It’s the thick of summer, and you’ve never been thirstier. Lucky for you, bartenders across the country are bringing their A-game this month. From movie-themed menus in Nashville to a bourbon-Tiki mashup in the heart of whiskey country, these are the 11 cocktails to drink at bars in July.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks in July? Try mixing The Niña, the Piña & the Santa Monica from this list at home.
Inspired by a family story of English immigrants landing in Rhode Island, Connie and Ted’s is an L.A. destination for New England–style seafood alongside fresh West Coast catch (don’t miss the R.I. rarity “stuffies”: clam shells stuffed with fried clam, linguiça sausage, garlic, butter and breadcrumbs). Beverage director Hoang Nguyen keeps drinks approachable and seafood-friendly. The Niña, the Piña & the Santa Monica goes tropical by way of California and Mexico with Bruxo No. 1 espadín mezcal, pineapple, lemon and honey, dotted with basil oil and fresh black pepper.
Get the recipe.
Reopening in Nashville’s Gulch late 2017, the pioneering 404 Kitchen houses a refined upstairs dining room, serving New American dishes like shrimp and avocado toast accented with lemon and crispy banana, and relaxed Gertie’s bar downstairs. San Francisco’s Christina Cabrera consulted on both drink menus, creating a film- and music-centric menu inspired by movies filmed in Nashville such as “Walk the Line,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and, oddly enough, “The Matrix.” The Folsom Blues tributes the Man in Black but also sings of summer and garden-fresh goodness with its mix of Cabeza blanco tequila, fresh tomatillo juices, Ancho Reyes Verde chile poblano liqueur and lime, spiced up with a Tajin rim.
School Night opened this spring by master chef Traci Des Jardins with Enrique Sanchez running the bar. Sanchez showcases agave spirits and American whiskey alongside pisco from his native Peru. As you fill up on queso fundido and roasted farmers’ market vegetables, the sleeper pisco hit is the Pura Uvas, a crisp beauty of Demonio de Los Andes albilla pisco, madeira and dry vermouth. The crushable summer crowd pleaser, however, is the Principal‘s Punch, a floral italia pisco punch mixed with pineapple, falernum, lemon and a touch of genepy.
San Francisco transplant Olivia Griffin moved to Louisville in 2014 to open her unique hat and apparel shop but noticed the city was missing a Tiki bar. So she opened The Limbo, which feels like a house party in a multiroom space lined with Tiki paraphernalia, vintage furniture, a jukebox and an inviting patio that hosts midnight limbo dancing. The drinks are straight-up Tiki with a nod to Kentucky, like the classic Painkiller, made with Old Forester bourbon, coconut cream, pineapple, orange, nutmeg, and a honey and shaved coconut rim.
Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar shimmers at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, a historic beachside, 1930s clubhouse and ballroom recently opened, hosting an international guest bartender series, a traditional Italian aperitivo hour and a cocktail menu from bar manager Jacopo Rosito and head bartender Valentino Longo. Tributing elements of the Amalfi Coast— sun, lemons, flowers, soil, sea and coffee—the Terra is the earthy spirit-forward side of the menu. This riff on the Old Fashioned features hazelnut-infused Bulleit bourbon, date honey syrup, Bonollo Of amaro, Gonzàlez Byass PX sherry, pimento bitters and truffle saline solution.
The Moonlighter’s Zone Negroni is as refreshing and bright as it is bitter and herbal. Opened by Scofflaw Group late 2017, The Moonlighter’s festive patio is already a Chicago favorite on warm days for burgers, beer and easy cocktails (with fireplaces for the colder days). Alongside large-format cocktails, drinks like the Zone Negroni may not push boundaries, but they quench thirsts, in this case with a pleasing mix of London dry gin, Dolin blanc vermouth, Noveis antico amaro and a sprig of rosemary tying it all together.
Located in Vancouver’s ever-lively Gastown neighborhood, Tuc Craft Kitchen is less a cocktail destination (with some hit-and-miss drinks) than it is aamaro spot for farm-to-table tavern food. But the Coffee & Cigarettes is a robust drink that evokes a coffee and smoke break with smoky Laphroaig Quarter Cask scotch, the bitter-sweet balance of Amaro Montenegro, bracing espresso and spiced Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters.
Showcasing local ingredients and California ease, Barbareño is one of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants since opening in 2014. Owner Julian Martinez has fun with dishes like root beer Mongolian brisket in bao buns and Santa Maria–style tri-tip. Wine director Lenka Davis’ city-savvy wine list veers toward thoughtful natural and biodynamic wines, while beer director Doug Boring crafts low-proof cocktail beauties. Try his Cappelletti Spritz combining Cappelletti aperitivo, Bordiga Extra Dry Vermouth di Torino and Kreinbacher sparkling wine from Hungary, splashed with house seltzer and a squeeze of Meyer lemon grown on their patio.
Etch has been a downtown Nashville favorite since 2012. Sommelier Katelyn Kupiec (who helped open Husk Nashville) keeps it breezy and fun on the cocktail side with drinks that implement vegetables and fresh produce. The Percy’s Request is a tribute to the night that rock legend Robert Plant dined at the restaurant and requested a rum cocktail. Ask the staff to fill you in on the story, then drink the results. Seemingly simple, the drink is actually a vibrant showcase for the sugar cane funk of Brazilian Novo Fogo Chameleon cachaça, brightened by lime, grapefruit and brown sugar.
Open at the end of May on a sleepy Outer Richmond corner near the ocean, Pearl debuted by the owners of tiny, pioneering Pizzetta 211. A café by day and seafood- and pasta-centric restaurant at night, Pearl welcomes you with big windows and cozy tan banquettes. Bar manager Nahiel Nazzal crafts a six-cocktail menu of apéritifs and classic twists that sing with dishes like white Bolognese handkerchief pasta or silky crudos. Drinks are often named after plants and flowers native to San Francisco and the nearby coast. Try the Scarlet Columbine, which melds Old Grand-Dad bourbon and red wine with sage tea, pink peppercorn and lemon for a summery twist on a classic New York Sour.
Open February 2018 from the prolific Agricole Hospitality (AH) team, Night Heron is a relaxed neighborhood bar serving drinks and dishes inspired by the travels of AH owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber. Houston native Julie Rogers (formerly of Coltivare and Down House) crafts a menu playing off cocktail classics with unique house twists. Taking inspiration from a cool lemon icebox pie, Rogers reimagines a standard 1860s Collins with tart lemon-lime curd and hibiscus grenadine, mixed with a beautifully bitter almond grappa, herbaceous gin and a mineral splash of Topo Chico.
Mixing your cocktail