Just because February is short on days doesn’t mean it should be short on drinks. This month, while bartenders from Brooklyn to Berkeley shake things up with new ingredients like sugar-kelp-infused gin and carrot eau-de-vie, get out there and make up for lost time. These are the 11 cocktails to drink now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks in February? Mix the Happy Pill from this list at home.
In Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, Elsa’s subtly retro design pulls from Art Nouveau and Art Deco with its cozy booths and magical back garden. The menu goes elegantly playful with the Contortionistic Jazz Exotica, an icy combo of its salted watermelon frosé and frozen black pepper Moscow Mule. The Werewolf Season is a cocktail from co-owner Scott Schneider. Featuring St. George Absinthe Verte and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, the herbaceous spice-laced drink is balanced by lime, honey, fresh orange juice and egg white with an earthy, spicy kick from Mexican mole bitters and grated cocoa.
Just opened this summer, Lono’s striking space goes low-key Tiki with soothing bamboo, palm wallpaper and potted palms. Owners Austin Melrose and Zach Patterson offer both classic and house Tiki drinks. The Ring of Fire veers away from rum but retains the Tiki spirit with El Silencio mezcal, aged cachaça and Aperol liqueur, enlivened by lime, pineapple, ginger, Thai bird’s eye chilies and togarashi spice mix and served in house-monogrammed glasses.
Prime + Proper just opened in November 2017—an opulent, modern steakhouse in Detroit’s historic Capitol Park neighborhood. Beverage director and New Orleans transplant Jonathan Shock ensures the cocktails keep step with the prime cuts. The Solstice Song is a winter beauty of cognac and Madeira enhanced by fig jam, vanilla and egg white, highlighting the dried fruit and nutty notes of the spirits and garnished with vanilla beans and an orange peel.
The Snug is a lofty new S.F. bar with a cozy “snug” corner lined with vintage board games and black-and-white photos. Bar manager Jacob Racusin’s cocktails brighten up winter, including an almost healthy-tasting, fresh aloe vera and wheatgrass tequila drink. A big seller since opening, the Prickly Pear is green and earthy with mezcal, amaro, habañero tincture and lime. The concoction turns pink from fresh prickly pear juice and is garnished with booze-steeped nopales squares.
Meauxbar delights with the likes of French onion grilled cheese sandwiches and almond-crusted Gulf fish amandine at the edge of the French Quarter. Its cocktails are no slouch either, each named after its featured spirit. With the Cognac, wintery goodness comes in the form of fresh cranberry juice tempered by Punt e Mes vermouth and sherry, given nuanced spice from a house-made molé.
Bringing a legit cocktail bar to S.F.’s sleepy Parkside neighborhood along the Pacific Ocean, White Cap invites with a sleek fireplace and reclaimed driftwood walls contrasted by teal banquettes. Surfer and local Matt Lopeza opened the bar at the end of 2017 with surfing pal and drink vet Carlos Yturria, who utilizes his sherry expertise in a sherry section of the menu. Yturria’s cocktails run both spirituous and light, like the softly creamy Monkey Wrench mixing coconut milk with lime, Havana Club Añejo Clasico rum and a touch of the sea with house-made seaweed syrup and a dried nori (seaweed) garnish.
Even with recent chef changes, Retreat Gastropub in St. Louis is drawing in regulars with a playful winter cocktail menu from owner Travis Howard and bar manager Tim Wiggins. Each cocktail is named after and inspired by a ’90s television show, like the Fresh Prints, nodding to Will Smith’s star-making sitcom. The cocktail is a tropical-yet-savory drink of Caña Brava white rum, Macchu pisco, passion fruit, grapefruit, lime and nutmeg, with a little added savory, silky intrigue from a touch of white miso.
Hidden above Australian restaurant Burke & Wills in a 19th-century parlor on the Upper West Side, Manhattan Cricket Club feels like your own private Old World apartment for quality cocktails, lined with cricket memorabilia and liquor lockers for members. No, you don't have to be a member to drink here, but members can drop in any time, while nonmembers might wait for a seat if the intimate space is full. Founder and general manager Tim Harris crafts balanced cocktails like the Invisible Rabbit, which shows off the richness of Bruxo No. 2 pechuga mezcal, the funk of Paranubes Oaxacan rum, the bittersweet kick of Campari liqueur and the piney resin contrast of Skinos Mastiha spirit, with a vegetal mist of carrot eau-de-vie.
Since opening in 2013, East Bay Spice Company has grown to be a respite amid the college bars surrounding the UC Berkeley campus. Alongside curries, samosas and tikka masala flatbread, the laid-back bar turns out a new menu of Indian-inspired drinks in a passport cocktail menu illustrated by Dave Stolte. The Fireside Chaat is a tart, spiced and vegetal winter sipper. A house-made biryani masala mix enlivens the base of Carpano bianco vermouth and Ancho Reyes Verde chili poblano liqueur with Small Hand Foods passion fruit and lime.
Chica is chef Lorena Garcia’s haven for Latin cuisine inside of Las Vegas’ sprawling Venetian hotel. The cocktail menu keeps step, offering proper Spanish G&Ts and drinks like the Happy Pill, Chica’s balanced version of a Tiki classic, the Painkiller. It combines Don Q Cristal rum and Plantation rums and a subtle dose of fresh orange and lime juices, coconut cream and grilled pineapple, served on crushed ice.
Chef Robin Song’s live-fire cooking is killing it at the sleek new Gibson, but so are beverage director Adam Chapman’s cocktails. At first glance, the drinks list looks like a who’s who of the classics, but a closer examination reveals some big surprises. The French 75, for instance, is fermented, while the Sea cocktail employs a house infusion of nori and liquid sugar kelp in gin. The Clear Bloody Mary is a silky burst of clarified heirloom tomato water and a blend of shōchū, aged sake, togarashi, shoyu ponzu and a black-pepper tincture, garnished with pickled tomatoes.
Mixing your cocktail