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Playboy’s Best Bars in America 2015

The cocktail revolution is officially over, and the hands-down victor is the American drinker. The quality and variety of establishments on our annual ranking of the best new bars in America are more impressive than ever: Of the 20 bars on this year’s list, no fewer than three take their inspiration from the tiki trend; top-notch cocktail nibbles frequently accompany the libations, and snooty mixologists are nowhere to be seen.


01_Leyenda

Courtesy of Leyenda

BEST LATIN-INSPIRED BAR
Leyenda, New York
Across the street from Julie Reiner’s beloved Clover Club is Leyenda, her newest project with partner Ivy Mix (below). Mix has spent time in Guatemala, so Leyenda’s array of tequila, mezcal, pisco and cachaça drinks—such as the maiden name (cachaça, lime, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, passion fruit, nutmeg)—is a manifestation of that vivacious Latin spirit.

02_ Shift-Drinks

Courtesy of Shift Drinks

BEST COCKTAIL BAR FOR WINE LOVERS
Shift Drinks, Oregon
The wine list skews geeky at this downtown spot, and co-owner Alise Moffatt deftly weaves vino into the cocktails too, including the besos for pesos, a simple mulled wine meets Mexican Coke. The physically forgotten, an aperitif that melds gin, Cynar, maraschino and bitters with lemon oil, will turn oenophiles into cocktail converts.

03 motherofpearl

Courtesy of Mother of Pearl

BEST SPIN ON TIKI
Mother of Pearl, New York
There is very little rum—and just a smidgen of kitsch—on the menu at this airy green-and-white tiki-influenced bar. Instead, Jane Danger’s menu captures the escapist mindset usually associated with thatched huts and mai tais via such refined creations as the sound of silver (rosemary, Gran Classico, velvet falernum, apple brandy, rye).

04_BARGOTO

Courtesy of Bar Goto

BEST JAPANESE-INFLECTED BAR
Bar Goto, New York
When Kenta Goto left Audrey Saunders’s celebrated Pegu Club to open his own joint there was no doubt it would be a quality one. The sexy Lower East Side space is exactly that, with addictive okonomi-yaki, a mandatory accompaniment to every crisp gin–cherry blossom–maraschino sakura martini.

05_Julep

Courtesy of Julep

BEST SOUTHERN-ACCENTED BAR
Julep, Houston
Alba Huerta’s mission is to honor the South. Since opening Julep, her menus have paid homage to Houston, the region’s rural roots and great port cities. This is captured in such thoughtfully crafted libations as the low country, which unites Carolina Gold rice cream with cachaça, lime, cinnamon and absinthe.

06_Holiday

Holiday Cocktail Lounge

BEST REVIVED DIVE
Holiday Cocktail Lounge, New York
Typically landmark bars re-open to lukewarm reviews. Not this East Village dive. It’s every bit as vibrant in its new incarnation as it was when it was Madonna’s playground, except this time the drinks are much better. The original horseshoe bar is a prime spot to unwind with a Brooklyn babe (gin, ginger beer, honey syrup).

07_Best-Intentions

Courtesy of Best Intentions

BEST PATIO BAR
Best Intentions, Chicago
It’s pleasant to knock back a wondermint malted in the company of the jukebox inside this Logan Square spot, but the cabana is even more alluring. For its summer debut, the alfresco bar cranked out horchata margaritas that have us yearning for warmer weather.

08_Damn-the-Weather

Courtesy of Damn the Weather

BEST COCKTAIL BAR FOR THE HUNGRY
Damn The Weather, Seattle
Beyond the chicken-fat fries and blood-sausage sliders, there are many reasons to visit this brick-and-marble oasis in Pioneer Square. Bryn Lumsden and Jay Kuehner have an extensive spirits collection and a penchant for dreaming up intriguing drinks such as the shiso-laced, rye-centric black cherry smash.

09_LostLakejpg

Lost Lake

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD HANGOUT (THAT HAPPENS TO BE A TIKI BAR)
Lost Lake, Chicago
Three Dots and a Dash mastermind Paul McGee strikes gold with this tropical hideaway. His imaginative creations include the hula hips of heaven (tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, lime, velvet falernum, cinnamon, Angostura bitters, absinthe), paired with Chinese sausage–pineapple fried rice from the bar’s adjacent eatery.

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COURTESY OF SPOON AND STABLE

BEST RESTAURANT BAR
Spoon And Stable, Minneapolis
The food from Daniel Boulud vet Gavin Kaysen keeps raking in the accolades, but the bar, helmed by Robb Jones, is also worth roosting at. Jones offers daily-changing libations and spins on the classics, including a sidecar with pear brandy and orange-vanilla bitters.

