The Best Bars and Bartenders in America
We just celebrated National Cocktail Day, so we thought we’d dedicate this post to Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, which is one of the world’s leaders in education, support, and advancement of the cocktail and beverage community. Each year, TOTC hosts one of the industry’s best-known (and best-attended) events in New Orleans, Louisiana. Seminars, competitions, and industry presentations mark the weeklong festivities, which culminate in an awards ceremony for a huge collection of hospitality and beverage professionals. Last year, we were honored to receive the 2022 Specialty Spirit of the Year award for Batch 22 and we’ve been enthusiastic about supporting the organization ever since.
In preparation for taking part in this year’s festivities, we researched some of the TOTC highlights of the recent past. As we searched, we found the listings for last year’s winners in a broad range of categories. TOTC supports the beverage industry across the globe and has numerous awards for international bars, restaurants, hotels, and bar teams. They recently released an excellent interactive map that contains listings of outstanding bars all over the globe. You can find it here:
Interactive map of the best bars in the World from Tales of the Cocktail Foundation:
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on the best cocktail bars and bartenders TOTC honored last year. Rather than simply list the winners, we’d like to tip our hat to all the nominated bars and bartenders from 2022, with the understanding that being nominated was, in itself, a huge achievement. Great bars and bartenders are perhaps the most valuable colleagues that we have as beverage producers. These are the folks that work the front lines; their innovation and consumer knowledge are some of our most valuable assets. Our hope is that you’ll have an opportunity to visit and patronize one or some of the places on the list that follows.
TOTC’s 10 Best Cocktail Bars in America
Bar Goto (New York, NY)
Lower East Side, this Japanese-centric bar offers Izakaya twists on lots of classic cocktails, including drinks that mix sake with tequila, gin, vodka, and mezcal.
Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (New Orleans, LA)
A Tiki-inspired lounge with a Mid-Century vibe serving a wealth of rum punches and other island favorites, such as Mai Tais, Zombies, and coladas.
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (Phoenix, AZ)
A huge and impressive collection of spirits is at the core of this establishment in downtown Phoenix. Their list of stylish and sophisticated cocktails is, evidently, a work of art in itself and is only available on location or for purchase online at their web store.
DrinkWell (Austin, TX)
A deep and interesting lineup of creative cocktails that utilize the most ubiquitous spirits behind the bar. Vodka, gin, whisky, mezcal, and bourbon form the foundations of most creations, with the most intriguing being the Streetcorn Named Desire, which is comprised of Old Forester bourdon, El Dorado aged rum, Eloté liqueur, coconut cream, Amontillado sherry, coconut-washed mezcal tincture, tiki bitters, and smoked paprika. A nice touch: Listed with each cocktail is the name of the mixologist who created it.
Julep (Houston, TX)
Southwestern-style downhome bar that offers cool cocktails comprised of creative infusions and lots of herbal and floral components. The most interesting cocktail is the Boomslang: Zucchini-infused vodka, Cocchi Americano, Absinthe, and Walnut Oil.
Katana Kitten (New York, NY)
Hip, cool space in lower Manhattan that offers unique Japanese-influenced interpretations of classic cocktails. Their Hinoki Martini features Junmai Daiginjo sake and Hinoki tree essence, and their riff on a negroni contains iichiko saiten shochu (barley spirit), umeshu (plum liqueur), and kinome (minty peppery herb).
Occidental (Denver, CO)
A counterculture attitude drives this punk-tinged bar, which serves classics as well as numerous interesting house cocktails, many of which incorporate various sweet ingredients, such as Oreo, butterscotch, chocolate, pumpkin, and a vast array of infused simple syrups. Most intriguing cocktail: Cosmic Autumn Rebellion, which contains gin, Pimms #1, amaro, lemon, cinnamon syrup, Angostura & sage bitters.
Pearl Diver (Nashville, TN
A low-key, casual spot that offers a wide range of cocktails inspired by warmer climes, such as Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Would love to try the Cross Continental Romance, which is made up of rum, guava shrub, honey, lime, aquafaba, and red wine.
The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)
A chic industrial space with high ceilings and lots of air, the house-created cocktails on this menu have a distinct flair for the dramatic. Ingredients like charcoal powder, edible liquid silver, butter powder, and maguay sap are components of some of the most innovative drinks, one of which, the Black Pearl, is served in a clove-smoked treasure chest.
Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, CA)
A cozy neighborhood bar inspired by the American South that offers an impressive range of cocktail styles, ingredients, and flavors. Most cocktails are interesting in their combinations of flavors, and notable for their simplicity, such as the Barcelonnette, which is comprised of mezcal, Suze, passionfruit, and lime.
Sidebar: We were extra happy to see that Little Rituals at the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott in Phoenix, Arizona, was nominated for Best Hotel Bar. Back in the days before our launch, when we drove across the country Beta-testing Batch with bartenders and managers in 14 states, Little Rituals was one of our favorite places (and biggest fans).
Best Bartenders in the U.S.
Chris Elford at Trade Winds Tavern, Navy Strength, Rob Roy, Here Today Brewing, (Seattle, WA). Go-to cocktail: Sazerac with a Daiquiri back.
Josh Davis at 16th Street Bar (Chicago, IL). Go-to cocktail: Sidecar.
Chris Hannah at Jewel of the South (New Orleans, LA): Go-to cocktail: French 75.
Caer Maiko Ferguson (DrinkWell, Austin, TX) Go-to cocktail: Riffs on a Piña Colada.
Chris McMillian at Revel Bar & Cafe (New Orleans, LA) Go-to cocktail: Mint Julep.
Christian Suzuki-Orellana at Wildhawk (San Francisco, CA) Go-to cocktail: Lipstick Memory.
Shauna O’Neil at Sweet Liberty (Miami, FL) Go-to cocktail: Ramos Fizz.
Kapri Robinson at Allegory (Washington, DC) Go-to cocktail: Gin anything (Gimlet, Martini, Tonic).
Masahiro “Masa” Urushido at Katana Kitten (New York, NY) Go-to cocktail: Shiso Gin & Tonic.
Christine Wiseman at BarLab Hospitality Group (Miami, FL) Go-to cocktail: Shooters or vodka with a splash of grapefruit soda.
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