With mixologists around the country rediscovering vintage spirits and historic drink recipes, artisanal cocktail bars have spread like wildfire in recent years. Still, some bars outshine the rest, becoming destinations in their own right. With customized glasses and unique ice creations, top bartenders are pulling out all the stops when it comes to concocting the perfect sip. Whether you prefer it shaken or stirred, bitter or sweet, you'll find the perfect libation at the 10 best cocktail bars in America. Cheers!
1. The Aviary
Libations are elevated to modern art at The Aviary, which serves truly inventive takes on liquor-cabinet staples. Created and run by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the bar features a sleek, modern interior, showcasing the bartenders-cum-chemists who meticulously formulate each concoction. Offering a unique ticket system in advance, patrons who plan ahead can arrange for a five-course food and cocktail pairing, the best way to taste the multitude of cocktails on offer. Though reservations are recommended, walk-ins are welcome too.
What to Drink: Served in a circular, narrow glass pitcher, the Tropic Thunder ($24) features tequila infused with wild lime, hibiscus, and grilled pineapple, accented to great effect in presentation.
Where: New York City
Tucked away in a small corner of bustling Chinatown, Apotheke has no sign nor clear point of entry. A former opium den, this apothecary-themed cocktail bar is styled with Old Europe in mind. Mixologists in lab coats precisely pour aged bottles of spirits and garnish them with various accoutrements. The cocktail offering changes seasonally and features local and organic produce, herbs, and botanicals. With no mention of prices on the menu, expect to spend around $16-$20 per drink.
What to Drink: The Cherry Licorice ($18) features single-malt scotch, tart cherries, absinthe essence, and house-made cherry bitters; it's served on the rocks and garnished with cherry licorice.
Where: Los Angeles
Ornate, Moroccan-crafted arches set the stage for playful cocktails and international flavors at Los Angeles' year-old Acabar. With a menu created by bar directors Josh Goldman and Julian Cox, seasonal cocktails are sorted creatively by their characteristics, such as bitter, floral, and fruity. If you're indecisive, simply tell the bartender your flavor preference and they'll choose the cocktail that best suits you. Acabar stands out for its thorough research and historical reference in crafting its drinks, which come complete with cocktail histories.
What to Drink: Rittenhouse Rye 100 and sweet vermouth meet house-made cherry brandy and absinthe in the aromatic Remember the Maine ($12), served on the rocks.
4. Cane & Table
Where: New Orleans
A small but mighty offering of eight original cocktails quench sophisticated thirsts at New Orleans' rustic Cane & Table. At this French Quarter spot, the cocktails are complex and the candlelit atmosphere harkens back to yesteryear with exposed brick and wood. Eclectic small plates such as pineapple carpaccio and squash-blossom cangrejitos make way for larger plates of ropa vieja, cauliflower paella, and grilled yardbird. Friendly bartenders with Southern charm keep the drinks flowing, with a steady beat of house music completing the scene.
What to Drink: Beat the humidity of New Orleans with the Watermelon Man ($10), served up with watermelon and basil shrub poured over sparkling wine.
5. New York Distilling Company's The Shanty
You might not expect to find a distillery in the middle of Brooklyn, but that's exactly where you'll find New York Distilling Company, which opened a few years ago in response to a growing demand for complex, unique gin and rye. The Shanty, its adjacent bar, serves three varieties of house-distilled gin; Perry's Tot Navy Strength Gin, Dorothy Parker American Gin, and Chief Gowanus New-Netherland Gin and spirits from around the world in an array of crafted cocktails, while candlelight and live music set the scene. On weekends, you can also take tours of the distillery.
What to Drink: Get a taste of Dorothy Parker American Gin mixed with sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and grapefruit juice in the Sauvetage ($11).