The Most Mind-Blowing Cocktails Tasting Table Staff Have Ever Ordered

While it's fully possible to make an amazing drink at home, there's just something special about going to a nice bar and ordering an over-the-top cocktail you would never in a million years think up on your own. And it makes sense, bartenders are trained professionals who spend hours upon hours honing their craft — even the most devoted at-home mixologist can't compete. And that's before you start to consider all the unique ingredients these bars either create themselves or source from far and wide for their concoctions. (While we love seeking out high-quality, specialty ingredients, there is nothing worse than splurging on that "have-to-have-it" bottle for a single cocktail, only to realize you really don't like it — or worse, love it and then forget about it, discovering during your next big clean the ingredient spoiled before you could get your money's worth.)

Of course, the best cocktails don't have to be fancy, and sometimes that unassuming spot you popped into on a whim serves up the best martini you've had in your entire life. Or maybe it's not even the cocktail, per se, but the whole experience that really makes a drink stand out in your mind.

From Venice to New York, Long Beach to Mexico City, and everywhere in between, Tasting Table staff shared the most mind-blowing cocktails they've ever had the pleasure to drink.

Piña colada at Handshake in Mexico City - Cristina Alonso

Who doesn't love a piña colada? The creamy, tropical drink is synonymous with a relaxing beach getaway. However, the most memorable piña colada I've ever tried was not concocted under a palapa with views of the Caribbean, but in a dark, sleek speakeasy in Mexico City.

Handshake's deceivingly clear, fizzy beverage looks more like a highball than the beloved vacation classic, and on the first encounter, it's a little confusing. Judging by the drink's looks, I was expecting it to be light and refreshing (which it is), however, it also has a sweet, luscious mouthfeel, courtesy of the coconut oil and cream. Sip after sip, I could feel myself being transported to a faraway beach while staying very much present in my metropolitan setting.

The piña colada begins with Torres 15 brandy instead of rum, which is infused at 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) and then frozen. Next, the brandy is filtered and blended with coconut oil, pineapple juice, vanilla syrup, coconut cream, and water. The resulting liquid is filtered, carbonated, and served with a micro-coriander garnish.

This cocktail is a perfect example of what has put Handshake on the map since it opened a couple of years ago. Led by Dutchman Eric Van Beek, the adventurous bar team leans on sophisticated, almost scientific techniques to deliver drinks that are as delicious as they are elegantly presented.

The Born & Raised at Sugary Ray: You've Just Been Poisoned in Bangkok - Nikita Ephanov

In always-humid Bangkok, a refreshing Thai Iced Tea hits the spot. While sipping the ubiquitous drink, I'd often wonder if someone in the city produced a boozy interpretation. Finally, on a night out in the happening Sukhumvit neighborhood, my craving was quelled.

Meet the Born & Raised cocktail, crafted by playful bar Sugar Ray: You've Just Been Poisoned. Reinterpretation doesn't aptly summarize the drink; it's more of a wild reimagination of the street-side classic. The cocktail builds off a Thai tea-infused gin, which the team concocts through a clarified milk punch — a technique they've nailed down in much of the menu. Atop the gin base, the drink is spritzed up with mandarin and lime, before a touch of pandan syrup rounds out the sweetness. Despite only a few components, the result is beguiling: The drink doesn't sip like other strong punches, but rather bright flavors hit in delineated waves. Right when I thought I'd tasted every note, another hint of spice would appear. When I asked the friendly bartender how it was done, he grinned, "It's all in the infusion," then cheekily winked. Late-night sensory playfulness at its best.

The Rosy Dawn at Library of Distilled Spirits in Oklahoma City - Matt Kirouac

There's something that feels innately celebratory and decadent about drinking a fizzy Champagne cocktail. That's especially true when said effervescent drink is sipped in a historic bank vault. Such is the case with The Rosy Dawn, a beautiful sparkling cocktail served at the intimate Vault area of the Library of Distilled Spirits, where extravagant mixology is the bill of fare inside the Frist National Bank building in downtown Oklahoma City.

