Cocktails in Hawaii go beyond Mai Tais and Lava Flows. Whether you’re a visitor or a kamaaina (resident), the islands offer plenty of places to raise a glass (or two). Below, the best places to get drunk in Hawaii right now.Read More
The Eater Hawaii Cocktail Heatmap: Where to Drink Right Now
Cocktails in paradise, anyone?
1. 12th Ave Grill
Last year, this New American neighborhood mainstay moved to a larger space and, for the first time, owners added a bar in the dining room. While the cocktail list changes regularly, the latest menu puts its own spin on familiar recipes, like the 12th Ave Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No. 1, muddle cucumber and thyme, lemon, and ginger beer) and the Kaimuki G&T (Uncle Val’s botanical gin, Cocchi Americano, house tonic syrup, citrus, and angostura float). You’ll also find some house originals that chart their own way, like the Barrel-Aged Marksman (Marker’s Mark bourbon, Kahlua, and orange-vanilla bitters—aged one month in an oak barrel).
2. Cow Pig Bun
From the outside, the low-level corporate building in Kihei, Maui may look more like a state department than a burger bar, but hidden deep within—past a few double doors—is a bright and airy bar plus restaurant. Specializing in burgers and bourbon, Cow Pig Bun pours out a variety of tweaked modern classics, like Blood & Sands and Last Words. But the bar staff sometimes gets more creative with drinks like the Cannibalistic, which features pho syrup.
3. Hale Ōhuna
Top Chef contestant Lee Anne Wong’s newly opened Hale Ohuna brings all the good stuff: a modern Hawaiian noodle house, a sake bar and a whiskey lounge, all in one comfortable and casual Kaimuki loft space. In addition to a deep well of sake and whiskey pours, the friendly bartenders build elegant cocktails from the aforementioned, in addition to shochu and awamori, a distilled rice drink consumed in Okinawa, Japan.
4. House Without A Key
A beachside seat on the lanai (patio), a live Hawaiian band, graceful former Miss Hawaii hula dancers, the calming roar of ocean, and a killer Mai Tai make The House Without a Key at the Halekulani one of the most serene places to sit back and enjoy a cocktail. The Halekulani’s Mai Tai is nationally renowned and packs a punch with three types of rum. Those looking for other classic tropical vacation drinks will also find a sugary selection of Blue Hawaiians, Lava Flows, and more in the same vein on the menu. Go at sunset and see if you can catch the green flash.
The luxurious Halekulani hotel in Waikiki is a fitting home for L’Aperitif, Honolulu’s most elegant haven to imbibe. France-based Colin Field is flown on a regular basis from the famous Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel Paris to consult on this refined menu, which is full of Champagne and rye. Bartenders provide five-star hospitality as guests are invited to lounge at the quiet bar in soft bucket chairs with views of the ocean and the warm tones of a live Hawaiian band wafting up from below. The cocktails cost $20—Hawaii’s most expensive—but each comes with its own paired amuse bouche. Some drinks are even presented to ladies with a whole red rosebud as garnish. Ooh la la.
6. Livestock Tavern
Livestock Tavern’s trendy urban vibe feels like San Francisco or New York in Honolulu. This modern cosmopolitan sensibility is bolstered by bar manager Mike Nishikawa’s menu of well-crafted original cocktails and modern classics, served alongside generous plates of mostly classic American grub. Despite Hawaii’s temperate climate, Mike’s program moves effortlessly with the seasons, spotlighting hard-to-hate gems such as the Goblin King, made from locally produced agricole rum, pumpkin, lemon juice, and maple syrup—only reinforcing the idea that we’re all obsessed with anything pumpkin spice, even in the warmest of weather.
Manifest in Downtown Honolulu is one part dance club, one part underground comedy club, and one part cocktail bar—depending on when you go. The bar churns out classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds, twists on classics like bourbon bucks with lilikoi shrub, and new originals by bar manager Justin Park. Choose your night and choose your own atmosphere.
8. Mud Hen Water
For a sip of homegrown Hawaii, Mud Hen Water is as local as it gets. Honolulu farm-to-table pioneer and James Beard nominee Ed Kenny opened this laid-back restaurant and bar in Kaimuki just this past June. Like the food, the cocktails almost exclusively incorporate ingredients that are Hawaii-grown, certified organic, and sustainable. Grab an inside table, bar seat, or a breezy picnic bench outside, and try the “Kitchen Cocktail,” a revolving drink that bar manager Kelly Jeffer creates using leftover ingredients from the cooks, flaunting that sustainability can be both creative and tasty.
9. The Pig and the Lady
The Pig and the Lady drew national attention for its modern take on Vietnamese fare when chef and owner Andrew Le was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2014. The hip pop-up-turned-restaurant features an equally innovative bar program. It’s inspired by classic Vietnamese flavors like tamarind, salted lemon, coconut, chili pepper, sriracha, and coffee. This delightfully bright and aromatic approach to cocktails pairs well with the refined comfort food served by the family-run kitchen in a modern industrial setting. Their twist on Vietnamese coffee—cognac, cacao, condensed milk, Benedictine, and classic Café du Monde coffee—sips well with the restaurant’s famous P&L pho deluxe, made from bacon, 12-hour roast brisket, fried shallow, Tokyo negi, and soft egg.
10. Top of Waikiki
The barely discernible spin of the revolving restaurant and large, panoramic windows yield breathtaking views of the city of Honolulu and its astonishing sunsets over the ocean. Though Top of Waikiki has drawn herds of tourists in Honolulu for many years now, local scenesters have been buzzing about the cocktails ever since the restaurant brought on bartender Jen Ackrill to lead its drink program last year. Ackrill, previously in San Francisco, has slowly rolled out a new menu that integrates tropical drinks and craft cocktail classics—along with a rad, seemingly antique blended ice machine that makes any cocktail fun.