Alcohol Professor's 10 Best Bars In the U.S.
Here at The Alcohol Professor we’re all about spreading the love around. When it came time to write an article about the 10 best bars in the United States, we didn’t want it populated almost exclusively with joints from New York, or San Francisco, as so often happens. (No fault to NYC or SF, you do great work—but so do other places!) Below, you will find a fastidiously researched list of America’s best bars, spread out over the entire country, with no city overlap. [Editor's note: It's our first real Top 10 List, so we thought we'd start with a Top 10 of everyone's Top 10. These are the drinking establishments that everyone insists are the "If you have only one night in ____ this place is not to be missed" places.] Enjoy!
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog (New York City, NY)
After The Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards bestowed upon it the titles of World’s Best Bar and World’s Best Cocktail Menu, (elaborately designed each season in the form of a graphic novel), it became clear that this New York City Irish pub run by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry should probably be at the top of our list. In addition to their world-class cocktails served up by a talented roster of bartenders, they boast a menu of 147+ Irish whiskeys, a large selection of craft beers, and two distinct areas on different floors: the lower-level, working-class-esque ‘Taproom,’ and the second-floor, upper-class ‘Parlor' (the third floor is currently being renovated for use in the future and is available for events.)
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)
If you’re a fan of whiskey, this historic pub located on Boylston Street near Fenway Park will really whet your whistle. More than 200 whiskeys, including hard-to-find bottles, flights, and an ever-changing selection of the bar’s own personally-selected single barrels are available for your throat-burning enjoyment. A great cocktail menu, outstanding oysters, and a terrific dinner menu round out the bar’s attributes. Oh, and don’t shy away from the “Whole Roasted Pig Dinner For 10”, either.
Monk’s Café (Philadelphia, PA)
You know a bar is going to have a great selection of beer when they hand you the “Beer Bible” instead of a menu. More than 300 beers, including what might be the best selection of Belgian drafts anywhere in the States, are available daily from 11:30am to 2am. Their selection of bottles is organized by country, which should help you get over the initial decision paralysis. One more thing: if you’re a seafood fan, go for the mussels – you can get a pound and a half for about 17 bucks, and they come styled in eight different ways.
Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, DC)
Located less than a block from the White House, this bar has history on its side – it first opened its doors in 1856, and has had the pleasure of serving many (if not most) U.S. Presidents. Seasonal as well as signature cocktails abound, and a local favorite to try has to be the Bloody Maryland (their spin on the classic Bloody Mary, with jumbo shrimp and Maryland mainstay Old Bay seasoning). You’re going to want to take a gander at the walls, too – they have an incredible antique stein collection, as well as some taxidermy courtesy one Teddy Roosevelt.
The Aviary (Chicago)
Winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program, The Aviary is a gorgeous, top-notch experience: From the 12-course cocktail tasting menus, to the custom ice program featuring 25+ types of ice, to the amazing three-or-five-course food and cocktail pairing menus, they really didn’t leave a single detail out. Good luck getting in, however – there’s no phone number and you can’t make a reservation. Three kinds of tickets are sold on their website, or you can try your luck at the door as they accept walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Williams & Graham (Denver, CO)
This popular cocktail bar, located on Tejon Street in Denver, CO, was just named Best American Cocktail Bar at the TOTC Spirited Awards, so we’re pretty sure it’s deserving of inclusion on this list. As you enter the establishment it appears at first to be a quaint bookstore – that is, until the hostess opens the secret door (disguised as a bookshelf) to reveal a gorgeous, prohibition-style speakeasy, filled with expertly crafted cocktails and gastro-level cuisine. We will say you should be prepared to wait -- on the weekends especially, upwards of two hours can fly by before a spot opens up.
Vesper Bar (Las Vegas, NV)
Located inside the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Vesper Bar is a chic, sophisticated cocktail lounge that focuses on the “molecular” side of mixology: think edible cocktails, bizarre infusions, and re-creations of long-forgotten recipes. Never fear if you want to play it safe, however – they also boast a large selection of tequilas, beer, and wines by the glass. (And yes, in case you were wondering: the name of the bar was inspired by the classic cocktail from the James Bond novels.)
Noble Experiment (San Diego, CA)
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in to this enormous bar in San Diego are the skulls. Yes, there is an interior wall adorned entirely with gold skulls, creating what I would describe affectionately as a “Temple of Doom” effect. So, if that’s your thing, then awesome. Otherwise, focus on the fact that this place specializes in creating custom-to-order cocktails: walk up to the bar, tell the bartender you want a drink, and let him take care of the rest. Head bartender Trevor Easter wants it that way, so go ahead and oblige him – you won’t be disappointed.
Trick Dog (San Francisco, CA)
An all-around great neighborhood establishment, from the food and drinks to the music and atmosphere. Their claim to fame is that twice per year, the entire place undergoes a complete revamp of the menus and décor – keeping it fresh, hip, and never the same place twice! That, and many other reasons, must be why The San Francisco Chronicle’s renowned restaurant critic Michael Bauer has awarded Trick Dog three stars on two separate occasions – the only bar/restaurant in SF that can say that.
Ray’s Boathouse (Seattle, WA)
Two things about this gem on the very tip of Seattle strike you first: the views, and the numbers. Located on Shilshole Bay, the panoramic sunset vistas are some of the best you can find on the West Coast – the perfect spot for a romantic evening. And now to the math: Ray’s has a menu that includes more than 400 bottles of wine, 40 signature cocktails, and 20+ beer taps. Needless to say, they’re going to have something you want to drink. Pro tip: try the Alaskan King Crab legs, or the award-winning grilled sablefish.