Published December 14, 2012
While many bars mix drinks the way fast food joints crank out meals — buying large amounts of prepared ingredients, freezing materials to last longer, cutting corners to save money, and making each drink as quickly as possible — more and more places are handcrafting their cocktails.
These establishments are going way beyond Scotch and sodas by taking their mixology to the next level with fresh ingredients including produce, homemade mixers, premium liquors, and even handcarved ice. While many bartenders are designing their own drinks, even classics are being reinvented by these artisans’ attention to detail. Find out where to find these kind of fresh and flavorful libations with our list of the Top 10 Bars for Craft Cocktails in the U.S.
955 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
The Aviary, Alinea chef Grant Achatz's newfangled cocktail lounge in Chicago, is a neutral-hued spot pouring complex cocktails — in custom-designed vessels, no less. Offerings include a riff on the Rob Roy made with Scotch, Pedro Ximenez 1985 and lavender air. The beer list is worth a look-see, too; it houses some unique suds.
20 E. 76th St.
New York, NY 10021
Enjoy fresh craft cocktails made with seasonal market ingredients from renowned chef Daniel Boulud's posh NYC cocktail bar. The chic space provides an air of intimacy, with its dimly lit bar and lounge, sexy black and white décor inspired by fashion icon Coco Chanel and 1930s Art Deco, French doors and quilted walls. The signature cocktails take their direction from onsite restaurant Café Boulud — the menu is even split into the same sections as the restaurant: “la tradition” (classics), “la saison” (seasonal delicacies), “le potager” (the garden) and “le voyage” (global flavors).
The Westin St. Francis
335 Powell St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
With a self-proclaimed “classic cocktail meets farm-to-glass” bar program, Michael Mina’s Clock Bar in San Francisco serves up innovative cocktails that feature local, seasonal produce, house-made artisanal mixers and high-quality spirits. No soda gun? No problem. All citrus is hand-pressed daily, while all sodas are straight from glass bottles, ensuring consistency and freshness. The cocktail list contains two sections — Seasonal Cocktails and The Tipple List. The latter features timeless concoctions from Clock Bar’s bartenders (both past and present), including original creations such as the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Pear Stimulus.
1021 Seventh St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
Reservations are required at DC's Columbia Room, an exclusive bar-within-a-bar inside The Passenger helmed by the talented and knowledgeable Derek Brown. Brown was nominated for a James Beard award and even created cocktails for the First Family’s holiday parties at the White House. If the bartender can help ease the President’s woes, he should be able to help with yours.
4905 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
The experience at Cure in New Orleans is part cocktails and part ambiance. Setting out to conjure up the atmosphere of a traditional cocktail bar, Cure creates an environment of sophistication where the cultured socialize and share their appreciation for spirits. Bartenders take mixing mastery seriously, with recipes intended to highlight Cure’s high-quality spirits, rather than drowning them in sugary juices and fountain sodas
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Meat may be the main event at Delmonico Steakhouse at The Venetian in Las Vegas, but the well-crafted libations are worth seeking out on their own. The bar also boasts a secret cocktail menu (you have to ask for it) and a huge whiskey list.
W Atlanta – Downtown
45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
Drinkshop is redefining the trend of all-fresh, made-to-order cocktails. You won’t see a soda gun or pre-made mix used in this hotel bar at the W in downtown Atlanta. All mixers are freshly made at the bar — the fruit juicing and vegetable extraction station is even visible from your seat, amongst the colorful spirit selection of independent labels and fresh garnishes. You’ll also see bartenders tailoring ice cubes designed specifically for your cocktail from a 100-pound block. Whether you get a ball, block or rectangle of ice depends on your drink selection.
The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
112 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia was named after the company that served as the front for the largest of the many operations supplying alcohol to grateful Prohibition customers in the country, even surpassing Al Capone’s. It keeps that speakeasy vibe alive with well-crafted, updated versions of the classics.
Ray's & Stark Bar
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Ray's & Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art not only features Mediterranean-inspired, farm-to-table fare from talented chef Kris Morningstar, but also a serious bar program. An herb garden behind the restaurant supplies ingredients for both cocktails and dishes.
Zig Zag Café
1501 Western Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
Zig Zag in Seattle stocks an extensive selection of whiskeys (more than 100), tequilas and rums, and unusual and hard-to-find spirits. The specialty here is classic, sometimes forgotten, cocktails. When enjoying cocktails at Zig Zag, you aren’t just getting a drink, but an education as well. Many of their drinks have interesting histories, so sit down, order from the menu (or have the bartender suggest something for you) and enjoy the tale of your cocktail.
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