11_latitude29nola

Jochen Hirschfeld

BEST TRADITIONAL TIKI BAR
Latitude 29, New Orleans
One would be hard-pressed to find a more informed tiki expert than Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (below). When he opened his bar inside the French Quarter’s Bienville House, he had no choice but to make it a great one. The presence of a Ponchartrain pearl diver (Jamaica rum, lime, passion fruit, honey-butter spice mix) indeed confirms it is so.

12_Midnight-Rambler

Courtesy of Midnight Rambler

BEST SUBTERRANEAN BAR
Midnight Rambler, Dallas
Beneath the Joule Hotel sits the animated rock-meets-deco Midnight Rambler, where the drinks—such as a temple of the moon (jasmine-infused pisco, pineapple, lime, Texas mineral water, nutmeg) or a digestif of Irish whiskey, cassis and Ethiopian single-origin coffee—inspire deep thoughts.

13_Normadine

The Normandie Club

BEST CASUAL COCKTAIL BAR
The Normandie Club, Los Angeles
The Normandie Club, a Koreatown collaboration between Proprietors LLC and 213 Nightlife, is devoid of pretense. The menu is devoted to classics with compelling tweaks (to wit: a coconut bourbon old-fashioned). Bonus: The Walker Inn, a more intimate lair, is tucked inside.

14_ MACE_drink_mustardseed_sgb7144

COURTESY OF MACE

MOST IMAGINATIVE COCKTAIL CONCEPT
Mace, New York
Mace opened in the East Village just in time to revive jaded drinkers, wowing them with Nico de Soto’s menu that evokes a spice shop. Black-mustard-seed-infused Suze mixed with banana liqueur and lemon juice proves complexity is still alive and well behind the stick.

15_forgery

COURTESY OF FORGERY

BEST BAR IN AN ON-THE-RISE HOOD
Forgery, San Francisco
Western SoMa, site of a burgeoning high-tech corridor, is also home to the brick-walled Forgery. Jacques Bezuidenhout and Ken Luciano (below) preside over the bar, making quaffs such as el vampiro (mezcal, Manzanilla, crème de cassis, salt). Savor one while people-watching through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

16_Pepe-le-Moko

Courtesy of Pépé Le Moko

BEST SPEAKEASY
Pépé Le Moko, Oregon
Leave it to Jeffrey Morgenthaler to elevate such once-cloying drinks as the blue Hawaii and the amaretto sour. By embracing quality ingredients, these upgrades, whipped up behind a handsome zinc bar, barely resemble the originals. Sip a Jägerita (yes, a Jägermeister margarita) in the swank surroundings.

Slowly Shirley

courtesy of Slowly Shirley

BEST BAR WITHIN A BAR
Slowly Shirley, New York
Descend from the vodka-fueled chaos of the Happiest Hour into Slowly Shirley, a throwback to 1940s art deco glamour. The fancy cocktails that barman Jim Kearns might turn out in this basement den include the gin and Irish whiskey–forward plum tuckered, with plum sake, Aperol and cucumber.

18_grandarmy

COURTESY OF GRAND ARMY

BEST COCKTAILS IN AN OYSTER BAR
Grand Army, New York
This dark, dreamy oyster bar in idyllic Brooklyn also serves some of the city’s best new cocktails, courtesy of Damon Boelte. Only a tipple like the boardwalk flyer (aged cachaça, Carpano Bianco, Giffard Banane du Brésil, fresh lime, mole bitters) could make a dozen briny bivalves even more transcendent.

20_cooper_textwrap

COURTESY OF COOPER LOUNGE

BEST BAR IN A TRAIN STATION
Cooper Lounge, Denver
Revamped Union Station is an architectural masterpiece. Sitting in this elegant boîte, one almost expects the Orient Express to glide through. The mezzanine locale guarantees downtown views to relish alongside cocktails such as the St. Therese (tequila, Bénédictine, Ancho Reyes liqueur) and Colorado Wagyu tartare spiked with sriracha dressing.

19_ABV

courtesy of ABV

BEST BAR FOR DAYTIME DRINKING
ABV, San Francisco
This Mission District bar from Ryan Fitzgerald, Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud and Todd Smith opens at two P.M., which means it’s quite possible to spend an afternoon getting delightfully sauced on the likes of a jackel (rye, lemon, pineapple, cardamom) before tackling a burger draped in Cottonwood cheddar for dinner.

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