8 Bartenders Pick the Most Romantic Bars in Their Cities

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Commonwealth in Las Vegas

The ingredients for a romantic bar are seemingly simple: flattering light (dim but not dark), a stellar soundtrack and top-notch drinks. But there’s a little more to it than that, a little something else that causes couples to cozy up a little closer, that makes a place worth a visit and a revisit. A night with intimacy in mind requires the perfect spot, and these eight bartenders and beverage managers/directors have picked their favorite haunts where they feel the love.

1. Rob Giles (Beverage Director, Until Tomorrow)

Romantic pick: The Binc (New York City)

“My quintessential romantic bar has to be dark and intimate with a long sexy bar. And good food doesn’t hurt either!” says Giles. “The Binc has this in spades. The cocktails are top-notch, the atmosphere is designed for small laughter and close conversations, and the pastrami tacos are bangin’. All in all, The Binc is an out-of-the-way place that really delivers to those who seek it out.”

2. Justin Kaderabek (Bar manager, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio)

(image: Galdones Photography)

Romantic pick: The California Clipper (Chicago)

“My girlfriend and I will go to The California Clipper a lot when we’re having a date or night or just looking for a good drink,” says Kaderabek. “They have great cocktails, perfect lighting and live music every day in a classic Chicago setting. The Clover Club drink is fantastic, and if I’m not getting a cocktail, it’s usually an affordable beer, which is what most cocktail people crave from time to time.”

3. Brandy Cross (Bartender, Easy Bistro & Bar)

(image: Heather Ann Thomas)

Romantic pick: Matilda Midnight (The Dwell Hotel, Chattanooga, Tenn.)

“Set under hundreds of twinkling lights, Matilda Midnight is dark and cozy and the perfect location for a romantic evening,” says Cross. “This place oozes romance from the walls. I feel like I am in a mythical, dreamy, dark and mysterious Wes Anderson film the minute I step foot inside the bar. It’s easy to go in and feel like you’re in a different era entirely, which makes it a fun destination for a drink with someone special. The last time I was in, I had a delicious cocktail called the Devil. It had a hot pepper pisco, ancho reyes chile, cucumber and an apricot/cherry syrup. The drink was also romantic; it was spicy but refreshing with some subtle fruit notes. It’s everything you want in a romantic night!”

4. Lynnette Marrero (Beverage Director, Llama Inn)

(image: Eric Medsker)

Romantic pick: Slowly Shirley (New York City)

“I would always recommend Jimmy Kearns’ Slowly Shirley,” says Marrero. “I love the cozy vibe that subterranean New York bars have. It’s a charm that is unique to the city—the hum of the subway passing, the idea of being hidden away from the hustle and bustle. The music is low so you can have a great conversation with your date—or the bartender. The light is low but not so low that you can’t see who you’re with or read the menu, and there are banquets that allow a little bit of privacy. Garret [Richard] makes creative Tiki drinks that warm my Puerto Rican rum-loving heart, but the drinks are rooted in classics with beautiful twist. I’m obviously a fan of the Clara Bow, a modern classic that Jim and I made together back in the day.”

5. Nikos Mantzaridis (Head Bartender, Gin + Collins)

(image: Adrian Gaut)

Romantic pick: Broken Shaker (Freehand Hotel, Miami Beach)

“One of my favorite romantic spots is right near Gin + Collins where I work: Broken Shaker at the Freehand hotel,” says Mantzaridis. “The vibe has a modern, hipster style with guests from all around the world, and an intimate patio packed with a variety of plants, flowers and a pool. I don’t like sticking with only one cocktail, but their punch is out of this world.”

6. Dan Rook (Head Bartender, South Water Kitchen)

(image: Colin Beckett)

Romantic pick: Billy Sunday (Chicago)

“Billy Sunday has a very relaxed speakeasy atmosphere: The lighting is dim, the music is never too loud, and the space is intimate,” says Rook. “The service is always warm and professional but not overbearing or pretentious. They have one of the best ever-changing cocktail lists in the city, so it’s easy to get lost in conversation about just the cocktails alone. I usually start with a cocktail (or two) and end with one of their incredible selections of fernet. They have an entire section of their back bar dedicated just to different styles of fernet (one of my favorite spirits), so they never disappoint.”

7. Grant Wheeler (Beverage Director, Den Hospitality)

(image: Polina V. Yamshchikov)

Romantic pick: Roman’s (New York City)

“My wife and I are newly married (it’s different but also the same), and our romantic spot is Roman’s in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene,” says Wheeler. “We almost always sit at the bar, across from [bartender] Ryan [Seaton] sometimes. He’s lovely, and so is my wife, especially when she eats pasta and drinks Italian wine (usually oxidized or skin-contacted orange wines). She drank orange wine when I proposed, clumsily, at another un-clumsy Roman romantic restaurant, Maialino. Roman’s always feels lively and filled with people who come to be both among others and alone. Sometimes we see people we know from real life; sometimes we see people we know from magazines or electives from college who are here living their real lives, being romantic, just like us. Everyone is nice and patient, and everything tastes good, or maybe that’s just because we’re together.”

8. Catherine Hsu (Beverage Manager, China Poblano)

Romantic pick: Commonwealth (Las Vegas)

“The Laundry Room inside Commonwealth is nice; it’s reservation-only, and the cocktails are designed specifically for your taste preference,” says Hsu. “I like Herbs & Rye, too. I suppose that can be considered romantic with the prohibition cocktails, leather booths and dark mood lighting. On the strip, I like Mandarin Bar on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking the strip. It’s very romantic, but I’m a local now, so it’s off the strip for me!”

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