One of the great joys of traveling is having a cocktail at an amazing bar, and we’ve had some truly unforgettable experiences. Over the years, we’ve begun to keep a list of establishments that all drinkers should visit at least once in their lifetimes.
From a bar in Sweden made completely out of ice to a faux-speakeasy in New York, here are 15 awe-inspiring watering holes that should be on your bucket list.
(Have you been to any of these bars? Are there any others that we should check out? Tell us on Facebook!)
Hidden down a tiny street in London, this famed bar in the Dukes Hotel is a must for Martini lovers. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was a regular; it’s where he ordered the classic Martini variant the Vesper, which made an appearance in Casino Royale. Not in the mood for cocktails? The hotel also offers a cognac and cigar garden.
35-36 St. James’s Place
Tel: 44 0207 491 4840
(Photo courtesy Alessandro Palazzi)
The secret telephone-booth entrance to this award-winning East Village speakeasy (the name stands for Please Don’t Tell) is worth a visit alone, but the cocktails are world-class. The establishment is overseen by top mixologist and Liquor.com advisory board member Jim Meehan, and managed by cocktail champion Jeff Bell. You’ll enter through neighboring hot-dog joint Crif Dogs, and once inside the bar, you can even order dogs and tater tots with your drinks.
113 St Marks Place
New York, NY
Tel: 212 614 0386
(Photo courtesy Michael Taft)
This historic Havana bar has been open since 1817 and was run for years by master mixologist Constante Ribalaigua Vert. It was also a favorite of Ernest Hemingway’s, and it was here, according to legend, that the iconic Hemingway Daiquiri was invented. So if you find yourself in Cuba, you need to order one of its five Daiquiri options and toast Papa.
Tel: 53 7 867 1300
(Photo courtesy Historic Photos of Ernest Hemingway, Turner Publishing)
Bartending isn’t just a job in Japan but also a respected art form. And one of the best places to experience this kind of service is at Tokyo’s intimate Bar High Five, which is run by all-star mixologist Hidetsugu Ueno. There’s no formal cocktail menu at the bar, but Ueno is known for his take on the White Lady—no matter what you end up ordering, it will surely be delicious.
No. 26 Polestar Building, Ginza 7-2-14
Tel: 81 3 3571 5815
While France may be best known for its amazing wines, The Hemingway Bar, located inside the deluxe Hotel Ritz in Paris, has attracted worldwide acclaim for its cocktail menu. All-star bartender Colin Field ran the establishment for decades and developed an international following. The bar (and the hotel) are currently closed for renovations, but they’re set to reopen in December of 2014 with Field once again behind the stick.
15 Place Vendôme
Tel: 33 01 43 16 30 30
Every drinker needs to have Salvatore Calabrese make him or her a cocktail at least once. The master mixologist has worked at several top London bars and now runs his eponymous lounge at the city’s private Playboy Club. (Don’t worry; the bar is open to the public.) Not only are Calabrese’s drinks delicious, but he also has an amazing collection of vintage cognacs and other spirits on hand. In 2012, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for mixing the world’s oldest and most expensive cocktail.
14 Old Park Lane
Tel: 44 0207 491 8586
There are Scotch bars and then there’s the Quaich. It is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves holding nearly 700 different bottles of whisky. As you can imagine, the menu is huge and it takes some time to choose a dram. The establishment is located on the River Spey in the heart of Scotch-distilling country. It’s less than 5 miles from where The Macallan, Glenfiddich and The Glenrothes (among others) are made.
Tel: 44 0843 178 7114
There’s no doubt that tiki cocktails are back, but there are just a few surviving original tropical spots left from the heyday of the ‘50s and ‘60s. So if you’re a rum lover, you’ll definitely want to stop by Los Angeles’ Tiki-Ti, which serves a mind-boggling selection of nearly 100 cocktails. It was started in 1961 by Ray Buhen, one of the original barmen at Don the Beachcomber’s, and now Buhen’s son and grandson run the legendary watering hole.
4427 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
Tel: 323 669 9381
It’s hard to imagine how a bar that’s only been open since the beginning of 2013 made it onto this list, but as soon as you step into this Irish-style pub in New York’s Financial District, you’ll understand. The Dead Rabbit has everything from sawdust-covered floors to an impressive drink menu including old-timey punches and 72 historically accurate cocktails. Founder and general manager Sean Muldoon and bar manager Jack McGarry both came from the award-winning bar in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel, and they haven’t stopped racking up accolades. At this past summer’s Tales of the Cocktail convention, The Dead Rabbit was named the World’s Best New Cocktail Bar and also won for World’s Best Cocktail Menu. And McGarry took home the title of International Bartender of the Year. You’ll have to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
30 Water Street
New York, NY
Tel: 646 422 7906
(Photo courtesy Andrew Kist)
Usually, we try to spend as little time as possible in airports (and even less in their under-stocked, overpriced watering holes), but Terminal E of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is a completely different story: It’s home to One Flew South. This traveler’s paradise is the finest airport bar we’ve encountered and offers a list of unique craft cocktails, like the Santana’s Daughter, a mixture of jalapeño-infused tequila, beets, cardamom and lime. It also serves a full menu of sushi and “Southernational” dishes inspired by food from all around the world.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Terminal E
6000 North Terminal Parkway
Tel: 404 816 3464
(Photo by James Camp, courtesy of Green Olive Media)
There are some unique bars out there, but Red Square is definitely one of the most unusual: It boasts a lounge inside a giant freezer that’s stocked with more than 200 types of vodka. (If you venture inside, the spot will provide a fur coat and hat.) But this joint isn’t in Moscow; it’s in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay casino resort.
3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV
Tel: 702 693 8300
Want to head back in time? Enter the Sazerac Bar inside the historic Roosevelt Hotel, which first opened for business in 1923. The establishment underwent an extensive restoration several years ago, but it’s retained its old-world charm. It once was the regular haunt of Ramos Gin Fizz-loving Governor Huey P. Long, who had a permanent suite on the hotel’s 12th floor.
123 Baronne Street
New Orleans, LA
Tel: 504 648 1200
This lavish hotel bar still features the same ornate wood décor as it did when it opened in 1907. It also stocks an extensive list of bourbons and wine. During Prohibition, the Seelbach Hilton Hotel that houses The Oakroom was popular among gangsters and bootleggers coming to make deals at Kentucky distilleries. According to legend, Al Capone frequented the watering hole and often used it as a poker den. With all that history, how could you stay away?
500 South 4th Street
Tel: 502 807 3463
We can practically guarantee that this is the coolest bar around, since it’s inside Jukkasjärvi’s Icehotel. Yes, the above-the-Arctic-Circle hotel and its bar are almost completely constructed out of ice; even the Martini and Champagne glasses are carved from ice, so you can have your drink in the rocks. The joint is rebuilt anew each winter and will be up and running for the coming season by early December.
Tel: 46 0980 66 800
With more than 500 whiskies hailing from 18 countries around the globe, Nihon is a whisky-lover’s dream. (The bar carries the largest selection of Scotch on the West Coast, with more than 200 single malts alone!) The best part? All the spirits are available by the taste, full pour and bottle. (If you splurge on a bottle, you can even store it in a private locker until your next visit.) The San Francisco spirits haven also serves excellent sushi—what more could you ask for?
1779 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA
Tel: 415 552 4400
Mixing your cocktail