Over the course of many years here at Thrillist, we’ve written about cocktail bars in nearly every city across the US (and the world!), so it only made sense that we’d take that knowledge and pick out our 33 best cocktail bars in the country. We’re not aiming for the new, hot ones (though some are on here) -- just strictly the best places to get delicious cocktails -- both innovative and classic -- ideally without pretension, attitude, or crappy cocktail napkins that stick to the bottom of your glass. And -- as a bonus -- we asked our British and Canadian editors to pick their favorite cocktail bars, too, so you can enjoy boozy perfection wherever you go.
As always, there will be disagreements, places we missed, and people who think I like gin too much, so voice those opinions in the comments. Or just enjoy these beautiful photos:
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Bait and Switch
Sitting on a Haight Street block riddled with fauxhemians offering to sell you not-all-that-great drugs, you might miss the low-key Alembic if you’re not looking. Long a mainstay of the SF cocktail scene, many in the chattering class questioned whether it could maintain its high, innovative standards when Daniel Hyatt left last year, but, thanks in large part to bar manager Ethan Terry and his team, the nouveau Alembic remains just as formidable. Oh, and you absolutely need to check out their new Summer drink menu (rolling out in the next few weeks), featuring hitters like the awesomely named Too Cold, made with frozen vanilla paste ice cubes (literally Vanilla Ice… get it? DO YOU?!?!), Sun Liquors rum, muddled cucumber, and the Italian aperitivo cappelletti, or the Bait and Switch, our favorite hot weather drink so far this year, which features mezcal, strawberry puree, aloe liqueur, and black and pink peppercorn syrup.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Pliny’s Tonic
As one of the torchbearers of the craft cocktail movement in Texas since it opened in 2009, Anvil is a no-brainer on this list. Bobby Heugel, Kevin Floyd, and Steve Flippo do all the things you want in a cocktail bar -- housemade sodas, liqueurs, and infusions using Southern ingredients (uh, okra?) -- with an aesthetic that makes the most of pretty much everything, down to its former meat locker doors that lead to the bathrooms. Though they have a 100-strong cocktail list, we’re currently enamored of their Pliny’s Tonic, with gin, lime, mint, cucumber, and a kick from the habanero tincture.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Whatever you like (talk to the bartender, he’ll sort it out)
Let’s get something out of the way first. Yes, I did name them to our 33 best new restaurants in 2013. And yes, I still do love their food. But this place -- as you can tell by the name -- is a bar first, and Colin Anderson’s drinks, thoughtfully crafted by bartenders who take the time to ask you about spirits you like/hate or the time in college when you accidentally had fernet and now definitely never want to have fernet again, can compete with any cocktails in fancier towns not made of steel.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: A Seasonal Old Fashioned
Normally hotel bars are the kind of bars you go to when you have no other options left, and you will just about drink anything. The Broken Shaker is not one of those bars. Inside Freehand Miami Hostel, it’s a tiny throwback to the '50s, where Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi mix up the best cocktails in Florida, so apologize to your grandparents in West Palm, and go sit outside sipping one of their seasonal Old Fashioneds in the heckler chairs by the bocce ball court. And then another. And another. And…
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: A Brandy Old Fashioned
It was started as a beer hall in the mid '30s and served suds, until the owner decided to give it a go as a cocktail bar instead in 1938. It proved to be a good decision, as it's survived countless trend changes and a 1971 fire so destructive it melted the cash register. They rebuilt it beautifully and haven't changed the place much since. You can feel the history when you drink here, but you'll be more interested in the intoxicating darkness and your flawless (and also intoxicating) brandy Old Fashioned.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Pineapple Julep or a Northeast Kingdom
Celebrating the old Clover Club -- a group of journalists who got together and sipped cocktails while shouting down famous speakers who came to talk to them -- the updated version is thankfully devoid of aggressive Philadelphia journalists, but is full of amazing, curated cocktails that are cheaper than you’d find in Manhattan, but nonetheless delicious and expertly crafted. (Try that simple julep, with bourbon, pineapple syrup, and mint, or any of their “New Takes On Gin”.) Plus -- and this is a huge plus -- the entire operation feels authentic without the pretension: they’re going to make you a mean cocktail, but they’re not going be mean while doing it. Imagine that.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Dry Martini
An exclusive, 10-seat bar located in the back of another popular saloon called The Passenger, CR pairs craft cocktails and food, both of which have a seasonal/local bent, and all of which are consumed while soaking up the drinkery's calming atmosphere. A recent pairing includes the Waggle Dance cocktail with reposado, Benedictine, Barolo Chinato, and dandelion root "coffee" alongside dandelion green pesto and ricotta on toast, with a fried lemon and honey. For fans of classic cocktails (aka anyone with a taste bud left in their mouth), their dry gin martini with vermouth, lemon peel, and Castelvetrano olives is one of the country's best.
