8 Cutting-Edge Cocktail Bars Slideshow

Bar Centro at The Bazaar (Los Angeles)

Arthur Bovino

Anyone familiar with the whimsical, avant-garde culinary creations of celebrated chef José Andrés should not be surprised to learn that in his restaurants, his forward-thinking sensibilities also extend to the bar. On the cocktail menu at The Bazaar, you’ll find everything from a liquid nitrogen-spritzed smoky (literally) cocktail called The Smoke and Water to a Salt Air Margarita topped with salt foam to a "Magic" Mojito strained over cotton candy. The must-try item for martini drinkers, however, is the "New Way" Dirty Martini, featuring a spherified olive and olive brine air.

The Aviary (Chicago)

Arthur Bovino

Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’ much-lauded cocktail venture has been referred to here before as "one of the country’s most interesting cocktail pilgrimages," "an experience, from sense of place to taste, that is achieved with playfulness, authenticity, and even restraint." What does that translate to in the glass? To give you an idea: edible bloody mary bites, White Russian riffs featuring a milk ice cube, and a Sazerac served encapsulated in a giant ice sphere.

The Daily (New York City)

You could certainly call out The Dailys sister establishment, Saxon + Parole, for belonging in the pantheon of todays cutting-edge cocktail bars. Led by bar manager Naren Young, the stellar program features (to say the least) a barrel-aged cocktail, a Manhattan on tap, craft ice, and an impressive assortment of house-made ingredients (not to mention, most notably, a unique cocktail of the month program). And while the drinks at The Daily are equally innovative, its the bars concept that really deserves notice. Here, the five- to six-item cocktail menu changes daily, drawing from a repertoire of some 600 different drink recipes, guaranteeing that every visit to the bar will be new and different.

Booker and Dax (New York City)

At this new cocktail chemistry lab adjacent to the always-hip Momofuku Ssäm Bar, co-owner and ICC’s director of culinary technology, Dave Arnold, is making drinks mixing geek chic. The always curious and experimenting visionary has added items like liquid nitrogen, a handcrafted hot poker, a rotary evaporator, and a centrifuge to the bar’s tool kit. You can rest assured that here, however straightforward a drink’s description may be, the process by which it comes to be is definitely not.

Clyde Common (Portland, Ore.)

Considering Clyde Common’s ahead-of-the-curve bartender, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, is the guy who pretty much put barrel-aged cocktails on the map over here, it seems only fitting that the bar be a touchstone for what’s next in industry trends. While two whiskey barrel-aged drinks still feature on the menu, one of Clyde Common’s newer experimental projects is in the carbonating and bottling of cocktails. On the menu is a sparkling version of the classic Americano cocktail and something called the Bottled Broken Bike — a fizzy-fied combination of Cynar, white wine, water, and lemon oil.

Citizen R +D (Phoenix)

As the name suggests, the focus here is research and development of the experimental, boozy variety, that is. (Which explains why its initials alternately stand for "research and drinking.") High-tech gadgetry at its finest is on display at this trailblazing haunt, for example, in the form of a cold-drip coffee machine used to make a "Three Hour Margarita" or a punch made thick and cold when hand-stirred with dry ice.

Amor y Amargo (New York City)

House-made bitters may be a staple on the menu at just about every celebrated cocktail bar across the country right now, but leave it to this beloved, on-trend New York City spot to make them the star. Owned by Bittermens bitters founders, this "bitters tasting room" as its called, has an exquisite cocktail menu focused on exploring and celebrating the popular astringent cocktail flavoring agent.

Rogue 24 (Washington, D.C.)

To say that using smoke in cocktails is a hot trend in the industry at the moment would be a bit of an understatement. Boston’s Clio smokes ice over liqueur-soaked wood chips, while The Wayland in New York City has experimented with ice cubes made from applewood-smoked water. At D.C.’s Rogue 24, a smoker has been used to add actual cassia bark smoke in a naturally smoky mezcal cocktail. Another great local spot to check out smoked cocktails? Much-lauded spot The Columbia Room, also helmed by bartender Derek Brown.