America's Best Cocktail Bars, Ranked
A good cocktail bar offers the great vibes, good-quality spirits and an innovative approach to mixology.
Sure, you can find a decent cocktail anywhere, but which cocktail bars across the U.S. are the crème de la crème? We've picked a solid 10 for you to keep in mind as you travel around the country.
Expect gorgeous settings, surprising ingredients and a guaranteed good time.
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Location: Los Angeles, California
Set in a building from 1933, the Harlowe has kept its Golden Era of Hollywood vibe. It gets full on weekends, but it's still mostly locals who want a chill place to dance and drink without navigating L.A.'s annoyingly exclusive club scene.
Sit on a leather booth and order a Mixed Messages, which combines vodka, cold brew, espresso, foro amaro and Mexican chocolate bitters.
Where to stay: The Hollywood Roosevelt
Location: New York, New York
This Greenwich Village institution has been around since 1915 and holds its own in a neighborhood where new trendy places constantly try to take up space. Originally an Italian cafe, this spot has received celebrities like Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Bob Dylan and Whoopi Goldberg.
While it's now reinvented itself as a cocktail bar, Dante continues to exude its dark historic charm. Try the Our Brooklyn Cocktail to keep it classic, and enjoy its Mitcher's rye and Cocchi Torino vermouth with raspberries.
Where to stay: Walker Hotel Greenwich Village
8. Comstock Saloon
Location: San Francisco, California
The competition for being innovative in San Francisco is brutal, which is maybe why we love Comstock Saloon. Rather than following the city's obsession with the new and high-tech, it's gone back to basics by renovating a 1907 bar.
While the first bar was frequented by mafia members and boxers quick to anger, this new iteration attracts locals who want to feel like they've left San Francisco for a couple of hours. Enjoy the nightly live jazz or come on Fridays for a free lunch. Not sure what to order? We love the Pisco Punch for using Peru's delicious but underrated spirit.
Where to stay: Hilton San Francisco Financial District
7. The Carousel Bar & Lounge
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
You can't go to New Orleans' French Quarter and not stop for a drink at the iconic Carousel Bar located in the Hotel Monteleone. The historic joint is famous for living up to its name, with seats available at the rotating bar.
But even if you can't sit at the carousel, you'll enjoy this beautiful spot, which has live music on weekends. The Carousel is so famous, that it has hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Michael Jordan and Tennessee Williams, who included it in two of his plays.
Where to stay: Hotel Monteleone
6. The Sylvester
Location: Miami, Florida
In any other city, we'd roll our eyes at the Sylvester's pinball machine and foosball table — something you'd expect in a fratty dive bar more than in a cocktail bar for those who've long stopped playing beer pong.
But this is Miami, and the city just knows how to skew the rules and make it work. Despite the gimmicky offerings, the Sylvester avoids being cheesy or tacky. On the contrary, it manages to add a tropical vibe that fits its curated cocktail list well. Get the Que Lo Que, which uses coffee, cold brew, orgeat, pineapple and Greek yogurt, and whose name is a wink to one of the Dominican Republic's most common slang sayings.
Where to stay: Hyde Suites Midtown Miami
5. Round Robin Bar
Location: Washington, D.C.
"Hamilton" fans who want to be in the room where it happens should make it a point to stop at Round Robin Bar when touring D.C. After all, the 1847 bar has seen many an informal political deal in its time. Besides receiving President Abraham Lincoln in its doors, it also served Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.
Politicians love to come here to blow off some steam. In fact, it was Henry Clay, a Kentucky politician, who came up with the DC mint julep (the bar's signature drink). Situated within the IGH-owned Willard Intercontinental Washington, it continues to be a place where decisions are made.
Where to stay: Willard Intercontinental Washington
4. The Violet Hour
Location: Chicago, Illinois
We kind of wish the Violet Hour wasn't so darn good because of its pretentiousness. It's not the T.S. Eliot-inspired name, nor the fact that it has a hidden entrance so only those who know about it know about it. It's more that the overall vibe is stuffy and that people will stab you with their eyes if you dare order a normie drink.
But for all its faults, the cocktail menu at the Violet Hour makes it all worth it. Each handcrafted cocktail is perfection, but we recommend the Porch Swing, made with bourbon, allspice dram, peach, pomegranate, hibiscus and lemon.
Where to stay: The Robey
3. Wright & Company
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Anyone who doubts that Detroit is making a comeback should visit Wright & Company. The elegant cocktail bar is set right downtown in what was once an industrial building. Its industrial-chic design is typical of the Detroit revival that is only set to continue expanding.
We recommend ordering the Don't You Dare, as it uses absinthe, a spirit that was quite the rage when the building was originally built in 1891.
Where to stay: The Siren Hotel
2. The Patterson House
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Largely considered one of Nashville's best cocktail bars, the Patterson House is a great place to enjoy bourbon. Sure, the place is a bit old-fashioned, but that's part of what people love about it. Bartenders will definitely enforce the "no cellphones" rule, which tends to force people to, you know, actually talk and connect.
One of the most popular drinks is Don Lee's Bacon Old Fashioned. Yes, it really does use bourbon that's been infused in bacon, along with coffee-pecan bitters and maple syrup. The drink might just be the most American cocktail ever made.
Where to stay: Kimpton Aertson Hotel
Location: Seattle, Washington
Canon claims to have "America's largest spirit collection" with 4,000 labels. The modern cocktail bar gives drinks the attention they deserve, coming up with inventive concoctions that it serves in lightbulbs, glass bowls and other unorthodox "glasses."
You'll be pleased no matter what cocktail you order. But if you want the thrill of the unknown, go for the I Don't Know: Surprise Me cocktail. You'll tell the bartender your base spirit of choice and give them creative freedom to come up with a secret cocktail just for you.
Where to stay: Silvercloud Hotel — Seattle, Broadway