Cocktail Cities on The Rise

    Cocktail Cities on The Rise

    You’ve heard about the secret speakeasies of New York and the swanky cocktail bars of Chicago, but the super cool spot in Austin that cuts its own ice in a backyard shed? Probably not. It’s a spirited time in the United States, and serious libations have come to cities near and far. Today we’re taking a break from the old standards and celebrating the up-and-coming towns that are breaking out the shakers and giving drinkers new reasons to travel.  

    Austin, TX  
    Austin has been a classic dive bar, outdoor-drinking town until very recently. Bars like Half Step are giving the hip Texans that call this city home a reason to switch to spirts. Nestled amongst the beer-centric bars of Rainey Street (one of the city’s main drags for nightlife), this venue pours elegant classics onto gigantic ice cubes that are made in the aforementioned shed. For a younger crowd, head to to the uber trendy East Side Show Room. You’ll enjoy inexpensive, pre-prohibition (and cheap!) drinks with some background music provided by live (but unobtrusive) jazz bands.  

    Birmingham, AL
    Pop quiz: can you name the first five elements on the periodic table? It’s been a long time since you studied up on high school science, so don’t let the decor at the Collins Bar scare you. Behind the bar you’ll see a huge mural of that chat that gave you so many nightmares in ninth grade, but here it’s filled in with iconic characters and locations, not electrons and protons. This Southern town is more used to seedy joints, so despite Collins’ top-notch beverages they had to keep it a little casual. The vibe feels like a party at your coolest friends house - kick back, play some of the bar’s board games, and make yourself right at home.  

    Charleston, SC  
    This city is truly a Southern gem - much of it’s pre-Civil War architecture is intact, as is it’s charming, old-fashioned Southern Hospitality. No wonder it took so long for the bar scene to shake off a feeling of stuffiness. The Bar at Husk has evolved from a waiting room for neighboring restaurant Husk to a destination in its own right. Unless you get there at opening time, you’ll find a standing-room-only situation at this two-story brick building. Guests jockey for a seat at the bar to enjoy the punches and whiskey-centric cocktail list, along with chef Sean Brock’s crazily good bar food. When you try that fried chicken (or pimento cheese, or burger), you’ll see why the crowds are trying to get in here instead of the fancier restaurant next door.  

    For a late night Tipple, hit up The Gin Joint, also located in the historic downtown district. This easygoing joint is the bar for cocktail geeks - you name it, they can make it. It’s also the watering hole frequented post-shift by the town’s restaurant folk, which is always a good sign for quality.  These venues are bringing the town’s bar scene into the 21st Century, even though when you walk the cobblestone streets you’ll still feel like you’re in the 19th.

    Miami, FL
    In Miami, you can find bottle service at every poolside bar, lounge and club throughout the city. If you’re looking for a good Negroni though, you’re really going to have to search. A couple of haunts are trying to make that game of hide-and-seek a little easier. Broken Shaker, located in the Freehand Hotel, transports you to a scene in a Wes Anderson movie. You’re in a run down motel with a gigantic, woodsy backyard and drinks with names from you grandmother’s era are made modern and more delicious than you could imagine. Oh, and there’s a cart full of board games. Paging Bill Murray!  

    When you’re looking to satisfy your craving for Miami swank, you can do so sans bottle service at The Drawing Room. Located in the Shelborne Hotel, this lobby bar has the feeling of an sweet old-man’s club (lounge from Clue, anyone?) and savory, farm-to-glass drinks designed by cocktail maestro Albert Trummer. Fans of his know to expect some showmanship with their beverages, from the lab coats worn by the barmen to the fire show that comes when you order.

    Nashville, TN
    Get beyond the honkey tonks on Music City's main drag and you'll find a number of venues turning out cocktails that will make you think twice about the town's aggressively casual reputation. The liquid culture that's making inroads here wouldn't have been possible without Patterson House, the old-timey Midtown bar that muddled and mixed its way into the city's beer-soaked heart (bet you never saw egg-whites in a drink here before this joint opened). In the Greenwood neighborhood, you'll find Holland House Bar and Refuge, which uses seasonal ingredients in its "epicurean" cocktail creations and serves them in a speakeasy like setting.  

    For those who feel like diving into a gimlet without the Mad Men-era decor, the place to be is No. 308. You'll always be able to find a seat at this Lockeland Springs lounge, which is decorated with mid-century Modern design. There's a generous happy hour ($5 cocktails) and tasty bar snacks is giving this country music capital something new to sing about.  

    Phoenix, AZ
    The traditional testing grounds for chain restaurants in the U.S. is trying to move beyond the gigantic, overly sweet margaritas to something a bit more serious, and seriously tasty. It was notoriously hard to get a proper pour in the heart of Downtown before Bitter and Twisted opened. This new lounge sports a few rarities that are sure to perk up Phoenix drinkers. First, it serves food late and is open until 2 AM. Second, it is enormous on two fronts - the cocktail list is presented in book form, and the bar has more than enough room for all comers (it’s located in the Luhrs building - a historic landmark). And finally, we bet no one in Phoenix, or the rest of the country for that matter, has such a fetching mural of the 50 foot tall woman. We didn’t measure, but a quick gander indicates that the colorful artwork should have an “actual size” label next to it.

    Portland, ME  
    This coastal town in the Northern part of New England has some stellar views. Look out to the harbor to see lobster boats returning from their early AM runs, and look down at the city's recently opened bars to see cocktails that are pretty as a picture. The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is an industry favorite that stirs up the town's best craft cocktails. Their list is broken down into categories like "refreshing" and "adventurous" and there is an entire section devoted to Old Fashioneds. When you're ready for a bite, check out the Scandinavian inspired fare. Nothing goes with a barrel aged Negroni like some gravlax. 

    Article created on 02/02/2015

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