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13 Absurdly Entertaining Cocktail Presentations

Because every cocktail should be served with a dragon statue. Or an octopus tentacle.

The Up In Smoke cocktail from Gracias Madre in Los Angeles
The Up In Smoke cocktail from Gracias Madre in Los Angeles
Gracias Madre

Nowadays anyone can build a well-crafted cocktail, but to get drinkers' attention some bartenders are turning to eye-catching garnishes and presentations. Below, 13 drinks that are sure to turn heads.

Boston

Backbar

Location: 9 Sanborn Court Somerville, MA
Bartender: Sam Treadway
Cocktail: Bartender's Choice with a dragon statue.

When a sales rep showed up with this dragon statue, Backbar co-owner and manager Sam Treadway knew he had to incorporate it into service. Now when his guests are celebrating a birthday or if the bar just wants to dazzle a group of drinkers, a cocktail Smaug the dragon makes an appearance. Whether it's a Hurricane at its feet or a flaming Tiki goblet grasped in its claw, everyone's inner child is sure to come out.

Photo: Caroline Pardilla

Trade

Location: 540 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA
Bartender: Tenzin Samdo
Cocktail: Hawaiian Shirt ($12) with Privateer rum, hibiscus, pineapple, pomegranate and mint.

Mr. Hashtag Luchador is actually Trade's mascot and there is only one of him. He can be requested on a cocktail or will show up when a guest customizes a drink from the bar's #TRADECreates program. Most frequently he rides the Hawaiian Shirt cocktail while holding a lime shell filled with flaming Chartreuse. Unfortunately, last month a couple of customers pocketed the beloved cocktail garnish, so the restaurant had to order a new one, which is now red instead of black.

Photo: Trade

Los Angeles

Barton G

Location: 861 N La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Barton G. Weiss
Cocktail: Sabrinatini ($20) with orange vodka, watermelon shrub, nitro Champagne swizzle stick and a chocolate monkey.

How many cocktails are inspired by a pet monkey? One, this one by restaurateur Barton G. Weiss, whose monkey Sabrina passed away a couple of years ago. The nitro-chilled pink drink is made with orange vodka, watermelon liqueur and accompanied with a nitro-Champagne swizzle stick as well as a chocolate monkey that dangles off the cocktail glass rim.

Photo: Barton G

Tom Bergin's Public House

Location: 840 S Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Brandi Boles
Cocktail: Iced Campfire Irish Coffee ($10) with Tullamore DEW, dark roast coffee, and simple syrup, garnished with a toasted marshmallow, chocolate and a graham cracker.

It only makes sense that a campfire-inspired iced Irish coffee comes with a bite-size s'mores. But turns out the fireside treat also serves a purpose. "The s’more replaces the chilled cream to give it that subtle sweetness to balance out the coffee flavor," says bartender Brandi Boles.

Photo: Tom Bergin's Public House

The Gothic Bar at Clifton's Cafeteria

Location: 648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Dustin Newsome
Cocktail: The Two Rays ($14) with Jim Beam Prohibition rye whiskey, Aromatique Amaro, PX Sherry, lemon and egg white served with a silver chocolate spoon.

Bartender Dustin Newsome wanted to garnish his cocktail with dark chocolate, thinking it would complement the sherry, rye and amaro. Somehow its form evolved into a spoon. The food-grade silver paint was his pastry chef's genius idea. To truly enjoy the garnish and drink pairing, Newsome recommends taking a bite of the spoon and sipping the cocktail.

Photo: Caroline Pardilla

Gracias Madre

Location: 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA
Bartender: Jason Eisner
Cocktail: Up In Smoke ($25) with tequila blanco, house mosaic hopped cucumber soda, lemon, celery bitters, CO2, smoked tableside with hempseeds in a water pipe decanter.

For extra smokey flavor, beverage manager Jason Eisner smokes his Up In Smoke tequila cocktail in a 12-inch-tall bong. The cocktail is smoked tableside with hempseeds for a mesmerizing show, as well as to amplify the tequila's smokiness and naughtiness. Note: NOT to actually get the drinker high. But for a little fun the letters "T," "H," and "C" are spelled out in cucumber carvings.

Photo: Gracias Madre

The Walker Inn

Location: 3612 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Alex Day, Katie Emmerson, Devon Tarby
Cocktail: Beth's Going To Town! ($20) with scotch, gin, vermouth, amaro, apricot and garnished with a line of powdered sugar.

