Big Night Out
It's Spirits Month! Get in on all the booze-filled fun.
Ban the can: The time has come to elevate your drinking game. We sourced eight great cocktail bars around the country to assure you a high-class evening regardless of where you roam. Brace yourselves, and then pace yourselves.
First things first: There's no menu here. Instead, patrons describe their drinking preferences to an eager-to-accommodate bartender, who then gets to work concocting a completely personalized cocktail. A descent into this sleek, subterranean lair demands patience—drinks can take a while to materialize—but the wait for a personalized libation is well worth it.
Perch, Los Angeles
This rooftop space is located on the 15th and 16th floors of an old downtown building and can only be accessed via private elevator. An oversize wooden bar anchors the space, but the views and outdoor fireplaces mandate you drink on one of the wraparound patios. The small but thoughtful drink menu includes refreshing cocktails like the Spicy Concombre (gin, cucumber, jalapeño, mint, St-Germain, lime) served by waitresses done up in striped pinafores.
Rooibos from the Aviary (Christian Seel) | City Lights from Trick Dog (Allison Webber)
The Aviary, Chicago
This justly lauded West Loop destination devotes itself to a five-star drinking experience, serving the most lovingly crafted cocktails you're likely to ever encounter (head bartender Charles Joly was recently named World Class Bartender of the Year). Just to drive it home: There's a dedicated ice chef. It's essentially a fine-dining event, with drinks in place of food. Half the seats are devoted to walk-ins, but you're best served securing a pre-paid ticket. And be prepared to spend: Drinks can run as much as a cool $28.
When a bar claims to house the largest spirits collection in the Western Hemisphere, you take notice. The intimate space makes its name with unusual combos like the Banksy Sour (ginger-lemon-tea scotch, Becherovka, fresh citrus, meringue); order the Shrouded Roulette and you'll receive a mystery drink with a spirit base of your choosing. Large-format cocktails, like the Cherry Fizz (gin, cherry brandy, egg white, orange blossom and lemon), let you share the merriment with your whole gang. A limited number of ticketed reservations are available nightly.
Midnight Cowboy, Austin
The space was once a massage parlor that dabbled in prostitution, and today the speakeasy cheekily nods to its past with brothel-like decor. Ring a buzzer labeled "Harry Craddock," and the hostess arrives in short order to escort you in; settle into one of the private booths and flip on your signal light switch for service. The drink menu includes both classics and more obscure concoctions like the Alamagoozlum (genever, rum, Chartreuse, curaçao, Angostura bitters, demerara syrup, egg white), while several of the cocktails arrive via drink trolley and are mixed in front of you. Two-hour reservations are required except when the "vacancy" light is glowing out front (a rare occurrence).
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Trick Dog, San Francisco
This is where San Francisco bartenders go to drink. The beautifully conceived cocktails, named after SF locales, include potions like the City Lights (Ford's Gin, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Linie Aquavit, strawberry and shortbread). This is no one-trick pony, either: Crowds flock to the Mission bar for the artfully designed space and boutique food menu (think pork rillettes and Nashville-style fried chicken).
PDT, New York City
The celebrated speakeasy (owned by our own Drinks Editor, Jim Meehan) is hardly a secret anymore (PDT stands for "Please Don't Tell"), but the cozy bar, accessed through a phone booth inside of a hotdog joint, deserves every ounce of praise. All the classic cocktails are here, but opt for one of the more creative concoctions, like the Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon and maple syrup. The fact that you can order a deep-fried dog from next door makes it all the better.
Bar Tonique, New Orleans
An oasis in the middle of the French Quarter mayhem. The massive drink menu at this intimate, pretension-free bar includes both classics (Old Fashioned, Jack Rose) and originals like the Blanche DuBois (gin, curaçao, orgeat, strawberries, lemon juice). All sodas, and even the cherries for garnish, are made in-house. Many claim that Bar Tonique offers the best Sazerac in the Quarter; hit the $5 happy hour (noon to 5 p.m.) to find out.
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