When you need a space to catch up with friends, family or coworkers while enjoying a drink, few places are better suited for the job than a cocktail bar. The history of the cocktail dates back to the 19th century, when popular drinks like the martini, daiquiri and Manhattan were born, but even today, cocktails are crowd-pleasers that draw in people from every corner of the nation.
With this in mind, we set out to find the best cocktail bars in America. Every state has a place or two where guests will claim no other establishment does it better, but we found cocktail bars that dedicated their time and energy to crafting drinks and creating a space that stood out from the rest.
Berry & Rye/Yelp
To determine the best cocktail bar in every state, we researched national bar rankings and studied menus for innovative concoctions. We also reviewed industry awards and accolades given to drink directors, bartenders and their establishments. While some of these establishments serve food, we steered clear of restaurants that happen to have a great cocktail list. The primary focus of the bars on this list is providing the highest-quality cocktails in town.
The Atomic Lounge/Yelp
The Atomic Lounge, located in Birmingham, Alabama, was a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program. One word summarizes why this bar stands out from the rest: costumes. A closet full of costumes — ranging from a penguin to Elvis — is available for guests who want to enjoy their cocktails in style. And while you’re there, try The Legendary Sex Panther. This “legendary” drink — a combination of bourbon, blackstrap rum, Cynar, demerara and bitters — is a crowd-pleaser that comes with cute, temporary tattoos.
Williwaw Social is a locally owned bar in the heart of downtown Anchorage. By day, Williwaw Social is a lounge with space for drinking some of the best coffee in town while getting some work done. But when the sun sets, this space transforms into a bar with locally crafted beers, spiked drinks, bumping music and the occasional concert or two. If you spot a phone booth next to an elevator, check to see if the blue light is on. If it is, pick up the phone and ask to enter. A speakeasy awaits.
For four consecutive years, Bitter and Twisted has been selected as one of the best American high-volume cocktail bars by Tales of the Cocktail, a conference of cocktail and spirits industry professionals from around America. Located where the Arizona Prohibition Headquarters once operated, Bitter and Twisted makes its cocktails using only premium spirits, fresh fruit and herbs and the most delicious of bitters.
If you’re looking for a spot to sit back and relax while sipping your favorite cocktail, look no further than 109&Co in Little Rock, Arkansas. Known as a modern-day speakeasy by locals, 109&Co specializes in signature cocktails made in a classic fashion. This cocktail lounge is dim and small, perfect for intimate dates or to decompress after a hectic workweek.
California is a large state with an eclectic mix of cocktail bars that are beyond stellar. But Trick Dog, located in San Francisco, is one of the best you’ll stumble across in the Bay Area. Trick Dog was voted one of the world’s 50 best bars, and it has its innovative menu to thank. Drink menus in the past have resembled a Dr. Seuss rhyme book or a Chinese restaurant menu. Trick Dog’s current menu is a school textbook with drinks named after subjects like creative writing and psychology.
The drinks at Williams & Graham in Denver are so good that one of the establishment’s mixologists won the American Bartender of the Year award in 2014. And in 2018, it was selected as the Best Cocktail Bar by Denver locals. The drink menu at Williams & Graham features more than 60 classic cocktails, some over 200 years old. Visit this cocktail bar if you’re searching for an establishment that has mastered class, craft and comfort.
In spite of its name, you’re in for an exceptional time when you visit Ordinary in New Haven, Connecticut. Although fairly new to the cocktail bar scene — Ordinary opened its doors in April 2013 — the history of the bar dates as far back as the 18th century when George Washington is said to have spent the night there when it was known as Beers Tavern. More than 200 years later, Ordinary still holds true to its historic roots. With dark oak paneling, burgundy booths and wooden tables and stools, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
The Copper Dram/Yelp
When you’re in Delaware and need a place to sip your favorite cocktails in a “comfortable and friendly environment,” look no further than The Copper Dram in Wilmington. The Copper Dram specializes in classic cocktails like Old-Fashioneds and mojitos, but if you’re feeling bold, try a few drinks on the specialty cocktail menu. With names like Connor the Barbarian and The Donkey Strikes Back, these drinks are meant for the brazen at heart.
Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company/Yelp
Sweet Liberty was voted one of the best bars in the world by The World’s 50 Best Bars, an annual list that celebrates the best international drinks in the industry. Located in the Collins Park area, Sweet Liberty encourages all who enter to “pursue happiness,” and with cocktails concocted by award-winning bartenders, you’ll have no choice but to be merry.
Want James Beard Award semifinalist-level drinks in Georgia? The Kimball House in Decatur is the place to be. The menu changes daily at this establishment, but thanks to the “passion and humility” that goes into crafting each drink, chances are you won’t be disappointed. Pair your drink with an order of oysters off the raw bar menu. According to locals, they’re the best in town.
Few things go together like a warm, tropical destination and a perfectly crafted cocktail. At the Bar Leather Apron in Honolulu, Hawaii, you’ll find both. A 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, the Bar Leather Apron is a cocktail bar that specializes in providing an intimate bar experience. So intimate that one of the co-founders of the bar also serves as the head bartender. Locals recommend trying the BLA Old-Fashioned — a mix of 2019 Knob Creek single barrel bourbon, angostura bitters, Wasanbon sugar and orange.
When you think “hotel,” your mind probably doesn’t drift to “best cocktail bar.” But the Modern Hotel and Bar in Boise, Idaho, is the exception to the rule. Locals call the Modern Hotel and Bar a gem where care and love are put into each drink before it’s served. Specialty cocktails reflect the seasons, so the menu changes often, but there’s always a little something special for everyone.
Lost Lake is a stylish, island-inspired bar modeled after one of the world’s first tiki bars and 1930s Hollywood’s fascination with tropical escapism. Even when temperatures drop in the Windy City, you’ll still feel like you’re lounging on a remote island thanks to the decorative items — like a miniature dolphin and colorful umbrella — and tropical twists given to every drink. And when it comes to awards, this bar is no stranger. Lost Lake is a three-time James Beard Foundation Outstanding Bar Program semifinalist and was voted as one of Esquire’s Best Bars in America.
At The Ball and Biscuit, you’ll come for the cool name and stay for the appetizing drinks. Named after a brand of microphones that were popularized in the 1930s, this bar has more than 20 cocktails. Behind the bar, you’ll find an original Ball and Biscuit microphone, and scattered throughout the establishment are other vintage mics and music equipment. Give a drink on the B&B original cocktail menu a swing, like maybe the Pearl Jam, a mix of plum vodka, falernum and ruby.
At Hello, Marjorie, guests are promised cocktails, beers and “a damn fine time.” The interior is stylish but simple, with a large, pink neon sign declaring “the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” And the drinks are deliciously playful with names like One Hit Wonder and Daydream. According to locals, if you want to give a drink a try that proves how talented Hello, Marjorie’s bartenders are, try The Marjorie. The eponymously named drink combines Absolut pear, sloe gin, lemon juice and simple syrup for a tasty concoction.
When guests set foot in Dockum, a speakeasy-style bar in Wichita, Kansas, a few “doctor’s orders,” are laid out. Cell phone usage is allowed, but only if done discreetly, the music selection shall be decided by “the will of the rock gods” and cocktails are labor-intensive, so patience is required. If you stick by these guidelines, a world of deliciousness, comprised of housemade bitters and syrups and fresh-squeezed juices, awaits. Local favorites include the Dizzy Dame — a mixture of strawberry sous vide vodka, lime and simple syrup — and the Smoking Cody — a mix of Cody Road Rye, cherry balsamic shrub, bitters and hickory smoked glass.
