150 Best Bars in America 2015 (slideshow)
April 22, 2015
A spirited guide to the country's top watering holes
#150 Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge (Santa Fe, N.M.)
For 65 years, the family-owned Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge has been a popular 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 bar and dining area also boast one of the Southwest's largest decanter collections.
#149 Dogfish Head Brewpub (Rehoboth, Del.)
The folks at Dogfish, who founded the brewpub in 1995, use atypical ingredients to craft a range of unique beers. Dogfish Head Brewpub 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 brewpup offers nearly a dozen cocktails made from spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, all distilled upstairs. The signature cocktail is the blood orange cosmo (house-made Dogfish Head vodka infused with blood oranges and limoncello). Pair this with brewpub food like the crab and corn chowder, a staple of the menu and a favorite of regulars.
#148 Cook & Brown Public House (Providence, R.I.)
Cook and Brown Public House is a modern New England-inspired take on a European gastropub. The bar, which has a separate restaurant area, is well known for its extensive selection of spirits with a predominant focus on whiskeys. The 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 10 cleverly named concoctions along the lines of Port-Tea Like it’s 1999 (Mellow Corn, Six Grapes Port, Meletti Amaro, lemon, and black tea) and the Vieux from the Flor (Tequila Ocho Reposado, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry, St. George NOLA Coffee liqueur, Cardamaro, and orange bitters), a favorite of head bartender Gillian White, who was a participant in the 2014 CAP Tales of the Cocktail Apprenticeship program. The Orchard House, a “fancy riff” on a whiskey sour (Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Giffard Peach liqueur, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt, and apple bitters) is another favorite of White’s: “It's one of my favorites because it takes the ‘fear’ out of whiskey drinks for people," she says. "Or, as I like to call it, ‘rye with training wheels,’ which then leads people into trying more from our selections of whiskeys." The seasonally changing food menu, curated by proprietor and head chef Nemo Bolin, who previously worked at L’Etoile on Martha’s Vineyard, pairs well with the drinks. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken liver pâté built up with beef bone marrow and served with a rotating selection of mustard, house-made jam, house-made pickles, and crusty country toast.
#147 The Frying Pan (New York City)
Docked at Pier 66 Maritime in Hudson River Park in Manhattan, next to the Pier 66 Maritime Bar & Grill, the Frying Pan is a historic lightship built in 1929 that was once at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, but is now a moored boat on which New Yorkers can drink. The self-service bar, where bottled beer and sangria seem to be particularly popular, is open seasonally from May 1 to October 1 (weather permitting). The bar is also open in April and October on days when the temperature is 65 degrees Farenheit or above.
#146 Cheers Boston (aka the Bull and Finch Pub) (Boston)
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 Boston. After all, this is the 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. “You'd be hard-pressed to find a more famous bar in the United States, and you’d have even more trouble finding a staff so successful at turning even a touristy visit into such a unique and truly ‘Boston’ experience,” says manager Brian Thoms.
#145 He's Not Here (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
He’s Not Here is a true old-school college dive bar: “the oldest on-campus 45-year-old.” If you ever went to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or are just a Tarheels 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 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, hosts live bands three times each week, and where you’ll no doubt see hundreds of those iconic “Carolina” blue cups.
#144 Bar at The Modern Hotel (Boise, Idaho)
Townies and hotel guests alike keep the intimate, stylish Bar at The Modern Hotel packed from late afternoon until closing. Situated in a former Travelodge that has been transformed into a trendy 39-room boutique hotel, the bar offers a comfortable courtyard with music that is a perfect spot in warmer months to sip inexpensive but perfectly mixed cocktails like the Duplex (Carpano sweet vermouth, Dolin dry vermouth, orange bitters, soda, and orange twist served on the rocks), The Bedford (Bombay Dry Gin, apple shrub, Priorat Natur sweet vermouth, soda water, and sage served over ice), and Paisley Gilmour (Ballantine’s blended Scotch, lemon, pineapple, Bénédictine, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, and soda). The cocktails pair perfectly with the farm-to-table fare like warm octopus with artichokes, Yukon Gold potatoes, Kalamata olives, and watercress; sesame prawn toast with sesame aïoli; and a ginger pork bánh mì with ginger pork sausage, shaved vegetables, spicy aïoli, jalapeño, and cilantro on a ciabatta bun.
#143 The Lounge at Nobu (Honolulu)
The David Rockwell-designed Nobu Waikiki is perennially hip, embodying what fans of chef Nobu Matsuhisa have come to expect from his eponymously named Japanese restaurants. The Lounge at Nobu, inside the Waikiki Parc Hotel, is an equally alluring destination — not only for chef Matsuhisa’s signature black cod miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, but also for its intimate, dimly lit lounge serving sake, wines by the glass, and cocktails like the Matsuhisa Martini (premium Hokusetsu sake and Ketel One vodka garnished with cucumber); the Suika (fresh watermelon, Van Gogh Melon vodka, and lime juice); and the Nobu Sidecar (Suntory Yamazaki whisky, orange liqueur, and yuzu over a single ice cube).
#142 Double Down Saloon (Las Vegas)
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 Double Down’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 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 one million four-ounce shots have been served since the Double Down Saloon opened 22 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.”
#141 Pengilly's Saloon (Boise, Idaho)
Opened in 1976, Pengilly’s Saloon is nestled in the Old Boise Historic District. The early twentieth-century style bar features live music, pool tables, vintage wallpaper, and mounted animal heads, and drinks of all kinds are served at the 114-year-old hardwood Brunswich bar. Tabs are rung up on a turn-of-the-century National Cash Register, adding to the old-school vibe. On most nights, there is no cover charge for the live music.
#140 The Office Bar (Hoonah, Alaska)
The welcoming Office Bar, with its plywood floor, metal roof, and affable bartenders, is the type of small-town bar that is seldom seen. A bell behind the bar rings whenever someone offers to buy a round for everyone in the bar — which happens often. The full-service bar on the waterfront serves live Dungeness crab June 1 through September 30; other bar fare includes pizza, nachos, and corndogs.
#139 Duke's Canoe Club (Honolulu)
Located right on the beach in Waikiki, home of the original Outrigger Canoe Club from 1908 to 1963, is Duke’s Canoe Club. Named after Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku, Olympic gold medalist and father of modern day surfing, Duke is framed with koa wood walls adorned with 200 photos of Kahanamoku and Waikiki Beach, Kahanamoku’s surfboards, and vintage aloha T-shirts. Local beach boys can often be seen enjoying pau hana (happy hour) and playing ukuleles after a day of surfing. The signature drink is the Duke’s Mai Tai, a blend of tropical fruit juices and two types of rum. The coconut mojito, a sweet, tart, and creamy cocktail with rum, coconut shochu, mint, lime, coconut, and the guest’s choice of guava, mango, or lilikoi (yellow passionfruit) is also worth trying. The food menu features familiar foods like fish tacos and sautéed fish filets, all made with a tropical touch. Try the signature dessert, the Hula Pie: it’s a mound of vanilla macadamia nut ice cream over an Oreo cookie crust, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, and macadamia nuts.
#138 The Foundry (Kansas City, Mo.)
Famous for its craft beer, The Foundry is an late-night beer palace. The bar’s paneled walls, funky wallpaper, and vintage beer signs set the '60s and '70s mood perfectly. The upstairs lounge will remind you of the basement on That ‘70s Show, in fact. Beer is taken seriously here; the bar staff cleans their own beer lines, rotates the draft selection, and hosts beer events. The Foundry has 36 beers on tap — 12 brewed by its sister brewpub McCoy’s Public House and 24 American and international craft beers — plus more than 150 in bottles. There is a full bar, too, where classic cocktails, including martinis, are made. The bar also serves a variety of American pub foods with a twist. Try the tater tots with a double stack flattop burger.
#137 Breckenridge Brewery & Pub (Breckenridge, Colo.)
Originally founded by ski bum Richard Squire, who started out handcrafting home brews for his friends, Breckenridge Brewery has expanded into a brewery, pub, and more. Today, J. Todd Usry is the brewmaster and director of brewery operations (the brewery is in Denver). The Breckenridge Brewery & Pub is the only brewpub in this historic mountain town, serving brews like the light Agave Wheat and the amber Avalanche Ale, a blend of pale and caramel malts and a hint of bittering hops. Pub fare like burgers and sandwiches, and hearty meals like elk meatloaf, fish and chips, and braised pork ribs are perfect after a day on the slopes.
#136 Bourbon (Washington, D.C.)
The sleek and stylish Bourbon features an encyclopedic collection of 164 Kentucky bourbons, 41 American and rye whiskeys, 14 Scotch whiskys, nine Irish whiskeys, and five Japanese whiskys. Patrons wishing to sample the collections can order rye and bourbon tasting flights. The bar also serves craft whiskey cocktails like the Where’s My Sweater (Jim Beam rye infused with chai tea, fresh lemon juice, homemade vanilla syrup, and a splash of honey, served over one large rock) and charred oak barrel-aged cocktails like the Manhattan and the mint julep. Tables of four people or more can order the Manhattan barrel with Old Forester bourbon, Angostura bitters, and Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, aged in a one-liter Old Forester American oak barrel that yields 10 cocktails. During happy hours — Tuesday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — the bar offers a $4 bourbon of the night, $4 off craft cocktails, and $2 off draft pints.
#135 Cadieux Cafe (Detroit)
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, Cadieux Cafe has been a gathering spot for people who identify with — or just enjoy — Belgian and Flemish culture in the Motor City. The bar features more than a dozen Belgian beers, serves steamed mussels, and is host to live music and Flemish pastimes like featherbowling (a game similar to horseshoes and bocce). A classic, charming spot, Cadieux Cafe has even captured the attention of Anthony Bourdain, who featured the bar on No Reservations.
#134 Bobby Valentine's (Stamford, Conn.)
For 35 years, Bobby Valentine’s (owned by the baseball star of the same name) has been a staple in Stamford. Walk in and you instantly feel like you’re in the best man cave ever. There are 12 ice cold beers on tap; 40 brews by the bottle; loads of sports memorabilia, like signed jerseys, cards, and pictures of everyone from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter; and more than 50 flat screen televisions for catching the game. Try the award-winning wings, the burgers, and Bobby’s mother’s eggplant Parmesan.
#133 McGovern's Tavern (Newark, N.J.)
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 bar survived the Newark riots in 1967, which led to the closure of many businesses, and today 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). McGovern's is closed on weekends.
#132 Full Throttle Saloon (Sturgis, S.D.)
The self-proclaimed world’s largest biker bar is a sight to behold, particularly during the annual summertime Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, when tens of thousands of 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), midget wrestling, a burnout pit for bikes, a mechanical bull, a zip line, and abody paint area. There’s a cabin area, open June 1 through the last day of the rally, and theme nights to add to all the shenanigans.
