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America’s 25 Best Bartenders

America’s 25 Best Bartenders

There are over 550,000 bartenders working in the United States, and while we’re grateful for each and every one of them (and all of their hard work), a few of these pros stand out from the pack. Whether you eagerly follow the craft cocktail scene or you just love sharing a few laughs with friends over a well-built drink, you know the value of a truly excellent bartender: these are the folks behind the bar who can take the edge off the end of the day with a vigorous shake, a few flicks of the wrist, and a glorious cocktail made just for you. To celebrate the barkeeps, the master mixologists, the leaders and progressives in the new wave of craft cocktails who boldly take us to higher, more exciting levels of artful inebriation than ever before, we’ve come up with a list of the 25 best bartenders in the United States.

The 25 Best Bartenders in the United States (Slideshow)

These are the innovators behind albino negronis, exclusively sherry wine lists, and even a bacon-washed rye Old-Fashioned (you heard right — now wipe that drool off the side of your mouth). They’ve happily sacrificed countless hours of their lives taste-testing spirits, seeking the best wines, researching the history of libations, altering recipes over and over until they’re absolutely perfect and with the utmost care, and cultivating menus that may forever change your mind about rum, Scotch, Amaro, or pineapple-infused Campari. They may turn you on to something new. Or maybe they’ll simply make the best Long Island Ice Tea you’ve ever had, using only the best ingredients. And they won’t scoff at you for it.

So, how did we narrow down the best bartenders in the whole country to a list of just twenty-five names? First, we looked at who was making waves in their respective cities, who took home awards or received nominations (everything from spirit-sponsored contests to the more prestigious ones such as the Tales of the Cocktail and James Beard Awards), and who stood out among so many great contenders. We mulled over wine menus, scoured cocktail lists, and talked to insiders about who was doing the extraordinary. This is that culmination.

While we scoured the whole of the United States, we sought to find the greatest contemporary bartenders in every major American city, and we found that while these bartenders are all stand-outs, they also have very personal approaches to their craft: Jason Steven of Bar Congress in Austin, for instance, has a charmingly unusual way of approaching the design for a new cocktail — in terms of cinema. Paul McGee of Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, on the other hand? Inspired by the classic tiki bars of ‘60s era Chitown.

For more details about these bartenders and the rest of this year’s nominees, take a look at our slideshow.

These are our picks for the best bartenders in America for 2014, but we’re sure you’ve met a great many too. Have thoughts about who should have made the list this year? Think we missed a few mixologists who should have made the cut? We want to know. Include their name, bar, and city in the comments below, or tweet at us using the hashtag #bestbartender2014. We’ll collect your nominees and publish a subsequent list of America’s Favorite Bartenders.


1000 Best Bartenders Recipes

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COLD FASHIONED

“The Cold Fashioned is so simple to make, yet so well balanced and complex. Who doesn’t like a three-component drink that can be made without fancy bar equipment? Coffee works so well with whiskey: It’s the reason why the Revolver was so popular in the West Coast for years—until a better coffee liqueur was created in Australia, using real coffee and less sugar. This modern classic plays the roasty, barrel notes of the whiskey off the aromatic, complex flavor of arabica coffee, with the orange tying the two together in a beautiful way.” —Stephen Kurpinsky, U.S. brand ambassador for Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

Ingredients:

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1 oz. Mr Black Cold Brew Liqueur

Method: Build over ice and stir. Garnish with orange peel.

HIGH WEST COBBLER: THE PAYROLL TRAIN

“It’s been said that the cobbler was the most popular cocktail in the 19th century—one that incorporated fresh fruit, sherry, or spirits. The low ABV of a cobbler and its ability to be refreshing is what allows you to drink it over a longer period of time without the effects you may normally experience from a high-alcohol cocktail. Crushed (or pebble) ice is key to a good cobbler. You can get crushed ice out of your ice machine at home but if you have pebble ice it will take longer to melt. A good cheat here would be to go to Sonic and buy a bag of their ice to-go. I’ve done this many times before and it’s also great for a backyard get-together.” —Steve Walton, beverage director at High West Saloon (Park City, Utah)

Ingredients:

0.5 oz. High West Double Rye

1.5 oz. Oloroso (can mix this with mixed berries for extra flavor)

Method: Short shake, strain over crushed ice, and garnish with berries and mint.

