Food & Drink

The Best Cocktail Bars in Honolulu

Published On 07/12/2016 Published On 07/12/2016

Bar Leather Apron

Downtown/Chinatown

If there were a cocktail Olympics, co-owner and award-winning mixologist Justin Park would get all the max points for artistry, even from the Russian judge. This intimate, Prohibition-style bar is stocked with rare and fine whiskeys, along with a cocktail list filled with classics like Old Fashioneds and Dark and Stormys. If you really want to give yourself a treat, reserve a seat at the bar (book reservations online) and prepare to be wowed as expert bartenders transform spirits, bitters, and mixers into drinkable works of art. Try one of Park’s handcrafted concoctions, where signature drinks are custom-made and smoked behind a glass bell, barrel, or hand-carved wooden tiki box. The presentation is so pretty, you’ll almost be sad to drink it... come on, we said almost.

Tchin Tchin!

Downtown/Chinatown

The tapas-style wine bar’s French name originally derives from the Chinese toast "qing qing," an invitation to "please, please" enjoy yourself and drink -- and with a growing wine list, beer, spirits, whiskeys and rare vermouth options, along with classic and original cocktails, partaking is extremely appealing. Start off your night with In the Mood, a brandy and vermouth cocktail mixed with locally made kiawe wood and pineapple bitters, for a cool and easy drink to, um, get you in the mood... for a casual night of rooftop imbibing, of course.

Bevy

Bevy

Kakaako

This European-style watering hole specializes in speakeasy-inspired cocktails, featuring farm-to-table ingredients. Co-owner Christian Self crafts signature drinks like the Mai Thai, made with Bacardi, Curaçao, falernum, lemongrass lime, and candied ginger foam, alongside popular house cocktails like their uber-popular Moscow Mule, served in a copper mug. Stop by the Kakaako neighborhood bar from 4-7pm, Mondays through Saturdays, to take advantage of their happy hour, where you can stuff your face with all the $1.50 oysters your belly can handle, and wash them down with their $5 cocktail of the day... before making your way down their extensive cocktail list.

Pint & Jigger

Pint & Jigger

Moiliili

We can all thank this craft beer bar for being one of the first gastropubs on the island to pave the way for Oahu’s growing beer and cocktail movement. Here you’ll find over 20 rotating beers on tap -- not to mention a solid whiskey selection -- but owner Dave Newman’s cocktail list will also compete for your attention, and he always has at least one signature cocktail on tap. That’s right, the cocktail is on draft, so you can get your liquid libations when you want it (which is right now, of course). Non-draft cocktail options include rum, rye, bourbon, brandy, and Scotch concoctions, deftly mixed with the right amount of bitters, vermouth, or fruit juice.

The Pig & The Lady

The Pig & the Lady

Downtown/Chinatown

We’d leave it at "this place will sell you a cocktail infused with avocado mescal, pamplemousse rose, and a Sriracha ice cube" (which is massive and square-shaped, by the way), but you probably want more information. The aforementioned drink is Kyle Reutner’s "Cobra Commander," one of the eight adventurous cocktails on their drink list. The tequila-like cocktail is smoky and spicy, but of course, you’ll have to taste it yourself to get the full experience. For another spicy option, “All in the Reflexes” is the way to heat up and refresh your palate -- it’s an equally creative drink made with rum, coconut, lime, basil, and chili pepper. And once you blow out your palate with hot hot heat (or you avoid going down that route in the first place), sip up one of their equally delicious, soothing citrus drinks.

Avenue’s Bar + Eatery

Avenue’s Bar + Eatery

Kaimuki

With drink names like The Sparrow and the Lord, The Bitter End, and Samurai’s Demise, this crafted cocktail list definitely has an apocalyptic feel to it, but after a few sips, you’ll never feel more alive. With 10 handcrafted cocktails, all of which bear equally entertaining names and intriguing descriptions, it’ll be hard to choose just one. The Vaccine might be a nice way to start -- a ginger-infused Scotch mixed with lime and an egg white, which provides the drink with a velvety-smooth, foamy texture. But if you’re ready to make a real night of it, go straight for Death’s Door, a mix of gin, Scotch, mescal, and yellow Chartreuse.

Downbeat Diner & Lounge

Downtown/Chinatown

One of the few cocktail bars on the island where you can get okolehao (that’s Hawaiian moonshine) and moonshine mixed drinks, these crafted cocktails pack a disarmingly serious punch. Okolehao is made from root of the ti plant and was outlawed twice -- once by King Kamehameha in the early 1800s, and again during Prohibition. The diner’s okolehao concoction is mixed with elderflower, lemongrass, and hibiscus punch, which dilutes the 100-proof spirit a bit. Other cocktail options range from the gamut of vodka, gin, rum, and bourbon creations, which are still strong... and probably meant to savor slowly.  

