11 Top Cocktails Around the US — November 2018

Mourad, San Francisco

Covering the 11 hottest cocktails of the month around the US at Liquor.com, you’ll find my top national drinks on menus at these bars/restaurants:

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Third Rail, San Francisco

As the fall chill descends — or many parts of the West and Southwest experience their mild weather — these 11 national bars and restaurants oblige with drinks that run the gamut from nutty and briny to fruity and bitter. Each is serving unique cocktails worth drinking on menus now.

Can’t make it to any of the bars this month? Try making Bitter Temptation from DiAnoia’s Eatery at home:

Tepache Shakur (Vault, Fayetteville, AR)
As the Fayetteville USBG president and GM/head barman of bourbon-centric Vault, Shaun Traxler’s love of food and sense of whimsy comes through in his culinary-driven cocktails with quirky-fun names. Here, everything from bitters to vermouth is made in-house, while ingredients that trend in major cities (like butterfly pea flower or raicilla) confirm this is one savvy Arkansas drink menu. Tepache Shakur is vegetal, smoky and spiced with Cognac, Jägermeister, house tepache (fermented cinnamon-spiced pineapple rind beverage), cream sherry and barrel aged bitters, gains balanced brightness from fresh carrot and lime juices, then goes into creamy flip mode with a whole egg and orgeat. Dusted in carrot ash and nutmeg, it’s a funky-sweet-nutty fall beauty. 

Carrots from Cornwall (Mourad, San Francisco, CA)
The forward-thinking Moroccan-Californian cooking of chef Mourad Lahlou has been unparalleled in the country for nearly two decades. At Michelin-starred Mourad, his cooking is exquisite (don’t miss his unique salmon dish). Bar manager Joshua-Peter (J.P.) Smith keeps cocktails equally exquisite yet utterly drinkable. California’s year-round produce gets showcased in Carrots from Cornwall, featuring SF’s own 209 Cabernet Cask Gin, pastis and English cider with a garden-fresh bouquet of carrot juice, ras el hanout orange syrup, lemon, celery bitters and, yes, a savory whisper of Dijon mustard. Drops of tarragon oil add one more herbaceous layer. 

Verde Margarita (Campo at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM)
Follow the tree-lined dirt road, pass the lavender field and get ready for a farm-to-table meal at Campo at Los Poblanos Inn, a rare gourmet respite in Albuquerque. While dining on mole verde over veggies from their farm or blue corn hushpuppies filled with carne adovada, a house margarita is always the right pairing. Check the bar chalkboard for a seasonal variation like the Verde Margarita, where blanco tequila gets a bitter whisper from Salers Aperitif, showing off peppers, herbs, peas and lime from their garden. 

Mossed in the Woods (The Ash Bar at Nomad.PDX, Portland OR
Intimate and hidden from street view, Nomad.PDX’s horseshoe-shaped bar sits alongside their refined, tasting menu-only restaurant, a Portland rarity from chef Ryan Fox. Ash Bar is a respite for culinary-influenced, nuanced cocktails from Cameron Holck and former bartender Estanislado Orona. Reyka Vodka and Dolin blanc vermouth mix in the Mossed in the Woods cocktail, accented with an herbal touch of Martin Millers West Gin, then infused with spruce tips and doug fir. Liquid nitrogen rolls out from the glass which is nestled in a bed of fir boughs and pine cones. 

Campo at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM

Coldbook Berry (Daisies, Chicago, IL)
Casual and comfortable, Daisies food wows, particularly chef/owner Joe Frillman’s pastas, blessedly touched with Eastern European influences, like pierogi in mussel broth or perfect beet agnolotti with dill and smoked trout roe. Keith Whitten’s Midwest-driven wine and cocktail list keep step with the goodness. Coldbrook Berry showcases bourbon with a hint of baking spice from a housemade cinnamon tincture and the flavor of tart, juicy aronia (aka chokecherries) in a locally made Apologue Aronia Liqueur, balanced by red wine and lemon. 

