The Country’s Most Innovative Craft Cocktails

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The Lost in Translation cocktail is served at Dallas' Victor Tangos.

Whether made with unusual ingredients (mushrooms, almond fat–washed rum), served in unusual vessels (how about a punch served in a treasure chest?) or featuring trendy techniques, the US is awash in smart, forward-thinking drinks. We found 10 of the most innovative craft cocktails to drink right now.

(Photo courtesy Thomas Schauer)

1. The Betty Draper

Served At: Wallflower, New York City
The What and the Why: How do you say “apple-tini” in French? Here’s how: with an all-French lineup of spirits (Citadelle Gin, Drouin calvados) rounded out with dry manzanilla sherry, apple syrup, fresh lime, apple and celery, and celery bitters. Created by Xavier Herit, formerly of the highbrow restaurant Daniel, this drink has pedigree. And with its enviably bright Granny Smith apple-green hue, it’s every bit as crisp, fresh and tart as its Mad Men namesake.

2. Double Date

Served At: Third Rail, San Francisco
The What and the Why: Served at “San Francisco’s first jerky bar,” this date-infused Manhattan-Old Fashioned hybrid merits plenty of attention all on its own. It’s a perfect box-step of a drink, too, made with equal parts date-laced rye, George Dickel Tennessee whiskey, Punt e Mes and Cardamaro, and finished with a dash of house-made cinnamon bitters for enticingly spicy aromatics.

3. Mai Tai

Served At: Bacchanal, New York City
The What and the Why: Naren Young gives the classic tiki drink a double dose of nutty goodness: In addition to smoked orgeat (almond syrup), this Mai Tai is made with almond fat–washed Bacardi 8 rum. Young doesn’t stop there: Instead of lime, tart yuzu is subbed in, lightly sweetened with dry curaçao and punched up with Ancho Reyes chile liqueur. Smoky, spicy, nutty: This might be the most complex Mai Tai ever created.

4. Lost In Translation

Served At: Victor Tangos, Dallas
The What and the Why: This umami bomb is courtesy of bartender Alex Fletcher, featuring an oyster mushroom–thyme demerara sugar syrup that has been deeply reduced to an almost soy sauce-like consistency. The syrup is mixed with Cocchi di Torino and 12-year-old Japanese whisky and served in a glass garnished with a sesame seed-and-salt rim, plus a torched lemon peel and candied shiitake.

(Photo courtesy South Water Kitchen)

5. Lover’s Carved Heart

Served At: South Water Kitchen, Chicago
The What and the Why: Instead of maple syrup, bartender Brent Poole makes birch bark syrup, which he mixes with bourbon, amaro and black walnut bitters for a deep herbal-bitter effect. Bonus: That same house-made birch bark syrup can be mixed with soda water for a non-alcoholic sipper that resembles sarsaparilla.

6. The Rhubarb Mojito

Served At: Press at Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas
The What and the Why: Bartenders have been rumbling about rhubarb cocktails of late—something about the sweet-tart flavor profile and bright pop of pink inspires. Here, trendy rhubarb freshens the classic Mojito in the form of rhubarb rock candy syrup and rhubarb dry soda—plus the requisite fresh mint and lime, of course.

7. Treasure Chest No. 2

Served At: Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago
The What and the Why: Forget punch bowls: This rum-soaked libation, which serves six to eight, is served in a “treasure chest” accompanied by a bottle of Dom Pérignon. In addition to the rum and bubbly, Paul McGee’s pirate-inspired libation also includes blackberry, pomegranate, pineapple, lemon and falernum.

8. Uncle Jalapeño

Served At: Boilermaker, New York City
The What and the Why: This on-tap drink combines a multitude of up-to-the-moment trends. Created by mixology whizzes Erick Castro and Don Lee for the “beer and a shot” bar that opened this month, the drink combines blanco tequila, jalapeño pepper and “Prince Robot’s Pineapple Soda,” a house-made soda. The drink is then carbonated for three days and pulled from the draft as “a boutique highball,” Castro explains.

9. Warm Brandy Milk Punch

Served At: The Grill Room at Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans
The What and the Why: A spin on the classic New Orleans Milk Punch, this wintry sipper is made tableside in a coffee siphon. The top of the chamber is piled high with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, marigold flowers, pralines and white chocolate flakes, and the bottom chamber is filled with Landy VSOP Cognac and milk. The butane torch is lit, the liquid burbles into the top chamber to infuse, then the whole fragrant shebang is decanted into a snifter.

(Photo courtesy Prince Rumi)

10. Yum Kaax

Served At: The Black Ant, New York City
The What and the Why: For adventurous tipplers only, this tequila-based drink is made with house-made corn juice and wild Mexican herbs said to function as an aphrodisiac, and garnished with Sal de Hormiga, aka “ant salt.” (Yes, it’s made with powdered black ants.) Created by Jorge Guzman, this creamy, slightly savory libation pairs well with an order of Tlayuda con Chapulines (crunchy tortillas with sautéed grasshoppers).

More stories about the craft of today’s cocktail movers and shakers right this way.

Kara Newman is a New York-based spirits and cocktail writer, and author of Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books).

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