WHAT YOU’RE DRINKING: Mexican Bus Ride
Cure rolled into Uptown’s Freret Street corridor in 2009, simultaneously kicking off the revitalization of an area still recovering from Katrina two years after the storm and bringing the new-school mixology movement to a city that has never lacked in quality ‘tails. The minds behind this brick-walled spot now have a mini-empire, but the OG is still a winner thanks to a spacious patio that’s walled in by vines of jasmine, a subtly sexy indoor vibe, and creative combinations like their mezcal, tequila, Benedectine, and Cocchi Americano Rosa-filled Mexican Bus Ride, a South of the border take on the Manhattan.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Bobby Burns
If we can only pick one OG New York cocktail bar to include on our “best” list, it has to be Death & Company. The storied speakeasy that accelerated the city’s re-emerging cocktail scene in the mid-2000s is still inspiring drink-makers around the country, and countless D&C alums have gone on to launch future-OG cocktaileries of their own (see: Pouring Ribbons, Mayahuel, and so many more). The moody decor, Prohibition feel, and epic wait times haven’t changed much over the years, and neither has the joint’s high standard for perfectly layered drinks that are heavy on the spirits. You’ll never go wrong with any brown booze here -- or with the truffled mac ‘n cheese.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Something based on what you tell the bartender
Back in 2008 when Drink opened in Fort Point Channel, it was a risk for several reasons. One, other than Lucky’s, there just wasn’t really anything in Fort Point. Two, they wanted to do a bar where mixology was the focus, and THERE WERE NO COCKTAIL MENUS. But -- as everyone in Boston now knows -- you’d be a fool to bet against anything Barbara Lynch ever does. Working with the insanely talented bartender/cocktail historian John Gertsen (who created No. 9 Park’s impressive bar program), Drink opened to much fanfare, lived up to the hype, and is now a destination bar, the anchor of a scene that has grown like a fitful teenager over the last six years. Our suggestion is to go early on a weekday, find a seat at the bar, tell them you like something with gin and citrus, then sit back and watch the show.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Kentucky Maid
The final piece in a trifecta of restaurants that includes Beasley’s Chicken and Honey & Chuck’s burger spot, Fox Liquor is an ultra-chill basement lounge populated with couches and inspired by the owner’s extensive research of Manhattan’s top spots. The 30+ custom cocktails on the menu run the gamut from a classic Vieux Carre to tropical fare like the Hemingway Daiquiri and a Bitter Mai Tai spiked with rum, Campari, and orgeat. The menu’s essentially a souped-up history lesson on the history of the cocktail. Learning is seldom this rewarding.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Whizz Bang
Named for a Prohibition-era business that secretly moved enough illegal hooch to make Al Capone look like a cheapskate sneaking a flask into a concert, Franklin keeps its old-timey aesthetic while moving the cocktail program into a modern obsessive’s realm. That means the dapper cocktailians at this Death & Co. collaboration whip up classics and modernist fare from a rotating list of 20+ punches and cocktails ranging from easy-sipping refreshers to drinks that might double as Molotov cocktails. While you’re there, purchase the legal hooch-filled Whizz Bang, served-up and loaded with Scotch, absinthe, grenadine, and orange bitters.
WHAT YOU’RE DRINKING: A French 75, naturally
Contrasting the neon lights of its neighbors around the corner on Bourbon Street, this historic bar is all tile, wood, and lighting appropriate for covert heavy petting (unlike the more blatant happenings on Bourbon). As the cigar lounge and cocktail home of the historic Arnaud’s Restaurant -- one of the grandes dames of New Orleans’ dining scene -- famed bartender Chris Hannah maintains a drink menu worthy of an older, more sophisticated cocktail era. Each of his classics, like an expertly layered Sazerac are worth a night’s sampling, but opt for the house namesake first, a fluted glass of Champagne, Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon, and quite possibly magic.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Brass Knuckle
I am a gin fan. I celebrate gin and all its piney glory, because it reminds me of Christmas and trees and getting particularly hard-to-find G.I. Joe guys. And this is part of why I love GJ and their formidable selection of cocktails featuring my spirit of choice. If you like spice, opt for the Hot Head using red chili gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Campari, and Cherry Heering, or, if you want my two favorite liquors (gin and mezcal) combined in a Voltron-esque move, pick the Brass Knuckle, which also adds lemon, pineapple, yellow chartreuse, plus celery and Angostura bitters to the mix.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: A Radish Walks into a Bar
With a Beard Award and an Iron Chef title under his belt, Portland chef Vitaly Paley could have coasted on his food rep alone. But with Imperial, he’s now made his reputation with bars, too, enlisting a former Bartenders Guild president to design a menu of spirits-forward nectar. Get the Vieux Carre on tap (for a mere $5 at happy hour), or anything from their inventive cocktail list that employs ingredients like radish gastrique, chamomile-infused vermouth, rose liqueur (it is the Rose City), and other carefully selected ingredients poured over gigantic ice cubes sawed into various shapes on the bar top.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Jaws