#131 Ebenezer's Pub (Lovell, Maine)
With nearly 36 Belgian beers on tap, plus several hundred bottles of various vintages in-house, there’s a reason why this remote 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 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 — the wait list for the 2015 dinner has more than 2,000 entries.
#130 Deep Eddy Cabaret (Austin)
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 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.
#129 The Sink (Boulder, Colo.)
At 93 years old, The Sink is the oldest watering hole and restaurant in Boulder. There are plenty of comforts on the college bar’s menu, like 18 craft beers on tap (more by the bottle and can) and grass-fed burgers and pizza made by executive chef Dave Davis, whose fare has been sampled by the likes of Guy Fieri and President Obama. Non-beer drinkers should try the seasonally changing cocktails, like the Billy's Chilies Bloody Mary (a traditional Bloody Mary with local Twisted Pine Brewing Co’s Billy's Chilies). 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.
#128 Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (San Francisco)
An oldie but a goodie, the Tonga Room is the oldest continuously running tiki bar in the United States (it will celebrate its 70th anniversary on September 18 this year). 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 Tonga Room & Hurricane is famed for its mai tai (a blend of rums from Trinidad and Jamaica, Curaçao, a locally made orgeat syrup, and fresh lime juice), 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 14 tiki cocktails, there are 57 rums, 10 white and red wines, and 15 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!
#127 Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (Queens, N.Y.)
The walled-in courtyard of this 100-year-old Queens beer garden is full of benches, the smell of sausage on open-air grills, and barmaids who bring by round after round of Czech and craft beers like Staropramen, Brouczech, 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).
#126 Oyster Club (Mystic, Conn.)
As the name suggests, this small, coastal New England restaurant and bar 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 all tastes. 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.
#125 The Bayou (Salt Lake City)
With 300 beers available, The Bayou has one of the most extensive beer selections around. You never know what will be on tap at this cozy 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 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 recently 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.
#124 Taste by Niche (St. Louis)
Head mixologist Kyle Mathis and chef Gerard Craft are all about providing a mix of creative and classic cocktails with seasonal new American small plates at Taste by Niche. The cocktail menu includes 35 classics and 15 originals served in the intimate, steampunk-style speakeasy. “For me, it’s all about the foundations of bartending," says Mathis, who has been in charge of mixology here since 2013. "We honor the classics at Taste by Niche, but also offer a menu that intrigues guests to try new spirits and cocktails.” The signature cocktail, Port of Spain (an Angostura bitters-heavy drink made with rye whiskey, Allspice Dram, grenadine, egg white, and lemon), is a must-try. Bar food includes “pig popcorn,” which is round, puffed, and spiced pork crackling; pumpkin gnocchi with winter squash and brown butter; and chicken adobo with glazed sweet potatoes and puffed rice.
#123 Mai Tai Bar (Honolulu)
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 (Bacardi Gold Rum, Myers’s Dark Rum, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, and freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juices) 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.
#122 Flora-Bama Lounge and Package (Perdido Key, Fla.)
Opened in October 1964, the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package is a family-friendly and “flip-flop fine dining” beach bar 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 each April (this year on the 24tha nd 25th), and for its signature Bushwacker, a locally popular, boozy, frozen milkshake-like concoction topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
#121 Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon (Austin)
Deep in the heart of Texas, The 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 a locally popular game that involves a chicken leaving dropping 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.
#120 Extra Fancy (Brooklyn)
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 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; tuna carpaccio with fermented cucumbers, Maine uni and chamomile honey; and fresh oysters with "add-ons" like sturgeon caviar, smoked trout roe, quail egg yolks, and tuna bottarga.
#119 Jimmy's (Aspen, Colo.)
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 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. Head bartender Dylan Regan mixes and pours 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 male 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 bar is also popular for its food, including specialties like filet with béarnaise, prime rib, and chicken Parmesan, and jumbo lump blue crab cakes.
#118 Butcher and the Rye (Pittsburgh)
This two-story 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 Old 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 semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, the bar has an exemplary cocktail menu that changes every three months, 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 tender braised beef cheeks with creamed peas, carrots, and potatoes with a hint of horseradish. There are small plates, like artisanal cheeses and house-made charcuterie boards, too. The bar staff, led by award-winning mixologist Spencer Warren, are constantly pushing the limits with new, innovative ways to present cocktails, from alcoholic gummy bears to a unique ice program.
#117 Arnold's Bar and Grill (Cincinnati)
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 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 courtyard — open year-round — and live music are big draws, as is the bourbon selection, which includes 50 rare and highly sought-after bourbons. The signature beverage is the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company's Arnold's 1861 Porter, a nitro-pushed beer that Christian Moerlein released in honor of the bar’s 150th anniversary four years ago. It proved so popular that they decided to continue making it for the bar. 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 décor and bohemian spirit while keeping up with the times by adding modern touches, like street murals in the courtyard and exterior, and updating the drink and food menus. 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.
#116 Old German Beer Hall (Milwaukee)
The Old German Beer Hall was created in the image of the Hofbräuhaus München in Munich. It’s a snapshot of the Bavarian lifestyle and beer garden culture, complete with replicas of the tables and benches from the Hofbräuhaus. Patrons are treated to an authentic Oktoberfest experience every day, topped off by a perfectly poured liter of imported Hofbräu beer served by head bartender Greg Brundage, who has been with the bar since its opening in 2005. There are seven varieties of Hofbräu, including seasonal brews and Haus Amber Ale. For non-beer drinkers, there are wines and cocktails on offer; the Killepitsch, a German herb liqueur, served straight up, is a must. Tuck into authentic German sausages, smoked pork chops, giant pretzels imported from Munich, and apple strudel. Prost!
#115 Carousel Bar (New Orleans)
The classic New Orleans hotel bar features the only carousel you need to be 21 years old to ride. Initially, the main draw was the whimsical revolving 24-seat bar, but now patrons are drawn in just as much for the fine cocktails and service. The best-selling drinks at the Carousel Bar are classics: the vieux carré (Bénédictine, Cognac, American rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters, and Angostura bitters), which was created at the legendary New Orleans Hotel Monteleone in 1939 by then-head bartender Walter Bergeron; the Sazerac (Sazerac rye whiskey, simple syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters); the Pimm’s Cup No. 1 (Pimm’s No. 1, strawberry, cucumber, lemon juice, and simple syrup); the Pisco sour (Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, ice, egg whites, and Angostura bitters); and the Ramos gin fizz (gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water, and soda water). There are eight bar bites on offer, including blue crab and crawfish beignets with homemade rémoulade sauce.
#114 Deep Ellum (Boston)
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 bar makes its own bitters and mixers, including grenadine, ginger beer, and picon (caramel-colored flavored bitters). 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.
#113 Greasewood Flat (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Housed in a 130-year-old bunkhouse, Greasewood Flat has been serving burgers and beverages to cowboys, bikers, and other locals since 1975. It’s a true Old West bar, with daily live music, dancing, patio fires, games of horseshoes, and a Western atmosphere. Named for the flat terrain and the greasewood bushes in the area, the cavernous wooden bar is located 2,000 feet above the Valley of the Sun in the Sonoran Desert. It seats up to 1,000 patrons. Folks come for the seemingly infinite varieties of cold beer. The Tap Shack, with 14 handles of local draft beer, is a new addition, open on the weekends, offering customers the chance to try a range of craft beers. Save room for the half-pound burgers, particularly the signature bacon green chile cheeseburger.
#112 Blind Lady Ale House (San Diego)
Folks come to Blind Lady Ale House for beer tapped from “the cleanest tap system in southern California,” according to the bar, whose staff clean the lines between each keg change and break down the taps and shanks every Monday. BLAH (as it’s known to regulars) is home to Automatic Brewing Co., headed by master brewer Lee Chase. Housed in a 1921 historic brick building, the bar’s most famous beer is Will Powered IPA, an annual collaboration with comedian Will Ferrell and the charity Cancer for College. There are 26 San Diego craft beers on tap, along with two draft wines. Pull up a seat at the bar and admire the vintage beer can and bottle collection of football player Ben Davidson, who played for the Oakland Raiders and spent time drinking at BLAH. Try the bar’s Neapolitan-style pizza, which is made by a Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizzaiolo.
#111 The Spare Room (Hollywood, Calif.)
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 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, like the Hot Day in South Central (tequila blanco, chile de árbol, cucumber, cilantro, salt, and lime). The food menu offers comfort foods like the flatbread sampler, a trio of flatbreads including black truffle (black truffles, mozzarella, and fontina cheeses); prosciutto (prosciutto, manchego, arugula, and olive oil), and pesto (pesto sauce, burrata, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano) and desserts like a dulce de leche-filled churro.
#110 Nepenthe (Big Sur, Calif.)
Since 1949, Nepenthe has been a destination for artists, poets, millionaires, Hollywood stars, and denizens. It’s a stunningly beautiful institution (film The Sandpiper (1964) was filmed here). 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 is the South Coast margarita (tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice). The 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.
#109 McMenamins East Vancouver Pub (Vancouver, Wash.)
McMenamins, a family-owned business consisting of 52 brewpubs, breweries, music venues, hotels, and theater pubs under various names around Oregon and Washington, is famous for its beers. On tap here are Hammerhead, a chestnut-colored pale ale whose balance of hops and malted barley is most popular among patrons; Ruby, a crisp ale made with fresh local raspberries; and Terminator Stout, a decadent, flavor-packed nutty stout along with a rotating roster of IPAs, and seasonal releases of ales and cider. Non-beer drinkers can enjoy fresh juice cocktails, including margaritas, lemon drops, and other familiar cocktails and spirits. There are even 20 varieties of wine that McMenamins produces. Pub grub includes hearty sandwiches, pizza, and burgers, like the popular Wilbur jumbo deluxe burger with Tillamook cheddar cheese, bacon, and a fried egg piled atop an all-beef patty and sandwiched between a locally made bun. Visitors can buy a McMenamins passport for $25 which leads them on an itinerary throughout Oregon and Washington with free burgers, French fries, and tater tots at McMenamins venues along the way; as passport holders collect stamps, they earn swag like pint glasses and T-shirts and potentially a cash prize once their passports are complete.
#108 Radegast Hall & Biergarten (Brooklyn)
Radegast Hall & Biergarten is known for its excellent selection of more than 100 European beers, savory sausage grill, and live music that ranges from New Orleans brass to gypsy jazz. There are a range of excellent seasonally changing cocktails and beer cocktails, too. The options often change, but patrons are assured a refreshing selection of 24 draft beers and far more by the bottle. The biergarten features a main hall; a beer garden with a retractable roof, a large communal table, and a sausage grill; and the cozy Bier Haus, with wood stove and communal tables. Chef Eric Francou puts his own twist on central European comfort food like veal schnitzel, Hungarian goulash, and cheesy baked kas spätzle with porcini, butternut squash, bacon, onions, and Emmental cheese.
