In the same way that there’s no better seat in a restaurant than one by the open kitchen, cocktail bars are now bringing the action up close and personal. Curious imbibers who want in on the methodology of their mixology will be way stirred by these six drinks made right in front of them via smoked glasses, drinks carts and spritzes built on the rocks.
Can’t make it to any of the bars serving these great tableside cocktails? Try making the Hipster from this list at home.
Available as one of four seasonal libations at this Hazel’s new spritz cart that delivers liquid refreshment “subito” comes this drink derived from spirits manager Nick Farrell’s favorite orders at a bar: a pint glass with a shot of aperitivo, ice and a canned beer poured on top. (He’s partial to Campari and gose but admits their aggressive flavors aren’t for everyone.) Here, a citrus-forward Crooked Run Heart and Soul IPA is slowly poured over Aperol stand-in Caffo Mezzodi L’Aperitivo Italiano, house-made orangecello and orange bitters, while a touch of salt tones down bitterness. “Instead of being a show here, [the cart] is both accessible and personal, kind of like a Bob Ross televised painting class.”
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Inside the sexy, posh lounge at Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel, the backbar touts a large island and lots of workspace, perfect for guests to take a peek at bartenders wielding luxe bar tools and high-end spirits. Their take on the Sazerac uses bourbon-cask-finished Martell Blue Swift cognac (the classic New Orleans cocktail’s original base), delivered to the table on a silver tray along with sugar and bitters housed in brightly colored glass perfume atomizers. The drink is served in a crystal rocks glass smoked with sweet-smelling tobacco, which adds to the sensory experience, according to beverage manager Anna Pereda Warren. “When our team is behind the bar, they are on a stage,” she says.
The Old Fashioned gets the campfire treatment at the lobby bar housed inside the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel. Orange peel, brown sugar cubes, and Angostura and orange bitters are muddled in a cocktail glass, then stirred with Bulleit rye whiskey and ice cubes. It’s all strained over an ice ball in an Old Fashioned glass and garnished with cherries and a flamed orange peel. Finally, the glass is transferred into a smoking box “to deliver an immersive flavor profile true to its name,” says lead bartender Danwel Olivo. “Offering an engaging tableside cocktail experience allows us to draw in new guests while keeping others coming back time and time again.”
Hidden basement bar Punch House takes a traditional approach to punch, starting with an oleo saccharum made with macerated sugar and citrus peels. Hot black tea melts the saccharum into a syrup, and the rest of the punch is built on top with Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège cognac, Hamilton Jamaican pot still rum, Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao, lemon, Angostura bitters and a 750 mL bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne, garnished with mint sprigs, orange wheels and grated nutmeg. The entire presentation happens at the table, starting with a brief history on punch, which dates back to the 17th century. Guests love it “for the same reason people like tableside guacamole,” says founder Will Duncan. “It’s interactive, delicious and memorable.”
The ingredients for this table-made Cuban rum tipple are pre-portioned in Mason jars and arranged in a vintage Montecristo cigar box. Zaya Gran Reserva 12-year-old rum is shaken with mint-infused simple syrup, lime juice and bitters, strained into a coupe glass filled with Champagne and garnished with fresh mint. As it’s being prepared, bartenders talk guests through the drink’s flavor profile and give pro tips, like smacking the mint to release the essential oils. “It gives them a better understanding of what goes into the drink,” says general manager Daniel Lewinsohn. “We’ve had guests tell us they loved the drink and demonstration so much that they’ve gone home to try to recreate it.”
Cane spirits lovers rejoice when they see the rum cart wheeling around this seafood and raw bar at The Yards Park that touts reserve bottles and cocktails mixed up close. The choose-your-own-adventure Rum Old Fashioned comes with a choice of rum (like Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva or Santa Teresa 1796 solera), one of three cordials (brown sugar, cinnamon or fig) and bitters (Angostura, chocolate or orange). “An Old Fashioned’s beauty is its simplicity—spirit, bitters, sugar and citrus,” says beverage director Brian Zipin. “Add a touch more bitters to balance the sweetness, and you’ll have an amazing cocktail that you can enjoy year round.”