The 11 Most Exciting Bars Opening This Spring
With a bevy of thrilling bars opening up shop all over the country, 2017 is already shaping up to be quite a year for drinking enthusiasts. Whether you're into classing it up with a bottle of bubbly, getting your mind blown by molecular gastronomy-fueled cocktails, finding flawless versions of old standards or simply sampling some of the universe's top brews, these 11 mouthwatering outposts are sure to woo you into a boozy stupor.
① The Aviary (New York City)
Expected Summer 2017
Though chef Grant Achatz's latest endeavor is technically not set to land for a few more months, we just couldn't wait to spill the beans about what has to be NYC's most anticipated new cocktail lounge (maybe ever). This summer, the crew who reshaped Chicago's dining scene with Alinea, Next, Roister, The Office and the original Aviary will bring their many talents to Columbus Circle's Mandarin Oriental hotel, gracing the city with a full roster of one-of-a-kind cocktails fancied up with top-shelf ingredients, a good bit of scientific know-how and a dose of magic. And if Achatz's effect on the Chicago dining scene is any indication, New Yorkers are in for one wild ride.
② Elsa (New York City)
Opened March 2017
Until it shuttered in 2014, Elsa was an East Village date-night no-brainer—cozy but polished, intimate but friendly. When it left, paired-up twentysomethings all over the city mourned the loss. And now, three years later, Elsa has finally returned, mirroring many of her patrons by relocating across the river to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Home Studios, the design firm behind NYC's stunning Sisters, Donna, Ramona and The Wayland, shined up the old girl to dazzling perfection, mimicking the former space's long, narrow bar and candlelit booths while tacking on a touch of Brooklyn cool by way of low-slung, Art Deco light fixtures and plenty of cool gray marble. Drinks-wise, expect a spirits-driven mix of creative originals like the sultry, woodsy Death of a Ladies’ Man (rye, maple, Laphroaig 10-year Scotch, lemon, tobacco bitters) and twists on old favorites like the S.M. Jenkin’s Cocktail, a gin-spiked riff on the classic Pimm's Cup.
③ Otto Mezzo Bar (Chicago)
Expected Spring 2017
Celebrated local chef Kevin Hickey (The Duck Inn, Bottlefork Bar & Kitchen) is spearheading this soon-to-open River North cocktail den located in what once was Ay Chiwowa taqueria. Another bar in River North? That's not news, but this is: Hickey and his Rockit Ranch team have been approved for a late-night license, allowing them to live it up until 5 a.m. on the weekends, with a food program that ends at 2 a.m. No menu yet, but we do know that the cuisine, beverage program and vibe will all take inspiration from Italian cinema's romantic heyday.
④ The Mezcal Bar at Quiote (Chicago)
Opened January 2017
There's a lot going on inside Quiote, Logan Square's brand-new, multitiered Mexican restaurant that houses two restaurants (one casual, one sit-down), as well as this subterranean speakeasy, marked by a glowing neon agave leaf and dedicated to all things mescal. Downstairs are mixologists who know their stuff, shaking up everything from original concoctions like the Violeta (mescal, cherry-almond cordial, lemon, violet root bitters) to smoky margaritas and a mescal-centric take on an old-fashioned. Purists can opt for two different curated flights, each showcasing the Mexican mainstay's complexity and versatility.
⑤ Lula (New Orleans)
Opened February 2017
Jess Bourgeois and Bear Caffery's Lula joins a growing lot of restaurant-distillery hybrids, a dining and drinking concept that takes the standard brewpub model and kicks it up a notch with more refined cuisine (i.e., not just burgers and fries) and a focus on house-made spirits. The sprawling 10,000-square-foot resto's menu takes a laid-back, local approach, listing adventurous, Cajun-inspired numbers like braised rabbit served with creamy white beans and pickled pork, as well as a gulf fish sandwich stuffed with fried local fish, bacon and coleslaw on soft Pullman bread. Lula's proprietary vodka, rum and gin also stem from the Pelican State, each distilled from sugarcane harvested nearby. Be sure to take a tour of the production facility before sitting down with a refreshing large-format cocktail like the cucumber-infused Vodka Collins or Planter's Punch made with local tea (both on tap), or go for a sparkling, hand-mixed French 75. Can't make the tour? No worries—the airy dining area has a clear view of all the action.
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⑥ Five to One (Washington, D.C.)