You know a bar is good when they offer a $2 discount on Dark 'n Stormy's “when raining”. Leon’s, which makes its home in a former gas station, has been a legend on the scene since it arrived five years ago, and it continues to shine with Shanna Mayo now in charge of the bar program. Known for their legendary bar snacks (why yes, they do have bacon in a glass), they’ve also got some of the most inventive, creative cocktails anywhere, as evidenced by new moves like The Jaws, which is a play on a Tiki drink, with rum, almond milk, absinthe, mango, a fin-like lime, and bitters floating above the rest like blood in the water.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Bartender’s Choice (ask for the cards)
Imagine Beast’s library in Beauty & the Beast. Now, add in a full bar serving up boozy deliciousness and snacks and subtract that pompous candlestick. Sound like a nerdy-but-sexy dream? Welcome to the NoMad Library. Hidden off the lobby of the swank NoMad Hotel, this glowy, real-book-lined drinking den offers seasonal drinks from Eleven Madison Park’s acclaimed Leo Robitschek. Divided into “light-spirited” and “dark-spirited”, the cocktails -- such as the bourbon, rum, and sherry-fueled Wheeler & Wilson -- are hefty, yes, but balanced. Choose from the menu, or play it fast and loose with a round of the house cocktail cards, which let you select from a deck of cultural touchstones for the bartender to interpret. A hand of Tin Pan Alley (“local”), Indiana Jones (“adventurous”), and Batman (“dark”) returns a smokey Scotch and sherry combo -- just strong enough to make you feel like a beast yourself.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Gatsby with Benedictine, Scotch, salt, and apricot
Hidden in the basement of the warehouse district’s baller Bachelor Farmer, Marvel has the vibe of a classic speakeasy, including minimal signage, massive punchbowls, and a quasi-rustic lounge vibe. And while the place has all the trappings of a stuffy cocktail-snob magnet – elaborate cocktails made like science projects with fancy equipment and the incorporation of crazy infusion ingredients served by mustachioed men who take drinks very seriously – it takes great pains to stymie pretensions, thanks to Cheetos, the bar’s go-to snack offering. That’s how you do Midwest mixology.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: If you're three to four people, a punchbowl
When the tenure of the unlicensed “massage parlor” in the unassuming shotgun space between two college bars came to an unhappy ending, the folks behind the Alamo Drafthouse took over and renovated the former brothel into a reservation-only cocktail den. There's no sign, but look for a red light above a doorway, buzz your way in by hitting the button for Harry Craddock, and make your way to one of the plush leather booths or private rooms to enjoy a cocktail program marked by hand-smashed ice, tableside cart service, and specialties like the AC Milano punchbowl, loaded with rhum, rum, Campari, Pimm's No. 1, pineapple syrup, grapefruit, lime, Angostura, and Chinotto soda.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Dealer’s Choice (ask for gin)
Despite the fact that Prohibition, on a whole, was anything but a Noble Experiment, this bar -- the standard-bearer in the San Diego cocktail scene -- is. Sure, it does offer up the, at this point well-worn, move of hiding itself behind something else (in this case, a wall of beer kegs in the restaurant Neighborhood) and you have to make a reservation, but once you get past those barriers to entry, it still maintains one of the best bar programs in SoCal, and the fact that so many alums go on to spread the cocktail word around the city (and Noble’s own team opened up our other favorite, Polite Provisions) is a testament to that power.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Jennings, and then something fancier
In a town well known for honky-tonks, Jack and Cokes, and OHMYGODCOACHTAYLOR'SWIFEJUSTWALKEDBY, The Patterson House started as an outlier in 2009 when the Goldberg brothers (of Pinewood Social, The Catbird Seat, and so many other cool things) opened it up after checking out Violet Hour in Chicago and deciding that sort of thing needed to happen in Nashville. And thanks to its sophisticated decor (cozy, 30-seat bar, vintage chandeliers), and even more sophisticated drinks (get the hickory-smoked cola and whiskey Jennings first and then move on), it remains one of the leaders in a town where new, interesting things seem to be happening every minute. Just try and play it cool when that dude who was the QB on Nashville and almost married the young, kind of slutty singer walks by.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Bad Habit or the Classic Gin Martini
