The Ultimate Guide to the Best On-Tap Cocktail Bars in America
For years, beers ruled the taps. Then, wine joined the line-up. And, a few years ago, cocktails started cropping up on draft. Now, on-tap cocktails are practically a must on any new cocktail menu. Not only do they make bartenders’ lives easier, they also open the door for carbonated cocktails and aged cocktails, and above all, customers no longer have to wait for more than a couple of minutes for an expertly mixed drink.
While the competition was stiff, we selected the best bars with on-tap cocktails across the U.S. based on breadth of offerings and most interesting mixes. Here, where to go for your next on-tap cocktail.
Brooklyn, NYThere’s no shortage of draft cocktails in New York City, but Bushwick-based Yours Sincerely rises above the rest with an entirely on-tap cocktail menu. To help drinkers navigate the selection, Yours Sincerely provides a helpful, handwritten “Decision Maker” diagram, in which drinkers navigate through a web of categories until they reach the perfect on-tap cocktail for their tastes, served up in laboratory beakers. For example, if you opt for boozy, spicy, and smoky, the map will lead you to the Administered Dose, a mix of peaty scotch, ginger and honey.
Washington D.C.The “Drafty Spirits” menu is extensive at this old Hollywood/Japanese-themed spot. The spirit-forward cocktails range from the Pilgrim (Genever, maraschino, crème de violet, pineapple and green chartreuse) to A Dog’s Life (Irish whiskey, apple brandy, golden apple honey, walnut and prosecco).
Boston, MALa Brasa pairs its globally inspired wood-fired food with a rotating menu of equally diverse on-tap cocktails. The Rosé Wine Sangria is a mix of rosé, peach brandy, grapefruit juice and lemon, while the Negroni Sbagliato Stallion blends sparkling Cava with gin, sweet vermouth and Campari.
Philadelphia, PAAlla Spina literally means “from the tap” in Italian, so you know the draft Negronis at this Italian gastropub from star chef Marc Vetri are on point. The restaurant’s signature on-tap Negroni doesn’t stray far from the classic formula, save for the addition of Angostura bitters.
Miami, FLLocated in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, Batch Gastropub has five taps dedicated to their “Fizz” menu, which includes playful mixes like the Blood Orange Fizz (vodka, Aperol and blood orange tart shrub) and the Batch Hard Root Beer Pint (housemade spice-infused rum and Tahitian vanilla bean root beer).
Nashville, TNTwo Ten Jack’s on-tap cocktails take inspiration from both the restaurant’s Japanese-inspired food and the Southern location. There are drinks like the apricot-flavored Banzai Bourbon, as well as the East x Northwest, which is based on lemongrass and peppercorn shochu.
Atlanta, GAThis gastropub just outside of Atlanta is known for serving a killer bourbon-based Old Fashioned on tap, made with an oleo saccharum for a more rounded, complex flavor. Other menu items include a classic Vieux Carré and a Fountain Fizz, made with bourbon, Suze bitters, strawberry, basil, lemon and soda.
Austin, TXThe Cajun-inflected Sawyer & Co. channels New Orleans in their food, but the draft cocktail menu is much more eclectic with offerings like the Bourbon Street-inspired Tropical Storm (a riff on a Hurricane with three different types of rum, passion fruit, tea and lime) as well as a Pimm's Cup made even fruitier and more herbaceous with the addition of strawberry-basil syrup, ginger and celery bitters.
Chicago, ILIt's all about tonics at Billy Sunday. This Logan Square craft cocktail bar has four draft offerings that call for out-of-the-box ingredients. Take, for example, the Hart, a Rum & Tonic made with goji berries, wild cherry bark, gentian bark and flax seed. There’s also the Aquinas, a Rye & Tonic made with burdock, dandelion, ramon nut, carob and quassia.
