon is all about the whiskey. There are some perennially popular mainstays on the cocktail menu, like Dead Man’s Boots (Rendezvous rye, reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, Fever Tree ginger beer, and a lime wedge garnish) and Hot Toddy (American Prairie bourbon, honey syrup, two lemon slices, hot water, and a cinnamon stick garnish). However, the drinks that truly highlight the talent here are the classic whiskey cocktails like the excellent old fashioned (Rendezvous rye, Demerara simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and an orange/lemon twist garnish).
The bar’s buildings, which are on the National Historic Registry, are worth a visit, too. The livery was used to shoe horses and mules that worked in the mines; it then became a garage. The exterior of the livery has exposed lettering and signage that was essentially baked on when the coalition mine building burned down. Excellent whiskey cocktails and delicious High West burgers, plus welcoming and knowledgeable bar staff, all add up to perfection.
The only establishment of its kind in the Bay Area to be twice reviewed by and awarded three stars from longtime San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer (Bauer retired in 2018), Trick Dog is a neighborhood cocktail bar that has all the essentials: great music, well-made drinks, and exceptional food served until closing time.
Every six months, the San Francisco bar undergoes a complete, meticulous renovation of its décor and drinks that introduces a brand-new theme (previous iterations include a Chinese takeout restaurant). With each change, Trick Dog bartenders Morgan Schick and Josh Harris roll out a dozen or so new cocktails at the California bar. The latest 13 cocktails include Delfina (Botanist gin, fig nocino, seasonal “weird” citrus, chestnut honey, lime, and a fig leaf served over crushed ice) and Flour + Water (Bombay dry gin, Luxardo bitter bianco, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, tomato, whey soda, and basil). Food options include Chicken Tricknuggets with sweet-and-sour, honey mustard, and barbecue sauces, and the Impossible Trick Dog made with an Impossible vegetarian patty, lettuce, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese, and house sauce on a sesame bun.
Chicago’s The Violet Hour consistently raises the bar on refined handcrafted cocktails. The Illinois bar’s 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, which features cornflower blue walls, white crown molding, crystal chandeliers, and hardwood floors, giving the space an elegant feel. Tipples include 25 seasonally changing cocktails made with an array of house-made syrups, bitters, and fresh juices as well as a small but continually rotating list of wines by the glass and beer.
Drinks to try include the Juliet and Romeo (London dry gin, muddled cucumber, mint, and rose water); Hillbilly Reviver (Apologue Paw Paw, lime, St. George pear brandy, absinthe, and TVH+); and Final Acts and Fatal Facts (Arrette Reposado tequila, Batavia Arrack, Amaro Pasubio, Bénédictine, Thai chile, and Chinese 7 Spice bitters). Chef de cuisine Jeremy Nelson has created a fantastic selection of shareable small plates, like Shishito tempura with shiitake mushrooms, whipped goat cheese espuma and a pomegranate salad as well as duck confit spring rolls (butternut squash, Swiss chard radicchio, and cilantro served with a cranberry Thai chile sauce).
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. Imbibe with the Drop Stitch (Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla sherry, Perry’s Tot gin, pear, fennel, lemon, and seltzer), the Whateverest (Tapatio Blanco tequila, Gamle Ode Dill aquavit, dry vermouth, ginger, and cucumber), and the Calamity Jane (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Laphroaig Single Malt, Blanc vermouth, strawberry, and olive oil). The bar bites menu includes candied bar nuts, fried chicken sliders with black pepper and white barbecue slaw, and cheddar cheese curds with Tabasco honey and buttermilk.
Nestled inside the stylish NoMad hotel, the Elephant Bar’s popularity has grown exponentially 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 New York 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 by the glass, and more than 1,000 by the bottle). A tavern at heart, the classic Beaux Arts-style bar is a relaxing neighborhood outpost at which patrons can enjoy hearty fare like the dry-aged beef burger with cheddar, red onion, and special sauce.
Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry’s trilevel mid-19th-century saloon, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, is not your average, run-of-the-mill Irish pub. “We are continually pushing for improvement and scrutinizing everything we do. We also want to shatter the dogma or misconceptions associated with the Irish bar,” says McGarry, who was named America’s top bartender by The Daily Meal in 2014. The New York pub’s specialization is Irish whiskey; it currently serves 147 different types. Half of the bar’s cocktails, served in the second story sit-down parlor, are dedicated to the spirit.
Try the expertly executed Irish coffee, made with quality filtered coffee, not espresso; cream with more than 36 percent fat content; and Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey. No wonder 200 to 300 Irish coffees are sold daily! Always bustling, the ground-level taproom serves craft beers and crowd-pleasing 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.
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' cocktail venture in Chicago, The Aviary, is an experience: From the setting and the cocktails to the service and the food, no detail is overlooked at this “redefined” cocktail bar. Even the ice that is used to craft the cocktails is elevated to high art. The place churns out more than 25 types of ice, from minuscule ice balls to flavored spheres to enormous blocks for hand-chipped ice. It’s safe to say an evening spent here is unlike any other.
Reservations are booked through Tock and come in four varieties: as a deposit that goes toward your à la carte drinks-and-bites bill, a three-course cocktail progression, a five-course cocktail tasting menu with food pairings, or a seven-course kitchen table experience presented by the chefs. While the cocktails and food change frequently, The Daily Meal has enjoyed Ain’t Nobody Got Lime for That (lavender, vermouth, mango brandy, and green apple), Jab and Right Cross (Seville orange, meringue, Jamaican rum, and cherry brandy), and Jesus Can’t Hit a Curveball (Serrano, Chareau, celery, Chartreuse, and gin). Culinary highlights include the Black Truffle Explosion, a solitary black truffle pillow with Parmesan and romaine; the massive crispy pork skin; and the ice cream sandwich with cream cheese frosting ice cream between two Funfetti cookies.
Florida’s best bar is the very small and quite romantic Broken Shaker. (Newer locations have also opened in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.) Enter from inside Freehand Miami to access its spacious courtyard and creative cocktails like the Jefferson Airplane (Olmeca Altos tequila, cashew-tamarind shrub, marigold tincture, curry salt, and lime) and the Dine & Ditch Sangria (Barbancourt 8yr, Chinola passionfruit, rosé wine, papaya, and rosemary). It’s the perfect Miami drinking spot for your tropical vacation.
If you thought Grant Achatz's innovative bar The Aviary was exclusive, wait until you encounter the 16-seat VIP lounge underneath it. The Office — which requires advanced bookings through Tock, developed by Nick Kokonas, co-owner of the Alinea Group — lures patrons to the Chicago space with rare spirits and intriguing reinterpretations of classic cocktails. (The staff at this Illinois bar staff here are just as much historians as they are bartenders.) Whereas The Aviary pushes the envelope and is about presentation, The Office focuses on classically presented cocktails with exceptional ingredients. It is an eclectic mix of found art, beautiful leather couches and armchairs, and pawn-shop-sourced glassware. Patrons can admire décor from the 1920s that sits side by side with items from the 1980s.
The bar specializes in “dusty bottle cocktails,” which are classic cocktails made entirely of ingredients from a different era. An old fashioned is made with 1954 Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and Angostura that was bottled in the 1950s, and a White Negroni from the 1970s with vintage bottles of Beefeater, Cinzano Bianco, and Campari Cordial. Pick a drink from the 50-plus-page menu and enjoy it alongside a $25 ice cream sundae or $50 beef tartare. The Office’s over-the-top luxurious food leans toward classic French; the most popular dish is steamed mussels with roasted garlic, white wine, and Pernod Beurre Blanc with charred lemon and a crusty French baguette that is large enough for two to four patrons to share.
A second location of The Office, hidden behind the New York location of The Aviary on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, seats 40 and offers the same unique collection of spirits and exceptional experience. This bar is tops because the team is constantly refining and redefining its techniques and processes to give guests an experience they won’t have anywhere else in the world. Now that you’ve seen the best bars in the U.S., it’s time to toast the best bars outside the U.S.
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