Godzilla (Third Rail, San Francisco, CA)
Choose one of the jerky offerings from the “wall of jerky” (like vegetarian mushroom or Sriracha jerky), then settle in for a chill night of conversation and good drink at Third Rail, long one of the Dogpatch’s greatest bars. Owner Jeff Lyon and team’s cocktails are as collaborative and relaxed as the bar, without sacrificing quality. Lyon’s savory-bright Godzilla features Oakland Spirits Co.’s seaweed infused Automatic Sea Gin contrasted by nutty, briny manzanilla sherry, elderflower, lime and more nutty goodness from sesame. A layer of egg whites supports a dusting of sesame seeds and nori/seaweed. 

Bitter Temptation (DiAnoia’s Eatery, Pittsburgh, PA)
Pittsburgh’s DiAnoia’s Eatery keeps it real with all-day Italian, from morning coffee to afternoon deli, then evening rounds of Tuscan kale salad, wild mushroom carbonara and whole branzino. The sunny space sports a blue-tiled breakfast bar and relaxed dining room with light fixtures made from wine bottles. Drinks are simple but gratifying, employing Italian amari or wine, as with the Bitter Temptation. Bitter, sweet and bracing, cold brew coffee gains herbal-bitter nuance from Fernet, sweet and earthy with vanilla syrup and Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao, finished with a generous splash of sparkling red Gragnano Vino. 

Pelea de Gallos (KYU, Miami, FL)
Since opening in 2016, Wynwood’s popular modern Asian restaurant, KYU, has been a destination for Chef Michael Lewis’s wood-fired, Japanese-influenced barbecue cooking with sustainable meats, chilled seafood and Wagyu beef brisket. In the rustic-industrial, wood and concrete space, assistant beverage director Nima Kasmaii leads his bar team through cocktails utilizing Asian ingredients like lemongrass or yuzu. Bartender Ian Chartor created Pelea de Gallos, a cocktail featuring Altos Reposado Tequila infused with Peruvian corn roasted over open flame. The drink runs sweet, tart, smoky and spicy with a house mango chili shrub and cilantro lime bitters, topped with a salted lime pepper foam.

The Black Pearl (The Roosevelt Room, Austin, TX)
Austin’s Roosevelt Room pairs food, live music and tailored playlists with quality cocktails at a casual upstairs bar or more formal downstairs bar. Sift through the expansive cocktail list, including nine house drinks and fifty-three classics. Dennis Gobis and Justin Lavenue created The Black Pearl, an ideal fall imbibement served in a small wood box lit with clove incense. As the box exudes aromatic smoke, sip this robustly elegant blend of Johnnie Walker Black Scotch, Barolo Chinato, Talisker Storm Scotch, Smith & Cross rum, Nux Alpina Green Walnut liqueur, Abbot’s bitters and charcoal powder, unfolding with nutty peat, funk, spice and dried fruit sweetness.

Halva World Away (Sababa, Washington D.C.)
While dining on modern Israeli small plates, like smoked trout with muhammara dip, Sababa’s beverage director/sommelier Maximilian Hill infuses a whisper of the Middle East in his cocktails, served in a room graced with illuminated wooden screens and cloth draped from the ceiling. Halva World Away is sunny and lush with Lunazul Añejo Tequila and bright carrot juice, calling on the flavors of halva (sesame candy) with pistachio orgeat, orange blossom water and cardamom tonic. The drink is garnished with a dried apricot rehydrated with apricot liqueur, brandy, fennel and cardamom, then blackened with a blowtorch for a subtly bitter caramel note. 

Bright Eyes (Vol. 39, Chicago, IL)
Head upstairs in the Kimpton Gray Hotel to Vol. 39 bar for a menu of Old Fashioneds or a six-martini flight. We’ll never complain about champagne and caviar table service but Vol. 39 also does right by cocktails, thanks to beverage director Josh Relkin. Bartenders Dylan Knox and Ilsa Tucker created Bright Eyes, featuring a house rum blend of El Dorado 12 year rum, Neisson Rhum Agricole and Bank’s 7 Island Rum. The rum is mixed with J. Rieger Café Amaro for bitter-coffee notes, then brightened with pineapple, carrot beet shrub, Clement Cane Syrup, bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s, Regan’s Orange) and lime, dusted in toasted coconut. 

Ash Bar at Nomad.PDX, Portland