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Assorted tiki drinks from San Francisco staple, the Tonga Room.
Assorted tiki drinks from San Francisco staple, the Tonga Room.
Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

Essential Cocktail Bars From Coast to Coast

Where to drink from coast to coast.

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Assorted tiki drinks from San Francisco staple, the Tonga Room.
| Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

To pick just one bar that represents each city in which Eater has as presence is a tough task. With craft cocktail culture ever expanding, so many cities now offer a myriad of excellent, drinks-focused haunts. But if you had only one night in any of our locales, the below collection of bars sums up the places avid imbibers must visit. In addition to mixing superb cocktails and offering a well-curated list of spirits, the establishments below also capture the energy of the city in which they reside. From classic cocktail haunts to tiki dens to whiskey libraries, here's where you're guaranteed a great drink in a unique atmosphere from coast to coast.

Rather than a stage-4 meltdown over our having excluded your favorite bar excluded, hit the comments and nominate it for inclusion?

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Kimball House

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Oysters, absinthe service, and ever-changing craft cocktails from Miles Macquarrie and his team: three of many reasons why this spot tops lists from Bon Appétit to Southern Living. With guest bartenders and late-night hours, it's also where you'll find many Atlanta industry folks off duty.

Midnight Cowboy

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Some of Austin's best craft cocktails, not to mention peace and quiet, await you in this unlikely speakeasy. Note, the bar is reservation-only, so brace for frequent buy-outs of the space.

The Griffon Pub

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Sitting on almost 20 years of crumpled dollar bills and memories, The Griffon is a Charleston legend. Co-owners Dan Wenz and Scott London keep the Vendue Range bar casual with an emphasis on good beers and affordable food. The dining room at lunch is an egalitarian scene with craftsmen and Broad Street lawyers and families on vacation mingling in between. Everyone loves a good deal.

The Aviary

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Perhaps the country's first bar to use the terms "ice program" and "drink kitchen," The Aviary, launched by Alinea chef Grant Achatz, has been pursuing excellence and innovation in cocktails since it's debut. Revisit one of their classic techniques and order a drink "in the rocks," your cocktail will arrive encapsulated in a sphere of ice, accompanied by a minature slingshot for you to release the contents.

Black Swan Saloon

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Black Swan Saloon is the kind of place that makes you feel like a regular, even if you only stop in occasionally. Barman and owner Gabe Sanchez will always remember your drink, and forget that whole menu thing. Just tell him what you like and he'll mix you up something tasty, from a jasmine tea-infused vodka cocktail to a pumpkin pie-esque rum drink and anything in between.

Williams & Graham

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This highly acclaimed speakeasy recently won the award for best bar in America at this year's Spirited Awards, and for good reason. With French-inspired food served late into the night and the best cocktails in town, Williams & Graham is always a treat.

Two James Distillery

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No longer a newcomer, this Corktown distillery has made a name for itself. Drop by on a weekend during cocktail hour and find the tasting room packed with customers in for a whiskey flight or a craft cocktail made with ultra-fresh ingredients.

La Carafe

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One of the oldest bars in Houston, this wine and beer-only bar is an absolute favorite for many Houstonians. You'd half expect to find Miss Havisham sipping a Cabernet in one of the darker corners of this candlelit bar, or the ghost of Sam Houston passing you along the stairs, but ghosts aside (they onlyadd to La Carafe's charm) the upstairs patio showcases a lovely view of downtown.

Atomic Liquors

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Atomic Liquors is Vegas’ oldest freestanding bar, named for a time when customers watched atomic blasts from the roof, was originally built in 1945 and was originally called Virginia's Cafe. The Rat Pack and the Smothers Brothers drank here after their nightly shows, and Barbra Streisand even had her own seat at the bar. Sour beers are a specialty here.

The Varnish

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Los Angeles' first craft cocktail bar, The Varnish is a joint venture from 213's Cedd Moses, Eric Alperin, and the late Sasha Petraske. This den of a cocktail bar happens to make the finest stirred and shaken drinks in the city and it's tucked away inside Cole's, hidden behind an unmarked rear door. Think Prohibition speakeasy at its best.

The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

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Portland's first craft cocktail-focused bar from Andrew and Briana Volk and an all-star cast of bartenders quickly became a go-to spot for meticulously made drinks. The changeable menu features classics (with dates and places of origin listed), barrel-aged booze on draft, clever house cocktails, and a daily $6 punch; the capable staff can also whip up any number of off-menu concoctions.

The Broken Shaker

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Nesteled in the Freehand Hotel/Hostel, The Broken Shaker is all about fun. The outdoor space has plenty of room to play and lounge with lawn games and a pool. Meanwhile, the celebrated bar has a retro vibe and a rotating list of cocktails using ingredients grown on the premises.

CC Club

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With its shiny red booths and wood-paneled walls, this one's a beauty. Add in some Big Buck Hunter and cheap pitchers, and you've got what makes the CC Club a classic Uptown dive.

Robert's Western World

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Robert's Western World is easily the best honky tonk in Nashville. Thanks to a long standing reputation for good atomsphere, there is always a crowd. Take in live music any night of the week, and don't forget to order some fried bologna sandwiches to go with your drinks.

Arnaud's French 75 Bar

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Arnauds's French 75 is not wanting for atmosphere with it's vintage bar and back bar in what is already a classic restaurant. Excellent service, and classic cocktails made with flair enhance the elegant feeling you get from just being there.