Expected April 2017
D.C. mixologist extraordinaire Trevor Frye (Dram & Grain, Jack Rose Dining Saloon) is venturing out on his own with this much-anticipated guaranteed hit in Adams Morgan. Five to One takes its cue from the District's famed venue, the 9:30 Club, so it's all about the music. Not much is known about the drinks program, but we trust it'll shine with Frye's genius, liquor-drenched mind. A second bar, Marble Alley, is said to be a decidedly less fancy joint, eschewing "craft cocktails" in favor of a more relaxed drinks list. A bartender through and through, Frye will also implement an innovative profit-sharing practice at both businesses, with part of the funds going straight into education for the staff.
The opening menu for @five_to_one_dc has been finalized and I cannot wait for it to go live! Winter flavors dance delightfully in the "Neighborhood Watch" . . Neighborhood Watch 1.0 oz Rujero Singani 0.5 oz Laird's Apple Brandy 0.75 oz Lime Juice 0.5 oz Aperol 0.25 oz Amaro Montenegro Bar spoon Simple 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters . . #dc #cocktails #fivetoonedc
⑦ Vault and Vator (Greenville)
Expected Spring 2017
American Grocery head bartender Kirk Ingram and chef Joe Clark are shifting from their renown Greenville restaurant over to this compact basement bar. Approachable sippers will be the name of the game, and the lineup is set to feature complex, pre-Prohibition-era classics (many, according to reports, revolving around different types of gin, a key turn-of-the-century spirit). These elegant sippers are meant to be enjoyed slowly in a fun, stylish environment. A few small plates will also be available to soak up all those potent tipples.
⑧ Bar Crenn (San Francisco)
Expected April 2017
Perhaps the second most exciting upcomer to make this list (sorry, Bar Crenn, it's tough to be The Aviary), legendary SF chef Dominique Crenn announced via Instagram plans to add a wine bar to her growing fleet. The comfortable vino outlet will share a courtyard with the chef's two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn, serving, as Crenn told the SF Chronicle last December, a "continuation where people have a space like their own dining room or their own living room." Soon, guests will be able to grab a much-needed low-alcohol cocktail or glass of red before settling in for their 20-course expedition next door or even elect to forgo the epic tasting altogether, sticking around for a few French-style small plates (and several more drinks) instead.
⑨ Lazy Bear Project (San Francisco)
Expected May/June 2017
This upcoming outpost has garnered a bounty of buzz in recent months and for good reason: The extravagantly priced Lazy bear has managed to make quite a splash in the Mission's competitive bar landscape. The as-yet-unnamed hideaway will concentrate on mastering the art of the mixed drink, with current LB bar director Nicolas Torres stewarding a program that includes a guided cocktail-and-food pairing option. Fans of the boundary-breaking OG spot will be relieved to know that the new iteration, based around an à la carte experience, is rumored to err on the more affordable side.
⑩ Bar Figueroa & Bar Alta at Hotel Figueroa (Los Angeles)
Expected March/April 2017
L.A.'s recently updated Hotel Figueroa has incorporated several fresh, European-tinged dining and drinking options into its repertoire, including two lavish bars headed up by illustrious barkeep Dushan Zaric (Employees Only, Macao Trading Company). The expansive two-story Bar Figueroa will sit just off the lobby, a coffee shop by day that moonlights as a wine and cocktail joint. Upstairs sits Bar Alta, an exclusive, 28-seat gem that operates with a reservations-only policy where lucky Angelenos can sample Zaric's latest creations.
⑪ Mikkeller (Downtown Los Angeles)
Opened February 2017
Downtown L.A.'s nightlife scene continues to explode, as evidenced by the arrival of this Danish brewery's vibrant SoCal hot spot. A full 62 taps line the sunny, garage-like structure's back wall, pouring both Mikkeller's house-brewed wonders, as well as a rotating lineup of select drafts sourced from all corners of the world and organized by temperature, rather than style or brand. The suds come accompanied by a dinner menu of tastefully prepared Scandinavian(ish) dishes like a "smørrebrød" of pork shoulder, cabbage, apple slices and rye bread; house-smoked veal, pork and venison sausages; and an entrée composed of monkfish, mussels, clams and squid, finished with Aleppo peppers and lemon. And while the drafts are undoubtedly Mikkeller's main draw, there is a lively catalog of craft cocktails on hand aimed at the beer-adverse.
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