Visit any Hawaiian resort and you’re sure to see dozens of sunbathers sipping frozen tropical drinks. While bars serving these “island” concoctions are still very popular (especially with tourists), there are also a host of Oahu establishments that have taken their cocktail programs to the next level. Here are some of my favorite spots to have a drink in the Aloha State’s capital.
Are you craving a refreshing Mai Tai, creamy Piña Colada or frothy Daquiri? Heard to La Mariana, the last authentic tiki bar on Oahu, which has been open since 1955. The menu here isn’t fussy but is instead filled with the old standbys plus a solid selection of local beers.
What to Drink: Li Hing Mui Margarita (tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, sweet and sour mix, li hing mui powder)
Lewers Lounge, 2199 Kalia Road, 808 923 2311:
The Lewers Lounge (pictured above) is a sexy, dimly lit jazz bar located in the famous Halekulani Hotel. The establishment’s bartenders were trained by Dale DeGroff, master mixologist and Liquor.com advisor, and Francesco Lafranconi, director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits. Head barman Tim Rita has soaked up the knowledge and serves delicious drinks with a deft Hawaiian spin.
What to Drink: Lost Passion (tequila, passion fruit purée, lime juice, simple syrup, Champagne)
Mai Tai Bar, 2259 Kalakaua Avenue, 808 923 7311:
Located just off the beautiful white sands of Waikiki Beach at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Mai Tai Bar is an ideal setting for enjoying a sunset or listening to some live music. Order one of the joint’s signature Mai Tais created by well-known local mixologist Joey Gottesman.
What to Drink: Mai Tai Degeneres (Bacardi Superior Rum, Domaine de Canton, orange juice, pineapple juice, Whaler’s Original Dark Rum)
Nobu Waikiki, 2233 Helumoa Road, 808 237 6999:
In true Nobu tradition, the Honolulu location is a showcase for internationally styled Japanese cuisine. And thanks to head bartender Dave Newman, the Waikiki restaurant is a destination for cocktails as well as for gourmet food. Order one of his creative drinks that incorporate a range of Asian flavors.
What to Drink: Nashi Martini (soju, pear liqueur, lime juice, honey gelée)
Thirtyninehotel, 39 North Hotel Street, 808 599 2552:
One of the most cutting-edge bars in Honolulu, Thirtyninehotel is in the middle of hip Chinatown. Award-winning local mixologist Christian Self devised the cocktail list, which features fresh island ingredients. Sip classic libations like the Grand Sidecar, Pisco Sour and Mai Tai or try an original recipe that takes inspiration from across the globe.
What to Drink: Hawaii 39 (sour cherry, prosecco)
Town, 3435 Waialae Avenue, 808 735 5900:
Town is your classic farmers’-market-friendly, organic restaurant with a no-frills décor. The focus here is the delicious food and drink. Head bartender Dave Power makes his cocktails with local ingredients and serves them in a classic style—no coconut-shell glasses or gaudy flower garnishes.
What to Drink: The Last Word (gin, Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime juice)
The bartenders at this brand-new trendy hotel got an education from Tobin Ellis, founder of Las Vegas cocktail consultancy BarMagic, and John Lermayer, an award-winning mixologist who runs Miami’s famed Florida Room. Enjoy tasty drinks inside at the Lobby Bar or outside at The Bar at Sunrise Pool.
What to Drink: Deconstructed Mai Tai (Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, orgeat syrup, orange Curaçao-lime-orgeat foam)
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.