#107 "One Star" (New York City)
The self-deprecation begins with this bar’s name: “one star”. The humble folks behind this dive-y, low-key bar like to keep things simple. There is no mixology or innovative cocktails, just 10 beers on draft and cans of beer like Miller High Life and Natty Daddy, a malt liquor-style beer served in a brown bag. There is trivia night most Saturdays and a clever Name Night system. Check the website here. If your name is on the calendar, you get to drink select beverages for $1 (the catch: you must bring more than one friend with you, tip the bartender often, and cannot share your drinks).
#106 The Red Key (Indianapolis)
The Red Key is an institution that has been in the Settle family since 1951. The bar’s late proprietor Russ Settle was famous for his list of “the rules” that every patron must follow. His wife, Dollie, the decades-long bartender her, and son Jim and granddaughter Leslie faithfully enforce them today: no feet on the furniture, no chairs in the aisle, cash only, hang up your coat, use your indoor voice, don’t swear, and, most importantly, Russ is always right! (Not that anyone ever doubted it.) The bar, which is frequented by locals, touring musicians, and writers like Dan Wakefield, is known for its ice cold bottled beer (from craft beer to “throwback” brews like Stroh’s) 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 — and Dollie’s potato salad.
#105 Marvel Bar (Minneapolis)
Simply put, Marvel Bar combines classic Japanese bartending methods with new American cocktail creativity. “Our minimalist, outside-the-box style of innovation has lead to the invention of new genres of drinks, such as emulsified sours, hyper-diluted cocktails, charcoal-filtered cocktails, and alkaline cocktails,” says beverage director Pip Hanson, whose favorite beverage is the dry martini. His favorite martini recipe was adapted from a French cocktail book published in 1904: 3:1 gin to dry vermouth with a single dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. “Hand-chipped ice, one of our signature Japanese influences, makes an enormous difference in the final temperature and dilution of this drink,” explains Hanson, who tended bar at Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo and studied classic Japanese cocktail technique. Marvel Bar has 400 different spirits, 11 single barrels of bourbon and rye from Kentucky, and a constantly rotating cocktail menu featuring classics and avant-garde original creations crafted with the perfectionism of Ginza cocktail masters. Head bartender Peder Schweigert was a culinary producer on Top Chef Season 5, worked the kitchen at Alinea in Chicago, and won Iron Bartender in 2010 after less than a year of working with spirits. He crafts Marvel Bar’s signature cocktails, like the Oliveto, a combination of an egg white gin sour with olive oil the bar dubbed an "emulsified sour.”
#104 Old Absinthe House (New Orleans)
The 50-seat copper-topped wood bar at the Old Absinthe House has been a mainstay in the French Quarter for 200 years, attracting luminaries like Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Frank Sinatra. Jerseys and helmets of football legends are suspended from the exposed cypress beams and antique chandeliers; 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 the Old Absinthe House. Sip the signature Absinthe House Frappe, created in 1860 by Cayetano Ferrer; it’s made with Herbsaint and anisette and topped with a splash of soda water. Classic New Orleans fare, like chicken and sausage jambalaya, is a must. 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 the victory of 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.
#103 The Bazaar by José Andrés (Miami)
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 al fresco Bar Centro, adjacent to The Bazaar and overlooking an infinity pool, features a living room motif designed by Philippe Starck. Lead bartender José Cespedes 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. Cespedes’ signature cocktail 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).
#102 Robert's Western World (Nashville)
Home of traditional country music, hillbilly, and rockabilly, and host to a much-loved house band, Brazilbilly, Robert’s Western World is a legendary honky-tonk. Plenty of stars of the Grand Ole Opry and actors on shows like Hee Haw and Nashville Now called the place home. Owned by singer Jesse Lee Jones, the bar brings back the Golden Era of country music, and even hosts a Sunday morning gospel fellowship at 10:30 a.m. The bar is housed in a building occupied by a number of businesses over the years, from a steel drum manufacturer to a boot and apparel store. The current iteration 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.
#101 Proof (Charleston)
Craig Nelson’s Proof is an intimate craft cocktail bar with an extensive wine-by-the-glass list and a beer list full of pilsners, lagers, stouts, sours, and ciders. But the real attraction are the 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.
#100 The Brewer's Art (Baltimore)
Located in an old row house built in the early 1900s, The Brewer’s Art is famous for its Belgian-style ales. Two bars and a dining room provide three different atmospheres united by superb beers. The upstairs bar is light and classic, with high-top tables, an ornate bar area, and a lounge area with a working fireplace; the downstairs bar is dark, loud, and popular with college students and locals; and the casual dining room serves chef Ray Kumm's seasonally changing European continental cuisine. Try the grilled venison strip loin served with orange glazed turnips, roasted maitake mushrooms, and salted chocolate ganache. There are six house-brewed beers on offer, including the Birdhouse, which is the bar’s version of a pale ale; Resurrection, an abbey-style brown ale brewed with five types of malt and three varieties of hops; and the light-colored Beazly ale, a tribute to Belgian “Devil” beers, which boasts full flavor and a dry finish. The Beazley ale was named for head bartender Mark “Beazly” Barcus, who has been with the bar since its opening 18 years ago. For non-beer drinkers, there are other options: the bar serves several bourbon cocktails, like the Stein (Buffalo Trace bourbon, citrus black tea syrup, Charm City Meadworks honey, and cardamom bitters).
#99 Lobby Bar at the Brown Hotel (Louisville, Ky.)
Since 1923, the Lobby Bar in the elegant Georgian revival Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville’s “Magic Corner” has offered handcrafted classic cocktails and quintessential Kentucky charm that transports guests to a bygone era. There are 64 bourbons, 25 other whiskeys, and eight signature cocktails, along with a small selection of beers and wine. Try the signature cocktail, the Ali Smash (Knob Creek Bourbon, muddled mint, Lemon PAMA liqueur, and agave nectar). Pair a bourbon with the Hot Brown, a Louisville tradition since 1926: roasted turkey breast and toast points covered with Mornay sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese, baked and finished with bacon and tomatoes. Then, finish your meal with Derby Pie, a walnut and chocolate chip pie.
#98 Skybar (Miami)
Skybar is one of the places to see and be seen in South Beach. Each week, there are new cocktails, popular DJs, and celebrity guests at the Art Deco-style Shore Club. The sleek, tropical bar features cobalt blue walls, fountains, pergolas, a red lacquered teak floor, a steel pool table, and French antique Napoleon III chairs. There’s an intimate garden of perennials, bougainvillea, and passionflowers populated with Oriental furniture evoking an outdoor living room. The rum bar, ensconced between two pools, serves 75 different rums. Signature drinks include the pear and strawberry Rekorderlig cider and the Watermelon Smash (Grey Goose vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and crème de framboise). Nibbles include lobster mac and cheese bites and ahi tuna flatbread.
#97 Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago)
Three Dots and a Dash provides a mixture of 20 modern and classic tiki cocktails in an old-school tiki vibe. Bring a crowd and try the Treasure Chest No.2 (aged Jamaican rum, blackberry, pomegranate, pineapple, lemon, and falernum — a sweet syrup of almond, ginger, and lime — served with a bottle of Dom Pérignon), which serves six to eight people. If you’re here solo, go for the signature Three Dots and a Dash cocktail (aged rhum agricole, Guyanese rum, honey, falernum, lime, allspice, and Angostura bitters). There are some simple tiki bar snacks, too, like Thai fried chicken.
#96 The Hawthorne (Boston)
Jackson Cannon’s The Hawthorne is an all-around exceptional bar: bartenders with personality and encyclopedia knowledge and stories to tell, well-crafted cocktails from an expansive drink list that includes 400 cocktails, 30 craft beers and ciders, and 20 fine wines; and inviting ambiance are all found here. Try the signature cocktail, the Dutch Oven (barrel-aged Bols Genever, sugar cubes, Peychaud’s bitters, Regan’s orange bitters, and St. George absinthe) or one of the six cocktails that are highlighted weekly to help patrons whittle down their options. Finger foods, a cheese program, and sweet nibbles pair well with the drink list.
#95 The Redwood Room (San Francisco)
Since 1933, Redwood Room has been a hot spot for handcrafted cocktails and a glamorous bar scene. Located inside the boutique luxury Clift Hotel, which celebrates its centennial this year, the Redwood Room is paneled in redwood and its enormous bar is said to have been carved from a single redwood tree. Philippe Starck-designed lounge furniture and digital artwork add modern touches to the classic bar. There are 14 cocktails on offer, including the Premium Redwood Room Martini (Monkey 47 gin or Grey Goose VX vodka, shaken and served up with blue cheese-stuffed olives) and the CLIFT Carré (Hennessy VS Cognac, Bulleit rye, Carpano Antica, Fernet Branca, ginger syrup, Angostura and Peychaud bitters and Kold-Draft ice cubes). Hearty snacks include Dungeness crab croquettes with chorizo aïoli and the Clift Burger, served on a pretzel bun with caramelized onions, house-made steak sauce, and Cheddar.
#94 The Griswold Inn Tap Room (Essex, Conn.)
The Griswold Inn opened its doors in 1776, promising “First Class Accommodations,
Fine Food and Spirits.” Some 239 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 here), the hotel and Tap Room are filled with maritime art, brass bells, and binnacles. There is live music every night, from Dixieland and swing to sea shanties. 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 7:30 p.m. daily, and includes an award-winning New England clam chowder.
#93 McGlinchey's Bar & Grill (Philadelphia)
The cozy McGlinchey's Bar & Grill is a beloved dive bar that features draft beer and sandwiches. Locals pull up stools at the wraparound wooden bar to sample the 13 rotating beers on tap, like Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady, Woodchuck Cider, and Paulaner Hefeweizen. There are also 21 bottled beers, including Yards IPA, Smithwicks, and Rouge Dead Guy.
#92 The Berkshire Room (Chicago)
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s craft cocktail lounge The Berkshire Room, named for the hotel that once occupied the space, is an unpretentious spot to enjoy dealer’s choice cocktails and barrel-finished concoctions crafted by beverage director Benjamin Schiller and his team. Patrons select a spirit, a flavor profile, and the glassware, and the Berkshire Room bartenders do the rest. For the indecisive, the bar has seven house cocktails, too, like the Weston (wheated bourbon, Dark Matter Coffee Essence, and pipe tobacco served over a large piece of carved ice in a rocks glass). The inviting bar, which opened in June 2013, features dark wood whiskey crate locker walls, a bar front made from leather belts, plush seating, copper pipe light fixtures that mimic distillery pipes, steel shutters from a Kentucky bourbon distillery, white-washed walls, soaring ceilings, and the original terrazzo composite flooring from the Berkshire Hotel. The bar serves upscale snacks and desserts created by executive chef Chris “Chip” Davies and executive pastry chef Chris “Tex” Teixeira — some of which mimic the flavor profiles of the dealer’s choice cocktails. Try, for example, the chicken fried sweetbreads with bacon aïoli, fried Brussels sprouts, and pecorino or the B.L.T. slider with braised bacon, frisée, and pickled tomato aïoli on a house-baked brioche bun.