Meta was recently selected as one of the best bars in Louisville. This cocktail bar has swanky drinks and an even better ambiance. The floor is completely decorated in pennies, the lounging seats are made from velour, the bathroom is covered with inspiring quotes and the lights are always kept dim enough to inspire a romantic adventure.
Saying you’ll enjoy some of the best drinks in town at Cure is an understatement: it was the recipient of the 2018 James Beard Award for Outstanding Cocktail Program. And if you need a spot in New Orleans to socialize with friends and coworkers after a hard day’s work, it’s a local fact that Cure has the best happy hour deals in New Orleans. If you’re lost on where to start, ask for the punch of the day.
Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is a minimalistic two-time James Beard semifinalist cocktail bar located in Portland, Maine. The decor is simple — wooden tables and white chairs — but what this bar lacks in decoration it makes up for in drinking options. Guests can choose a cocktail from the refreshing, adventure, classic or wild card menu depending on their mood. Bonus: ask for a side of popcorn with your drink. It comes topped with green chile powder, butter and parmesan and is a great accompaniment to any drink.
Clavel Mezcaleria specializes in Mexican cuisine and drinks. Margaritas are a staple, but there’s a long list of cocktails if you want to stray from the norm. And if you have any doubt about the quality of the drinks, here’s a fact that’ll change your mind: Clavel Mezcaleria is a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
Located inside what was once a Boston wool warehouse, Drink is the go-to spot for anyone who appreciates the craft of the cocktail. The drinks are so tasty that Nightclub and Bar Media Group recently announced Drink as its 2020 Cocktail Bar of the Year. Every night is a cocktail party kind of night at Drink, so prepare for fun and deliciousness.
A 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, Standby is Detroit’s premier spot for good eats and even better drinks. The lights are kept dim at Standby, creating an intimate experience for all who visit.
Constantine was recently voted one of the top cocktail bars in the state of Minnesota by the Star Tribune and one of the Best Cocktail Bars in the nation by Food and Wine, and it’s easy to tell why. Under a sprawling list of cocktails, you’ll find tasty house classics like the Treasure Trail — a mixture of gin, apricot, peach, passion fruit, lime and cava — and even better staff creations like Mom Get Out of My Rum — a blend of house rum, palm, Lillet Rouge, lemon and tiki bitters. And the decor is even cooler: Constantine is decked out in stained glass and candles for a medieval, yet somehow modern, look.
At Saint Leo in Oxford, Mississippi, owner Emily Blunt believes in serving guests like her mother — “with generosity and attention to detail.” The drinks at this cocktail bar are so satisfying that Saint Leo was a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
Class and creativity meld at the Monarch Bar in Kansas City, Missouri. Plush velvet seating, a Monarch butterfly chandelier, marble center bar and walls covered in modern art create an opulent-like setting that’ll make you feel like a king or queen while you sip a cocktail. And speaking of cocktails, The Monarch Bar goes all out. The menu is organized in a table of contents with a glossary at the end for anyone wondering what exactly is going into their drinks. Drinks at The Monarch Bar are so tasty that the Kansas City hotspot was a semifinalist for the 2019 James Beard Award in Outstanding Bar Program.
Kitty Warren Social Club/Yelp
At Kitty Warren Social Club in Bozeman, Montana, tiki drinks are the specialty, but staff-crafted cocktails like Sex on Vacation (Monopolowa vodka, peach liquor, grapefruit and pineapple) and Stranger in Town (4 Roses Yellow Label, pineapple, serrano and mint) might have you talking long after you leave. Located under Bozeman’s historic Main Street, Kitty Warren Social Club is known for bumping music and organized chaos that inspires everyone to have a good time.
The Berry & Rye/Yelp
Nebraskans concur: If you’re in Omaha searching for a cocktail bar with great decor and even better drinks, The Berry & Rye is the place to be. According to Omaha Magazine, The Reader and the Omaha World-Herald, The Berry & Rye has some of the best craft cocktails in town. Cocktails are inspired by pre-prohibition-era-style drinks, but made with a modern twist. The cocktail room is seating only, so guests are encouraged to sit back, relax and savor each drink while a host tends to your cocktail desires.
