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America's Best Bars 2012
  • July 03, 2012 : 18:07
  • comments

This is journalism, people. All year long our swarms of investigative reporters ping-pong across the nation, hitting juke joints, mixology meccas, beach bars and dives by the dozen. We look under every maraschino cherry, jotting down notes on wet napkins with steeled nerves and steady hands. To make our bar guide as definitive as possible, we spare lots of sleep and no expense. If you know of a drinking establishment that belongs on this list, clue us in. Meanwhile, pour yourself a tall one and enjoy this intoxicating menu.

The Musso & Frank grill (Los Angeles)
Cocktail fads come and go, but the bartenders at Musso & Frank on Hollywood Boulevard hold steady in red jackets and bow ties. Dean Martin, Raymond Chandler, Johnny Depp—they all drank here. Don’t dare order anything but a dry martini. (mussoandfrank.com)

Chateau Marmont, the garden patio (Los Angeles)
When the history of modern celebrity is written, this bar (above right) will have its own volume. Harder to get in to than Harvard, it’s the only place where Miuccia Prada, Louis C.K. and Waka Flocka Flame might share a round. (chateaumarmont.com)

The Sazerac Bar (New Orleans)
Every bucket list should include a Ramos gin fizz at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel—like drinking history out of a glass. The sazeracs aren’t bad either. (therooseveltneworleans.com)

Bemelmans Bar (New York) Named for longtime Carlyle Hotel resident Ludwig Bemelmans, this temple of postwar elegance (above left) is as old school as it gets, from the trippy murals (painted by Mr. B himself) to the white-jacketed waiters. It’s a time warp to a better era. Go there. (thecarlyle.com)

Rob Roy (Seattle)
It’s all about the ice at this warm, dimly lit boozy mecca. Big shards of hand-cut ice transform everyday drinks into works of consumable art. Imaginative creations round out the menu of authentic classics. (robroyseattle.com)

Columbia Room (Washington, D.C.)
One of the most intimate watering holes in the country, this 10-seat bar requires reservations; its cocktail tasting menu is a wonderful journey. Owner Derek Brown is one of the friendliest and smartest barmen ever to shake one up. (passengerdc.com)

Prizefighter (Emeryville, California)
Jon Santer left a high-profile job in the spirits industry to open the bar of his dreams. Start with a doorknocker punch, then follow it with a classic like a bee’s knees. Terrific concoctions, totally unpretentious. (prizefighterbar.com)

Napoleon House (New Orleans)
If you haven’t had a Pimm’s in the courtyard of Napoleon’s, you need to book a ticket to the Big Easy right now. One of the most beautiful and decadent bars in America since 1797. (napoleonhouse.com)

McSorley’s Old Ale House (New York)
Presidents, poets, beats and deadbeats have all drained a glass at this sacred East Village haunt established in 1854. It’s the Vatican City of saloons. (mcsorleysnewyork.com)

Cliff Bell’s (Detroit)
One of Detroit’s great prewar spots, Cliff Bell’s closed in 1985. Pioneering boozehounds refurbished the place in 2005 with original furniture, carved-wood wall fixtures—the works, just as it was way back when. A heady cocktail of stiff drinks, great jazz and Motor City magic. (cliffbells.com)

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read more: nightlife, magazine, alcohol, bars, issue july 2012

9 comments

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best classic bar of N. Carolina is The Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach, free music and cold beer sitting on a hurricaine shortened pier over the atlantic ocean.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best dive bar is the tip top tavern in breadenton floida
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The Very Best Dive Bar On The Treasure Coast Is " Ralphs Standup Bar " in Jupiter Florida :-)
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Only Nashville mention is the tourist trap Tootsie's?!? No Patterson House? No Springwater? No Boundary? No 12 South Taproom? No Virago? C'mon.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Weak sauce...gimme something I didn't hear about 4 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    im so happy for Cruise Room denver......spent many a new years there
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