TOKI HIGHBALL

“Highballs are perfect in a lot of ways. They can be made with no tools, no technique, no experience, and still deliver on something refreshing and delicious. During this time I’ve been trying to focus my energy on simple things to find joy in the day-to-day. A clean and easy highball gives me exactly that.” —Vinny Starble, beverage director and spirits specialist

Ingredients:

0.5 parts Chenin Blanc (or other high-acid still white wine)

4 parts super premium soda water, like Topo Chico

Method: Combine all ingredients into a Collins or tall glass. Gently add ice. Garnish with flowers (optional). Express lemon peel over flowers (or top of glass) and discard.

ANGEL EYES

“One of my favorite ingredients to work with is honey and I especially love the complex flavors found in the Bee Squared honey that is aged in Laws Whiskey barrels. I enjoy creating whiskey cocktails with Laws Rye because the rye matches well with bright flavors like grapefruit and mint. During quarantine I have been watching a lot of old Westerns. My favorite is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is an epic1966 Italian spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone. I named my drink Angel Eyes—after the villain in the movie. My drink pays homage to this incredible classic and is the perfect marriage of Colorado Rye whiskey and Italian flavor!” —Katie Dehart, bartender at Attimo Wine (Denver, Colorado)

Ingredients:

2 oz. Laws Whiskey House San Luis Valley Straight Rye

0.5 oz. Braulio Italian amaro

4 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice

Method: Build over ice in a shaker. Shake and strain over fresh ice in an eight-ounce rocks glass.

GOODNIGHT IRENE, SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

“Goodnight Irene is the perfect nightcap—filled with flavor but lower in alcohol than another glass of the terrific whiskey at its base (Knappogue Castle 16 Year). Sipping with a slightly bitter herbaceousness, hints of almond, and a touch of sweet raisin, it’s guaranteed to keep you singing well after last call!” —Jackson Cannon, bar director of Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne (Boston, Massachusetts)

Ingredients:

1 oz. Knappogue Castle 16 Year

1 oz. Lustau East India Sherry

Method: Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon oil.

MONKEY JAM SOUR

“The Monkey Jam Sour is the perfect balance of fun, simple, and refreshing. It’s the answer to the ‘sweet, but not too sweet’ request that often times can seem like quite the quandary. The best part is that this recipe is adaptable to your needs—feel free to experiment with the jams you have on hand in your pantry to master that perfect sweetness balance.” —Anna Mains, brand ambassador at Monkey Shoulder

Ingredients:

2 parts Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

0.75 parts fresh lemon juice

Method: Combine ingredients, shake and double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

FLEMING’S CHOICE WHISKY COBBLER

“The cobbler, for me, has always been a favorite—as a deliciously flavorful drink with a relatively low ABV. It’s perfect for daytime garden drinking, as well as slowing down after you’ve already had a few boozy beverages in a cocktail bar, but aren’t quite ready to leave just yet. (Ah, remember those glory days?) With this particular recipe and the current climate, I decided to ramp up a classic cobbler recipe with the addition of Aberlour A’Bunadh, our cask strength single malt. A’Bunadh is matured in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks, so it has the perfect profile for a cobbler upgrade, adding a delicious layer of raisin sweetness with a lovely spice that really stands up to all that cobbled ice.” —Gemma Cole, national brand ambassador for Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Ingredients:

Method: Add all ingredients to an ice filled shaker and shake until cold. Strain over crushed (cobbled) ice filled glass and garnish with an orange wheel and fresh black cherries. Enjoy with an eco-straw.

NEW YORK MANHATTAN

“The Manhattan is anytime—period. Regardless of what may be going on around you, a handmade Manhattan will always make you feel like you have yourself together. It’s like putting on a bespoke suit just to sit in your living room and play a game of chess with your wife while she’s wearing pajamas. The orange notes in the bitters and garnish put this Manhattan on par with any you’ve had before at your favorite cocktail bar. Even if you’ve chosen pajamas over suits as your pandemic dress code, sipping one of these will still make you feel sophisticated.” —David Powell, national ambassador at Hudson Whiskey

Ingredients:

2 parts Hudson Manhattan Rye

3 dashes of aromatic bitters of your choice (I prefer Tuthilltown Basement Bitters)

1 part sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica Formula or Dolin Rouge)

Orange twist and cocktail cherries, for garnish

Method: If serving on the rocks, build everything in a double old fashioned glass. If serving in a cocktail glass, add ingredients to a mixing glass: bitters, vermouth, Manhattan rye, then ample ice. Stir for 20 seconds to dilute—and chill for 15 seconds. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a Marasca cherry or express oils from an orange twist over drink and garnish.