#91 Mikkeller Bar (San Francisco)
Mikkeller Bar 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 bar brings beer from the best breweries around the world to its 42 taps. Temperature is key for the bartenders at Mikkeller. Some 13 beers, like Pretty Things Our Finest Regards, a barleywine, are served at 55 degrees F; 20 beers, like the hoppy Mikkeller Tenderloin Wit and the malty amber lager Fort Point Brewing Westfalia, are served at 45 degrees F; and five beers, like the Mahr’s Bräu Ungespundet Hefetrüb, are served at 40 degrees F. There are two cask-conditioned ales, too. The seasonally changing menu includes charcuterie and cheeses, snacks, small plates, and sausages.
#90 The Velvet Tango Room (Cleveland)
Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis and the bartenders of The Velvet Tango Room are “torchbearers of tradition.” Since 1996, the bartenders here were serving classic cocktails 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.
#89 Williams & Graham (Denver)
There’s much to see and drink at Williams & Graham, which boasts a large menu of spirits and cocktails: agave spirits, gin, cognac, brandy and eau-de-vie, American whiskey, Scotch whisky, vodka, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky, and Japanese whisky, liqueurs and cordials, aperitifs, digestives, amari and vermouths, sherries, beer, and wine. Cocktail options include 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; the 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).
#88 Milk and Honey (New York City)
On New Year’s Day 2013, Milk & Honey moved from the Lower East Side to the Flatiron District, but it retained its policy of entrance by referral and appointment only. Milk and Honey has a sister bar of the same name in London, and both locations painstakingly craft cocktails using time honored traditions and a multi-step process that begins every afternoon with the juicing of oranges, lemons, limes, and apples. The bar doesn’t use any juice or extract that isn’t made in-house. Most of the glassware and all of the mixing glasses are put in freezers set to -40 degrees Celsius to keep drinks cold during the delicate preparation phase. The bartenders obsessively count the time as they shake or stir drinks to ensure the perfect mix for champagne cocktails, cobblers, fizzes, sours, and digestifs. At the time of writing, Milk and Honey is on the move again due to a leasing issue, according to owner Sasha Petraske. She hopes to move back downtown. The bar has been kept on our list due to its 15-year legacy handcrafting memorable bespoke cocktails that we hope to imbibe again soon.
#87 No Vacancy at the Juniper Hotel (Hollywood, Calif.)
The folks behind No Vacancy at the Juniper Hotel — which is a bar, with no hotel attached — have worked hard to evoke 1930s nostalgia, from the former Victorian-style residence in which it makes its home to its vintage hotel decor —including a detailed lobby — to its dress code: shiny shirts, shorts, sports gear, logos, flip flops, most hats, and loud colors are highly discouraged. Guests can enjoy a list of 12 cocktails, known as The Dirty Dozen, at the antique bar on the patio or in the lush outdoor garden. There's live music, and sometimes burlesque, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays.
#86 Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen (Denver, Colo.)
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. There are more than 80 globetrotting beers (and more than 50 whiskeys and seasonally changing cocktails for non-beer drinkers), and an adventurous pub food menu with items like pig ear pad Thai, bison tongue stroganoff, house-made hand-cranked sausages, and the more familiar poutine and schnitzels — all prepared in the open kitchen.
#85 Zig Zag Café (Seattle)
Located near Pike Place Market, the pink-hued Zig Zag Café, a neighborhood bar and restaurant that onetime bartender Murray Stenson made famous with his revitalization of The Last Word (a once-forgotten classic cocktail made with gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur, and green Chartreuse) is now making a name for itself with its food, too. Chef Tyler Moritz revamped the menu in December 2014, adding options like pork belly with cauliflower, figs, mustard greens, and pickled mustard seeds and house-made cappelletti stuffed with corn, ricotta, chanterelles, tomato, marjoram, and pecorino Romano. Stenson has moved on, but the bar remains one of Seattle’s and the country’s best.
#84 Kon Tiki Lounge (Tucson)
For 50 years, Kon Tiki Lounge has brought an island vibe to Tucson. The tiki bar looks almost exactly as it did when it first opened — replete with gas-powered tiki torches, the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, and assorted island curios. The likes of Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and Robert Wagner stopped by Kon Tiki when films were shot in and around Tucson. Indulge in 46 island drinks, like the Koko Pino (tropical pineapple and coconut blended with shaved ice and rum) or the Kanaloa (banana, orange, and pineapple mixed with Absolut Mango). The frosty drinks pair nicely with the food on offer. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki pupus (appetizers) like Monkeys On A Stick (tender cubes of sirloin skewered, marinated, and charbroiled and served with a teriyaki glaze) and Birds On A Stick (chunks of tender chicken breast skewered, marinated, and broiled to perfection and served with teriyaki glaze); Tiki Chips (sugar-coated wonton chips served with teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce); and Hawaiian BBQ Chicken (seasoned, grilled, and finely basted chicken breast with house recipe barbecue sauce, all topped with a pineapple ring).
#83 Canon (Seattle)
Canon boasts that it offers the largest spirit collection in the western hemisphere —more than 3,500 spirits, 400 vintage spirits, and a 100-page cocktail list — so it can be difficult to select a tipple or two to try. The signature Canon cocktail (rye, sweet vermouth, Ramazzotti, and Cointreau foam stenciled with an Angostura bitters cannon on top), is a good place to start, but asking award-winning head bartender Jamie Boudreau for recommendations works, too. Like the drink list, the food options change every two months, but a few “rations” are delicious staples: the Angostura-bourbon nuts (cashews, pretzel, and caramel corn); pork belly buns (served with sweet and spicy sauce and apple slaw); and Hudson Valley foie gras terrine (with celery, white wine-poached apple, and Pedro Ximenez sherry consommé). If you get the idea that Angostura bitters are a theme here, you're right: the bartop is stained with Angostura.
#82 Clyde Common (Portland, Ore.)
Where better to enjoy the fruits of the barrel-aged trend than at the bar helmed by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the guy who got the ball rolling in the first place? See what all the fuss is about by sampling the Negroni, chrysanthemum, or the whimsically named Remember the Maine, all of which are barrel-aged. The rustic, European-style tavern pushes cocktail trends while maintaining reverence for the classics. With five rotating taps, 10 wines by the glass, and a dozen or so cocktails on the menu, there’s something for everyone at Clyde Common. Try the food, too; the menu of snacks and shareable plates is constantly evolving, so there is something new and exciting to try every time you visit.
#81 The Polo Lounge (Beverly Hills)
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. Try the $35 Forbes Five Star Martini (dill and cucumber-infused Double Cross Vodka and dry vermouth served up in a metal martini glass and accompanied by a lobster, avocado, and caviar parfait). The hotel’s signature green and white strip motif is incorporated into the bar’s décor, complementing the wood-paneled walls and cozy banquettes. There is live entertainment nightly, but the cocktails and clientele are the real stars.
#80 Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer Spit, Alaska)
The Salty Dawg Saloon is housed in a late nineteenth-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 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).
#79 Tiki-Ti (Los Angeles)
Not much has changed since the late Ray Buhen opened the Tiki-Ti on the far eastern end of Sunset Boulevard in 1961. Today, his son and grandson, Michael and Mike Buhen, carry on the tradition of exotic cocktail-making at the family-owned and -operated tropical bar that serves 92 different tiki drinks. The place is tiny — there are just 12 stools and a handful of tables against the walls. Regular customers are immortalized with nameplates on the bar’s walls, and almost all the tiki pictures and items adorning the bar were donated by long-time patrons. Those in the know understand the bar’s quirks — from the strict no-in-and-out policy to the odd opening schedule (Wednesday through Saturday only) to the fact that smoking is permitted inside the bar (because it is owner-operated, with no employees, it is exempt from no-smoking laws). 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.
#78 Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago)
The sleek American gastro-lounge Sable Kitchen & Bar, located inside the Hotel Palomar Chicago, has created a following in the Windy City since the industrial-style but glamorous 1940s-style bar opened in 2010. The hotel bar’s focus is on unique modern cocktails, most of which are based on classic recipes and blended with house-made syrups and bitters. Grab a seat at the 40-foot bar and try one — or a few — of the 62 cocktails on the menu, like the signature War of the Roses (gin, elderflower, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, mint sprigs, Peychaud’s bitters, and Pimm’s) made by award-winning head bartender John Stanton. A New American menu of shared plates prepared in the open kitchen, like spicy merguez sausage flatbread with shaved fennel, feta, cilantro, and red onion, round out the experience.
#77 Napoleon House Bar & Cafe (New Orleans)
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 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 its 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
#76 Revolution Brewing (Chicago)
No details have been overlooked at brewpub Revolution Brewing, from carved fists holding up the mahogany bar to the hops aroma of its Anti-Hero IPA. Craft brewery Revolution Brewing brews 50 different beers each year. The most popular beers are the Anti-Hero IPA, A Little Crazy, and the Fist City Chicago Pale Ale. Located in Logan Square, the brewery features a tin ceiling, barrel wood walls and benches, and a second floor brewers’ lounge. Head chef Charlie Eure prepares a hearty menu that includes house-made charcuterie and bacon fat popcorn. Once or twice a week the kitchen roasts a whole pig for feasting.
#75 The Round Robin Bar (Washington, D.C.)
It was here at the polished mahogany bar that Kentucky senator and congressman Henry Clay introduced the nation’s capital to the mint julep in the mid-1800s. Located just off the lobby of the Willard InterContinental Hotel, the stately hotel bar offers a wide range of offerings, but its signature drink remains the refreshing Henry Clay julep (Makers Mark bourbon, sugar, branch water, muddled mint leaves, and crushed ice). The Round Robin Bar’s walls are adorned with portraits of folks from the storied bar’s history: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, who created a stir by publicly smoking in the Willard dining room; President Woodrow Wilson, who convened the League to Enforce Peace at the Willard and set forth his far-reaching program for worldwide accord, the genesis for the League of Nations and the United Nations, in 1916; Calvin Coolidge, the 30th American president, who lived at the Willard during his time as vice-president to President Warren Harding; and American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who stayed at the Willard while covering the Civil War for The Atlantic Monthly. Head bartender Jim Hewes founded the bar’s famous Bonnets & Bowties Kentucky Derby party, the largest Kentucky Derby event outside of Louisville, which has been an annual tradition since 1986. Hewes also created the fantastic Presidential Cocktail Collection, which compiles libations historically and anecdotally linked to every United States president. They pair well with the food menu, which is full of sharing plates from the hotel’s Café du Parc kitchen. Try the Angus burger sliders or the Maryland crab cake sliders.
