The season of celebration is a wonderful excuse for raising a glass to the year ahead. So ring in the new year with an expertly mixed cocktail at one of the many hot new bars and stylish hideaways popping up around the globe
It may seem like cocktails are experiencing a bit of a “moment.” But the truth is that cocktails have long been in vogue. The earliest printed mention of them dates back to 1806, when they were name checked in a New York newspaper. As with fashion, cocktail trends change from season to season: long drinks, short drinks, bathtub gins, Japanese whiskies, muddling, blending, smoking… all these and more have appeared in bars around the globe in recent years, and the world of cocktails keeps evolving.Sandrae LawrenceofThe Cocktail Lovers recommends her favorite new bars, and the most interesting tipples to try.
NEW YORK What:The Bennett Where: 134 W. Broadway Open since: November 2015
Why: Meaghan Dorman, Yves Jadot, and Alberto Benenati know how to do good bars. Fact. Both Dear Irving and The Raines Law Room, the two other bars in their stable, are winners on the decor and drinks fronts, and this one is no exception. With its stylish, streamlined design and slinky gold fittings in the heart of Tribeca, The Bennett oozes just enough glamour to make you feel cool and sexy while still feeling welcoming. That said, it’s probably not one for youngish hipsters – this has more of a grown-up feel about it.
It’s the perfect setting to impress a date, though – particularly with the come-hither buzzers at the table to summon your waiter without tearing yourself away from your paramour. Single? No worries, it works just as well for groups and business meetings.
The cocktails are divided into Original House Creations, including Autumn Affinity (apple brandy, local apple cider, Amontillado sherry, spiced pear), and Reverse Monarch (gin, blanc vermouth, cucumber shrub); and Audience Awards, comprising hits from the previous menus, such as Wildest Redhead (blended Scotch, lemon, honey, all-spice, Cherry Heering) and Hero of Little Venice (aged rum, sweet vermouth, egg, root beer) – all winners in our book. The bar food is pretty good too. And, although it’s not stipulated, this place is definitely worth dressing up for.
Ask for: Frank of America (rye, myrrh, Amaro abano, spiced maple, Angostura bitters).
What:Dante Where: 79-81 Macdougal Street Open since: June 2015
Why:It’s not fancy, and we mean that in a good way – this is the kind of place you could easily hang out in all day. Which is what the mainly Italian neighborhood did when it first opened in 1915 – as did local musicians including Bob Dylan during the 1960s and ’70s. There’s been a Caffe Dante on this spot for 100 years and, even though it had fallen into disrepair over the years, the locals weren’t too happy when they heard a bunch of Australians had bought it.
Cleverly, Linden Pride and theAvroKocrew have kept the spirit of the place alive (tin ceiling, checkered floor and trad bistro chairs), but given it the kiss of life with a fresh, clean palette, comforting and healthy(ish) food menu and an accessible but genius drinks list by Naren Young.
Start with one of the lighter drinks such as the signature Garibaldi (Campari and the freshest, frothiest orange juice you’re likely to quaff), Salty Dog (Absolut vodka, pink grapefruit juice, black lava salt), or perhaps the Vermouth Service (Noilly Prat Dry with frozen grapes and Perrier). Whatever you do, don’t miss the Negroni Sessions – 11 delightful variations on the classic, running from Negroni on tap to Negroni Coffee Swizzle (Del Maguey mescal, Noilly Prat Ambre, Meletti Bitter, cold brew coffee).
LONDON What:Oriole Where:East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield Market, EC1A 9LH. Open since:November 2015
Why:Ever heard ofNightjar? You should have – it’s been in the top three of theWorld’s 50 Best Barslist for the past four years. If you’re a fan, rest assured, this new outpost has many similarities, including a doorman at the top of the stairs and a sexy subterranean feel with live music of the jazz, swing, or blues variety once you make your way down.
That said, it’s bigger and, dare we say, more polished than its older sibling. Everything from the lush tropical wallpaper and delicious food menu to the illuminated cabinets housing exotic treasures from around the globe has been carefully considered and beautifully designed. So too has the drinks menu – all 14 pages of it, created to look like an explorer’s sticker album and divided into drinks from the Old World, New World, and The Orient.
We won’t lie, it’s not the easiest to get to acquainted with, but well worth poring over. Don’t be shy – ask any of the staff to talk you through the offerings and you’ll get all the details you need. We recommend making a beeline for one of the stools at the bar (something you couldn’t do at Nightjar). From here, you’ll be able to see the‘tenders at work while getting a good view of the band.
Ask for:Cortez The Killer (Don Julio Reposado, balsamic vermouth, agave tonka syrup).
