Not only are we delighted at this development, but we’re also happy to report that there is a new generation of talented men and women behind these bars who often have their own fascinating stories. Whether self-taught or trained by a legend, these all-star mixologists are taking cocktails to the next level by opening ground-breaking watering holes, organizing popular events and winning prestigious awards and rigorous competitions around the country—and the world.
So allow us to introduce you to 10 of the best bartenders in the US. These talented mixologists are helping to change the way we drink. Cheers!
There’s fast, and then there’s Eryn Reece. In May, the New Yorker won the annual Speed Rack competition, which is a test of speed, accuracy and mixological prowess for female bartenders. (The best part? It also raises funds to fight breast cancer.) Reece, who originally came to the Big Apple to finish her undergraduate degree in art history, now splits her time between the famed tequila Mecca Mayahuel and the award-winning Death & Company.
(Photo courtesy Gabi Porter)
Sean Kenyon was literally born into the bar business: Both his father and grandfather worked behind the stick, and he has happily followed in their footsteps. He currently co-owns Denver bookstore-cum-speakeasy Williams & Graham, which was a finalist this year for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Bar Program Award, and he also runs the beverage program at the city’s Squeaky Bean.
Forget James Brown; the hardest-working man in show business is Bobby Heugel. Not only does he run the acclaimed Houston watering hole Anvil Bar & Lounge, but he and his partners have also built a small empire of bars, restaurants and even a coffee shop. His newest establishment is a spot called The Pastry War, which specializes in tequila and mezcal. And if that’s not enough, he is also president of Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, a philanthropic organization of restaurant and bar owners.
(Photo courtesy Julie Soefer)
Like many starry-eyed youths, Jeff Bell came to New York with nothing but a couple suitcases and a dream. After going through training for a job in finance, he realized he was better suited for a life behind the stick and worked his way from McCormick & Schmick’s to top bar PDT, which is run by famed mixologist and Liquor.com advisory board member Jim Meehan. In June, Bell was named US Bartender of the Year by the United States Bartenders’ Guild and Diageo World Class—how’s that for a meteoric rise?
(Photo courtesy Getty Images)
For years, John Lermayer has been working tirelessly to improve the quality of hotel bars. Thanks to his efforts, you can now find delicious classic cocktails in clubby Miami. And the new Regent Cocktail Club, located in the Gale Hotel, might just be his best spot yet. Try his Classic Daiquiri and you’ll want to take the next flight to the Sunshine State.
San Francisco watering hole Trick Dog was one of the most buzzed-about openings this year. The establishment was created by cocktail consultants The Bon Vivants, AKA the dynamic duo of Josh Harris and Scott Baird. After working at bars all over town and throwing legendary parties at Tales of the Cocktail and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, the pair decided to open their own place, and their deliciously creative drinks, including the Polar Bear, don’t fail to impress.
(Photo courtesy Allison Webber Photography)
We’re selfishly thankful that Sean Muldoon’s music career didn’t work out. The award-winning Irish barman is way too good behind the stick to spend his time on stage. We first heard about him when he was running the bar in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel, but he’s since move across the ocean to start The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in New York’s Financial District. Despite having been open less than a year, the establishment has already garnered three Spirited Awards at the 2013 Tales of the Cocktail convention.
(Photo courtesy Gabi Porter)
As did plenty of bartenders before him, Erick Castro started out slinging Cosmopolitans and Lemon Drops in college for some extra cash. But it didn’t take long for Castro to realize he wanted to get serious about the bar business, and he soon made his name running acclaimed San Francisco joints Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse. His latest venture is new San Diego watering hole Polite Provisions.
Kansas City, Mo., is world-famous for its delicious barbecue, but Ryan Maybee is helping to put the Midwestern city on the mixological map as well. In 2009, the KC native opened speakeasy-style bar Manifesto, and a few years later, he co-founded the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, whose second edition was held just last month.