11 Top Cocktails Around the US Now — July 2018

The 404 Kitchen & Gertie’s, Nashville — Folsom Blues Cocktail

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):

The Limbo Club, Louisville — Bourbon Painkiller

Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn movie-themed menus in Nashville. Pisco-centric menus in SF.  A lemon icebox pie-inspired cocktail in Houston. Bourbon Tiki cocktails in Louisville. These 11 national bars and restaurants are serving unique cocktails that will keep you cool this summer.

Can’t make it to any of the bars this month? Try making  from Connie & Ted’s at home.

Folsom Blues (The 404 Kitchen/Gertie’s, Nashville, TN)
Reopening in Nashville’s Gulch late 2017, the pioneering The 404 Kitchen houses a refined, upstairs dining room serving New American dishes like shrimp and avocado toast accented with lemon and crispy banana, and relaxed Gertie’s bar downstairs. San Francisco’s Christina Cabrera consulted on the drinks menus on both drink menus, creating a film and music-centric menu inspired off movies filmed in Nashville, namely Walk the Line, Coal Miner’s Daughter and, oddly enough, The Matrix. Folsom Blues tributes the Man in Black but also sings of summer and garden-fresh goodness with its mix of Cabeza blanco tequila, fresh tomatillo juices, Ancho Reyes Verde and lime, spiced up with a Tajin rim. 

Bourbon Painkiller (The Limbo, Louisville, KY)
San Francisco transplant Olivia Griffin moved to Louisville in 2014 to open her unique hat and apparel shop, but noticed the city was missing a Tiki bar, having come from one of the regions that birthed Tiki in the 1930s. She opened The Limbo, which feels like a house party in a multi-room space lined with Tiki paraphernalia, vintage furniture and jukebox and an inviting patio. Here swing dancing breaks out, films are projected on the wall and limbo dancing happens at midnight. The drinks are straight-up Tiki — which means lots of rum — but almost all can be made with bourbon, nodding to Kentucky culture. here, the 1970’s classic Painkiller goes Caribbean-meets-Kentucky with Old Forester Bourbon, creamy with coconut cream, pineapple, orange, nutmeg and a honey-shaved coconut rim.

The Principal‘s Punch (School Night, San Francisco, CA)
Smartly utilizing The Pearl’s skylit event space on closed — or “school” — nights, School Night opened this spring from master chef Traci Des Jardins and Pearl owner Adam Mendelson, with Enrique Sanchez (bar manager at Des Jardins’ Arguello) running the bar. Sanchez showcases agave spirits and American whiskey alongside pisco from his native Peru. As you fill up on queso fundido and roasted farmers market vegetables, the sleeper pisco hit is Pura Uvas, a crisp beauty of Demonio De Los Andes Pisco Albilla, madeira and dry vermouth. The crushable summer crowdpleaser, however, is The Principal‘s Punch, a floral italia pisco punch mixed with pineapple, falernum, lemon and a touch of genepy.

Percy’s Request (Etch, Nashville, TN)
Etch has been a downtown Nashville favorite since 2012 for pioneering local chef Deb Paquette’s vegetarian and meat dishes in an expansive space. Sommelier Katelyn Kupiec (who helped open Husk Nashville) keeps it breezy and fun on the cocktail side with drinks that implement vegetables and fresh produce. Percy’s Request is a tribute to the night Robert Plant dined at the restaurant and requested a rum cocktail. Ask the staff to fill you in on the story, then drink the results. Seemingly simple, the drink is actually a vibrant showcase for the sugarcane funk of Brazilian Novo Fogo Chameleon Cachaça, brightened by lime, grapefruit and brown sugar.

The Niña, The Piña, The Santa Monica (Connie & Ted’s, Los Angeles, CA)
Inspired by a family story of English immigrants landing in Rhode Island (RI), Connie and Ted’s restaurant is an LA destination for New England-style seafood alongside fresh West Coast catch (don’t miss the RI rarity “stuffies”: clam shells stuffed with fried clam, linguiça sausage, garlic, butter, breadcrumbs). Beverage director Hoang Nguyen (formerly of the owners’ celebrated Providence restaurant) keeps drinks approachable and seafood-friendly. The Nina, The Pina, The Santa Monica goes tropical by way of California and Mexico with Bruxo #1 Espadin mezcal, pineapple, lemon and honey, dotted with basil oil and fresh black pepper. 