Up a flight of stairs, past the easy-to-miss entrance on a lonely block of Avenue B lies PR, a low-key space, heavy on group-friendly seating and bare wood (no cutesy Prohibition decor here). The menu -- crafted by Death & Co. legend Joaquín Simó -- is fun, from the drink names (a mezcal-laced Border Patrol; a plummy Zwack Morris) to the Cartesian grid that advises where each cocktail falls on a scale from “refreshing” to “spirituous” and “comforting” to “adventurous”. But don’t be fooled by the names, these are serious drinks: inventive, boozy, and perfectly balanced, with complex flavors (rum, gin, marmalade, and BBQ bitters in one) layered seamlessly. And yes, if you want s’mores, they’ll give you s’mores.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Oaxacan Standoff, or a Temescal
The first time I went to Prizefighter, it was with a distiller from St. George Spirits, who first directed us to grab pizzas from a shop around the corner, then went inside and came back with the Oaxacan Standoff: a can of Tecate, a small shot of mezcal, and a tropical-green, housemade sangrita made with pineapple, mint, and jalapeño that might've been the most lovely way to ever follow up a shot. And since then it continues to be one of the most underrated, most relaxed, and most brilliant bars in the Bay Area. But what elevates it to our Top 33 status is both its subtle brilliance with cocktails and punches (hard to go wrong with Mutiny on the Bounty) and the formidable mezcal list (they’ve got 20) that they built before formidable mezcal lists were a thing.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Grog
One of the first new-school speakeasies in the country when they opened eight years ago, PX still retains its aura of secrecy with an unmarked entrance and a simple blue light next to a red door. Once inside, the chandelier-lit room with low-slung couches and chairs might feel like "someone's apartment in the '20s", but that guy's apartment didn't have a world champion of the 42Below cocktail competition working there, or a 'tail menu that's refreshed weekly. Probably because the depression was happening at the time, or whatever. We love the Grog, a Captain Morgan's rum concoction, mixed with lemon verbena tea, lime juice, and housemade lemon bitters.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Something with gin in it
In two short years, Scofflaw has won many a convert among previously gin-phobic imbibers with their impeccable, seasonally changing, gin-centric cocktail menu. Affordability doesn't hurt either -- you'll regularly enjoy an $8 cocktail whose quality easily trumps higher priced offerings elsewhere, though the Louis XV settee you're lounging in will make you feel like you paid more.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: A Long Tall Sally
A pioneering institution, which would be difficult to find if not for the perpetual line outside its windowless, mural-covered facade, The Violet Hour has remained steadfastly confident in its own cocktail artistry as countless imitators have come and (sometimes) gone. Once you've secured a spot in the dark, chandelier-lit lounge, you're best off making it worth your while and sampling at least a couple of offerings (it's hard to make a bad call), like the Long Tall Sally, made with pineapple-infused gin, Dolin Blanc, Luxardo Maraschino, and chipotle bitters.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Mint Julep with Four Roses Single Barrel
Heralded as one of the best whiskey bars in the country, the Dollar’s housed in an old firehouse -- the beat-up exposed brick on the walls remains -- and pays tribute to old-school juke joints and the Okies that populated them, serving up whiskey shots to a Merle Haggard soundtrack. But just because the honky-tonk isn’t fancy doesn’t mean the cocktails can’t be. Thanks to Susie Hoyt, they’ve got next-level drinks like the Rebel Rouser that combines bourbon with vanilla bean and cherry bark tincture, Wild Turkey punched up with curacao in the One Horse Cowboy, and the classic Moscow Mule comes with a purchasable copper mug you should maybe buy because you need one. After all, a sturdy mug is a plus when you start swinging it back and forth while listening to “Okie from Muskogee” for the third time.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Cooper's Julep
The deer head staring at you from the wall and the bartenders who're dressed much better than you instantly let you know that this Motor City joint is serious about its libations, an impression the lengthy menu backs up. Looking for something classic? They have 100 in their repertoire. Punch service for groups/really thirsty individuals? Check. But you'd be remiss not to test out their seasonal creations, like The Cooper's Julep, made of Courvoisier VS, balsamic-pineapple shrub, demerara, and mint, and laced with a touch of Smith & Cross rum.
WHAT YOU’RE DRINKING: A Jupiter
Sun Liquor Lounge opened in 2006 as a neighborhood cocktailery that peddled fresh juices and housemade syrups as part of their reputable drink program. And while their cocktails are still supremely sippable, since 2011, you can grab the same drinks at their distillery that’s just nine blocks down the road. The 65-seater is one of the only places in the country where you can drink house-distilled boozes (they have two rums, two gins, and even a vodka for the haters). The menu changes with the seasons, but we love the ‘20s go-to Jupiter, in which the dry vermouth and Parfait d’Amour benefit from Sun Liquor’s award-winning and awesomely named Gun Club gin and fresh squeezed OJ.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Gardenhead