At Herbs and Rye, Old Vegas meets modern taste for deliciously concocted classic cocktails, all made with hand-pressed juices and homemade bitters. In 2019, Herbs and Rye was the recipient of the Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar and Best American Bar Team awards at the 13th Annual Spirited Awards, proving this Las Vegas cocktail bar stands out from the rest. Stop by during happy hour for half-price drinks and, if you’re looking for a delicious inexpensive steak, half-price filets.
Dullboy in Jersey City, New Jersey, is anything but dull. The cocktail list is extensive, with both signature and classic drinks listed, and each evening, a daily shaken and daily stirred variety is offered. And if you want to take the fun home, Dullboy fans can sign up to receive DIY cocktail recipes.
This indoor/outdoor lounge located on the rooftop of the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is one of the best in the state. The Apothecary Lounge specializes in Prohibition-era-style cocktails and seasonal drinks made with some of the finest liquor and beer around. Unwind outdoors in the warm New Mexico air or sip inside at the vintage-style bar.
New York is packed with cocktail bars, speakeasies and luxurious lounges all providing wonderful drinks. But East Coasters know, if you want to experience one of the best cocktail bars in the state, you’ve got to visit Attaboy in New York City. Attaboy won the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation 13th Annual Spirited Award for Best American Cocktail Bar, and, in 2017, was voted the eighth-best bar in the world by The World’s 50 Best Bars. Spirits are top quality at this Lower East Side treasure, and cocktails are mixed perfectly. Just don’t accidentally miss it — Attaboy is a speakeasy hidden behind a plain, metal door.
Two things define Watts and Ward: booze and books. The venue space features a mural wall, two studies and two parlors where guests can sip perfectly crafted cocktails while lounging on vintage couches and flipping through the pages of a new book. The six-page cocktail list is part of what makes this Raleigh, North Carolina, joint one of the best bars you’ll find.
Humpback Sally’s in Bismarck, North Dakota, is the brainchild of Rick and Anne Becker, a married pair who wanted to bring a passion for unique food and drink to the Bismarck area. A desire to provide fresh, innovative cocktails was key to establishing Humpback Sally’s, and that’s what you’ll get at this contemporary bar.
This Oklahoma City cocktail bar, located in the historic jazz community, will make you feel like you’ve taken a journey through time when you enter. It’s the prohibition era-style cocktail bar you never knew you needed. And with more than 350 bottles of whiskey, nearly 500 spirits and an array of cigars, your taste buds will never be bored at the Stag Lounge.
A 2019 semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program, Expatriate in Portland, Oregon, serves swanky cocktails amidst tasteful Asian cuisine. The cocktail list is simple, only a few signature drinks are available, but each makes its mark.
Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia has a fun tagline: “The soul of Belgium in the heart of Philadelphia.” And a Belgian treat, in the form of tasty foods and tastier drinks, is what you’ll receive. Cocktails are great here, but there are also more than 25 beers on tap and over 200 bottles offered. And if you need any more convincing to give this bar a try, Monk’s was a 2019 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
The Avery provides Providence, Rhode Islanders with a long menu of cocktails and beers in a cozy, dimly lit, speakeasy-style bar. And at The Avery, you’ll find what’s been touted as the best whiskey in the world, Pappy Van Winkle.
The Living Room at the Dewberry melds southern hospitality with the style of a traditional French brasserie for gourmet eats and cocktails crafted with attention to the details. Decorated in mid-century furnishings with a brass bar and a reading library, this 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist personifies southern comfort in Charleston, South Carolina.