THE MALT JULEP

“Since we’re all spending more time at home these days, I recommend simple cocktails with a few tasty ingredients that are forgiving if you need to eyeball the measurements. And the Malt Julep is certainly that! This Scotch variation on the mint julep is sweet and refreshing. I always recommend that people enjoy responsibly. When doing so, I do know that this cocktail will make for a tastier world! If your grocery store is allowed to sell spirits, this is a one-stop-shop cocktail. All the ingredients should be there!” —Allan Roth, brand ambassador at Glenfiddich

Ingredients:

2 parts Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve

Method: Build with crushed ice and garnish with mint sprigs in a traditional julep cup.

THE DOWN UNDER

“I really love this delicious Australian whisky for this riff on a classic Manhattan. It’s easy to make at home, especially with ingredients that are easy to find. I wanted to stick with the theme of Australia—and coffee is such a big part of the culture down under so the addition of coffee liqueur (I prefer Mr Black, which is also Australian) balances this drink nicely. It’s easy to enjoy, especially after a long day (or year) of sitting at home.” —Gelo Honrade, bartender at Osamil (New York, New York)

Ingredients:

2 oz. Starward Two-Fold Australian Whisky

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Serve straight up in a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

IRISH GOLD RUSH

“I definitely enjoy this cocktail all year round. It’s cool, sweet, and refreshing in the summer—yet honey and lemon always goes down well when there’s a chill in the air. I also love that it’s such an accessible cocktail. Almost every bar, restaurant, or household has some honey and lemons hanging around. Irish whiskey is the friendliest and most approachable whiskey, best enjoyed with a smile and good conversation. It’s not going to solve any of our problems, but it sure will help take our mind off them for a while. Whipping up this cocktail makes you look like you’ve got it together, even when you actually have nothing in the fridge! It’s a crowd pleaser too: simple flavors, subtle sweetness, and the delicate taste of Irish whiskey. Buy extra lemons because I guarantee you will be asked to make another round!” —Donna Stewart, brand ambassador at Tullamore D.E.W.

Ingredients:

2 parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original

0.75 parts fresh lemon juice

Method: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake until well chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

FISTFUL OLD FASHIONED

“The Fistful Old is the perfect zipper to make at home as it’s so easy to make and requires few bar tools—or none at all. The smooth flavor of Fistful of Bourbon will transport you to another time. Sugar, ice, bitters, and a grapefruit can be found at almost all grocery stores. We launched Fistful of Bourbon Nationwide in September, so you should be able to find it at your favorite liquor stores soon—and it’s absolutely delicious.” Anthony Bohlinger, brand ambassador at Fistful of Bourbon

Ingredients:

2 parts Fistful of Bourbon

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Combine ingredients and stir over ice. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a large grapefruit peel if available.

BALVENIE DOUBLEWOOD 12 YEAR HIGHBALL

“The highball is perfect for when you’re craving refreshment. The crispness of the club soda, the brightness of the lemon, and the honeyed notes of the whisky strike the perfect balance. It’s always best to enjoy The Balvenie responsibly—so I recommend sipping your highball throughout the evening surrounded (even if that means virtually at the moment) by your friends and family. The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year is easy to find and absolutely delicious. It’s aged for 12 years in American oak, which provides caramel and vanilla sweetness, before being finished in European oak—giving the palate hints of nuttiness and spice.” —Naomi Leslie, brand ambassador, east region at The Balvenie

Ingredients:

1 part Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood

Method: Build over ice in a highball glass. Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge.

THE MACALLAN SPEYSIDE SIPPER

“When I’m looking for a cocktail, the biggest factors for me are balance and experience. I’ve been recently enjoying The Macallan Speyside Sipper cocktail that has both a familiar and comforting flavor—but is also incredibly satisfying in its refreshing taste. The grapefruit juice is light and incredibly dynamic, while adding green tea and a hint of lime really takes the cocktail to an original and stimulating level. This cocktail celebrates The Macallan in an unconventional way, while letting each of the other ingredients shine. Pro tip: Use the honey sparingly, just a little bit of sweetness can go a long way into giving you the exact experience you want.” —Zack Berger, brand ambassador at The Macallan

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old

Method: Add all ingredients to a highball glass and serve over ice.