Anyone who knows anything about the St. Louis drink scene knows Ted Kilgore, who was instrumental in launching the craft cocktail movement in the city, and Taste was his perch. Although he left to do his own bar (and we may just be talking about that later in the year), his commitment to cocktail excellence remains there, thanks to Kyle Mathis, who has kept the cocktail torch burning (alcohol is extremely flammable). We love his Gardenhead cocktail, which uses St. George Botanivore gin and their raspberry brandy, fernet, and vermouth. The delicious bacon fat-fried cornbread doesn’t hurt either.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The, um, Cancer
It burst onto the scene last year as the long-awaited project from the Bon Vivants, a group of cocktail consultants whose names ring out in SF like Omar’s on The Wire, except maybe with different, more positive connotations. And then, despite hype so deafening it required ear plugs, they went ahead and nailed it with delicious, interesting cocktails that continue to evolve, as they regularly throw out their old, precious list in favor of new moves, just to stay on their game. Our favorites on the current list, all on an astrology wheel obviously, include the Virgo (Tanqueray Malacca gin, sherry, kiwi soda), and the Cancer, with Black Grouse Scotch, Ardberg 10, salted pineapple, peanut, and sage.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Nice Legs, or Bartender’s Choice
Housed in a former storage room behind LA’s infamous Coles -- a 1908 restaurant that claims it invented the French dip and that underwent a $1.6mill renovation six years ago -- The Varnish may be relatively new, but it looks very much old school. Unmarked except for a drawing of a cocktail on the door, the dark, brick-and-wood-laden place has posted house rules (sandwiches are permitted, but sides are not… for some reason) to follow as you sip Prohibition-era cocktails to a jazz soundtrack and watch obsessive cocktailers hack away at full ice blocks to chill your drink. Do yourself a favor and order the Bartender’s Choice. These are some of the best mixologists in the City of Angels, so your future drinking is in good hands.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Tango Manhattan
While many bars try to recreate the whole speakeasy vibe, Cleveland’s Velvet Tango Room has no need for make-believe. In its past life, the old house hosted bootleggers and their customers during Prohibition, and it’s still got the bullet holes in the ceiling to this day. The threat of violence and of encountering Elliott Ness (who, post-prohibition, is rumored to have been a regular at a different Cleveland bar) is gone, but the cocktails remain, and they’re spectacular. Drinks are served to live jazz in the scarlet-hued, lodge-like interior or in the outdoor garden, and they are Cleveland’s finest. Take advantage of the cocktail flights, which offer you a chance to sample three different drinks before finishing off on a full-sized one. Then, grab their twist on the Manhattan, which adds a housemade bitters and red-wine reduction to the bourbon-y classic.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Sexual Chocolate
A cocktail-themed bookstore is the front for this barely-lit speakeasy co-owned by a guy named the 2014 Bartender of the Year by the Nightclub and Bar Awards. Before you order from their finely curated cocktail menu of classic 'tails (helpfully organized by spirit) and a wealth of specialty cocktails, you first will have to be lead through a bookcase that doubles as a secret entrance. Once inside, don't forget to pair your drink (go for the Sexual Chocolate with rye, vermouth, Cynar, maraschino liqueur, and chocolate mole bitters) with a steak burger that uses beef from a top-notch butcher shop down the street.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: The Royal Oak
London’s recent cocktail scene's second wind has now turned into a hurricane, and the eye around which everything revolves is Tony Conigliaro. About a half decade ago, he opened a slick looking Italy-in-the-fifties-style drink spot at 69 Colebrooke Row and, more importantly, a London-in-the-21st-century-style laboratory a couple doors down. There -- in the very room that Pink Floyd recorded The Wall, no less -- he puts together molecule-perfect quenchers like his deconstructed Bloody Mary (with a spherified “yolk” of clarified tomato juice floating in lab-made horseradish vodka), and the Terroir, made from “distilled clay, flint, and lichen”, and probably best served on the rocks. At the bar, go for the the Royal Oak, a Champagne drink mixed with acorn liqueur and oak bitters.
WHAT YOU'RE DRINKING: Jerky Lab Jack
Proving Montreal isn’t just good at legally titillating 19-year-old American college students, Le Lab is our Canadian friends' pick as the top cocktailery in the country, a place where bartenders basically become scientists (labtenders? SPREAD IT!), creating magical drinks using all sorts of fancy techniques I can’t even pretend to explain. But all that won’t matter once you try their famed Jerky Lab Jack, made with secret BBQ bitters, Jack Daniels No. 7, sugar, and triple sec, and then topped with strips of jerky: it’s like a BBQ in your mouth SO NO ONE ELSE HAS TO COME AND RUIN IT.
Kevin Alexander is the food/drink executive editor at Thrillist, and prefers to tell the bartender to give him something with gin that reminds him of Christmas. Find out where to send him expensive bottles of gin as gifts at @KAlexander03.
This article originally published on May 18, 2014.
