7 Excellent Bars That Focus on a Single Cocktail
Intense dedication to a singular drink can open up a whole new world of flavors
A few years ago I walked into a new-ish Brooklyn cocktail bar and was handed an Old Fashioned menu.
As in, a dedicated menu just for a drink that’s usually associated with a whiskey, bitters and sweetener makeup. Given that I was probably going to order an Old Fashioned, this special and restrictive menu immediately brought me great joy (they know me!), relief (no drinks FOMO or Paradox of Choice) and made my final cocktail decision, oddly, much more interesting.
See, I knew the drink I wanted. With that selection checked off in advance, I could now focus on particular flavor profiles.
That bar discovery led me on a brief (and fruitless) quest to find other venues that specialized in just one drink. Turns out that concept doesn’t really exist for very obvious reasons, some creative and many financial — people like variety, and they’ll probably leave if they can only order a Negroni, margarita or Irish coffee (turns out that Brooklyn bar I found was only doing dedicated Old Fashioned menus on a single night per week, coincidentally the night I walked in).
But several upscale bars around the world actually do offer special menus that will focus on the nuances of one particular tipple, even as they serve up other mixed drinks. With that in mind, here are seven boozy establishments that craft unique, inventive and extensive remixes of a particular classic cocktail.
For Negronis: Bar Termini (London)
This tiny Soho cafe serves delicious coffee by day and a variety of pre-batched Negroni variations — including ones that are extra aged or infused with rose petals or pink peppercorns — by night. Bonus: You can take ‘em to go or get for delivery (if you’re in England).
For Cosmopolitans: Dante (NYC)
Surprise! A previous World’s Best Bars winner, this West Village staple gets love for its Negronis, but the bar also offers multiple variations on martinis, spritzes and, surprisingly, this ’90s crowd-pleasing classic, which gets its own dedicated menu space. Here’s hoping Carrie Bradshaw and co. brave a few sips of the mezcal-tequila-pasilla-cranberry “Rude Cosmo” in the upcoming Sex and the City revival.
For margaritas: Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen (Santa Fe)
Given that Santa Fe literally has its own Margarita Trail (featuring over 40 participating bars), it’s a good bet you’ll find at least one good place in town to enjoy this classic tequila drink. Start here, as Maria’s offers up to150 variations, with a focus on the spirit, fresh fruit and no sweeteners.
For gin martinis and G&Ts: Atlas (Singapore)
A dedicated gin team at this Singapore bar will help you sift through 1,300+ gins (some dating from 1910) for your martini or G&T — they may even need to utilize a pulley to grab your tipple from the gigantic backbar. Or you can spend a little extra to get dedicated time examining their literal “Gin Tower Experience,” which includes a bespoke gin and tonic. As for martinis, one of Atlas’s own concoctions — featuring a house orange gin, blanc vermouth, chocolate bitters and mint — playfully redefines the cocktail category.
For Mules: Rachel’s Ginger Beer (Seattle)
While you’re limited to one brand of ginger beer at this Seattle chain, there are multiple flavors to craft your ideal boozy mule (from pink guava to caramelized pineapple, plus seasonal flavors). And for the booze, you’re not limited to the classic Moscow Mule — besides vodka, you have options with dark rum, whiskey, tequila and gin, plus a few frozen variations.
For Irish Coffees: The Buena Vista Cafe (San Francisco)
The birthplace of this boozy coffee favorite — an ideal winter sipper — serves more than 2,000 Irish coffees per day, at least in pre-COVID times. While you can still try the classic (Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, Peerless Organic Coffee, C&H Sugar and Heavy Cream), the cafe also offers eight variations, including ones with brandy, Frangelico and peanut butter whiskey (not all together).
For Old Fashioneds: Rainbow Lodge (Houston)
Wild game and seafood are the specialties at this 100+ year-old log cabin-based restaurant, located along the banks of the White Oak Bayou in Houston. But the Old Fashioned menu here is somehow both succinct and extensive; there’s a whiskey riff (with Texas ingredients), but also rhum agricole, gin and mezcal variations, along with unexpected riffs that include Calvados, Mexican coke syrup and sarsaparilla bitters.
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