NEVADA BUCK

“The Nevada Buck is an easy-to-make recipe that’s both refreshing and delicious—perfect after a long day of farming in the Nevada heat! Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey provides a well-balanced base for this cocktail, while the spiced orange ginger ale accentuates notes of citrus and burnt orange on the palate.” —Ashley and Colby Frey, Frey Ranch Distillery cofounders

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

3 oz. Fever-Tree spiced orange ginger ale

2 dashes aromatic bitters

Method: Build all ingredients over ice in a double old fashioned glass. Stir and garnish with an orange slice.

CALL ME OLD FASHIONED

“Whisky is extremely versatile, it just all depends on how you treat it. This old fashioned riff with The Singleton is great for quarantine life because it’s easy to execute, uses basic at home ingredients, and has a bit of character to it with the addition of amaro.” —Kaitlyn Stewart, bar manager and Global World Class Bartender of the Year 2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old or The Singleton of Glendullan 15 Year Old

1 bar spoon of maple syrup

Method: Build in mixing glass over ice. Stir until desired dilution. Pour over a large cube of ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Angela Yeung and David Radcliff

GLEASON

“Brown spirits are not always associated with summer cocktails and refreshing flavors. But don’t let this drink fool you, it’s a bourbon-based drink with bright lemon and spicy cinnamon notes complemented by juicy Patrón Citrónge Orange and a dash of classic bitters. It is herbal and light perfect for warm evenings or could be even converted into large format punch.” —Egor Polonskiy, manager of mixology and trade education at Patrón

Ingredients:

0.75 oz. Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur

0.5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water)

0.5 oz. cinnamon simple syrup (equal parts water, sugar, and cinnamon)

1 sprig of rosemary, for garnish

Method: Pour all ingredients into shaker, shake, strain over fresh ice. Garnish with rosemary and lemon wheel.

MORNING CAME EARLY

“With this cocktail I tried to find a way to bridge the gap between flavors that I associate with summer (ginger, basil, mint) and bourbon. I found that the blood orange soda worked really well in several ways. It helped highlight the citrus in the Campari and complemented the spiciness of the Cinzano 1757. Most importantly it helped bridge the gap between the summer flavors and the warm and rich notes of vanilla, wood, dark chocolate, and baking spice in the Russell’s Reserve 10.” —Nataleigh Kabler, Bartender at Meta (Louisville, Kentucky)

Ingredients:

1 part Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old

1 part 1757 Vermouth di Torino Rosso

0.5 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled

Method: Muddle ginger, mint, basil, and Campari together. Strain into a Collins glass. Add Cinzano and Russell’s. Add ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a bouquet of fresh basil and mint. Optional: add a pinch of salt when muddling if you prefer a less bitter profile.

COOL JANE

“I have a new appreciation for the depth in which blended Scotch adds to summer ingredients. Whisky has always been a great choice for summer cocktails, but this year in particular it solidified its part in my ‘chill summer rituals.’ The past six months have made it difficult to find specific ingredients, so I am thankful for Johnnie Walker’s versatility and adaptability in cocktails. It plays well with traditional or playful effervescence, fresh citrus, cooling and tropical fruits, and berries. And its complex layers mix well with fresh summer herbs—or floral- and fruit-forward teas, which have become a staple in these times. Basically, every element of summer can be incorporated into Scotch cocktails. I love using Johnnie Walker for highballs, coolers, and blended summer sippers. The Cool Jane is a playful summer-inspired cocktail designed for sipping at home using minimal ingredients that you would naturally have in your refrigerator and pantry. It’s for lazy summer days and was created to uplift your spirits.” —Lulu Martinez, beverage specialist and owner of LunaDrinks

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker

Long cucumber slice, for garnish

Method​: Build all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass squeeze in a lemon (then discard). Garnish with a long cucumber slice.

