It’s no secret that bartenders spend a lot of time in their places of work. They’re there for the hours when they’re actually on shift — prepping ingredients, mixing drinks, and cleaning up. They also spend time hanging around after shifts, chatting with coworkers and getting ready for the next day. It’s full-on, the bar game.
But sometimes bartenders want to branch out and see what else is out there, and the best way to learn what your fellow bartenders are working on, what’s trending, and sample innovative cocktails is to visit other bars and lounges. Allie Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City enjoys visiting other establishments, even traveling across the ocean to do so. One of her favorites is Lyaness (formerly Dandelyan), in London.
“It was crowned best bar in the world,” she says, “and as skeptical as I am hearing something like this, it did not disappoint. As a native New Yorker, we have an extremely high barometer for quality and I can tell you: this place is special.”
Besides the cocktails being wildly inventive, Torres was all about the Lyaness vibe. “The staff is so knowledgeable but also approachable. The energy in that room really sold me and rekindled my romance with true hospitality.”
Torres is not alone in her support of her fellow bartenders and mixologists. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their picks for the best cocktail bars in the world.
Raines Law Room (New York City)
Alexis Brown, founder of Causing a Stir in Chicago
Raines Law Room in New York (Chelsea). The experience is unique and truly about the guest. The bartenders are ambiance. You are one part of an overall experience where we see a lot of venues making the bar and bartenders the main focal point. The setup is perfect for a true team to succeed where no player is more important than the next and everyone relies of each other for a successful shift.
Beckett’s Kopf (Berlin)
Jenghis Manning-Pettit, lead bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore
Beckett’s Kopf in Berlin. I could talk about this bar forever. It’s a one-person operation most of the time and even has light fare. Located in an unmarked row home, seating is mostly lounge style. The bar is modest but well stocked with interesting local schnapps and all the bar staples. Every drink is made quickly, but with meticulous care and the lead bartender, Harry, seems able to work with a room full of people as easily as two guests. I’m counting down the days until I can go back and learn a little more.
Katana Kitten (New York City)
Mariel Burns, head bartender at Trademark Taste + Grind in New York City
Katana Kitten in the West Village of Manhattan is making cocktail bars fun again!
The staff, led by Masahiro Urushido (Masa), has a mission, and it is to make anyone who crosses through their doors to feel welcome and at home. The focus on service, combined with innovative yet approachable cocktails and food, make this my favorite spot to meet friends for a fun night out.
Get the Amaretto Sour with Sour Plum, Rye and Shiso! It is unlike any Amaretto sour you know.
Daniel Carrillo, bartender at STK Steakhouse in Nashville
Hands down Bastion in Nashville. You can get a cheap beer or a fantastic cocktail and it’s a very relaxed vibe.
Employee’s Only (New York City)
Phil Testa, Beverage Manager at The Rickey in New York City
Employee’s Only. I love the style of bartending they have and the art of it all. They all wear chef’s jackets behind the bar and don’t use jiggers, but the intricacy isn’t sacrificed. They also are incredibly hospitable and even though you may wait for a drink, the feeling of being delayed or ignored is non-existent.
They’ve got a good thing going over there.
The People’s Drug (Alexandria, Virginia)
Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
My favorite local cocktail bar is The People’s Drug. It’s such a treat to walk into a bar and get that craft feel. You can tell by the way the menu reads that you’re in for an experience. The menu is laid out by the style of the drink, and the bartenders craft the cocktail around your personal flavor profile. It’s a show that is great to watch, but even better to experience.
Black Diamond BBQ (Morristown, Vermont)
Brian Krux, mixologist and bartender at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont
Black Diamond BBQ is hands down the best cocktail bar in Vermont. Young Camden Waller is a mixologist phenom. Buried deep at the end of Stage Coach Road in Morristown, Black Diamond BBQ is the definition of a hidden gem.
Bar Marilou (New Orleans)
David Bliszcz, bartender at The Franklin in New Orleans
Bar Marilou. It is, without a doubt, my favorite new bar in New Orleans. Possibly my favorite bar, period.
Upon entering this sexy, swanky, plush library one can choose from a variety of intimate seating options. Split the pommes frites with crème fraîche and bowfin caviar or the absolutely decadent toasted cinnamon croissant with crushed strawberries, brown butter, and vanilla mousse with a date. Or grab one the classic titles from the shelves and have a read while enjoying the greatest frozen drink ever conceived: the Suze-centric, cassis-laced ‘Holy Mountain.’ This spot is even more charmingly French than the French 75!
The provocative parlor is punctuated by an outstanding vermouth and aperitif driven cocktail menu accented with some lovely non-alcoholic options.