1. The Alembic1725 Haight St, San Francisco
2. Anvil Pub2638 Elm St, Dallas
3. Bar Marco2216 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh
4. The Broken Shaker2727 Indian Creek Dr, Miami
5. Bryant's Cocktail Lounge1579 S 9th St, Milwaukee
6. Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.112 S 18th St, Philadelphia
7. Clover Club210 Smith St, New York
8. Columbia Room1021 7th St NW, Washington
9. Cure4905 Freret St, New Orleans
10. Death & Company433 E 6th St, New York
11. Drink348 Congress St, Boston
12. Fox Liquor Bar237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh
13. Arnaud's French 75 Bar813 Bienville St, New Orleans
14. The Gin Joint182 E Bay St, Charleston
15. Imperial410 SW Broadway, Portland
16. Leon's Full Service131 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur
17. The NoMad1170 Broadway, New York
18. The Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar50 2nd Ave N, Minneapolis
19. Midnight Cowboy313 E 6th St, Austin
20. Noble Experiment777 G St, San Diego
21. The Patterson House1711 Division St, Nashville
22. Pouring Ribbons225 Avenue B, New York
23. Prizefighter6702 Hollis, Emeryville
24. PX728 King St, Alexandria
25. Scofflaw3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago
26. The Violet Hour1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago
27. The Silver Dollar1761 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
28. Sugar House2130 Michigan Ave, Detroit
29. Sun Liquor607 Summit Ave E, Seattle
30. Taste By Niche4584 Laclede Ave, St Louis
31. Trick Dog3010 20th St, San Francisco
32. The Varnish118 E 6th St, Los Angeles
33. The Velvet Tango Room2095 Columbus Rd, Cleveland
34. Williams & Graham3160 N Tejon St, Denver
35. 69 Colebrooke Row69 Colebrooke Row, London
36. Le Lab1351 rue Rachel Est, Montréal
The Alembic is known for its encyclopedic menu of spirits and handcrafted cocktails. The whiskey selection in particular reads like a written history of brown spirits, featuring American bourbon, whiskey, and rye alongside single-malt and vatted Scotch whiskey. The draft beer list is a nod to those with an appreciation for local craft brews and the food menu is filled with atypical bar snacks like pickled quail eggs and jerk-spiced duck hearts. As for the space, it's a trendy, rustic, dimly lit affair.
Long dreamed of by a local father & son, Anvil began its countdown to reality when both men were let go by their respective employers. They've decked the ex-Mehdi's with lacquered floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and brick space dividers, and serve up a mean Bloody Mary.
Run out of a renovated firehouse and owned by four friends, this spot is famous for their no-nonsense cocktails, handcrafted tables and bar, and constantly changing menu of bites.
The Broken Shaker's insanely good hand-crafted cocktails are made using herbs and spices from their own garden (say it together now: no mo gmo). Sip and kick back in the hostel's backyard in a hammock, play on the ping pong table, or take a dip in the pool. The Freehand Miami may just be one of the coolest places you’ve ever stayed— it’s a restored art deco building only minutes away from the Bass Museum of Art and the Miami beach. You gotta check it out, bro.
You can feel the history when you drink at Bryant's -- it's been around since the '30s, but you'll be more interested in the intoxicating darkness and your flawless (and also intoxicating) brandy Old Fashioned.
Practically bursting with classical style and a tasteful ambiance, FM&I Co. stands out as one of the classiest bars in Rittenhouse, serving a number of finely tuned cocktails that any patron can appreciate.
From Julie Reiner -- the gal behind Flatiron Lounge -- and her protege, cocktail legend Ivy Mix, this tearoom-style spot charms with pressed tin ceilings, velvet-upholstered settees, and a 19th-century mahogany bar. In keeping with the casual-sophisticated vibe, dinner fare includes everything from mac & cheese and steak frites, to steak tartare and caviar service, while the cocktail selection, which includes numerous variations on Old Fashioneds, cobblers, punches, cocktails, and five other categories, will have the most experienced of drinkers excited with options. For a new take on a real classic, start with the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, which combines rye, maraschino, absinthe and bitters.
Columbia Room is consistently one of the best cocktail bars in DC, pouring expertly crafted 'tails using their own cordials, bitters and tinctures, and using hand-carved ice. It's no surprise it has been voted as one of the best bars in America.
Hundreds of bottles of bourbons from around the world line the walls at Freret St's Cure, so you can rest assured the bartenders know a thing or two about making classic cocktails. Belly up to the bar and try lots of rare and reserve bottles. Pro tip: if you’re only having one cocktail, make your way to the Reserve cocktail menu, and order the 22-year-old Old Fashioned made with Lost Prophet 22 Year.
Death & Co. is a high-end, dimly lit sanctuary for both the casual AND professional mixologist/cocktail enthusiast. Responsible for launching the careers of many of New York's most prominent bartenders, this speakeasy has produced a 500-recipe cocktail book and enough top-notch drinks to keep both locals and newcomers ready for the wait, and insatiably eager for another visit. Martinis are served in 5oz glasses with the remainder in an iced carafe, and Old Fashioneds are reinvented with reposado tequila, mezcal, and a flaming orange. While the decor is certainly reminiscent of Prohibition-era times, the drinks remain cutting-edge.
The seasoned bartenders at Drink, a hip and hidden basement space in Fort Point, are whipping up the best craft cocktails in Boston. Don't expect to order off a drink menu here -- it doesn't exist. Once you're seated at one of the three wooden bars, all you have to do is tell the barkeep what you're feeling (sweet, sour, whiskey, something on fire, etc.) and voila: a masterpiece is created, just for you. The interior here has an industrial look (exposed brick and pipe, and Edison light bulbs adorn the room), which matches the surrounding warehouse-packed neighborhood, and makes you feel as if you're attending an exclusive underground party. There's a small food menu with snacks like thick-cut french fries served with a tangy malt vinegar aioli, and bigger bites like Drink's must-try burger (wagyu beef, American cheese, Bibb lettuce, house pickles, shaved red onion, black pepper mayo, and ketchup on a toasted Hi-Rise Bread Company bun). The team used to flip just 15 request-only burgers every night, but lucky for you, that's a thing of the past.