FALL HIGHBALL

“This is one of the first cocktails I put on the menu at Sable, after taking over the bar program in 2018. It’s great at home since it’s so bright, refreshing, and the apple highlights the orchard fruit notes of Toki. It’s equal parts nostalgic and inspiring. It brings me back to those early few months of being in a new bar team, trying to find our footing and creating ambitious menus together. Cheers!” —Jenee Craver, beverage director and cocktail consultant

Ingredients:

0.5 barspoon bee pollen or honey

2–3 dashes Bar Keep Apple Bitters

Method: Combine all ingredients except for Topo Chico into a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into a Collins or tall glass filled to the brim with ice. Top with Topo Chico.

ICED IRISH COFFEE

“When summer hits, and it’s a beach day or vacation time, I really enjoy starting my day (or afternoon) with an Iced Irish Coffee. Through the years of experimenting with different whiskeys, I find that the Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey is my number one choice. We currently feature the Kilbeggan Single Grain Iced Irish Coffee on our new cocktail-to-go menu at the Millburn Standard, and it’s a hot item! The whiskey has such full body and flavor—with a perfect subtle bite that brings the whole drink together. You can taste the whiskey, but it doesn’t intimidate or overpower the drink. Added bonus: You can build it, shake it, and drink it in a regular thermos.” —Jason Turon, beverage director at Millburn Standard (Millburn, NJ)

Ingredients:

1.5 parts Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey

0.75 parts Demerara syrup (mix equal parts demerara sugar and water)

3–4 parts Castle Run Cold Brew Coffee (alternatively, any iced coffee will work but cold brew is preferred, specifically Castle Run cold brew)

Method: Add Kilbeggan Single Grain, demerara syrup and cold brew coffee to a tall glass. Give it a good stir so everyone becomes friends in the glass. Float whipped heavy cream on top (we use a protein shaker to whip the cream). To finish it off properly, sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

Rx (A.K.A. PRESCRIPTION)

“This is an easy and enjoyable cocktail to make at home, using accessible ingredients from your pantry. Normally this classic cocktail calls for unpeated whisky with a peated whisky float, but after tasting the Benriach 10 Year Curiositas, I found that the heavily peated front end screams out to be mixed into its own Penicillin riff. For this cocktail, I combined Benriach Curiositas with fresh ginger syrup, lemon juice, and Averna Amaro to tie in with the fruit and oak notes. Salted honey adds a little umami and a slight sweetness to balance it all out. Have one or several (responsibly) and enjoy exactly as the doctor ordered: the Rx (a.k.a Prescription).” —Danny Natali, Ronan and Wally’s Wine & Spirit (Los Angeles, California)

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. BenRiach 10 Year Curiositas Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Method: Add all ingredients into shaker tins. Shake until fully emulsified. Double strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with candied ginger.

*For the Ginger Syrup: Mix fresh ginger juice, cane sugar, and water at a 2:2:1 ratio with an immersion blender until combined.

**For the Salted Honey Syrup: Mix honey with hot water at a 2:1 ratio and finish with sea salt (one pinch for every ounce of liquid)

STARWARD MILKSHAKE

“My favorite quarantine ice cream of late has been Talenti’s raspberry cheesecake flavor. And milkshakes, especially boozy ones, are such a fun and refreshing way to enjoy the treat when we’re sitting at home all day long. To make a really delicious boozy milkshake, I wanted to choose a certain ice cream that would amplify the flavors that I really enjoyed about sipping a great whisky like Starward. I wanted to play off of the whisky’s fruity berry notes and its malty vanilla quality. I also believe it helps to choose an ice cream that is pretty dense because with the blender (or a Nutribullet) there will be some aeration during the blending process. I like my milkshakes extra thick. Talenti by nature is very rich and creamy, which creates a beautiful texture. I loved how Starward paired with the bright tart raspberry as well as the bits of shortbread that is present in the ice cream. The vanilla cheesecake base was an obvious pair with the heavy vanilla notes in the spirit. The one thing I believe to be missing in the ice cream was dark chocolate so I chucked a few pieces of Valhrona dark chocolate in there to give the milkshake a little edge and round things off a bit by balancing the creamy cheesecake and the tart-but-sweet raspberry flavor. As for toppings, this particular milkshake would be great with some extra dark chocolate tossed on top with some fresh raspberries. A sprinkle of some crushed up shortbread might be a nice addition as well.” —Matthew Reysen, bartender at Dante (New York, New York)

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Starward Two-Fold Whisky

2–3 scoops Talenti Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

2 pieces Valrhona dark chocolate

Dark and white chocolate shavings, for garnish

Method: Add all ingredients except the garnishes to a blender for a couple seconds. Shaved dark and white chocolate over the milkshake. Serve in a chilled pint glass with fresh raspberries.

