It’s summertime, when the days are long and drinking should be easy—and frequent. This month, bartenders dig deep into their bag of tricks, pulling out everything from Austrian carrot brandy to gin sippers inspired by “Seinfeld” episodes. These are the 11 hottest cocktails to drink in bars now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks this month? Try mixing the Velvet Sea from this list at home.
Part cabaret, part dinner theater, The Speakeasy lets you step back in time to the 1920s with a choose-your-own-adventure-night underground in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The cocktails keep step with the magic, thanks to producer and bar manager Geof Libby. This spring, they opened a cozy new bar within the speakeasy, Gaslamp Lounge. Alongside Death in the Afternoons and Sazeracs on the general menu, Gaslamp features outstanding house drinks. The Velvet Sea is a crushable showcase of funky Jamaican aged rum given tart and spice layers from velvet falernum, lime and a heavy float of Angostura bitters.
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Opened late 2017, The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club is hidden on the bottom floor via a back door off busy Gallatin Pike. But this laid-back bar is the antithesis of speakeasy snobbery. The décor mixes Art Deco and vintage pieces from a range of eras. Will Benedetto crafts a drink menu heavy on local spirits. The Appalachian Sour already feels like a Nashville classic of Jack Daniel’s and Tennessee's Green Brier white whiskey, brightened with lemon stock and given texture and color from charcoal, egg white and sorghum. The whole thing shimmers with a dusting of edible gold flakes as a garnish.
Across the block from the Capitol Records building, the new Kimpton Everly Hotel is a respite from the bustling, touristy flow of Hollywood Boulevard. Lead bartender and certified cicerone Dan Rook’s thoughtful creativity are on display at the spacious upstairs Ever Bar. A holdover from last spring’s 2018 Oscar-inspired drinks, the off-menu Ladybird is served with communion wafers and a house red wine blend that delivers a lambrusco-esque robustness, fortified by dose of Copper & Kings brandy, Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao and a touch of absinthe and cinnamon.
Rod Moore’s original Vancouver location of The Shameful Tiki Room is a true Tiki oasis right down to the pufferfish, bamboo, passing thunderstorms and dark storefront that belies the magic within. Classic Tiki and rum cocktails, from the Cobra’s Fang to Blue Hawaiian, are on hand and expertly executed. But don’t miss the house drinks on the menu. The Day of the Dead is a lively blend of rums and tropical juices perked up with bitters and Pernod absinthe and turned refreshing with a splash of soda.
Michelin-starred Lazy Bear is always adding new beauties to its cocktail menu, including What’s Up Dog? This elegant sipper features Reisetbauer carrot eau-de-vie alongside Monkey 47 Schwarzwald gin, Pampleau grapefruit apéritif, tarragon and lemon. The result? A dry citrus-forward garden of spring goodness.
A cocktail destination since 2012, Scofflaw turns out an array of gin drinks to suit every palate. Named after the “Seinfeld” episode in which J. Peterman travels to Burma and can’t find any pineapple in his fruit salad, the In Burma showcases St. George Terroir gin, with foraged botanicals brightened with pineapple juice and lime. Brovo Lucky falernum adds nutty spice, contrasting the Terroir gin’s forest of fir, laurel and sage.
Saffron NOLA has taken the Crescent City by storm with refined modern Indian cuisine served in a striking space of rust-colored velvet chairs and shimmering chandeliers. The Cognac French 75 is a riff on the sparking classic, spiced with chai and syrup and balanced by lemon, egg white and a generous splash of Champagne. The frothy drink is then dusted with ground Indian black tea and garnished with a strip of fennel.
The Norse Reviver cocktail at this Mediterranean restaurant combines a little Nordic flair with the elements of a classic Corpse Reviver. Made with an Älskar Aquavit Citron base, the Scandinavian spirit’s dill-caraway notes shine with lemon, gaining bitter-sweet-dry depth from Tempus Fugit Kina L'Aéro d'Or quinquina and Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao. A couple of drops of Turkish Efe Bogazici Fresh Grape raki adds a whisper of anise to the mix.
Smallman Galley Bar pours 20 beers on draft plus small-production wines served at communal tables. This spring, it launched a playful menu packaged in a classic viewfinder. (Past menus have come in the form of actual VHS tape covers or bound books recalling midcentury pulp novels.) Taking you back to the first time you tasted curry, the Baby’s First Curry features Maggie’s Farm dark rum and the anise notes of Batavia-Arrack van Oosten laced with curry syrup, aquafaba for texture, pineapple, lime and Wigle organic mole bitters.
Black Rabbit is located in a historic Printer’s Alley building, whose storied history includes housing Jimmy Hoffa’s attorney and part of Nashville’s Underground Railroad tunnels that lead slaves to freedom in the 1800s. Beverage director Troy Smith certainly does right by whiskey, in keeping with his past years forming the famed whiskey program at The 404 Kitchen. But he does right by most other spirits, too. The Charon’s Obol is a perfect summer drink with its Fidencio mezcal base enhanced by lime, the botanicals of Bloomery Cré liqueur and floral elegance of Golden Moon crème de violette. The whole concoction is kicked up a notch with heat from Bittermens Hellfire habanero shrub.
Last Rites calls itself a Polynesian noir getaway in San Francisco’s Castro. A backbar fashioned from an airplane fuselage helps set an Indiana Jones–meets–H.G. Wells vibe, while Sevan Araneda’s drinks veer tropical with fun names like Kali MA’s Doom. The refreshing Cadmael features a house-made tepache (Mexican fermented pineapple peel beverage seasoned with sugar and cinnamon) and kölsch beer layered with bourbon, orange juice, sugar and lemon. It goes down all too easily.
Mixing your cocktail