#74 Bellocq (New Orleans)
Bellocq’s bordello-chic interior evokes the bar’s namesake, E.J. Bellocq, a marine photographer who photographed the women of Storyville — New Orleans’ famed red light district — in the early twentieth century. Nestled in the Hotel Modern, the intimate bar features plush velvet surfaces, deep red hues, muted lighting, and a smattering of flickering candles. Bellocq’s was the first bar to focus on turn-of-the century cocktails that emphasize low-proof alcohol and fortified wines like sherry, vermouth, Madeira, and Port. The signature beverage is the Cobbler (fortified wine, ice, and fruit), a nineteenth-century drink that comes in 20 varieties here. Executive chef Marcus Woodham of Tivoli & Lee, the Modern's restaurant, focuses on small plates, snacks, and sweets. The crispy lamb dirty rice with mint rémoulade is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and pairs very well with cobblers or fortified wine.
#73 Maison Premiere (Brooklyn)
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 bar, led by bar director Maxwell Britten and head bartender William Elliot, specializes in absinthe cocktails like the signature Maison Absinthe Colada (Mansinthe, Rhum JM, crème de menthe, pineapple, and coconut syrup). Chef Lisa Giffen serves a variety of French-inspired shared plates and entrées, including 30 types of oysters, assorted crudo, and sea urchin.
#72 The Publican (Chicago)
The rustic, spacious The Publican has made a name for itself with executive chef Paul Kahan’s country fare -- think beef heart tartare, country ribs, and farm chicken — but it is equally worth visiting for its rotating selection of 12 tap beerss, plus 60 beers and ciders in bottles and cans. Try the Publican Lambic, a fresh, unblended young lambic that is light, slightly tart, and wonderful with The Publican’s food. Take a seat at the walnut communal table that evokes sixteenth-century European banquets — it seats up to 100 people and affords views of the partially open kitchen. For non-beer drinkers, there are nine cocktails, like the signature Kyle's After Pork Digestive, a rum- and Cynar-based cocktail that is worth a try, even for beer drinkers.
#71 Haymarket Whiskey Bar (Louisville, Ky.)
The Haymarket Whiskey Bar offers nearly 200 whiskies from around the world, ranging from Kentucky bourbon to moonshine to rye whiskeys and single- and blended malt whiskeys. A member of the Urban Bourbon Trail, Haymarket champions the deep culture and history of bourbon country by offering classes on American whiskey history and modern bourbon marketing classes. The 10 bourbon flights, each offering a sampling of a trio of bourbons, are an excellent introduction to the bar’s encyclopedia collection.
#70 Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth, N.H.)
Opened in 1991, the Portsmouth Brewery was New Hampshire’s first brewpub. Housed in a nineteenth-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 Market Street Manhattan (Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet and dry vermouths, and Woodford Reserve bourbon-barrel bitters). The drink offerings include 12 draft beers upstairs, 16 downstairs, two cask-conditioned beers, 18 wines, 25 high-end bottled beer, 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.
#69 The Toronado Pub (San Francisco)
This Lower Haight bar is known for its well-curated beer selection, but The Toronado Pub also stands out among its competitors for its lack of pretension. The dive-y atmosphere and loud music may scare away more refined hops-heads, but patrons will have a blast while drinking hard-to-come-by craft beers like Sierra Nevada’s IPA Hop Hunter, Moonlight’s pilsner Reality Czech, Rodenbach’s Flemish red Grand Cru, and Two Rivers’ organic apple cider with pomegranate.
#68 Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas)
Those seeking forgotten drinks made with accuracy should seek out Herbs & Rye, which has a cocktail list arranged in chronological order from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Open since 2009, the neighborhood 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); 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); the Old School Age (1900 to 1919) like the Aviation (gin, Maraschino, lemon, crème de violette); Prohibition (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, flat iron steak, and rib eye.
#67 Big Star (Chicago)
Big Star is devoid of any pretenses. Housed in a defunct 1940s gas station, this living room-like honky-tonk and taquería plays country music on vinyl and serves bourbon and beer alongside tasty tacos. The most popular drinks are the classic margarita (Lunazul Blanco tequila, lime juice, and Marie Brizard orange Curaçao), available by the pitcher; and the La Paloma (Lunazul Blanco, grapefruit and lime juices, and Mexican Fresca). The Mexican street food menu includes tacos al pastor (marinated spit-roasted pork shoulder with grilled pineapple, grilled onion, and cilantro), de panza (crispy braised pork belly with tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, and cilantro), and de pescado (beer-battered tilapia fillet with chipotle mayo, cabbage, red onion, lime, and cilantro).
#66 Horse Brass Pub (Portland, Ore.)
Credited with helping start the craft beer revolution — if not across the country, then certainly in Oregon — the late Don Younger, longtime co-owner of the place (he died last year) is practically a patron saint of the community. His traditional English-style Horse Brass Pub has been serving proper 20-ounce pints since 1976. There are 58 taps, including four hand-pumped cask engines, three ciders, five nitro-taps, and several imports. There is the requisite pub food, too, like bangers, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, ploughman’s lunch, and halibut fish and chips —all exceptional. As Tom May sang, “You’re a stranger no more when you walk through that door” at this neighborhood pub.
#65 Elixir (San Francisco)
One of the pioneers in the return of cocktail culture, Elixir is a neighborhood saloon that serves a substantial collection of spirits at its late-nineteenth-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 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 the Hollinger Manhattan Project (Rittenhouse 100 rye, Carpano Antica, and Luxardo maraschino, with an absinthe rinse and an orange twist) or the signature Celery Cup No. 1 (Square One cucumber vodka, Pimm's, cilantro, celery, and English cucumber).
#64 Frankie's Tiki Room (Las Vegas)
Open since 2008, Frankie’s Tiki Room was decorated by Bamboo Ben, the grandson of Eli Hedley, who himself designed the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. It 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 24 original tiki cocktails 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”).
#63 Bourbon & Branch (San Francisco)
Once an actual speakeasy, Bourbon & Branch which opened in 1867, operated illegally during the 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 J.J. 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 United States), 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 Bourbon & Branch, which includes a main bar and the library (enter the library by ringing the buzzer and using the password “books”).
#62 The Varnish (Los Angeles)
Expertly executed classic cocktails are what make The Varnish, a vintage bar at the back of Cole’s French Dip (the 106-year-old establishment that invented the French dip sandwich), a draw in Los Angeles. 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.
#61 The Old Fashioned (Madison, Wisc.)
Inspired by the traditions of Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs, The Old Fashioned has beers, brats, cheese, and more. Opened in 2003, the bar is quintessential Wisconsin, complete with a food menu that highlights meats, cheeses, produce, and local specialties from Wisconsin producers to create traditional home-cooked feasts like fish frys, prime rib, and wood-fired chicken. The drink menu is similarly rich in state pride, featuring 52 Wisconsin beers on tap and 105 bottled beers, wines, spirits, and specialty drinks, including its namesake: the classic, hand-muddled old fashioned. As if the food and drink weren’t enough of a draw, the tavern has a rewards program, Big Shot, where points ($1 equals one point) can be redeemed for merchandise like a bumper sticker, a tap beer, Wisconsin cheese, or a party.
#60 Bar at Church & State (Los Angeles)
Located in the original loading dock of the Nabisco factory building, 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 10 house cocktails, 10 bottled beers, and 75 French wines by the bottle with 12 more by the glass. Located at one end of the 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 aïoli), 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), and the charcuterie board (duck prosciutto, house-cured pork belly, pork rillettes, pâtés de campagne, head cheese, chicken liver mousse, house mustard, and pickled vegetables).
#59 Monte's Downtown (Fargo, N.D.)
Since opening in 2002, Monte’s Downtown has made its mark with its 35 signature martinis and excellent food. From savory to boozy to sweet and fruity , Monte’s handcrafts martinis for all tastes. Non-martini drinkers can indulge in the extensive wine list, which features 95 varietiels; 40 cocktails, including eight seasonally changing selections; and four craft beers. Monte's Downtown isn’t just a watering hole; the establishment, with tables adorned with crisp white linens, was Fargo's original fine-dining and drinking destination, long before craft cocktails and locally sourced ingredients were trends in the region. The seasonally changing menu includes rack of lamb, filet mignon, and walleye pike.
#58 Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar (Detroit)
Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar is indeed, as the name suggests, a martini bar, but it also stocks a plethora of whiskey, Scotch, and bourbon. The intimate bar, with dark mood lighting, live music, and a lively dance floor, specializes in concoctions made with house-infused Tito’s vodka, including raspberry-infused for the Vixen Martini, strawberry-infused for the strawberry mule, pineapple-infused for the pineapple mule, and serrano chile-infused for the LemonPEPPPERcello. There are 23 martinis on the menu; the signature non-martini cocktail is the Kentucky Buck (Ridgemont Reserve 1792, the bar’s exclusive single-barrel hand-selected blend, freshly muddled strawberries, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and ginger beer). Save room for the sliders, which include prime rib with “zip” cheese, crab cake, and chicken Parmesan.
#57 El Bait Shop (Des Moines)
It’s all about craft beer here at El Bait Shop, a rustic bar populated with taxidermy, beer signs, and bicycles. The bar also doubles as Des Moines’ “unofficial bicycle headquarters,” given its proximity to a number of bike trails in downtown Des Moines. With more than 120 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.
#56 The Musso & Frank Grill (Hollywood, Calif.)
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 restaurant/bar was sold and 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. Even if you are not a celebrity, you’ll be treated like Hollywood royalty here.
#55 Bemelmans Bar (New York City)
Walking into Bemelmans Bar, in the Carlyle 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 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 new food menu; the emphasis is on shareable plates, like sliders, and Mediterranean spreads.
#54 Apothéke (New York City)
On a side street of New York's Chinatown is Apothéke, an unmarked spot (the 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 “therapeutic treatments” like edamame and shiso (vodka, edamame purée, muddled cucumber, shiso leaf, shaved ginger, and a wasabi–pink Himalayan salt rim); “pain killers” like Hecho en Mexico (tamarind, tequila, habanero chile, agave nectar, and lime); “aphrodisiacs” like the Deal Closer (cucumber, vodka, mint, lime, and vanilla essence); “euphoric enhancers” like the Blackberry Cobbler (cactus pear, pisco, rose water, egg white, house bitters, agave nectar, and lime); “stress relievers” like the Thai White Lady (thyme essence, gin, egg white, lemon sour, and orange); “fruit extracts” like the Cherry Licorice (tart cherries, single malt Scotch, absinthe essence, house-made cherry bitters, and cherry licorice garnish); and “health and beauty” drinks like Guava Mama (Mexican guava, vodka, cognac, anise, allspice, and lime).
