11 Top Cocktails Around the US Now — May 2018

Finch & Fork, Santa Barbara — Avocado Fix

Covering the 11 hottest cocktails of the month around the US at Liquor.com, you’ll find my top national drinks now at these bars/restaurants (click on each for the featured cocktail):

Spring is in full bloom, and with it, garden-fresh ingredients like basil, fennel and avocado play alongside icy buttered Tiki drinks or turmeric coconut milk in cocktails from coast to coast. These 11 national bars and restaurants are serving unique cocktails worth drinking this Spring.

Can’t make it to any of the bars this month? Try making Anti-Inflammatory from Saffron NOLA at home.

Basil Gimlet (Urban Cowboy Public House, Nashville, TN)
Nashville’s renaissance of cool could be best be represented in Urban Cowboy in East Nashville, a Queen Anne mansion restored to funky-hip B&B with cozy Public House in the back, opened late 2016. Wood-fired food feels appropriate to the wood-and-brick-lined cottage and patio, flanked by a permanent food truck. Brice Hoffman and Matt Izaguirre collaborate on a cocktail menu that reads straightforward but incorporates thoughtful twists on classics and precise technique, including the use of pure, singular ice cubes to get frothy aeration when shaking drinks. Their version of a Basil Gimlet could define the blossoming of spring, starting with Gordon’s gin, Carpano Bianco Vermouth and lime/lemon. A house basil syrup, black pepper tincture and a 50/50 mix of Fee Bros. and Regan’s orange bitters result in a vegetal, peppery beauty. 

The Douglas Room’s King of Siam, San Francisco

Don’s House at Sunset (Pagan Idol, San Francisco, CA)
In a region that was instrumental in Tiki (from the launch of Trader Vic’s in the 1930’s, to Smuggler’s Cove setting the national standard for quality Tiki in 2009), Pagan Idol is one of the most fun Tiki bars in the country with its starry night sky, active volcano and hull-of-a-ship front bar. Bartender Dylan Duncan McRae does right by rum funk in his off-menu Don’s House at Sunset (tributing Don the Beachcomber). A base of Doctor Bird Jamaican rum (aged 6 years in Jamaica, then finished in Moscatel sherry casks in Detroit via its importer, Two James Distillery) is a given a kick from a touch of Rum Fire Jamaican rum. All that wonderful funk is tempered by lime, lemon, Fassionola Gold syrup and a float of Cream Sherry for a dry finish. 

Anti-Inflammatory (Saffron NOLA, New Orleans, LA)
Arriving mid-2017 to New Orleans’ Magazine Street, Saffron NOLA is a heartwarming modern Indian restaurant from the Vilkhu family, long beloved locally for their pop-up restaurant. The elegant space is enhanced by GM/bar director Ashwin Vilkhu’s cocktails, showcasing Indian ingredients while riffing off classics. Inspired off of a bedtime elixir of warm milk, honey and turmeric which Ashwin’s mom would give him before bed, Anti-Inflammatory also plays off a New Orleans’ staple cocktail, Brandy Milk Punch. The soothing drink luxuriously combines Cognac with tumeric-infused coconut milk and honey syrup over crushed ice, garnished with a cilantro sprig and drops of chili oil. 

King of Siam (The Douglas Room, San Francisco, CA)
New drinks and dishes are on the menu at The Douglas Room in the Tilden Hotel, and you’re going to want to get in on chef Glen Schwartz’ Chicago hot dogs or smoked duck pho. Mo Hodges and Brian Felley (also of Benjamin Cooper) have crafted good time “pick-me-ups,” like the Roscoe’s Waffle House shooter, a buttered waffle Cognac and rye whiskey maple syrup shot garnished with crispy chicken skin in tribute to LA’s great Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles. On the cocktail side, try their King of Siam, which goes the Thai route but rather than the usual gin or clear spirit base typical in Thai-influenced drinks, features a house Scotch blend with a touch of Smith & Cross rum, Kalani coconut liqueur, Cardamaro and Jamaican bitters plus a gin-based house Thai falernum laden with lemongrass, kaffir lime and other Thai ingredients. It’s Thailand-meets-Scotland, both spirituous and breezy.

Viking’s Funeral (Lost Property, Los Angeles, CA)
The heart of Hollywood is not typically where cocktail geeks go to drink, especially right off Hollywood Boulevard where tourists gaze at the stars lining the sidewalk. This makes Lost Property, which opened in 2014, that much more of a respite with its extensive whisk(e)y selection and chill vibe. Viking’s Funeral is a treat for bitter and savory-herbaceous cocktail fans. A winning trio of Linie Aquavit, Suze and the caraway-cumin kick of Kummel, gets subtle, refreshing balance from grenadine, lime and bitters, garnished with torched mint leaves. 

