11 Top Cocktails Around the US Now — Holiday Edition

Westbound, Los Angeles

Covering the 11 hottest cocktails of the month around the US at Liquor.com, you’ll find my bar and drink recommends over the holidays and the winter at these bars/restaurants (click on each for the featured cocktail):

Proof, Charleston — Pink Rabbit cocktail

Lighter Shade of Brown (Westbound, Los Angeles, CA)
Open since 2016, Westbound resides on the ever-changing eastern side of DTLA’s Arts District with cozy booths, copper bar and industrial views from the back patio. Besides showcasing “friends” drinks from other notable US bars, the cocktails here are a team effort. Esteban Ricardo De Luna’s Lighter Shade of Brown is one of the recent standouts, bringing holiday, “winter in LA” cheer. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, mezcal and amontillado sherry impart nutty-slatey-earthy spice, while a house tamarind agua fresca brings the refreshing tart. 

Silk Merchant (Bar Moga, NY, NY)
With a Japan in the Roaring ’20s theme, Bar Moga opened spring 2017, named after a moga, Japan’s openminded, 1920’s era woman who loved jazz and Westernized fashion. Subtle Japanese design and vintage ads set the backdrop for yōshoku-style (“western”-ized) bites. Becky McFalls-Schwartz’ (of Milk & Honey) cocktails also exhibit an East-meets-West ethos. Silk Merchant features milky, slightly acidic Japanese drink, Calpico, giving a tart perk to gin, lemon, shiso, cardamom and rose petal in a light, creamy drink that recalls England by way of Japan. 

Swedish Gold (Plaj, San Francisco, CA)
Remaining one of the country’s best Scandinavian restaurants since opening in 2012, Pläj (pronounced “play”) is a tucked away SF gem showcasing Sweden native Roberth Sundell’s inspired Scandinavian dishes. Alongside house-infused aquavits (traditional Scandinavian caraway dill liquor), cocktails shine when bartender Simon Vilhelmsson pulls from the culinary influences of the food. Swedish Gold does so beautifully, showcasing local SF Farallon Gin with a lively mustard dill shrub. The drink’s herbaceous, vinegar backbone is balanced out by lemon, honey and a dusting of cracked black pepper. With aged herring or rye crouton-dotted soup, it makes for an ideal winter pairing. 

Pink Rabbit (Proof, Charleston, SC)
Proof has been one of Upper King’s bar greats since 2012, a laid back spot that draws in the neighborhood, industry and travelers alike for well-crafted cocktails and chill vibe. Craig Nelson and crew turn out a range of beauties that drink well all year round. The dreamy, dessert-like Pink Rabbit brings a hint of summer to wintery spice with a house strawberry “quik” (strawberry jam, vanilla bean, milk) melding with the spicy-sweetness of Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Hendrick’s gin and mole bitters adding more earthy spice ideal for warming up winter chill. 

Mosquito (The Dorsey at the Venetian, Las Vegas)
A cocktail oasis on Vegas’ touristy Strip, The Dorsey at the Venetian is the kind of place where you might think you’d get yet another too sweet vodka drink typical in LV but even vodka drinks are balanced and refined, thanks to talented lead bartender Juyoung Kang (formerly of Rose.Rabbit.Lie., Comme Ca). On a menu created by famed NY bartender Sam Ross, shorties or mini-cocktails are among the standouts, especially the Mosquito. Vivid pink with Campari, mezcal, lemon and intense, spicy-fresh ginger juice makes it taste almost healthy. The tart-bitter-spiced-smoky sipper reinvigorates and awakes like a burst of cold winter air. PS: Watch for a slew of new cocktail geek-worthy bars opening in The Venetian over the coming months. 