Existing Conditions (New York City)
Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
Existing Conditions in NYC has struck a balance between nerdy mixology and approachable cocktails. Dave Arnold and his team have fine-tuned every aspect of their cocktails and have managed to quantify flavors like bitterness and sour and can tweak them at a whim.
Mr. Arnold wrote the book (literally) on how to dissect these flavors and communicates these skills to his guests in a delicious and approachable way.
Black Tail (New York City)
Nikki McCutcheon, beverage director at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in New York City
Over the summer, I spent a lot of time at Black Tail — which is owned by the same company as Dead Rabbit, who are known for their legendary cocktails. It’s located in Battery Park and has an extraordinary cocktail book. The ambiance of the Cuban, old world inspired venue sets the perfect backdrop for enjoying exquisite cocktails.
Service Bar (Washington, DC)
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
One of my favorite cocktail bars in Washington, DC is Service Bar. Every time I walk in the door, there’s something interesting going on—whether it’s a live band or an event. It’s such a great vibe and the cocktails are always killer.
Attaboy (New York City)
Brittany Villafane. head sommelier and mixologist at db bistro moderne in New York City
Attaboy will always be my favorite bar as I have been going here since the Milk and Honey days. Top notch hospitality with unpretentious bartenders who truly craft drinks for everyone’s palate. With only 30 seats you can always be sure that you are receiving old school attentive service and outstanding drinks.
Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago)
Dakota Marchio, lead bartender at Caroline in Austin, Texas
I went to Chicago in August and was blown away by Three Dots and a Dash because of the atmosphere, bar staff, and cocktails. Their bar within a bar concept Bamboo Room is a tiki craft cocktail experience unlike any I have ever had before. While Three Dots and a Dash was a full-blown party, this was the first time I have seen the style of craft and high-volume bartending work so fluidly in one establishment.
Hunky Dory (New York City)
Cameron Shaw, head bartender at The Lookup in New York City
Hunky Dory in Crown Heights is my favorite bar in the city. In order to build a sustainable world, we need to address the full range of human needs beyond the simple necessities. We need to figure out how to have luxury, community, and a little bit of indulgence because all of those things are human needs too. The drinks at Hunky Dory are thoughtful, totally delicious, and conscious of keeping our recreational drinking light on environmental impact.
Noble Experiment (San Diego)
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty in Carlsbad, California
I know that the “Speakeasy” theme isn’t as cool as it once was, but you would be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t deliver great quality cocktails. Noble Experiment in San Diego has always done a great job. If you’re looking for a cocktail theme that isn’t so “Prohibition centric,” False Idol in San Diego is a “Tiki” themed speakeasy and delivers great cocktails.
The Garret (New York City)
Lamarr Hawkins, bar manager at Brooklyn Cider House in New York City
The Garret in Greenwich Village is one of my favorite late-night spots. Their classic cocktails are on point and their signature cocktails are unique and fun. Always a great vibe inside and the mixologist are extremely welcoming to the point where you’ll struggle to leave.
The entrance is tucked in the back of a Five Guy’s — convenient for those last night cravings.
Better Days (Miami)
Samantha Barton, brand ambassador for Tequila Avión
Better Days in Miami. With most Miami bars being so in your face. Better Days is a local hangout with this amazing feel. At first glance it looks like a dimly-lit dive bar, with vintage decor, people playing pool and 90’s hip-hop playing in the background. But don’t be fooled when you walk in, they make well-balanced, mouthwatering cocktails. With a rotating drink of the day, ever-changing local beers and no cocktail menu, this bar gets me in my feels. Any place where I can get a succulent cocktail, but it feels like I’m hanging with my friends in my grandma’s basement… count me in.
Melrose Umbrella Company (Los Angeles)
Kelly McAuliffe, manager at Salazar in Los Angeles
Melrose Umbrella Company. Austin Melrose and Zach Patterson’s Melrose location continues to be fun, warm, and welcoming. It’s the kind of place you don’t mind day drinking on a Wednesday, and you are more than likely going to run into friends doing the same thing. But if you feel like dancing a Friday night away too, they’ve got you covered. And they continue to push creativity and quality in their drinks.
It’s the type of place bar folk want to gather and they often do. It’s just so fun.
Water Witch (Salt Lake City)
Christopher Stephenson, bartender at The Vault in Salt Lake City
Water Witch in Salt Lake City. Their cocktails are out there and playful. Often, they are themed around movies such as Harry Potter or Jurassic Park. This summer they had an ice cream truck-inspired menu. I’m a sucker for things that make me feel like a kid again.
The Spare Room (Los Angeles)
Alex Gregg, bar manager at Curadero in San Diego
The Spare Room in Hollywood. Why? Yael Vengroff. She runs the place and is the best bartender on the planet. She makes more drinks faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, is more attentive and hospitable than anyone you know, her drinks are always inventive and full of whimsy, and she truly knows how to party.