Pacific Seas’ Pearl Diver, Los Angeles

Sabbatical (MakeReady Libations, Nashville, TN)
In Nashville’s gorgeous boutique hotel, Noelle, history, retro-cool and forward-thinking chic collide in a space offering multiple bars. All day restaurant and bar, Makeready Libations & Liberation, opened in the last few days of 2017, serving chef Dan Herget’s “step above” comfort fare where juicy, thick strips of bacon are artfully lined with pickled veggies or beets turned into a meal with bulgur wheat and cumin vinaigrette. The hotel’s GM of food and beverage, Will Friedrichs, works some of the same magic he did at The Dewberry in Charleston, in each bar, from the lobby bar Trade Room or upcoming rooftop bar. If you can find it, order the Sabbatical cocktail in the hotel’s secret bar or all day at MakeReady. This Tiki-esque beauty mixes bonded bourbon with fresh coconut and pineapple, given herbal intrigue from Green Chartreuse and a spiced kick from an Angostura bitters float.

Garden of Qarth (Botanist at Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, BC)
The cocktail name is full-on Game of Thrones but the elegant, vegetal sipper, Garden of Qarth, is pure Botanist, Vancouver’s ambitious 2017 newcomer complete with molecular cocktail lab, restaurant and garden room. Beverage director Grant Sceney showcases earth, land, sea, fire, water… the elements in general… alongside ingredients of the Pacific Northwest in his drinks, as does chef Hector Laguna in his striking dishes. Garden of Qarth is served long and tall with a smoky whisper of mezcal and the vibrant, vegetal green of a verde cordial, lime, fennel and Pernod Ricard, topped with sparkling water. 

Pearl Diver (Pacific Seas at the Clifton, Los Angeles, CA)
If Disneyland were a bar, what would it look like? The Pacific Seas, hidden upstairs in historic Clifton’s, in keeping with the original, old school Disneyland vibe. Clifton’s is already a transporting, mythical NorCal redwood forest in a restaurant/bar space. In homage to a bar originally opened by Clifford Clifton in 1932, Pacific Seas tackles Tiki and the Golden Age of Travel. Enter an Art Deco Map Room (reserve ahead) to a wonderland that is part Tiki, part Swiss Family Robinson, part Treasure Island, anchored by a vintage Chris-Craft speedboat strikingly cutting through the middle of the room. While on your South Seas adventure in the middle of DTLA, order a Pearl Diver with its base of Guyana and Puerto Rican rums. Doing a cold buttered cocktail is no easy feat and with lots of experimentation and a few house tricks, their iced buttered Gardenia coffee cocktail is a lesson in silky, icy texture, brightened by passionfruit. 

Botanist Vancouver’s Garden of Qarth cocktail

Avocado Fix (Finch & Fork, Santa Barbara, CA)
Housed in the Canary Hotel, Finch & Fork is a restaurant that draws in locals and travelers — and thanks to lead bartender George Piperis, is one of Santa Barbara’s more notable cocktail stops. Avocado Fix arrives lush yet dry with avocado adding a luxurious note to Banks 5 Island Rum and velvet falernum. Green Chartreuse brings the herbaceous tones, while lime and cinnamon brighten the drink up… an ideal tipple for a sunny SoCal day. 

Desert Blossom (The Dawson, Chicago, IL)
The Dawson is a Chicago gastropub staple with a multi-floor layout, from booth-lined main floor with wraparound bar and chef’s counter, to a top floor complete with a fireplace-centered “Devil’s Den.” The outdoor terrace sports a fireplace to help warm chilly Chi-town nights. Pull up to the wraparound bar or a communal table for the likes of chorizo fondue and whole branzino alongside cocktails like Desert Blossom. Pisco is infused with Moroccan-spices, given layers of depth from touches of Dimmi, Madeira, apricot, lemon, chamomile and Muscato wine, unfolding with flavors of vanilla, orange peel, nutmeg, cocoa nib and mild licorice. 

Spumoni (Gio’s, Berkeley, CA)
Bocce, pizza and spritzes abound in the massive Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, which hit Berkeley summer 2017. The roomy space is ideal for you and a group of friends but it’s also one of the East Bay’s stronger destinations for amari lovers. Boozy desserts feature amaro (like Angostura amaro mousse cake), and there is a drink pairing for each, if you so desire. The Spumoni cocktail stands out, not only for the accompanying house brittle made with pistachios from housemade pistachio orgeat, but for its creamy blend of the aforementioned orgeat, Cocchi Americano, bonded bourbon, Becherovka, lemon and cherry-cacao bitters.