The Walker Inn's summer menu, an ode to summer memories and the Wet Hot American Summer movie, presents a fun collection of out-of-the-box creative cocktails. Imbibers at this reservations-only Koreatown bar can take their pick of libations served in a glass milk carton with a side of cereal or out of a plastic Batman sippy pouch. The Beth's Going To Town! cocktail, inspired by the movie's debaucherous, drug-crazed scene, isn't actually served with a line of cocaine. But to prep the cocktail for presentation, the bartenders do cut up the powdered sugar with a credit card for a pristine rail.

Photo: Caroline Pardilla

New Orleans

Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29

Location: 321 N Peters Street, New Orleans, LA
Bartender: Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, Brad Smith
Cocktail: Snake vs. Mongoose ($60, serves 4 to 6) with the Mongoose rum-based cocktail garnished with the King Cobra gin-based cocktail.

Even though this large format cocktail represents one of the fiercest duels in the animal kingdom, barman Jeff "Beachbum" Berry says the two very different drinks actually work well together. "We combine the King Cobra and Mongoose because while their (secret) flavor profiles are very different, they still work very well together in 'counterpoint' as liquid yin and yang, so to speak," explains Berry. In this battle we're all winners.

Photo: Annene Kaye

New York City

151

Location: 151 Rivington St, New York, NY
Bartender: Dave Fernie
Cocktail: Stone Cold Stunna ($14) with mezcal, Perry’s Tot Gin, lime juice, raspberry syrup, ginger syrup and garnished with a pony of Miller High Life.

The Stone Cold Stunna is a take on one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite cocktails, the Floradora. But instead of club soda, barman Dave Fernie subs in Miller High Life, which makes a memorable entrance in the boot cocktail glass. "Upturning the pony of High Life just made sense in order to lengthen the drink. And when we were testing it, it added a pleasant flavor as the volume of beer in the cocktail increased. It just becomes this fun journey where the cocktail moves into more and more nuanced territory the more high life ends up in there," he explains.

Photo: 151

Genuine Liquorette

Location: 191 Grand Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Eben Freeman
Cocktail: Mojito ($10.10) with Cruzan White Rum, Sprite, lime and mint.

Genuine Liquorette keeps it really simple with cocktails: punching a big hole through a soda can with something called a Cha-Chunker and upturning a mini bottle of booze for instant gratification. Enjoy low-high-brow variations such as a Dark & Stormy with Ron Zacapa rum and a Paloma with Patron and San Pellegrino Pompelmo.

Photo: Brian Dunn

Pouring Ribbons

Location: 225 Avenue B, New York, NY
Bartender: Joaquin Simo
Cocktail: A Night at the Wigwam ($15) with Encanto Pisco, orange cordial, Junipero gin, lemon curd and Earl Grey-smoked yogurt.

"A Night at the Wigwam" cocktail is part of Pouring Ribbons' new "Route 66" cocktail menu. Inspired by The Wigwam Motels chain from the '30s and '40s, it's garnished with a orange half-wheel, crushed smoked almonds and served under a teepee. The server then pulls off the teepee tableside to reveal the drink. "It's a small moment, and we quickly clear the tray and teepee, but it does add a tremendous visual component that ties the drink (a Ramos Gin Fizz variation with California-derived ingredients) to the motel located near the end of the highway," says head bartender Joaquin Simo.

Photo: Eric Medsker

Portland

Boke Bowl

Location: 1028 SE Water Avenue, Portland, OR
Bartender: Boke Staff
Cocktail: Boke Bloody Mary ($10) with tomato juice, Bloody Mary spices, fish sauce vinaigrette, Cry Baby Thai chili hot sauce and wasabi garnished with fried chicken.

Unsurprisingly, this Bloody Mary with fried chicken garnish is the restaurant's most popular menu item. "The chicken pairs so nicely with our Asian pickles, and the pickles go so well with the Bloody Mary, that it wasn't a big leap to garnish our fish-sauce-and-dashi-infused-Bloody Mary with chicken and pickles," explains Boke Bowl owner Brannon Riceci. Of course there is also a fried tofu garnish option ... but come on.

Photo: Boke Bowl

San Diego

Great Maple

Location: 1451 Washington Street, San Diego, CA
Bartender: Johnny Rivera
Cocktail: One-Armed Mary ($13.95) with 42 Below Vodka, house Mary mix, spices, salt and pepper rim, fresh lemon and a spicy grilled octopus tentacle.

Hangovers are the previous night's shenanigans holding onto you and not letting go. Great Maple owner Johnny Rivera understood this full well and how a hangover cure needs a combination of booze and protein to be truly effective. So, an octopus' extremity garnishing his Bloody Mary was the answer. "I caught fresh octopus in Sardinia, Italy and inspired me to put a fresh tentacle in my morning libation. After a night of drinking 'The night she still has one claw on ya,'" he says.

Photo: Great Maple

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