This March, bars from Santa Barbara to Brooklyn are taking comfort in Tiki, experimenting with sherry and playing with rarities like malort and pommeau. These are the 11 hottest cocktails to drink in bars this month.
Can't get out to any of the bars serving these great drinks in March? Try making the Kon-Tiki Grog from this list at home.
The recent addition of head bartender Michael Kudra (from The Aviary in Chicago) puts Quince’s cocktails on par with its Michelin-kissed Italian cuisine. Kudra boldly goes grappa-forward in The Tempest, infusing the grape-based brandy with butterfly pea flower and Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes for bold color and floral flavor, cooled by a Meyer lemon sorbet and dotted with gold flakes and fennel flowers.
For a dose of low-proof goodness, the Paint It Gold drinks light and elegant with a white wine base that’s given backbone with a touch of cognac and subtle tropical vibe from Jamaican spices and citrus. After sipping one in Cane & Table’s beautifully crumbling back patio, you’ll think spring has finally arrived.
The long bar at Sunday In Brooklyn is the ideal perch for filling up on buckwheat sourdough bread with salted beer butter or togarashi chicken drumsticks. Claire Sprouse’s cocktails are meant for easy drinking, including the Jub Jub Bird, a house-made blend of Jamaican rums balanced with Madeira, soft pink honey and J. Rieger & Co. Caffé amaro.
San Francisco’s new Spanish tapas destination, BarVale, opened in December with chef Patricio Duffoo’s delectable hot and cold tapas, Spanish-style Gin & Tonics, Spanish wines, sherries and sherry flights. Spanish-born Jessica Everett crafts cocktails that highlight the restaurant’s robust sherry and gin selection. The Foxglove shows off the nutty, dry notes of amontillado sherry with a bitter whisper of amaro, the almond-ginger of falernum, and a touch of creamy coconut and lime, imparting an almost tropical vibe with a Spanish soul.
Charleston’s South Seas Tiki Lounge goes full-on Tiki but with a dash of modern understatement. Classic cocktails are served side by side with coconut shrimp and poké bowls for a little Hawaiian flair. The Hell’s Gate drinks cool and refreshing with a base of eight-year-old aged rum and Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb, accented with spiced honey, lime, pineapple, a garnish of dehydrated pineapple and a float of black strap rum.
L.A.’s Bar Clacson shakes up easy-drinking cocktails alongside beer, wine, cider and cocktails, all served on draft. It’s hard not to love the crushed ice goodness of a well-made swizzle, and Clacson’s Prospect Park Swizzle doesn’t disappoint: a layered flow of silver rum, aquavit, lime juice, sugar, fresh mint and Peychaud’s bitters.
At West Loop Spanish restaurant Salero, beverage director Suzie Whitacre beats back winter with house-made ingredients like a roasted butternut squash, black cardamom and sage-steeped shrub with sherry vinegar for acidic balance. The Heart to Handle takes that shrub and adds to it a Kentucky duo of Four Roses bourbon and Copper & Kings American brandy, along with some Lustau vermut. Served on the rocks, the spiced earthiness and shrub’s acid intermingle with the soft, sweet yet robust edges of the squash, bourbon and brandy.
Chad Nielson likes to craft cocktails featuring under-the-radar spirits like kummel or aquavit. Request his off-menu Buana Larang (Indonesian for “forbidden world”) or just ask for the apricot arrack drink. It plays like a classic Savoy cocktail circa 1930s, made current with a base of Batavia-Arrack van Oosten accented by apricot liqueur, a touch of Wray & Nephew overproof rum, Peychaud’s bitters with tamarind and lemon for subtle tart-acidic backbone.
San Francisco’s Chris Cosentino took his meat mastery to Portland when Jackrabbit opened last March in The Duniway Portland Hilton. Cocktails aid in the protein-a-palooza that takes place in the retro-cool dining room. The Crank is served tall on the rocks, featuring Del Maguey Vida mezcal and the fresh apple complexity of Pommeau de Normandie, accented with basil, lime and agave. The sal de gusano rim is optional but adds a “just right” savory touch.
Head under the palapa at Oakland's new Kon-Tiki for chef Manuel Bonilla’s addictive pupu platters and killer burgers, paired with Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan’s rum and Tiki drinks. The Kon-Tiki Grog is a riff off a classic Trader Vic’s Grog whose secret weapon is Hamilton Jamaican pot-still black rum. That brings the molasses funk contrasted with tart Small Hand Foods passion fruit syrup, lemon, lime and Angostura bitters in a drink that might read simple but is one the most rewarding on the menu.
Harlem farm-to-table restaurant and natural wine bar Clay is just as thoughtful about the cocktail side of its menu, thanks to bar director Andrea Needell Matteliano, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. She favors local spirits and hyperseasonal ingredients. The Nine Below Zero showcases the dill-caraway notes of aquavit against a backdrop of Icelandic birch schnapps, Bäska Snaps malort, New York state maple syrup, orange bitters and smoked salt, garnished with a bay leaf.
Mixing your cocktail