#53 Pump Room Bar (Chicago)
Located in the iconic Pump Room restaurant in the PUBLIC Chicago hotel, Pump Room Bar has been frequented by Hollywood royalty and dignitaries from around the world. For more than 75 years, everyone from actress Elizabeth Taylor to rockers David Bowie and Mick Jagger to President John F. Kennedy have dined in the famous “Booth One.” In fact, the Pump Room, one of two bars in the hotel, was Frank Sinatra’s home away from home. Sinatra sang about the “jumping Pump Room” in his hit song “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is).” The bar is still a magnet for luminaries like Rihanna, Bill Clinton, and Michael Jordan. The richly decorated restaurant, which features a gold-leafed ceiling offset by a floating, illuminated resin orb, is famous not only for its rich history — the walls are decorated with black-and-white photographs of the celebrities who dined there — but also for the drinks, including eight beers on tap, more than 200 wines, and 35 cocktails. Try the the old fashioned: it’s served in an engraved stainless steel Pump Room flask that guests can take home. The food, under the supervision of multi-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is outstanding as well.
#52 ChurchKey (Washington, D.C.)
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 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 Engert Greg 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 Greg (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 by chef Kyle Bailey that includes fresh pastas, house-made charcuterie, and handmade "tater tots."
#51 Anvil Bar and Refuge (Houston)
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 110 cocktails on the menu, but the bartenders can make far more. The lively space, opened by Bobby Heugel when he was just 24 years old, features a bar running the length of the space and a huge spirit collection. Heugel is also one of the bar owners behind OKRA Charity Saloon, a not-for-profit bar. There is a small food menu of nibbles like cheese, charcuterie, and snacks.
#50 The Pegu Club (New York City)
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.
#49 The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery (Oxford, Miss.)
Since 1992, James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence has been crafting a conglomerate of eateries and bars in Oxford, Mississippi. The French-inspired Southern fare at City Grocery draws diners to its fine dining room, and the more casual upstairs bar, aptly titled The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery, has become a destination as well for its extensive wine list, short list of classic cocktails, and snacks. Try the Jesús María (Patron tequila, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the Oxfordian (Maker’s Mark bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with prosecco) and pair them with bar snacks like crispy fried hot chicken with honey; fried bologna sandwich with America “whiz,” yellow mustard, and toasted white bread; and shrimp and grits (spicy Original Grit Grit grits, sautéed shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, white wine, lemon juice, and Big Bad Bacon).
#48 Pouring Ribbons (New York City)
Sipping a cocktail at Pouring Ribbons is an education. The graphic cocktail menu, curated by award-winning bartender Joaquín Simó, 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. In addition to its impressive craft cocktails, Pouring Ribbons is also known for possessing the largest collection of vintage and rare bottles of Chartreuse in North America. 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). Designed by WarrenRed, the bar 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.
#47 Eastern Standard (Boston)
Restaurateur Garrett Harker has created a gem in Kenmore Square, a once-seedy part of Boston. Since opening the restaurant nearly 10 years ago, Eastern Standard’s bar director Jackson Cannon and his staff have garnered numerous awards; among other honors, Cannon was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur for the last two years in a row. The high-ceilinged lounge, with red leather banquettes, features 110 eclectic wines by the bottle and an impressive beer program, but the bartenders who handcraft drinks from the 46-foot marble bar, the longest bar in Bean Town, 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 a rotating selection of 24 craft cocktails divided into three main sections: Rediscover (a collection of classic cocktails), Redevelop (riffs on the classics), and Redefine (more innovative cocktails), with drinks like bar manager Naomi Levy’s Poor Little Richman (Leblon Reserva cachaça, Beefeater gin, house-made red wine-cola syrup, lime juice, and Angostura bitters). There are also two smaller, more frequently changing sections: one focused on seasonal ingredients and the other paying tribute to a place or a person of historical significance. 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.
#46 The Buena Vista Café (San Francisco)
A few blocks from Fisherman's Wharf, The Buena Vista Café is where the American version of the Irish coffee was invented. The original first mixed up at the 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 urgin 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, a sugar cube, 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 bar serves also hearty fare like eggs Blackstone and bread pudding.
#45 Little Branch (New York City)
Sasha Petraske’s (of Milk & Honey, No. 88) casual, cash only, no reservations cocktail lounge in the West Village is a lively spot for the classics. The suspender-wearing bartenders at Little Branch have encyclopedic knowledge about all things spirits and cocktails. Linger at the bar or settle into one of the booths to sip cocktails and enjoy jazz piano at this chic subterranean bar.
#44 Drink (Boston)
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, Drink specializes in old-school techniques and classic Prohibition era recipes that are infused with modern innovation and artisanal ingredients. The 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.
#43 The Old Seelbach Bar (Louisville, Ky.)
Since its opening in 1905, celebrities, U.S. presidents, Grammy-winning artists, and even gangsters have frequented the restaurants and bar of the Seelbach Hilton. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel houses the perennially popular Old Seelbach Bar, where, as legend has it, F. Scott Fitzgerald began writing The Great Gatsby on the bar’s cocktail napkins. Try the signature Seelbach cocktail (Old Forester bourbon, triple sec, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and Champagne, served in a fluted glass adorned with fresh orange), created in 1917, which disappeared during Prohibition and was rediscovered by a hotel manager in 1995. Located off the hotel lobby, the turn-of-the-century bar also offers more than 70 bourbons and comforting warm bourbon chocolate pecan pie. The bar food menu features a variety of Kentucky-accented dishes, like Kentucky bison sliders with Kenny’s horseradish Cheddar and mini brioche buns; “cheese fries” (beer-battered fries with chorizo, sriracha, and warm Cheddar sauce); and funnel cake fries with powdered sugar and bourbon caramel.
#42 Smuggler's Cove (San Francisco)
Smuggler’s Cove claims to have the largest premium rum selection in the United States (there are more than 550 rare and premium varieties), but the vintage 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 bar offers patrons the chance to try multiple rums and earn status in its tri-level 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 of the Cove, you are given the opportunity to join owner Martin Cate on a private distillery trip.
#41 Holeman & Finch Public House (Atlanta)
Holeman and Finch Public House was at the forefront of the burgeoning craft cocktail movement in Atlanta back when it opened in 2008, and it remains a leader in the industry. To keep things exciting, head bartender Kaleb Cribb rotates the cocktail offerings seasonally; each new cocktail menu has a thematic continuity. There are six beers on tap, plus a rotating bottle and can list of a dozen or so brews; a carefully curated 50 bottle wine list; and the cocktail list, which has 10 original creations and six specially highlighted classic cocktails. Check out the custom built charcuterie and wine cave and sample some of chef Linton Hopkins’ whole animal and Southern vegetable cookery. Standouts include the roasted bone marrow with pain au levain and parsley salad; 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 on an H&F Bread Co. bun 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 the burgers were so popular that they are now offered on the daily menu. Plus, H&F Burger, a standalone shop, is opening this spring at Ponce City Market in Atlanta (in 2013, three H&F Burger stands debuted at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves).
#40 Please Don’t Tell (New York City)
Please Don’t Tell (aka PDT), hidden within East Village hot dog restaurant Crif Dogs and accessible via a phone booth, is a gem. The cozy bar — with banquette seating, low ceilings, a copper-topped bar, leather seats, and taxidermy — offers a short menu of 10 cocktails, four wines by the glass, and four beers on tap. Try the signature Benton’s old fashioned: a Benton's bacon fat-washed Bourbon old fashioned sweetened with Grade B maple syrup. The bar also serves Crif Dogs’ famous gourmet handmade and naturally smoked beef and pork hot dogs with your choice of toppings; it’s a winning combination.
#39 Sportsman's Club (Chicago)
When the Sportsman’s Club was transferred into the hands of Heisler Hospitality (the folks behind Chicago bars like Bar Deville, Lone Wolf, Nightwood, The Revel Room, and Trenchermen) in 2013, the Windy City was (and still is) abuzz about the bar’s new amaro machine, which produces a daily blend of amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur) served chilled in vintage glassware. Heisler also gave the 60-year-old bar an overhaul, transforming it into a classic Chicago bar that feels charmingly timeless. It’s complete with taxidermy, carved checker boards 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 Jacyara de Oliveira creates, shakes, and stirs four cocktails that change daily in addition to the mainstays, which include the Sportsman’s Cocktail, Amaro Machine, 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.
#38 Alembic (San Francisco)
The intimate neighborhood bar Alembic has become an iconic San Francisco destiination. Known for its hospitality, creative new-school cocktails, expertly prepared classics from the “canon” menu, local beers on tap, and strong whiskey selection, Alembic hits all the right notes. The 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 classics from the “canon” menu like the bourbon old fashioned (bourbon on the rocks with a couple dashes of bitters, sugar, and lemon peel). There are eight cocktails in each category to try. The modern food menu, which changes seasonally, features small plates like pickled quail eggs, jerk spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple, and roasted bone marrow. The bar is in the midst of a makeover and expansion that The Daily Meal can’t wait to enjoy.
#37 Scofflaw (Chicago)
The gin-focused Scofflaw, which just celebrated its third anniversary, is a 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.
#36 The Bar Room at The Modern (New York City)
The Modern’s 20-seat Bar Room is a triple threat, notable for its selection of spirits, its fine food menu, and the relaxed, hospitable style. The incredible selection of spirits includes old single malts and World War II-era French brandies — all prominently featured in the tiered display behind the 36-foot-long marble bar. Every night, guests approach the 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 tuna sliders, tarte flambée, shrimp fritters, and pan-seared branzino.
#35 Billy Sunday (Chicago)
Billy Sunday isn’t a run-of-the-mill craft cocktail spot. Designed by Rachel Crowl of FC Studios, the bar evokes Prohibition-era Americana. Head bartender Alex Bachman, of the shuttered Charlie Trotter’s, impeccably prepares and presents a craft cocktail collection of 15 concoctions, including the Victorian (Dutch gin, wormwood bitters, Amaro Sibilia, and Fernet). Don’t overlook the spirits collection; sample the extensive Scotch selection (the bar boasts nearly 100) and try the amaro (there are 500 types of the Italian herbal liqueurs available). The food at Billy Holiday is a play on Sunday supper at grandma's house, with dishes like wild boar pot pie with biscuit crust; Port cheese ball with crostini and Port reduction; and the s'mores jar, stuffed with chocolate pudding, Graham crackers, and house-made toasted fluff.
