Even the casual tippler will find themselves sipping on a cocktail this month. Whether it’s an ice-cold Martini-Vesper hybrid or a zippy cumin-kissed pisco drink, winter needn’t be dreary, as bar managers from Dallas to Atlanta are proving. Head out to these bars and restaurants for the 11 hottest cocktails to drink now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks this month? Try making El Guapo from this list at home.
The Matrix re-opened this year behind bar masters Jacques Bezuidenhout and Ken Luciano (of Forgery and Wildhawk) with bar director Christian Clark at the helm. This fall, they opened The Concorde, a sexy bar within a bar that will routinely change themes and menus. The first theme honors London’s classic hotel bar scene of the early 20th century with the Duke’s Vesper Martini. This perfect Martini and Vesper hybrid (a blend of Fords gin and Grey Goose VX vodka) is prepared tableside, served ice cold with Lillet blanc liqueur, aromatic bitters and an orange twist. Splurge on the Langham Black Box Punch for the table accompanied by a cheese and charcuterie platter, and call it a night.
Going experimental and molecular in Dallas’ Deep Ellum ’hood, Hide still stays soulful despite its elevated use of smoke infusers and carbonators. Director of beverage Scott Jenkins brings his sommelier palate and art background to creative drinks like the Colonel Mustard, in the Study, with a Candlestick. This whimsical nod to the board game Clue starts just as you’d think: with mustard. With mustard seed infused in tequila, the cocktail also includes a lively mix of Strega liqueur, clarified lemon, aged gravenstein apple, white balsamic and agave. The result is a silky, layered drink of spicy mustard and baked apple, with a tart lemon pop on the finish.
New West Hollywood Peruvian restaurant Rosaliné’s secret strength is its cocktail menu, which features plenty of choices based on Peru’s signature spirit, pisco. One of the most unique standouts is the Bellicose Warrior, made with mesquite-smoked pisco turned a vivid yellow from Peru’s flavorful-but-not-spicy aji amarillo chile, as well as pineapple, lemon, orange curaçao and a savory caraway-cumin touch from Dutch kümmel liqueur.
The extensive but low-key cocktail list at Proof offers something for everyone, from easy drinking to geeky cool. The Reverb checks both of those boxes, appealing to drink industry and anise/absinthe fans alike with a base of Carpano Antica Formula vermouth and Henri Bardouin pastis, given spice and fizz from Proof’s house-made ginger beer and a splash of Avinyó brut cava and accented by orange bitters and lemon. The anise-fennel notes of the pastis shine but don’t overwhelm, and it all goes down smooth and refreshing.
In Napa Valley, a stay at an Auberge resort is always luxuriously pampering, and at the minimalist Solage, off the Silverado Trail, that’s certainly the case. Its restaurant, Solbar, recently brought on new chef Massimo Falsini from Rome who garnered a Michelin star when helming the kitchen at Harry’s Bar Roma. Pleasures on the drink side abound, including local wines on tap and cocktails that play with ingredients like kelp and nori. The refreshing Better Melon goes down easy yet is complex with J.M rhum agricole, honeydew liqueur and honeydew tarragon syrup lightened up with tonic. Agricole funk and honeydew freshness sing together, making this also ideal for daytime drinking poolside.
Opened last summer, aRoqa is already one of NYC’s modern Indian dining destinations, thanks to chef and owner Gaurav Anand’s inspired dishes. A standout cocktail from the seasoned bar experts is the Right Bank, a dreamy mix of J.M 100-proof rhum agricole and Ilegal mezcal, enlivened with red pepper purée and chipotle-cinnamon agave. The drink comes together with orange bitters and lime, cooling down spicy dishes as it brings its own balanced liveliness.
Houston’s widely celebrated restaurant Underbelly just launched its first cocktail menu in September, with a short list of classics alongside seasonal house drinks. The bar is run by Anvil Bar & Refuge vet Westin Galleymore, who also oversees Underbelly’s neighboring beer bar, The Hay Merchant. The Strong Curiosities is a boozy, bright, savory cocktail that’s primed for winter with its base of Dow’s white port and La Caravedo Torontel pisco, gone salty-tart with salted apple and balanced with subtly bitter undertones of Luxardo bitter bianco, then garnished with a salted Granny Smith apple.
None other than Josh Harris and Morgan Schick of BVHospitality (Trick Dog) crafted the cocktail menu at Villon, a striking restaurant and bar in the sleek new Proper hotel. The execution and service stand strong next to executive chef Jason Franey’s dishes—try his killer Everything Hawaiian Bread. On the cocktail side, the Earthquake Proof is an immediate standout. It’s an easy drinker of blanco tequila, crème de cacao and lime, kicked up with Coca-Cola. The secret that ties it all together? Savory balance imparted by a salty rim.
Since opening in 2011, One Eared Stag has been a revered Atlanta restaurant—the kind of place where cocktails keep step with chef and owner Robert Phalen’s acclaimed dishes. Beverage director Mikey Kilbourne crafts inspired drinks that might pull from kitchen ingredients or the seasons, as they are also inspired by the base spirit. Showcasing Mexican sotol, The Good Doctor is a cocktail of grapefruit and lime, bringing a tart brightness to sotol’s floral complexity, while house toasted rice syrup and grains of paradise spice blend add warm, wintery notes to undergird the classic Sugar Smacks cereal vibe you get from the rice syrup.
Eric and Shannon McQuilkin opened The Box Social in 2011 to fill in a gap in their Boise ’hood for a quality cocktail bar. Though the neighborhood has grown to offer a range of bars since, The Box Social remains one of those date-night greats, perfect for a mellow drink set to soothing green lamps and a mural of Portland. The cocktail menu is grouped by spirits, with a range of classics and twists on classics (like the PDX Sour, a play off a New York Sour). El Guapo is one of the house signatures, a long, tall drink of Corazón blanco tequila and fresh lime, vividly rosy with The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley El Corazon blend of passion fruit, blood orange and pomegranate. The drink is spiced with a salt and pepper rim and subtly smoky with Del Maguey Vida mezcal served in a hollowed out lime as a garnish.
As Lord George launched its third “Mavericks” guest bartender series in November, longtime bar and spirits great Brian MacGregor crafted a menu that pays homage to “underground icons of San Francisco,” complete with a mini book/menu detailing the history of quirky characters from the famed Bushman of Fisherman’s Wharf to the Tamale Lady with her iconic Mission tamales hawked out of a cooler. The Tamale Lady is also a standout cocktail and showcases Mellow Corn whiskey gently enlivened by Ancho Reyes Verde chile poblano liqueur, jalapeño syrup and lemon, with the green chile and pepper notes of the liqueur playing nicely with sweet corn and sour lemon.