Layered with rosy, sunset-esque hues and textures ranging from crisp bubbles to silken foam, the cocktail blends gin with orange marmalade and tops it all with Paul Laurent Champagne and a fluffy plume of cherry foam. While the gin and Champagne combo give it a French 75 vibe, the fruity additions round out a flavor profile akin to afternoon tea. Unlike many sparkling cocktails, the addition of marmalade lends more body and richness, enhanced by the velvety foam that steadily melts down into the drink with every decadent sip.

The Honey Bee at Dante in New York City - Brendan McGinley

By rights, I should be writing about Negronis right now. That's the reigning genus at Dante, where aperitifs made the bar's reputation as a brilliant, fresh, and light place to start your Greenwich Village adventure. And it's true that I can't ever set my mind firm on whether Dante or the Mermaid Oyster Bar best represents the promise of a summer evening in New York City, just starting to cool after work: bars that have style without pretension, character without intrusion. But this isn't a summer story.

I took a friend to Dante on a rainy autumn afternoon, stomachs full of a rich RH lunch, and discovered something firmly in the realm of digestifs: the Honey Bee. A mixture of tequila, sherry, chocolate bitters, and salted honey cream, it's a quintuple-threat appetite-ender whose secret weapon is Mr. Black coffee liqueur (vanilla edition, if you please). The Australian alcohol is cold brewed to preserve coffee's volatile compounds. All I can tell you is that this drink — this wonderful, beautiful drink — was a revelation in need of a prophet, and I will proselytize its praises till my grave.

Like Dante, the Honey Bee is quietly perfect: easy to mistake its extra effort for natural grace. Sweet, salty, bitter, thick, nutty, dark — the best drink at the best bar. Good drinks vanish before you know it; great ones linger as you savor the smallest taste of them; perfect cocktails never really leave you.

El Guapo at The Ordinarie in Long Beach - Erin Shaw

The most absolutely mind-blowing cocktail I've had is the El Guapo from The Ordinarie in Long Beach, California. This drink is so delicious that I've tried to make it at home on more than one occasion but have been sadly unable to perfect it.

Invented by bartender-extraordinaire Colby Sue, this drink is the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and tart. It's made with both tequila and mezcal, as well as lime and honey, which gives the cocktail a taste reminiscent of a smokey margarita ... but there's a twist. Sue adds pineapple juice and spicy bitters to take this cocktail to a whole new dimension. It's refreshingly tropical, sweet, spicy, and a little tart.

Just a mile or so from the water in Downtown Long Beach, The Ordinaire is the perfect spot to sip mind-bendingly tasty cocktails after a day of fun in the sun at the beach.

Coffee & Cigarettes at Rex in Redondo Beach - Jennifer Richmond

There's nothing I love more than an after-dinner drink, and while I tend to choose a strong cup of coffee paired with a slice of chocolate cake, every so often I'll opt for a nice, cool cocktail — especially when bourbon is the main spirit. If you add black coffee to it, I'm all in!

While perusing the dessert menu at Rex in Redondo Beach, I came across the Coffee & Cigarettes. All I needed to see was bourbon, coffee, and orgeat and I knew I had to try it. Oh. My. God. The first sip was absolutely spectacular. It was smooth and rich, full of those delicious caramel and vanilla flavors that you tend to get from a nice bourbon, and the addition of the sweet orgeat syrup really made the nutty notes blossom.

The ingredient that pushed this cocktail from the good category into amazing was the Scotch spritz. Now, I'll be honest, I'm not a Scotch fan. As a matter of fact, it's my least favorite liquor, so I was a little apprehensive about trying this cocktail. But that spritz gives the whole drink a wonderful smoky flavor that reminded me of sipping bourbon in the woods by a campfire. It was seriously the best drink I've ever had.

Macanese Gimlet at Macao Trading Company in New York City - Catherine Rickman

Stepping into Macao Trading Company in Tribeca feels like entering a portal into another place and time. Modeled after 1930s brothels and opium dens, the cocktail bar serves food and drink inspired by the variety of cultures that influenced Macao during the era, particularly Chinese and Portuguese.