#34 LAVO (Las Vegas)
The newly conceived LAVO lounge is an AvroKo-designed space deriving inspiration from ancient bathhouses. It boasts a 20-foot ceiling, leather seating, a curved bar, and is adorned with avant-garde artwork and low chandeliers. Mixologists create spectacular specialty cocktails that have caught the attention of celebrities who frequent the place. Try the signature Lavolini (La Marca Prosecco, St. Germain, and passion fruit), which pairs well with the Italian-focused menu, with offerings like Wagyu meatballs with whipped fresh ricotta, baked clams oreganato, lobster scampi pizza, and an Oreo zeppole.
#33 Ray's Boathouse (Seattle)
The amazing panoramic views of Shilshole Bay and fantastic sunsets are not the only things that make Ray’s Boathouse one of the best bars in the United States. With over 40 signature cocktails, more than 20 seasonal and rotating taps, and more than 400 bottles of wine, there are many sensational sundowners to try at the duo-bar complex featuring the sophisticated Boathouse and the casual, homey Café. Options include Uncle Ray’s Manhattan (bourbon, house-infused sweet vermouth, and peach bitters); the white peach cosmo (white peach, vodka, white cranberry juice, lime, and rosemary); and head bartender Clint Kneebone’s creation, the Northwesterner (a boozy twist on a Bloody Caesar, garnished with a smoked clam-stuffed olive). Pair your drink of choice with oysters and the James Beard Award-winning grilled sablefish in sake kasu.
#32 Monk's Café (Philadelphia)
Monk’s Café is a Belgian beer emporium with a repertoire of rotating beers on tap and hundreds by the bottle, from the limited supply Chimay Dorée to the drier Tripel Karmeliet on tap to Achel Blond to Westmalle Tripel by the bottle. The bar also stocks locally made Belgian-style beers, so there is something for everyone. The hearty sandwiches, burgers, and mussels pair well with the beer.
#31 Tørst (Brooklyn)
The folks who run the minimalist Tørst are serious about their craft beer — it’s all that is served at the Greenpoint bar. From the “flux capacitor” draft system, which allows the bartenders to control the gas combination and pressure for each of the 21 taps, to the two separate storage areas for the beers, the respect for these craft brews is genuine. One of the most popular of the 150 bottled beers is Evil Twin Brewing’s Bikini Beer, a low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), highly flavored, and well-balanced pale ale brewed at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut. Be sure to make reservations for lukus, the tasting menu restaurant at the back of the bar: it was awarded one Michelin star, the first time ever for an establishment that only serves beer. Chef Daniel Burns’ $95 multi-course tasting menu can be paired with beer for an additional $45. There is a seasonally changing menu at Tørst, which offers a combination of English pub food and Scandinavian specialties. You’ll find house-made Danish rye bread, Welsh rarebit, kedgeree (a dish of fish, rice, and spices), and smoked trout on rye bread.
#30 Blackbird (Chicago)
Creative craft cocktails that change to fit the distinct seasons of the Windy City and exemplary savory and sweet culinary options have made Blackbird a hit. There are six seasonal cocktails and five Captain’s List cocktails, plus a wine list of nearly 200 varieties on offer. Try head mixologist Kyle Davidson's signature cocktail, the Art of Choke, based on Cynar (an amaro made with artichokes) with green Chartreuse, mint, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and white rum, which has been featured at sister bars The Violet Hour (No. 6 on The Daily Meal’s 150 Best Bars in America) and The Publican (No. 72 on The Daily Meal’s 150 Best Bars in America). The minimalist bar, with white space, mahogany red oak, and a stainless steel kitchen, is a comfortable spot for a tipple or two plus Midwestern cuisine by James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan and chef de cuisine Perry Hendrix. 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).
#29 The Homy Inn (Omaha)
Originally called The Homey Inn (all the letters wouldn’t fit on the original sign), this 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 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.
#28 Bar Agricole (San Francisco)
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 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 Armagnac and two house-made bitters.
#27 No. 9 Park (Boston)
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 three-course prix fixe lunch or seven-course chef’s 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 bar crafts classic cocktails that pair perfectly with the food program.
#26 French 75 at Arnaud's (New Orleans)
Once a “gentlemen only area” inside Arnaud Cazenave’s eponymous French Quarter restaurant (Arnaud’s began turning out exceptional Creole food in 1918), the space that is now French 75 was opened to the ladies when the restaurant switched owners in 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 nineteenth-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 Chris Hannah, one of The Daily Meal’s America’s 25 Best Bartenders. The food items offered at the French 75 bar are just as intricately prepared as the cocktails themselves, particularly the oysters en brochette (Gulf oysters wrapped with bacon, deep fried, and served with marchand de vin sauce) and Arnaud’s signature soufflé potatoes.
#25 Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar (Boston)
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, led by bar and beverage manager Joy Richard. The signature drinks at the 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.
#24 Vesper Bar (Las Vegas)
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, it is certainly charming. Vesper Bar has a menu of 20 beers, 11 wines by the glass, and 10 cocktails separated into two styles: classic (traditional renderings of classic drinks) 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 chief mixologist Mariena Mercer brings extensive knowledge to the operation — making this a must-visit bar.
#23 Cure (New Orleans)
Cure 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 foot in the golden age of cocktails. Opened by the group behind New Orleans’ bars Bellocq (No. 74) and Cane & Table, this welcoming bar, with its 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. Housed in an old horse-and-buggy firehouse that was built in 1903, it’s 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, created in consultation with Adam Peterman, who owns the neighboring Company Burger, features a country ham plate with Allan Benton's 16-month-aged ham, biscuits, whipped Steen’s cane syrup, and Creole mustard; and the Curewich, an homage to owner Neal Bodenheimer’s favorite late-night New York deli food. The Curewich features fried farm-fresh eggs, Cheddar, and braised bacon on a Weiss Guys’ roll. 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.
#22 Charlie B's (Missoula, Mont.)
Charlie’s Bar (aka Charlie B’s) is a dive bar that has been around for decades. With a bar that runs down the entire space, a pool table, and small-town vibe, even out-of-towners will feel welcome at the cash only establishment that caters to everyone, from college students to retirees. The back room, the Dinosaur Café, serves burgers and Cajun and Creole cuisine that’s worth trying.
#21 Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver)
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, but they do have beer and kombucha blends, like Happy Leaf Kombucha, which can be blended into one of the brewery’s core brands of beer (Surette Provision Saison, Vieille Artisanal Saison, and St. Bretta Citrus Wildbier). The 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 Ben Riewer, allow customers to carry in food from two restaurants in The Source (Acorn and Comida), and Mondo Market prepares cheese and charcuterie plates for customers on weekends.
#20 Spuyten Duyvil (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
You won’t find any cocktails at Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg. Rather, the beer emporium, which is set up like an old-time general store, has rotating craft beers on seven taps (brews like Brooklyner Weisse and Boulder Fresh Tracks Wet Hop Ale). It also offers 200 bottles of rare and obscure craft beers, along with a seasonally changing wine selection. All the bartenders, particularly head bartender Alex Zolli, have an encyclopedic knowledge about beer. Cheese — like the popular Cooperstown Jersey Girl colby — charcuterie, and pickle plates pair well with the beers.
#19 Noble Experiment (San Diego, Calif.)
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 comprise 70 percent of the orders placed at the cozy bar — it’s about the size of a closet. Here, bartenders, under the direction of award-winning head bartender Trevor Easter, 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 signature Black Mail Seams (Flor de Caña 4 rum, lime juice, honey syrup, blackberries, and Champagne). In a beer town like San Diego, Noble Experiment is a welcome and celebrated alternative.
#18 Booker and Dax (New York City)
From the Momofuku empire, Booker and Dax is a bar that crafts exceptional drinks and whose bartenders aren’t afraid of trying new techniques and technologies. Opened in January 2012, Booker and Dax has 31 cocktails arranged into categories: stirred, on the rock, carbonated, shaken, red hot poker, and limited edition. Options include The Solitaire (rum, aged genever, Strega, and clarified lime); Son of a Peach (mezcal, tequila, canned peach, lime, and umeboshi plum vinegar); and Bishop’s Wife (Cognac, Branca Menta, and Demerara). Delicious bar snacks feature charcuterie, steamed pork buns, and caviar.
#17 Angel's Share (New York City)
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. Angel’s Share 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, in involves Bacardi eight-year-old rum, Pedro Ximenez 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.
#16 Bar ’21’ and Lounge | Bar Room (New York City)
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, including the custom-brewed Jack & Charlie’s Ale. 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 yellow fin tuna tartare and fresh oysters. However, seasonal, in-house creations like the lavender lime rickey and ‘21’ Triple Crown are becoming guest favorites. The Bar ‘21’ cocktail lounge is a welcoming spot with a wood-burning fireplace and high-back leather chairs — it’s perfect for a quick drink.
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 hidden chute used to dispose of illegal liquor bottles is still in use.
#15 Employees Only (New York City)
Award-winning Employees Only was the focal point in the documentary Hey Bartender, the first cocktail bartender-focused movie of its kind, but these accolades aren’t the only reason to grab a drink or two at the Art Deco-style, speakeasy-esque Employees Only, which served more than 180,000 cocktails last year (not including beer, wines, shots, highballs, and so on). The neighborhood joint serves exceptional drinks with impeccable hospitality. The speed and precision of the bartenders here is a testament to the bar’s apprenticeship training program; it takes a minimum of three years to achieve the rank of principal bartender. There are 23 cocktails on the menu, including “EO Classics,” eight cocktails that have defined the bar over the past decade; “Apertifs, Cocktails and Long Drinks,” and “Fancy Cocktails.” The New American with Eastern European-influenced food menu features dishes like steak tartare, which is available until the wee hours of the morning.
#14 Sazerac Bar (New Orleans)
The landmark hotel bar is named after the Sazerac, a cocktail that many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink. The Sazerac Bar’s décor evokes old New Orleans, with some elegant updates: Paul Ninas’ murals flank the African walnut bar. The bar, including its bar stools and banquettes, has been fully restored to its original splendor. A small collection of white and red wines by the glass and beers support the main drink menu focus: the cocktails. Classic cocktails like the Sazerac (Sazerac 6-year rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar in an Herbsaint-rinsed glass); the 1840 Sazerac (Pierre Ferrand “1840” Cognac, Peychaud’s bitters, and Herbsaint Legendre); and the Pink Squirrel (crème de almond, light crème de cacao, and cream) are given equal weight as new classics like the Thibodeaux Tickle (Oryza Gin, rhubarb bitters, cranberry bitters, sugar, and soda); Prickly Pear (pear vodka, Chambord, fresh citrus, and ginger beer); and Bywater Detour (Sorel hibiscus liqueur, pimento bitters, and Gosling’s ginger beer).