Fox Liquor is an ultra-chill basement lounge populated with couches and inspired by the owner’s extensive research of Manhattan’s top spots. The 30+ custom cocktails on the menu run the gamut from a classic Vieux Carre to tropical fare like the Hemmingway Daiquiri and a Bitter Mai Tai spiked with rum, Campari, and orgeat.
Originally designated as a "gentlemen only area" in NOLA's early days, this cocktail bar located within Arnaud's Restaurant features cocktails like the Pisco Derby (that's pisco, lavender honey syrup, lime, and grapefruit) and bar snacks like Oysters en Brochette (translation: oysters wrapped with bacon and deep fried). Feel fancy as you sip your drinks that are served to you by white tuxedo-wearing bartenders. In addition to the more inventive drinks, you can't go wrong with the killer Old Fashioned or Sidecar.
The cocktails at The Gin Joint are truly outstanding, emphasizing a "from scratch" mixology approach (market-driven ingredients like local herbs, house-made syrup infusions, and nods to local flavor and Southern palates), but what sets this French Quarter hotspot apart from the fray is its equally solid bar bites. And it's no surprise -- the lively bistro-meets-speakeasy space is helmed by a husband and wife duo who cut their culinary chops in New York City. Guests can expect elevated bar fare like crab dip with potato mousse, beef jerky, and an array of artisanal local cheeses.
Imperial restaurant, located in the historic Hotel Lucia, is owned and operated by Chef extraordinaire Vitaly Paley. This spot has a modern bright interior, and all the food is dishes made with local ingredients. The menu's combination of new and traditional American cuisine can be paired with any of Imperial's fine wines, specialty cocktails or draft and bottled beers.
Leon's Full Service is an American restaurant with classic ideals. Its namesake is inspired on the friendly, thorough service gas stations offered in decades past. Though establishing a welcome, communal atmosphere is at a premium, the food is no slouch either. Just ask the pan-seared halibut with the fixings. Well don't ask it, eat it.
Housed in a historic arts building, The NoMad hotel is a stylish, Parisian-inspired luxury hotel with hardwood floors and handmade rugs. Inside the hotel is a bi-level library, an opulent lounge with a mahogany bar, and an upscale restaurant. Around the corner from the hotel is the much-lauded NoMad Bar (10 W 28th St), serving refined cocktails and upscale pub fare in a hip, lively space.
Upstairs, you'll find a friendly brick and timber restaurant offering a variety of organic dishes made with ingredients from their rooftop garden and other local growers, while downstairs is the dimly lit speakeasy that completes the duality of the building, as well as your unfulfilled craving for craft cocktails. At Marvel Bar, order the signature cocktail Oliveto, which features olive oil, egg white, lemon, Licor 43, and Gordon’s gin.
Once part of Austin's red light district, The Midnight Cowboy pays tribute to its former brothel glory as a reservation only, "buzz in" cocktail lair, where clients are encouraged to flirt with staff as long as they abide by house rules. Reservations are for two hours and there’s a two drink minimum per guest. With so many great cocktails to choose from, you can’t really go wrong here. Some of the drinks are even prepared tableside!
This speakeasy inside Gaslamp Quarter eatery Neighborhood is so popular, you won't be able to get in without texting for a reservation several days in advance. But trust us, it's worth it -- what looks like a stack of kegs by the restaurant's bathroom is a door that'll lead you to a bar that, in decorative terms, can only be described as vampire's-lair-meets-French-catacombs. In a tiny yet decadent space decked in wall-to-wall gilded skulls, you can order from a simple menu of handcrafted cocktails, or take a chance with the Dealer's Choice -- a bartender will make something for you based on your personal tastes, and they almost always nail it.
Thanks to its sophisticated decor (cozy, 30-seat bar, vintage chandeliers), and even more sophisticated drinks (get the hickory-smoked cola and whiskey Jennings first and then move on), The Patterson House remains one of the leaders in a town where new, interesting things seem to be happening every minute.
This cocktail lounge, tucked into a wood-paneled, second-floor space, brings an upscale-meets-gentlemen's club feel to Alphabet City. Expert bartenders mix drinks like you’ve never tasted before, like a coconut Tiki martini and an old-fashioned with bourbon, apple brandy, and rum. The bar bites menu, created by the folks at Beecher’s Cheese, is heavy on the cheese and charcuterie.
Front-manned by two drink moguls with ties to Bloodhound and Bourbon & Branch, Prizefighter is a pugilism-themed, SF-caliber East Bay cocktail bar armed with a heavyweight 'tail program you'll size up inside at a brick-backed black walnut bar (with an awesomely mounted axe), or outside on a 900sqft patio equipped with heat, so hopefully it doesn't go cold when the NBA Finals are on.