Minneapolis, MNThe menu at Bradstreet Crafthouse features two light and refreshing Minnesota-produced Prairie Spirits cocktails on tap. The Coopers Union is a mix of vodka, elderflower, grapefruit, lemon, orange flower water and Champagne, while the Professor combines the local gin with lime, ginger and Angostura bitters.
St. Louis, MOThis tapas bar has a truly massive cocktail list, which includes 100 classics alone. They also claim to have been the first bar in St. Louis to enter the tapped-cocktail scene, with offerings like the house punch, a mix of Chamomile infused reposado tequila, Lambrusco wine, passionfruit and lemon juice.
Denver, CODenver has a surprisingly robust draft cocktail scene, but no menu is more extensive than that of The Nickel. Classics like Manhattans and Negronis are oak barrel-aged and tapped for customers. The bar also offers several signatures like the Pearfection (local vodka, elderflower liqueur, pear liqueur, lemon and prosecco). If you can’t decide, order a cocktail flight.
Las Vegas, NVThis elite supper club in The Cosmopolitan is a deliberately mysterious, multi-roomed restaurant/bar/night club featuring anything from burlesque dancers, to Jewish hip-hop bands, to frolicking men in animal costumes and, of course, draft cocktails. Current menu items include a Moscow Mule and Spring Punch, a mix of Denizen rum, falernum, spiced brown sugar and lime.
San Francisco, CAHemingway certainly wouldn’t be disappointed by the staggering amount of liquor on-tap at Novela, which goes through 120 gallons of punch a week. We also think he’d approve of his namesake Hemingway’s Code Hero, the house punch that mixes three different whiskeys (George Dickel Rye, Bushmills and Ardbeg Scotch) with maraschino liqueur, Pimm’s, earl gray tea, grapefruit and lemon. Even if that particular punch wasn’t his cup of booze, he’d have five others to choose from, including a pisco, cherry and chamomile punch, and a gin, sake, lychee and jasmine punch.
Los Angeles, CAHoneycut is half nightclub, half cocktail bar, with a piano bar on one side, and a thumping discotec on the other. Both sides serve a selection of spritzers on tap, such as the Step & Repeat, made with blanco tequila, cacao nib-infused Campari and pineapple soda, and Nobody’s Robots, made with vodka, sherry and orange cream soda. You can also take your draft cocktail to go with the “Backpack Party,” a sort of boozy, cocktail-filled Camelbak.
San Diego, CAStyled like an apothecary, Polite Provisions has a huge cocktail selection, many of which are on-tap. There are drinks like the Coal Miner’s Daughter, made with bourbon and maple soda, as well as the Tijuana Slowdance, made with blanco tequila, blackberry and pomegranate soda. The menu also has a smaller “spirit forward” draft menu, which forgoes soda for more booze. A potent favorite is the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, a mix of mezcal, vermouth, espresso liqueur and chocolate bitters.
Portland, ORInspired by the 1950s, this upscale diner offers eight cocktails served from a soda fountain. Drinks include the Penny Old Fashioned, Vesper Martini, and the Bend and Snap, which is an aperitivo made with vodka, lemon and honey.
Seattle, WAThis Capitol Hill haunt serves its cocktails and shots on tap to keep up with the busy, always-on-the-clock crowd. There are classics like the Moscow Mule (made with local ginger beer), as well as more eclectic mixes like the Cinnabear #2 (cinnamon-infused rum, ginger, orange and Firewater bitters).
Don’t Worry, We Didn’t Forget You Hawaii!
Honolulu, HIThis gastropub in the Mōʻiliʻili neighborhood may boast around 20 on-tap, tropical-flavored beers, but their draft cocktail is a favorite pick-me-up both at night and at brunch. The Talventi is a mix of rye whiskey, Campari and cold-brewed coffee, which bartenders top with freshly-whipped house vanilla cream.
Sorry Alaska, we’re not forgetting you either. It’s just that if the trend has made it all the way to the far north, it appears to be a local secret.