Alpine Hippie Juice (MiniBar, Los Angeles, CA) 
Like stepping straight into mid-century Hollywood, the 1960s vibe and soundtrack at the delightful MiniBar is enhanced by the service of GM Jeremy Allen and team, alongside bites like Tokyo-style waffles dusted in togarashi and sesame. Hidden inside the Best Western Plus Hollywood Hills Hotel, a martini menu and well-crafted classics feel appropriate. The woodsy Alpine Hippie Juice cocktail sings of evergreen, Christmas-y winter thanks to fir, cedar and pine notes of Zirbenz Pine Liqueur. But the drink plays refreshingly dry shaken with lime juice and tart, tannic Clear Creek Creme de Cassis, topped with soda. 

Alpine Hippie Juice
1 oz Zirbenz Pine Liqueur
1 oz Clear Creek Creme de Cassis
.5 oz lime juice
Shake and strain into flute glass. Top with 1 oz soda water.

The Alejandro (Julep Cocktail Club, Kansas City, MO)
Julep Cocktail Club is a Kansas City cocktail favorite since debuting in 2014. Co-owner and bar manager Beau Williams (with wife and co-owner Keely Edgington Williams) crafts a drink menu of juleps and Old Fashioneds alongside seasonal drinks like The Alejandro. The cocktail rolls out with hints of smoke, bittersweet and chile spice. Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal and CH Distillery’s CH-Dogma Amargo de Chile get the lush treatment from cream, balanced out by turbinado sugar, dusted with nutmeg, releasing that molé spice and mezcal brightness. Consider it a cocktail aficionados’ unusual creamy Christmas drink. 

Peach Cobbler (The Treasury, San Francisco, CA) 
With its stellar sherry selection, talented bar staff and tasty lunches, The Treasury is an all-day cocktail destination in SF’s Financial District helmed by GM Ryan Hall. Pull up to the long, curved bar for unusual house blends or spirits barrels. Their house vermouth, cream sherry or mezcal blends are used as cocktail bases but also drink beautifully on their own. Peach Cobbler shows off the nutty and lush cream sherry (a blend of amontillado, oloroso, PX, palo cortado sherries), sweetened by housemade sous vide peach syrup, given smoky Scotch complexity from a barspoon of Ardbeg 10 year Scotch. Garnished with dehydrated peach chips and mint, the fruit will change seasonally but with dehydration and syrups, the drink celebrates summer in the dead of winter. 

Turbo Quaker (Hide, Dallas, TX)
In Dallas’ Deep Ellum ‘hood, molecular cocktail bar Hide remains playful and fun with its experimental drinks from director of beverage Scott Jenkins and crew. Turbo Quaker is a holiday-worthy imbibement meant for chilly nights. Bourbon is fortified with an infusion of steel-cut oats and a milk-washed applejack brandy, imparting a velvety mouthfeel to the drink’s apple-baked profile. Layers of flavor are compounded with sherry, cinnamon, walnut bitters and more frothy-silky texture (not to mention nutty goodness) from pecan orgeat and egg white. 

Basic Batida (Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, IL)
Chicago’s Tiki staple Three Dots and a Dash rolled out holiday-worthy sippers in its fall/winter menu from beverage director Kevin Beary, starting with a drink inspired off a classic Brazilian Batida cocktail. Basic Batida starts with fall notes in a pumpkin-washed overproof rum, then goes Brazilian with a touch of cachaca, wintery with Bual Madeira and coffee-infused Armagnac. Creamy and caramelized with dulce de leche, this holiday drink is blessedly not too sweet, although you can certainly call it dessert if you want to. 

Grapefruits of Wrath (Fiorella, San Francisco, CA)
Outer Richmond’s delightful Fiorella is an SF destination for excellent wood-fired pizzas, pastas and brunch with a heat lamp-warmed back patio lined with succulent plants and accented by cheery yellow against black and white. Fiorella launched their first low ABV cocktail menu this fall with Grapefruits of Wrath singing of a California winter (i.e. citrus). The drink features Pampleau aperitif grapefruit wine and lemon juice enhanced by Cocchi Americano, given spiced depth from Bittercube Corazon bitters. It goes down light and easy during brunch or Friday lunches as it does with dinner. 

The Treasury, San Francisco — Peach Cobbler