PDT (Please Don't Tell)

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If you've found your way into a bar through a secret entrance sometime since 2007, you probably have PDT to thank. It was the groundbreaking, relatively secret place that put an illicit twist on getting a drink. Since then, after all of the speakeasy imitators and competitors, PDT still stands in the same obscured location, having become an icon in the category and the city.

Hop Sing Laundromat

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This speakeasy lounge located in Philadelphia's Chinatown has been focused on quality, style, and mystery since its opening three years ago. The well liquor list is famous for being composed of premium and super premium bottles, and the dress code means you aren't coming inside with shorts or sneakers. Excellent drinks are to be had but no photos, so you'll have to bring your friends with if you want to share the experience.

Expatriate

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Beast chef Naomi Pomeroy goes into unexpected territory with this bar across the street from her famed restaurant. Expatriate, a collaboration between Pomeroy and onetime St. Jack bar manager Kyle Webster, pairs expertly mixed cocktails with an Asian-inflected take on drinking food. Drinks are simultaneously complex yet oddly familiar, and this may be the only place in the world where crab rangoon can sit alongside James Beard's onion-and-butter sandwich. Both are delicious, and the result is as escapist as the bar's name suggests.

Noble Experiment

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Noble Experiment is a low capacity speakeasy whose name recalls the "noble experiment" of Prohibition. Once you've found the correct door, concealed in Neighborhood restaurant, you'll be in the hands of San Diego's best bartenders. Try ordering the dealer's choice which is the best way for them to show off their talents.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

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Ah, the mighty Tonga. Many have come for the neon-colored cocktails, stayed for the wonderfully kitschy rain shows, occasionally had drunken pratfalls into the fake lake, and battled unbelievably intense sugar-quickened hangovers in the wake. The "Asian" cuisine is ludicrous and frequently inedible, but that's not the point. Long may you reign.

Canon is an old reliable but still generates plenty of buzz for its truly outstanding cocktails and astounding whiskey collection. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

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Jack Rose was already the city's (maybe even the country's) top whiskey bar. Now, there's solid Southern food to match, courtesy of new chef Russell Jones. The bar has been serving tiki on the roof, and serves as a speakeasy of sorts called Dram & Grain in the basement - find most of the whiskey on the main level.

Bílý Kůň

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Come to Bílý Kůň for absinthe and exotic liqueurs, as well as the usual suspects on the cocktail menu and a Czech heavy beer list. The real draw is the space itself, which is dimly lit and bustling, with high ceilings and walls graced by several taxidermied ostrich heads.

If you've got but one night to kill in Boston, and cocktails are your fancy, Drink is the move. Veteran restaurateur Barbara Lynch is behind this industrial-designed basement bar that crafts a menu-less list of bespoke fresh fruit libations with quality spirits. Don't forget to Uber home.

Justin Ide

The S.O.S. Tiki Bar

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Paper Plane is gone, but in its place is The SOS to make you think of some place warm. Tropical favorites such as the Mai Tai and planter's punch are available in individual or group servings, and punch bowls are offered for groups of six to eight. Just don't forget to eat; these drinks pack a wallop.

Small Victory

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It’s easy to miss the entrance to Small Victory, but once you find it, feel like you’ve earned those thoughtfully-crafted cocktails in the dark and intimate bar.

Tiger Mama

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Baldwin Bar alum Charles Coykendall is overseeing the boozy offerings at Tiffani Faison's brand new Southeast Asian restaurant, which has two bars. One of them — eye-catching with a tiger-striped wall — focuses on tiki drinks.

Stems and Skins

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Stems & Skins comes from former Husk sommelier Matt Tunstall and former Bull Street Gourmet owner Justin Croxall. Both partners have a passion for interesting wines and hospitality. The Park Circle bar is winning over wine nerds with esoteric labels and superb service. For the non-oenophiles, the food menu offers cheese, charcuterie, Mediterranean-inspired snacks, and sandwiches.

Milk Room

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Recently joining the many other fun drinking and eating spots in the gorgeous Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Milk Room is a cocktail adventure rarely experienced anywhere. Only eight secluded ticketed seats get to experience Paul McGee's rare booze-fueled cocktail journeys, which begin with an amuse drink and include small bites.

The Theodore

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The fellas behind Smoke just debuted this new dazzler at NorthPark Center, meaning now you can sip a truly excellent cocktail after hitting the shoe department at Nordstrom. The bar program is the brainchild of Kyle Hilla, formerly of Bolsa, and all the drinks are named for national parks. Try the gin-based North Cascades with lemon and champagne foam, or try the Everglades, a tasty frozen treat with celery, lime, green Chartreuse, Cana Brava rum, and ginger pop rocks.

Kimball House

Oysters, absinthe service, and ever-changing craft cocktails from Miles Macquarrie and his team: three of many reasons why this spot tops lists from Bon Appétit to Southern Living. With guest bartenders and late-night hours, it's also where you'll find many Atlanta industry folks off duty.

Midnight Cowboy

Some of Austin's best craft cocktails, not to mention peace and quiet, await you in this unlikely speakeasy. Note, the bar is reservation-only, so brace for frequent buy-outs of the space.

The Griffon Pub

Sitting on almost 20 years of crumpled dollar bills and memories, The Griffon is a Charleston legend. Co-owners Dan Wenz and Scott London keep the Vendue Range bar casual with an emphasis on good beers and affordable food. The dining room at lunch is an egalitarian scene with craftsmen and Broad Street lawyers and families on vacation mingling in between. Everyone loves a good deal.