The inaugural Cocktail 38 appeared in November of 2012, and now it is due for an update. While some bars like Anvil (Houston), Midnight Cowboy (Austin), Williams & Graham (Denver), Cure (New Orleans), The Aviary (Chicago), and more held their ground, others gave way to 38 newcomers like Pastry War (Houston), Fox Liquor Bar (Raleigh), and Marvel Bar (Minneapolis).
To be clear: this version was curated from scratch to be fair and open to every possibility. Any overlap with the previous 38 means those venues were agreed upon by our current panel of experts. A grand list of 150 bars was eventually cut to the final 38 presented here today. It was no easy task.
Similar to the local Eater 38 lists, the goal here is to include the best of the best, but also make sure to include a fair amount of geographical diversity as well as diversity of style. As such, your favorite bar in cocktail-centric cities like New York City and Chicago may not have made the list, but there's always next time. The heaviest-weighted criteria was the quality of the actual cocktails, though at times, atmosphere and the context of certain bars in the industry played a part as well.
Eater consulted with a panel of cocktail lovers and experts across the country consisting of writers with extensive knowledge of the subject, bloggers, the well-traveled, book authors, and industry professionals (more on that later). There was a general consensus among most of them, though oftentimes there were polarizing opinions. That means that while the bulk of the list was approved by the whole panel, some panelists may disagree with some selections. C'est la vie.
In any case, each listing was reviewed thoroughly, researched and eventually decided upon, though the final say is up to you. Eater fully expects a spirited discourse in the comments for those that feel certain inclusions or exclusions were unwarranted.
As for our panelists, a very heartfelt thanks goes out to:
Amanda Kludt (Eater), Chris Frankel (bartender), Melody Fury (writer), Bill Addison (Eater), Jordana Rothman (writer), Wayne Curtis (writer), Leslie Pariseau (Punch), Jessica Voelker (writer), Brad Thomas Parsons (author), David Wondrich (author), Mike Thelin (Feast Portland), Emma Janzen (writer), Talia Baiocchi (Punch), Felice Simmons (Urban Swank), Shanna Jones (Urban Swank), Caroline Pardilla (LA Mag), Allecia Vermillion (Seattle Met), Ryan Sutton (Eater), Matt Buchanan (The Awl), John deBary* (Momofuku) and all current Eater editors.
*Only comments and opinions related to unaffiliated bars were considered from this panelist.
Here now, the updated Eater National Cocktail 38. Entries are listed in alphabetical order. Please feel free to air your inevitable grievances in the comments below.