Collins (Night Heron, Houston, TX)
Open February 2018 from the prolific Agricole Hospitality (AH) team, Night Heron is a relaxed a neighborhood bar serving drinks and dishes inspired by the travels of AH owners Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera. Houston native Julie Rogers (formerly of Coltivare and Down House) crafts a menu playing off cocktail classics with unique house twists. Taking inspiration from a cool lemon icebox pie, Rogers re-imagines a standard 1860’s Collins with tart lemon-lime curd and hibiscus grenadine, mixed with a beautifully bitter almond grappa, herbaceous gin and a mineral splash of Topo Chico. 

Cappelletti Spritz (Barbareno, Santa Barbara, CA)
Showcasing local ingredients and California ease, Barbareño is one of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants since opening in 2014. Owner Julian Martinez has fun with dishes like root beer Mongolian brisket in bao buns or his killer version of nearby Santa Maria’s historic California style of BBQ tri-tip. Wine director Lenka Davis’ city-savvy wine list veers towards thoughtful natural and biodynamic wines, while vents/beer director Doug Boring crafts a few low proof cocktail beauties. Try his Cappelletti Spritz combining Cappelletti Aperitivo, Bordiga Extra Dry Vermouth di Torino and Kreinbacher sparkling wine from Hungary, splashed with house seltzer and a squeeze of Meyer lemon grown on their patio. 

Terra (Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar, The Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Miami, FL)
Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar
shimmers in the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, a historic beachside, 1930’s clubhouse and ballroom recently opened hosting an international guest bartender series, a traditional Italian apertivo “hour” (4-6pm daily) and a Positano, Italy-themed cocktail menu from bar manager Jacopo Rosito and head bartender Valentino Longo. Tributing elements of the Amalfi Coast — sun, lemons, flowers, soil, sea, coffee — Terra is the earthy, spirit-forward side of the menu. This play off an Old Fashioned features hazelnut-infused Bulleit Bourbon, date honey syrup, Bonollo “OF” Amaro, Gonzàlez Byass PX sherry, pimento bitters and truffle saline solution.

Pearl, San Francisco — The Scarlet Columbine

The Scarlet Columbine (Pearl, San Francisco, CA)
Open at the end of May on a sleepy Outer Richmond corner near the ocean, Pearl debuted from the owners of tiny, pioneering (since 1999) Pizzetta 211. A café by day and seafood-and-pasta-centric restaurant at night, Pearl welcomes with big windows and cozy tan banquettes. Bar manager Nahiel Nazzal crafts a six cocktail menu of aperitifs and classic twists that sing with dishes like white Bolognese handkerchief pasta or silky crudos. Drinks are often named after plants and flowers native to SF and the nearby coast. Try the Scarlet Columbine, which melds Old Grandad bourbon and red wine with sage tea, pink peppercorn and lemon for a summery twist on a classic NY Sour. 

Zone Negroni (The Moonlighter, Chicago, IL)
Yes, it’s the umpteenth Negroni and may initially sound heavy for a summer’s day? But The Moonlighter’s Zone Negroni actually is refreshing and bright, as it is bitter and herbal. Opened by The Scofflaw Group late 2017, Moonlighter’s festive patio is already a Chicago favorite on warm days for burgers, beer and easy cocktails (with fireplaces for the colder days). Alongside large-format and pitchered cocktails — plus a collection of My Little Ponies attached to toy cars — drinks like the Zone Negroni may not push boundaries but quenches thirst with a pleasing mix of London Dry Gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth base and Amaro Noveis and a sprig of rosemary tying it all together. 

Coffee & Cigarettes (Tru Craft Kitchen, Vancouver, BC)
Located in Vancouver’s ever-lively Gastown neighborhood, Tru Craft Kitchen is less a cocktail destination (with some hit-and-miss drinks) than it is about farm-to-table tavern food, like their popular pork belly crackling in a star anise red wine reduction. But Coffee & Cigarettes is a robust cocktail that evokes a coffee and smoke break with smoky Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch, the bitter-sweet balance of Amaro Montenegro, bracing espresso and spiced Bittermans Xocolatl mole bitters.