Spring is in full bloom, and with it, garden-fresh ingredients like basil, fennel and avocado play alongside icy buttered Tiki drinks or turmeric coconut milk in cocktails from coast to coast. These 11 national bars and restaurants are serving unique cocktails worth drinking this month.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks this month? Try mixing the Anti-Inflammatory from this list at home.
An homage to a bar originally opened by Clifford Clifton in 1932, Pacific Seas at Clifton’s tackles Tiki and the Golden Age of Travel. Enter an Art Deco Map Room (reserve ahead) to a wonderland that’s part Tiki, part “Swiss Family Robinson” and part “Treasure Island,” anchored by a vintage Chris-Craft speedboat strikingly cutting through the middle of the room. While on your South Seas adventure in the middle of Downtown L.A., order the Pearl Diver with its base of Guyanese and Puerto Rican rums. Doing a cold buttered cocktail is no easy feat, and with lots of experimentation and a few house tricks, the iced, buttered Gardenia coffee cocktail is a lesson in silky, icy texture, brightened by passion fruit.
Nashville’s renaissance of cool could best be represented at Urban Cowboy, a Queen Anne mansion restored as a funky B&B with cozy Public House in the back. Wood-fired food feels appropriate to the wood-and-brick-lined cottage and patio, flanked by a permanent food truck. Brice Hoffman and Matt Izaguirre collaborate on a cocktail menu that reads straightforward but incorporates thoughtful twists on classics and precise technique, including the use of pure, singular ice cubes to get frothy aeration when shaking drinks. Their version of a Basil Gimlet could define the blossoming of spring, starting with Gordon’s gin, Carpano bianco vermouth and lime/lemon. A house-made basil syrup, black pepper tincture and 50/50 mix of Fee Brothers and Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6 result in a vegetal, peppery beauty.
In a region that was instrumental in Tiki—from the launch of Trader Vic’s in the 1930s to Smuggler’s Cove setting the national standard for quality Tiki in 2009—Pagan Idol is one of the most fun Tiki bars in the country with its starry night sky, active volcano and hull-of-a-ship front bar. Bartender Dylan Duncan McRae does right by rum funk in his off-menu Don’s House at Sunset (tributing Don the Beachcomber). A base of Doctor Bird Jamaican rum is punched up from a touch of Rum Fire Jamaican rum. All that wonderful funk is tempered by lime, lemon, fassionola gold syrup and a float of cream sherry for a dry finish.
The Dawson is a Chicago gastropub staple with a multifloor layout, from a booth-lined main floor with wraparound bar and chef’s counter to a top floor complete with the fireplace-centered Devil’s Den. The outdoor terrace sports a fireplace to help warm chilly Chi-town nights. Pull up to the wraparound bar or a communal table for chorizo fondue and whole branzino alongside cocktails like the Desert Blossom. Pisco is infused with Moroccan spices, given layers of depth from touches of Dimmi Liquore di Milano, Madeira, apricot, lemon, chamomile and moscato wine, unfolding with flavors of vanilla, orange peel, nutmeg, cocoa nib and mild licorice.
Housed in the Kimpton Canary hotel, Finch & Fork is a restaurant that draws in locals and travelers and, thanks to lead bartender George Piperis, is one of Santa Barbara’s more notable cocktail stops. The Avocado Fix arrives lush yet dry with avocado adding a luxurious note to Banks 5 Island rum and velvet falernum. Green Chartreuse liqueur brings the herbaceous tones, while lime and cinnamon brighten the drink up. It’s an ideal tipple for a sunny SoCal day.
All-day restaurant and bar Makeready Libations & Liberation opened in the Noelle hotel at the end of 2017, serving chef Dan Herget’s elevated comfort food. The hotel’s general manager of food and beverage, Will Friedrichs, works some of the same magic he did at The Dewberry in Charleston in each bar, from the lobby bar, Trade Room, to the rooftop bar, Rare Bird. If you can find it, order the Show Pony cocktail in the hotel’s secret bar or all day at Makeready. This Tiki-like beauty mixes bonded bourbon with fresh coconut and pineapple, given herbal intrigue from Green Chartreuse liqueur and a spiced kick from an Angostura bitters float.
The heart of Hollywood is not typically where cocktail geeks go to drink, especially right off Hollywood Boulevard where tourists gaze at the stars lining the sidewalk. This makes Lost Property that much more of a respite with its extensive whiskey selection and chill vibe. The Viking’s Funeral is a treat for bitter and savory-herbaceous cocktail fans. A winning trio of Linie aquavit, Suze gentian liqueur and the caraway-cumin kick of kümmel, gets subtle, refreshing balance from grenadine, lime and bitters, garnished with torched mint leaves.
The cocktail name is full-on “Game of Thrones,” but the elegant, vegetal sipper, the Garden of Qarth, is pure Botanist, Vancouver’s ambitious 2017 newcomer at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel complete with molecular cocktail lab, restaurant and garden room. Beverage director Grant Sceney showcases earth, land, sea, fire and water alongside ingredients of the Pacific Northwest in his drinks. The Garden of Qarth is served long and tall with a smoky whisper of mezcal and the vibrant, vegetal green of a verde cordial, lime, fennel and Pernod absinthe, topped with sparkling water.
Bocce, pizza and spritzes abound in the massive Gio’s, which hit Berkeley summer 2017. The roomy space is ideal for you and a group of friends, but it’s also one of the East Bay’s stronger destinations for amari lovers. Boozy desserts feature amaro (like Angostura amaro mousse cake), and there’s a drink pairing for each, if you so desire. The Spumoni cocktail stands out, not only for the accompanying brittle made with pistachios from house-made pistachio orgeat but for its creamy blend of the aforementioned orgeat, Cocchi Americano aperitivo, bonded bourbon, Becherovka liqueur, lemon and cherry-cacao bitters.
Saffron NOLA is a heartwarming modern Indian restaurant from the Vilkhu family, long beloved locally for their pop-up restaurant. The elegant space is enhanced by general manager and bar director Ashwin Vilkhu’s cocktails, showcasing Indian ingredients while riffing on classics. Inspired by a bedtime elixir of warm milk, honey and turmeric (which Ashwin’s mom would give him before bed), the Anti-Inflammatory also plays off a New Orleans’ staple cocktail, the Brandy Milk Punch. The soothing drink luxuriously combines cognac with tumeric-infused coconut milk and honey syrup over crushed ice, garnished with a cilantro sprig and drops of chili oil.
New drinks and dishes are on the menu at The Douglas Room in the Tilden Hotel, and you’re going to want to get in on chef Glen Schwartz’s Chicago hot dogs or smoked duck pho. Mo Hodges and Brian Felley (also of Benjamin Cooper) have crafted good-time pick-me-ups, like the Roscoe’s Waffle House shooter, a buttered waffle cognac and rye whiskey maple syrup shot garnished with crispy chicken skin, a tribute to L.A.’s great Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. On the cocktail side, try the King of Siam, which goes the Thai route but rather than the usual gin or clear spirit base instead features a house-made scotch blend with a touch of Smith & Cross rum, Kalani coconut liqueur, Cardamaro amaro and Jamaican bitters plus a gin-based house-made Thai falernum laden with lemongrass, makrut lime and other Thai ingredients. It’s Thailand-meets-Scotland, both spirituous and breezy.
Mixing your cocktail