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1. Bar Leather Apron 745 Fort Street Mall #127A, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Downtown)

Well stocked with hard-to-find whiskeys and a lengthy cocktail list, Bar Leather Apron is downtown Honolulu's best speakeasy by a long shot. The long, warm, wooden bar invites you to stick around for awhile and watch the show as the talented bartenders whip up everything from classic Moscow Mules to brand-new concoctions created nightly. Spearheaded by Hawaii cocktail master Justin Park, this hidden gem is a mixologist's dream with a signature cocktail that involves individual glasses of bourbon smoked under a glass bell. Seating at the intimate lounge fills up fast, but you can (and should!) book reservations online.

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2. tchin tchin 39 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI (Downtown)

This casual rooftop wine bar, sandwiched between Bar 35 and Next-door, serves up an extensive wine list, tapas-style small plates, and stunning views of the water to in-the-know locals and tourists. The bar is classic American rooftop chic, with an exposed brick bar, lots of comfy sofas for lounging, string lights, and even a white trellis backdrop for maximum whimsy. Artesian cheeses and charcuterie plates complement the wines without overwhelming them, and there are plenty of craft cocktails and/or beers for non-oenophiles. Owned and operated by Jesse Cruz and Dusty Grable of American Livestock Tavern and Lucky Belly fame, this place is a popular stop on a night out in Chinatown.

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3. Bevy 661 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Kakaako)

Taking inspiration from its home in the Kakaako neighborhood, Bevy is an upscale cocktail bar with a trendy, industrial feel and a commitment to sustainability. Ingredients for their drinks and menu of small plates are all sourced from local farms, and the decor is exclusively made of reclaimed materials and eco-friendly furnishings. The cocktail list is extensive and playful, with homemade syrups and infusions sharing space with innovations like candied ginger foam and barrel-aged bitters. There's also a new cocktail created daily, so make sure to ask your bartender what's cooking!

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4. Pint + Jigger 1936 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826 (Moiliili)

This classic gastropub has 21 constantly rotating beer taps, innovative cocktails, and a menu of upscale comfort food that'll satisfy any palate. Located right in the heart of the McCully-Moiliili district, the pub prides itself on its locally-sourced ingredients and the amount of effort they put into the food—smoking their sliders, slicing their own bacon, and casing their own sausage, for a start. The spacious venue has plentiful seating, whether inside at the bar or a private table, or outside in their beer garden where picnic tables help you meet your neighbors.

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5. The Pig and the Lady 83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Chinatown)

This Vietnamese eatery in Chinatown is a family affair, owned and operated by the Les, whose family recipes serve as the foundation of the menu. The convivial nature of the restaurant (you’ll always feel like on of the Les) is mirrored in the decadence and flavor of its dishes. Friends convene around primal dinners, usually centered on a pig’s head or gigantic pork shank, each of which is ushered into the dining room with a degree of pomp and circumstance. The less ambitious (though not much less) opt for Laotian fried chicken with twice-fried chicken wings, money sauce, fried shallots, kaffir lime, and peanut slaw or pho au vin with spices, scallions, and chicken pate. Either way, one thing’s certain: a meal at The Pig and the Lady will leave you feeling warm on the inside and out.

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6. Avenue's Bar & Eatery 3605 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816 (Kaimuki)

This tiny little bar feels like a very casual gastropub, offering up craft cocktails and tasty grub to just a handful of people at a time. Patrons can choose from a list of ten cocktails which are constantly changing, but usually feature high-end whiskeys, house-infused spirits, and fresh fruits or aromatics. The food menu is similarly curated, yet tasty: a simple menu of bar snacks, sliders, and cheesy sandwiches are as tasty as they are quick to come out of the kitchen. Known for their excellent happy hour menu, this little venue is almost always packed, but they do take reservations if you don't want to wait for a table.

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7. Downbeat Diner & Lounge 42 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817

You’re downtown, and you’re craving a nice, meaty burger… but your friend is a vegan. Fortunately, Downbeat Diner & Lounge has you covered. Virtually everything on this menu can be made vegan or vegetarian (even the Carnivore burger, whose name implies the antithesis of vegetarianism, can be prepared vegan). Throw in nightly live music from local acts and cocktails served in Mason jars (vegan root beer float, anyone?), and you’ve got an island paradise for hipsters from all walks of dietary life.

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