This speakeasy might charge a bit extra than others in the area, but it's worth it after tasting their specialty cocktails that are handcrafted by some of the most seasoned expert mixologists in the city.
This classy bar in Logan Square will make a gin lover out of even the most gin-averse of clientele. It's one of Chicago's top cocktail bars because it proves that the versatility of gin extends far beyond the usual G&T and because it's outfitted with antique sofas that are palatial AND comfortable. Scofflaw also serves a menu of better-than-basic small bites, and the kitchen is open until 1am daily.
The first clue that this Wicker Park cocktail lounge is different from its neighboring bars is the house rules, the first of which forbids cellphones. The second is the James Beard Award-winning cocktail program. The drink menu is organized by alcohol type, and though you'll find vodka, brandy, tequila, gin, and rum cocktails, The Violet Hour's speciality seems to be whiskey, and a sip of the eponymous Old Fashioned confirms it. This is your Chicago destination for a night of refined, expensive drinking -- there is a dress code, and it's fancy.
Perched inside a former firehouse, the redbrick Kentucky whiskey temple merges fine food, old-school country records, and craft cocktails. Their six-page spirit menu is laden with (obviously) a huge list of bourbons, which are sorted by distillery, plus moonshine, rye, and seasoned bourbon -- all from the Bluegrass State.
One of Detroit's leading mixology bars, this hip Corktown spot uses eclectic spirits and mixers to make inventive and delicious drinks. Bartenders clad in tiki shirts or vests shake and stir creative concoctions with off-the-beaten-path liquors -- cacaçha, mezcal, absinthe, madiera, and chartreuse, to name a few -- and homemade infusions and syrups. While the specialty menu rotates seasonally, the staff's encyclopedic knowledge of classics from Aperol Spritzes to Zombies ensures a constant flock of regulars, aided by the antique hunting lodge décor (taxidermy animals mounted throughout, vintage bar stools, original brick facade from 1888) and dim, sultry ambience.
Sun Liquor's a Capitol Hill distillery & bar that also serves New American dinner and brunch dishes (options include a Tilamook cheddar "Tiki" burger with grilled pineapple and buttermilk biscuits and gravy). This spot makes top notch cocktails (duh), the likes of which include riffs on the classics like French 75's (Sun's Oslo 75 features Aquavit and sloe gin) plus original creations, all of which are picture perfect to sip in SL's plush, speakeasy style establishment.
Brought to you by The Bon Vivants, Trick Dog in The Mission's a marble- and steel-adorned cocktailery serving drinks from a Pantone-inspired menu with names from favorite song titles, along with bar bites like beer nuts, pickles, and cracklins.
In the back of Cole's -- specifically behind an oak door that's marked with a framed picture of a cocktail -- is The Varnish, a tiny bar from the vaunted mixologists behind New York's Milk & Honey and Little Branch. The bar is an intimate, Prohibition-era hideaway with cozy wooden booths, soft jazz playing in the background, and expertly-made top-shelf cocktails. Order the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, or go off-menu and let the bartender make you something unexpected.
The Velvet Tango Room gets its speakeasy vibe from, well, being located in an actual former speakeasy (the bullet holes in the ceiling remain to this day). Located in an inconspicuous old house, complete with backyard garden, VTR is committed to classic (Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Sidecar) and modern (Cleveland Rose, Widow's Kiss) cocktails, crafted with loving attention and served up on their own or as part of sampler flights. The name and drink menu alone are worthy to a 1940s film noir; better yet, the bar hosts a live jazz band every weeknight.
Williams & Graham, a bar styled to look like a Prohibition-era speakeasy, offers up an eclectic selection of specialty cocktails, liquors, beers and wines. Additionally, there's a food menu that includes a variety of sandwiches, snacks and small plate dishes. You'd be remiss to skip this spot that was recognized as the Best American Cocktail Bar in 2015 by the Spirited Awards (basically the Academy Awards of booze).
Officially called "the bar with no name,” this small-but-perfectly-formed space is helmed by Tony Conigliaro, godfather of the London cocktail scene, who’s decked it out with a classic ‘50s-Italian-Riviera feel. The drinks themselves all feel timeless, yet there’s plenty of science going into their creation, with ingredients and methods developed in a lab by Broadway Market, including the Manhattan Steel Corp., a Manhattan twist with "Dry Essence."
Located in the Plateau neighborhood, Le Lab has an extensive cocktail menu that changes regularly and churns out inventive concoctions like the Deer Hunter (Jägermeister, violet liqueur, and lime). It might not even be a stretch to say that Le Lab might just make some of the best cocktails in the country, and if it doesn’t anymore, it certainly paved the way for bartenders to aspire to fancy techniques that hadn’t even crossed their booze-addled minds. The bar is dimly lit and has the feel of an ol’ timey speakeasy, and if you don't like anything on the menu, the experienced "Labtenders" will be happy to mix up any classic 'tail, or something from their list of originals.