What:The Gibson Where: 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ Open since: December 2015
Why: It’s the highly anticipated lovechild of two highly respected London-based bartenders, Marian Beke (ex-Nightjar) and Rusty Cerven (ex-Connaught). In this, their first independent venture, they pay homage to one of the less-celebrated cocktail classics, the Gibson (the one often garnished with a pickled onion). And the way they do it makes you realize you’ve been depriving your taste buds of a real treat.
Before we get to the cocktails, there are so many things to love about this bar. The room is a gem – small but absolutely perfectly formed with a delightful copper bar, etched glass windows, and carefully chosen lighting to cast dramatic shadows – it’s like a cocktail-loving beatnik’s dream. It’s yet to be completely finished – a banquette will take the place of the chairs lining the back wall and, as well as the beautiful antique pickle jars and saucer of finely shaved parmesan cheese that accompany your drinks, there will be a choice of cold cuts and tartares with meat from the famed Smithfield market nearby.
And what to drink? Move over classic martinis – here its pickle-flavored cousin is allowed to shine. You can enjoy the gin, vermouth, and onion-based drink, which dates back to the 1900s, from an ice-cold stainless-steel martini glass, with either an olive, hazelnut, or the requisite onion adding complexity and a little extra to munch on – all pickled on the premises and balanced just so.
While the Gibson is undoubtedly the star, there are original drinks on the ever-evolving menu, too. We liked the Pickled Banana Daiquiri (azuki bean liqueur, Bacardi 8-year-old rum, banana chutney, milk oolong, palm sugar, young coconut water, curry leaf, lime, gold coconut ice). Expect equally delightful surprises every week, but one thing they will all have in common is the inclusion of chutneys or pickles. Wonderful stuff.
Ask for:Dry Gibson Cocktail (Tanqueray gin, Martini Riserva, Ambrato, hazelnut).
HONG KONG What:CÉ LA VI Where:25/F California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central Open since: August 2015
Why?If you like to drink in a view as well as a good cocktail, this Hong Kong offering is your kind of place, providing 360° vistas of the Hong Kong skyline with every drink. This lounge and sky bar is styled to represent a tropical rainforest, allowing guests to escape to a magical world away from the concrete jungle below. Motifs of the Southeast Asian themed-landscape occur throughout the venue, using shadow and textures to masterfully create a seductive, intimate and sensual atmosphere.
CÉ LA VI’s drinks menu, devised by Head Mixologist Knut Randhem (based in CLV’s Singapore outpost) invites you to “toast to life, indulge your thirst, and refresh your senses,” which sounds like a sensible philosophy. Must-tries include the signature This Is The Life – pear purée, hibiscus water, rosehip cordial and peach liqueur topped off with bubbles – and the bestselling Storm Cooler with Grey Goose vodka, passion fruit, honey and raw liquorice powder.
Ask for:Heaven on 26th(Effen cherry and vanilla vodka, grapefruit juice, cherry sour, lemon syrup and egg white).
What:NEO Where: 10 Shin Hing Street, Sheung Wan Open since: June 2015
Why: Fancy drinking with the beautiful people? Chances are you’ll find them in this off-the-beaten-track cocktail club on the Shin Hing steps in NoHo. Whether they’re hanging by the retro pinball machine, trying their luck on the arcade games or simply striking a pose by the DJ booth, NEO has become quite the hotspot, particularly for those who like their cocktails served with a healthy dose of fun.
The playful 1980s decor – all mismatched stools and neon lighting – plays a major role in the proceedings, but so too do the drinks. Most of the spirits have been sourced from independent producers and then transformed into cocktails of the most creative kind. Need convincing? Try the Express Polaroid (ghee buttered dark rum, coffee liqueur, espresso, tonic reduction syrup – complete with a Polaroid of you and your cocktail as a garnish), or the Yoghurt Sour (pisco accolado, smoked yoghurt, citrus sugar, bitters and egg white).
Why: Not new, but the luxury hotel group’s award-winning bars have recently launched an exciting two-year global cocktail program designed by a hand-picked group of elite mixologists.
Under the banner “Classics. Perfected” bartenders from the Fairmont Pacific Rim (Vancouver), Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (Québec City), The Savoy (London), and Fairmont Singapore reimagined new versions of classic cocktails for a menu that, says Jane Mackie, vice president, Fairmont Brand, “is about shaping and sharing Fairmont cocktail culture with our neighbors and guests in over 20 countries.
Developed in partnership with Kathy Casey at her Liquid Kitchen Food Studios in June 2015, the resulting creations include The Fairmont Old Fashioned (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, local bitters), the Pomegranate Paloma (Casamigos Reposado Tequila, Cointreau, pomegranate, fresh grapefruit, lemon), and the VSOP Boulevardier (Gentleman Jack, Rémy Martin VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac, Campari, sweet vermouth).
Ask for:Whatever your bartender recommends – these guys really know their stuff, and several of them have won industry awards for innovation and service.