The star of the extensive cocktail list is the Macanese Gimlet. While a classic gimlet is made from gin, lime juice, and simple syrup, the Macanese Gimlet infuses its gin with makrut lime. Mix in some lime juice and agave and top with a green Chartreuse mist, the vibrant cocktail is served straight up. The flavor of the makrut lime, which is often used in Thai curries, is fragrant and unexpected, adding an almost savory element to the classic sour cocktail. With its perfect combination of sweet, sour, and faintly spiced, you won't be able to drink just one.

The Good Fortune at Nine Bar in Chicago - John Tolley

There's something to being the first. It's almost unbelievable in the vast expanse of history when one breaks new ground, but it happens all the time in unexpected ways. That's what happened when bartenders Lily Wang and Joe Briglio opened the doors of Nine Bar, the first cocktail bar located in Chicago's vibrant Chinatown. The space once housed Wang's family restaurant Moon Palace, for years run by her parents. When she took it over, Moon Palace converted to a takeout/delivery counter under the moniker Moon Palace Express, with Nine Bar filling the space behind, giving it a speakeasy vibe that fits with Chicago's infamous past.

While it's hard to go wrong with any of Nine Bar's tipples, The Good Fortune called out to me from the cocktail list informed by Asian flavors and ingredients (think baijiu, Calpico, and Sichuan peppercorn). The drink is an homage to an old fashioned, spirit-forward and stirred for a silky chill. The Good Fortune combines Suntory Haku vodka, local Rhine Hall plum brandy, Japanese barley tea, Medjool date syrup, and Angostura bitters. The tea is actually infused into the cocktail using the cold brew method leading to unexpected, complex flavors akin to whiskey, while the date syrup sweetens in a pleasantly rich way that contributes to the overall mouthfeel. Vodka skeptics should reserve their judgment here, as the first sip will silence haters with a sultry depth that upends mixological norms and will leave them asking, "To what do I owe The Good Fortune?"

The Amatriciana at Il Mercante in Venice - Sylvia Tomczak

Since Venice is the birthplace of both the Spritz and the Bellini, it should come as no shock that Venetians know how to craft a mean cocktail. While there is no shortage of local bars cranking out the classics, Il Mercante offers patrons an entirely unique experience.

Listed under the Cucina Liquida section of the drink menu, the Amatriciana is far too intriguing not to try. Consisting of vodka combined with a clarified Bloody Mary mix that's made in-house, the culinary cocktail is seasoned with a splash of dry vermouth, smoked black tea, and black pepper. To make the experience all the more multi-sensorial, the ruby-hued drink is served with a side of pecorino mousse to riff on the concept of enjoying a bowl of cheese-covered pasta. As strange as it may sound, a single sip of the Amatriciana (followed by a spoonful of cream) recalls the same vibrancy of its saucy and savory namesake — just liquified!

Made for the most daring of cocktail lovers, the Amatriciana's peculiarity is exactly what renders it so unforgettable. Layered with umami richness, the punchy drink is exactly what you need after navigating endless canals and tight Venetian alleyways. Trust me, this is a cocktail that's worth getting lost in Venice for!

The Reed Between the Lines at The Donovan Bar in London - Michelle Welsch

As much as Oliver Reed was known for his acting roles, he also earned himself a reputation for his big personality. The man could put back drinks, and evenings didn't always turn out pretty. The Donovan Bar managed to capture all of this in a glass, and admittedly, I was not prepared. To this day, I still think about the Reed Between the Lines, a cocktail made in honor of all that Reed represented.

A sucker for an expertly-made old fashioned, I placed my order after reading the drink's description. The bartender had a playful smirk as he began to assemble my request, and later I discovered the bar's description of the cocktail: feisty. That's exactly how the evening turned out.

Bartenders first fat-wash Dewar's Illegal Smooth whisky with butter, giving the drink a smooth texture that complements the sweetness of the barley wine reduction. Fresh lemon juice and Angostura bitters are added, and the drink is shaken, poured, and garnished with a single wheat stem.

I adore perfectly proportioned ice cubes, but the temperature and complexity of this drink command attention. A single sip delivers rich nuances of smoky, sweet, and salty flavors: Everything you could want in a cocktail without it being overpowering. If Reed got his hands on the drink, I'm sure he'd order a second — just as I did.