Brian White, co-owner of one of the best cocktail bars in South Dakota, Carpenter Bar, describes his establishment as an upscale neighborhood, cozy downtown spot. If that sounds confusing, here’s a breakdown: the cocktails might be upscale, but the space is intimate and homey. And some of the best bartenders in town practice their art at the Carpenter Bar, creating an ever-evolving, house-made cocktail list.
At the Patterson House in Nashville, Tennessee, small plates are served, but what matters most are the drinks. Only ingredients of the highest quality are used to create modern and classic cocktails, and the only way you’re being served is if you have a seat to sit back and relax while mixologists concoct your perfect drink. For more than 10 years, Tennesseeans have been calling the Patterson House their cocktail home.
At Houston’s Anvil Bar & Refuge, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. There are more than 100 cocktails listed on the menu for guests to choose from, but classic cocktails are also a staple. The vibe at the Anvil Bar & Refuge is casual — it doesn’t take reservations or hold a line at the door — and visitors can expect a warm and friendly environment. Anvil Bar & Refuge was a 2019 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
Guests can choose from more than 50 deliciously crafted cocktails at Under Current in Salt Lake City, Utah. This contemporary, upscale downtown bar touts its knowledgeable staff of bartenders who can not only prepare stellar drinks but also tell you which drink is best for you. Under Current prides itself on being on an establishment where relationships are built and friends are enjoyed.
Games and fun are bound to ensue at The Archives, an arcade bar churning up tasty cocktails in Burlington, Vermont. While you wait to top the leading score in Tetris, order the bar’s eponymous drink for a delicious mix of Beefeater gin, fernet Branca, Punt e Mes, turbinado and lime.
No matter what type of cocktail you’re craving, Baba Bar, located in Arlington, Virginia, will probably have it. Known as the “queen of cocktails,” Baba offers guests drinks from five different cocktail menus, ranging from light and refreshing to strong and boozy. At Baba, which translates to “grandmother” in the Serbian language, you’ll learn the meaning of the perfect cocktail.
Pacific Northwesterners rave about No Anchor, a world-class and James Beard Foundation-nominated bar that uses fresh and local ingredients to create the best food and cocktails in town. The cocktail list is seasonally appropriate, which means you’ll always find a new drink or two on the menu that may pique your interest. And if you have a favorite cocktail not listed on the menu, just ask the bartenders to make you one of the classics. Music is taken seriously at No Anchor, so if you’re in the bar and hear a song that gets your foot tapping, follow along on the official playlist.
The Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. was selected as the best bar in D.C. by The Washington Post two years in a row and is a three-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program. There are two spaces for guests to enjoy their cocktails: the Spirits Library and the Punch Garden. Both are open seated areas where drinks, served a la carte, are crafted to amaze and wow guests.
The Jockey Club in Huntington, West Virginia, is said to have the best mojitos, caipirinhas and mint juleps in the city, and you won’t be disappointed when you get your hands on one of these specialties. Guests are encouraged to put on their finest fits when visiting — hence the name — and to sip in style. Try the cucumber or white chocolate martinis — they’re this bar’s masterpieces.
Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge/Yelp
The history of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge begins sometime around 1938 when local Bryant Sharp opened the first cocktail lounge in Milwaukee. More than 80 years and a few remodeling projects later, and Bryant’s is still Milwaukee’s No. 1 spot for cocktails. The cocktail options at Bryant’s are seemingly endless — there are more than 400 to choose from — but there’s no menu to glance at: bartenders will help you decide your drink for the night.
The best cocktail bar in Wyoming is The Rose, a gem of a bar located in the heart of downtown Jackson Hole. Fresh, housemade ingredients are used to create spunky rotating drinks like Wabbit Season — a mix of Brennivin aquavit, Cynar, carrot, lime, orgeat and Zirbenz stone pine liqueur — and Alley Cats — a blend of Tanqueray gin, raspberry, Lustau PX sherry, lemon and black walnut bitters. The spot is perfect for the apres-ski drink. Now that you know the best cocktail bar, it's time to try the signature cocktail of each state.
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