We’re living in the Golden Age of boozy concoctions: a time when drinks are given every bit as much reverence and respect as a perfectly constructed dish. As the summer season—and the summer drinking season—kicks off, we’ve collected eight bars worth exploring, no matter where your travels take you, from a Hemingway-inspired bar in Hong Kong to the new Havana-meets-New-Orleans watering hole in the Big Easy.
New Orleans, Louisiana
When two esteemed New Orleans bartenders fall head over heels for Cuba, you know a Havana-themed bar isn’t far behind. Following a research trip to the Caribbean island, Nick Detrich (founding partner of Cane & Table) and Chris Hannah (of French 75 fame) wanted to pay tribute to the drink-making prowess of Cuba and its people. Lo and behold, Manolito—the pint-sized bar with a big, welcoming heart—was born this March.
The Drink: The Hotel Nacional—a nod to the house cocktail at the famed Havana hotel—combines Don Q Cristal, lime, pineapple, and apricot brandy. And don’t forget: You’re drinking it in New Orleans, so feel free to stroll the sidewalks, drink in hand.
From the duo behind Portland’s much-lauded French stalwart, Le Pigeon, comes the new Canard, a laid-back space with an all-day-café vibe and a menu that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Chicken wings with a side of truffle ranch, anyone?) The cocktail menu, too, has quite the impish spirit: There are fois gras–infused bourbons and optional oysters for drinks like the Breakfast of Champions (London dry gin, caper brine, dry vermouth, and celery bitters).
The Drink: The Great Pyrenees, which blends together Blanco tequila, Bruto Apertivo, Peychaud’s bitters and—the kicker—“fluffy” grapefruit (juice that’s run through an electric juicer for volume, a playful nod to the furry Great Pyrenees dog breed).
In a world of ever-rising cocktail prices and drinks composed of esoteric ingredients known only to the highest echelons of cocktail nerds, Denver’s American Bonded—which opened in April under the leadership of, among others, celebrated bar mentor Sean Kenyon—is the kind of (relatively) budget-friendly space that will restore your faith in simple cocktails prepared beautifully.
The Drink: The bar focuses on both the Mint Julep and Old Fashioned. My advice? Embrace the herbaceous nature of the (often-maligned) Mint Julep.
Raised by Wolves
San Diego, California
The term “speakeasy” has been tossed around so much over the past decade, it’s practically been added to the unofficial “banned word list” in the craft cocktail universe. At Raised by Wolves, though, the hideaway vibe is real. Located in a—wait for it!—strip mall, patrons enter through a tricked-out bottle store, then walk through a secret passageway to access the bar.
The Drink: This place is all about gilding the lily. (You can order a $970 Old Fashioned, made with 1960s Very Old Fitzgerald bourbon.) But some of the most fascinating (and more affordable) concoctions are those that play around with vegetable juice, including the 14-Carrot Punch: cognac, lime, carrot, coconut liqueur, Suze, maple, and seltzer.
Amrith by Barsmiths
Bars in Singapore are known for creating drinks that make guests feel transported: whether by pushing the presentation envelope or reimagining iconic drinks in a way that requires drinkers to use all five senses. Since Amrith opened in early 2018, it’s quickly become a favorite for its unique, brainy commitment to cocktails inspired by classic local flavors. This even includes some off-the-wall sources of inspiration, like laksa, a spicy Singaporean noodle soup.
The Drink: The Hainanese Chicken Rice cocktail, made with sesame fat-washed rye, ginger liqueur, pandan soya syrup, calamansi (a Southeast Asian citrus), chile, and cucumber. It’s even served with a side of poached chicken. The concoction is a complicated-but-beautiful riff on a local stew that puts Amrith’s expertise and commitment to Singapore culture on full display.
The Old Man
Named after the Hemingway novel The Old Man and the Sea, one of the latest additions to Hong Kong’s ever-blossoming bar scene is a true tribute to the writer. The bar, helmed by seasoned bartender Agung Prabowois, is a stately, velvet-meets-marble affair with touches of tropical-inspired flora. And the drinks? Most are inspired by Hemingway’s stories and books, of course.
The Drink: The Snows of Kilimanjaro—a seriously adventurous choice—combines marshmallow gin, citrus, lacto-fermented raspberry, and gruyère.
Los Angeles, California
Big Bar has been consistently turning out some of L.A.’s most inventive cocktails since launching in 2010. In recent years—under the leadership of Cari Hah—it has reached even more delicious heights. This year’s warm(er) weather menu includes drinks that encourage luxuriating outdoors, with summery flavors and themes.
The Drink: No Sweet Without the Sour (kumquat shrub, pickled kumquat, orange-infused Grey Goose vodka, Amaro Angeleno, and lemon) will make even the biggest pessimist lighten up—at least for the length of a drink.
It takes a little effort to find Tür 7—first, find the narrow backstreet and then pass through an unmarked door. The reward: a cozy bar that feels like you’re in someone’s living-room—only with better cocktails. The space maxes out at roughly 35 people and has the unique charm of being without an official roster of drinks, meaning that each creation is made with the guest in mind.
The Drink: There’s no set cocktail menu at Tür. There is, however, a massive, leather-bound book where guests write down the drinks that bartenders have whipped up for them in the past. The Hunterground—made with Jägermeister, cognac, white wine, lemon juice, lavender syrup, and a dash of fish sauce—is a particularly fascinating choice.