#13 Clover Club (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Since its opening in 2008, Clover Club has become synonymous with cocktails and Brooklyn. Modeled after a nineteenth-century saloon with twentieth-century updates, Clover Club was one of the first serious cocktail bars to open in Brooklyn. The standards here are high, but the tone is laid back. The bar menu has 30 to 35 cocktails, most which change seasonally, including its namesake Clover Club cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white). Since Brooklynites prefer whiskey, according to the Clover Club, its Improved Whiskey cocktail, a riff on the old fashioned with rye whiskey, maraschino, absinthe, and bitters, is quite popular in the neighborhood. The quaint bar is paneled in dark wood and punctuated with wrought iron, a tin ceiling, an ornately carved bar from 1897, and leather seats. The seasonally changing food menu features small and medium plates, like house-made potato crisps tossed in duck fat, mac and cheese, a lamb burger, and deviled eggs. There’s brunch on the weekends, too.
#12 Highlands Bar & Grill (Birmingham, Ala.)
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 bar, run by beverage director Matt Gilpin, offers the full restaurant menu — including fresh-shucked oysters — plus 20 wines by the glass, 300 wines 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).
#11 The NoMad Bar (New York City)
The stylish NoMad Hotel has several bars: The Elephant Bar, The Fireplace, and The Library. Next door, the mahogany-filled The NoMad Bar has its own separate entrance. The NoMad 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 NoMad Bar’s cocktail collaborations — one with Brooklyn Brewery and the other with Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum — are popular, but the seasonally changing menu of 50 to 65 cocktails means there is something new to try each visit (there are also six draft beers, one wine on draft, 30 wines by the glass, and more than 1,000 wines by the bottle). A tavern at heart, the classic Beaux Arts-style bar is a relaxing neighborhood pub at which patrons can enjoy hearty “luxury pub food” like chicken pot pie made with black truffles and foie gras.
#10 High West Distillery & Saloon (Park City, Utah)
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, sugar cane syrup, and ginger beer) and High West Lemonade (a concoction of High West syrup — a mixture of sugar, water, lemon, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, and whole nutmeg — fresh lemon juice, fresh water, High West Double Rye, and one mint sprig). However, the drinks that truly highlight the talent here are the classic whiskey cocktails like the excellent old fashioned. 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, delicious High West Burgers, and welcoming and knowledgeable bar staff all add up to perfection.
#9 PX Lounge (Alexandria, Va.)
Walk along 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 PX an air of exclusivity and glamour. The 18 seasonally changing "avant farm" drinks, like the This Is Snow Cream! (Buffalo Trace bourbon and vanilla whey) and the Grog and Sweet Basil (a mix of rum and lemon verbena tea served in a pirate's mug with a see-through bottom), are equally classy and memorable. Be sure to try the Irish-style fish and chips served with a choice of seven different house-made sauces.
#8 McSorley's Old Ale House (New York City)
This legendary Irish pub in New York’s East Village is also the city’s oldest continuously operating bar. And you need but look around at the dust-caked chandeliers, sawdust on the floor, and walls stacked with memories to believe McSorley’s Old Ale House hasn’t changed much since 1854 — though it did abandon its men-only policy in 1970. Drinkers are crammed into the cozy bar, seated anywhere the bar staff can find space, forcing patrons to become fast friends. There are only two beer choices — dark or light — served until the wee hours of the morning.
#7 Trick Dog (San Francisco)
The only establishment of its kind in the Bay Area to be twice reviewed by and awarded three stars from long-time San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, Trick Dog is a neighborhood cocktail bar that has all the essentials: great music, well-made drinks, and exceptional food served until it’s closing time — and then some. Every six months, Trick Dog undergoes a complete, meticulous renovation of its décor and drinks that introduces a brand new theme. Currently, Trick Dog is inspired by a brilliant — not gimmicky — interpretation of a Chinese takeout restaurant, complete with Chinese characters spelling out “Trick Dog” on the door, Chinese-themed coasters (some are redeemable for a free drink), custom-made Chinese mugs, and fortune cookies with predictions like "You will leave here drunker and poorer than when you arrived." With each new itineration, Trick Dog bartenders the Bon Vivants (Scott Baird and Josh Harris), ranked No. 6 on The Daily Meal’s America’s 25 Best Bartenders, roll out 12 new cocktails. The latest dozen includes 芹菜和菠萝 (Qíncài hé bōluó), which translates to “celery and pineapple” (Plymouth gin, Bigallet China-China [a French bitter], pineapple, celery seed, lime, Cel-Ray, and gardenia). The menu also changes with the theme — currently, you’ll find Asian-style ceviche with yuzu kosho, cucumber, radish, and rice crackers; and garlicky shrimp noodles with the “Chinese Trinity” (the trio of ingredients that are the basis of many Chinese dishes: scallions, ginger, and garlic), cloud ear mushroom, garlic chives, crispy garlic, and lao gan ma (black bean chili sauce). However, there are some classic dishes that are always available, like the kale salad with avocado, parmesan and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) topped with slow-cooked egg yolk dressing; thrice-cooked fries; and The Trick Dog burger with house-ground chuck and brisket, lettuce, onion, pickles, Cheddar cheese, and house sauce.
#6 The Violet Hour (Chicago)
The Violet Hour consistently raises the bar on refined handcrafted cocktails. The Violet Hour’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 four wines by the glass, an ever-changing list of 10 beers, 35 seasonally changing cocktails, an average of 15 house syrups, four juices that are squeezed daily, and more than 20 house bitters. Drinks to try include the Juliet and Romeo (London dry gin, muddled cucumber, mint, and rose water); Of Grit and Grace (bourbon, muddled marasca cherries, and mint); and El Topo (mezcal, house diablo sauce, and muddled cucumber and strawberry). Chef Justin Large has created a fantastic selection of shareable small plates, like crispy stuffed dates with Manchego cheese, smoked almond, and basil, wrapped in bacon; and roasted red pepper dip (red peppers whipped with walnuts and pomegranate, served with seeded crackers and crispy pita).
#5 Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.)
The oldest salon in Washington, D.C. (it opened in 1856 and 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.
#4 Death + Company (New York City)
The Lower East Side bar Death + Company embraces the Golden Age of cocktails (1865 to 1900). The drink menu includes beer and wine plus gin-, rum-, agave-, whiskey-, and brandy-based cocktails along with classics, punches, and seasonal selections. If you come with a group, try the Shotgun Wedding Punch (Black Grouse blended Scotch, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Appleton V/X rum, fresh lemon juice, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot, acacia honey syrup, cinnamon syrup, Jerry Thomas Decanter bitters, and seltzer) that serves four to six people. For solo imbibing, sample the Shattered Glasser (El Tesoro reposado tequila, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Batavia Arrack van Oosten, Bénédictine, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, and Bittermen’s mole bitters); 7 Year Itch (Lemorton Selection Calvados Domfrontais, yellow Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, Bitter Truth aromatic bitters, sugar cane syrup, and sparkling wine); and Smoking Jacket (H by Hine VSOP cognac, Busnel Calvados, Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch, Demerara syrup, house Peychaud’s bitters, and Angostura bitters). The bar bites menu includes truffle mac with cave-aged Cheddar and black truffle; Welsh rarebit with cave-aged Cheddar, whole grain mustard, and buttered toast; and Friskets (fried biscuits filled with spicy pork and red cabbage slaw).
#3 Bar Marmont at Chateau Marmont (Hollywood, Calif.)
Bar Marmont at the famed Chateau Marmont is most famous for its unique, high-profile guests, Hollywood heritage, and unique spins on classic cocktails, such as the Jerry Thomas Manhattan (rye whiskey, fresh lemon juice, sugar, grenadine, and absinthe) and the Ginger Rogers (gin, apple liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juices, meddled ginger root, and sugar). The drink menu features 21 cocktails and more than 60 wines. They pair well with its culinary program, which includes oyster nights, live jazz, and memorable parties filled with Hollywood glamour. Executive chef Carolynn Spence, formerly the chef de cuisine at The Spotted Pig in New York, has conceived a hearty menu that highlights fresh local produce with dishes like curried cauliflower fritters with lime yogurt dip and carrot griddle cakes and smoked salmon with avocado and crème fraîche.
#2 The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog (New York City)
Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry’s tri-level mid-nineteenth-century saloon, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, is not your average, run-of-the-mill Irish pub. In its two years in business, there’s a reason the bar has been racking up accolades. “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 pub’s specialization is Irish whiskey; they serve 147 Irish whiskeys, and the number is growing. McGarry’s bar has illustrated the diversity and adaptability of Irish whiskey, particularly single pot still Irish whiskey. Half of the bar’s cocktails, served in the second story sit-down Parlour, are dedicated to Irish whiskey. Try the expertly executed Irish coffee, made with quality filtered coffee, not espresso; cream with more than 36 percent fat content; and low pot still/high grain blend whiskey like Jameson’s Original or Clontarf 1014. No wonder 200 to 300 Irish coffees are sold daily! Always bustling, the ground-level Taproom serves craft beers, Irish whiskey, and basic cocktails. The hearty Irish and British food menu has all the requisites, like fish and chips, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs, along with some modernized offerings like burgers and truffle fries.
#1 The Aviary (Chicago)
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 ambitious ice program churns out more than 25 types of ice, from miniscule ice balls to flavored spheres to enormous blocks for hand-chipped ice. It’s safe to say an evening spent here is unlike any other (go ahead, brag to your friends while you’re at it that you snagged a coveted ticket to sip and supper here — there’s no phone number, and reservations aren’t taken). Tickets are sold on the bar’s website and come in three varieties: as a deposit that goes toward your bill, a three-course package that includes three cocktails, and a five-course package of five cocktails, each paired with food ranging from one bite to a small course. You can also try your luck at the door, as The Aviary accepts walk-ins from Wednesday to Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis (The Aviary is closed on Monday and Tuesday). There’s also a coveted 12-course cocktail tasting menu for $165 offered at the Kitchen Table during two nightly seatings (reservations can be made by emailing the bar up to four weeks in advance). If that’s not enough, check out the basement speakeasy, The Office, which is available by invitation only or can be rented out for intimate private parties. While the cocktails and food change frequently, The Daily Meal has enjoyed The Ginger (Peychaud's bitters, shiso, lime, vodka, and a light, quasi-powdery "ice," garnished with paper thin slices of hot pepper and stirred with a lemongrass swizzle stick) and counts its time spent at The Aviary as unparalleled. It’s no surprise the bar has won many awards, including the 2014 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. The Daily Meal thinks the folks at The Aviary embody the spirit and essence of the best bar in America. The proprietors describe it best on their website: “The Aviary is where cocktails and service are given the same attention to detail as a four-star restaurant; where bartenders are trained as chefs; where the produce and herbs are carefully sourced and procured fresh daily; where the name and branding of the spirit mixed is less important than its actual flavor; where drinks are made quickly and consistently in a state-of-the-art drink kitchen; where innovation and tradition are both honored.” Cheers! Want more food and drink? Check out our gallery of the best food and drink in every state.