CLARA BOW

“The Clara Bow is inspired by the New York Sour, an early twentieth-century cocktail that features a float of red or port wine on top of a classic Whiskey Sour. I developed this cocktail alongside bartender Jim Kearns as an evocation of the speakeasies of the Prohibition era, back when bartenders resorted to using a combination of whatever sweeteners were on hand to mask the taste of spirits with questionable quality.” —Lynnette Marrero, co-beverage director of Wonderbar Beacon (Beacon, New York)

Ingredients:

0.5 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

Method: Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir. Garnish with mint sprig.

STRAWBERRY WHISKEY SMASH

“After months of quarantine and countless cocktails from my home bar, it was definitely time to spice up my standard whiskey drink. That’s where the Strawberry Whiskey Smash comes in. Whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and homemade strawberry mint syrup offer a fruity herbaceous twist. Topped with ginger beer for some effervescence and a few dashes of bitters, it’s the perfect cocktail to liven up the living room mixologist vibes while quarantining.” —Michelle Heidt, mixologist at Sourced Craft Cocktails

Ingredients:

1.75 oz. batch pour of mint-strawberry simple syrup or strawberry simple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and dash of angostura bitters

Lemon or lime for garnish

Method: Combine ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge. Refrigerate and enjoy for up to seven days. Makes one cocktail.


The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America

Like anything worthwhile, a night at Zig Zag Café must be earned. From the fish merchants at Pike Place Market, you'll take stairs, worn wooden ramps, a skybridge, more stairs. Its location renders Google Maps useless. Still, people find it. By 5 p.m. the dozen barstools are almost always filled. Patrons come for the easy conversation and the drink-all-day coziness. Above all, though, they come for the cocktails of Murray Stenson. The man is effortlessly talented, a bartender superhero. In fact, he may be the country's best.

It's not obvious. Murray is not theatrical. He does not wear arm garters or shake things above his head. His endless energy is more about efficiency. Speed. Simplicity. We've seen him glance at a long recipe brought in by a guest, then leave. Did he blow that guy off? After forty-five seconds, he returned with the drink. "Good find!" he said. There is no way he memorized that recipe. There is no way he found the ingredients so quickly. There is no way the cocktail is any good. But thenyou sip. And you understand. Each drink Murray pours is a mini-revelation, an introduction to rare spirits and a bold use of common ones. Behold the Sayonara, whose slow, intense pepper-infused-tequila burn can only be soothed by the sourness from a sip of the same drink: fire and extinguisher in a single glass.

Still, if you ever have doubts about Murray's talents, do this: Sit near the end of the crescent bar. Peek behind it. Look closely at his workstation. Five drink racks. About twelve bottles in each. Artfully tiered from floor to torso, like a medieval organ powered by Dubonnet, kirsch, and Tuaca. If you think any ordinary bartender could play such an instrument, youɽ be wrong.


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Introduction – Setups
No argument: cocktails are sexy and sophisticated. They sparkle with mysterious possibilities. Imagine a night in a neon-lit club. A handsome man spots a gorgeous woman. He sends a drink over. She wonders: who is this good-looking man who just bought me a Cosmopolitan? He wonders: if I buy her two, will she go back to my place? After three, will she still be standing?

Endless seduction lingers in a cocktail glass regardless of season or setting. The beauty of a cold clear martini, a glass of perfect red sangria, or a sparkling vintage concoction transformed into a twenty-first century incarnation is liquid anticipation. For some, the thrill is in the warmth that comes with downing one of these potables. For others, it's all in the shake, stir, or blend.

When I was four, I toddled into a bar adjoined to a restaurant owned by my parents' friend. Instantly, I was hooked, not by the darkness of the joint or the local television celebs who frequented the place, but by the jewels behind the bar. The bottles of amber and emerald, sapphire and ruby hypnotized me. I had never seen anything more beautiful.
The fascination continued through my teens. Whenever I dined out, a Shirley Temple was a must. My dad preferred scotch and water my mother straight water. Curiosity about how liquor tasted was never my game the life of a barfly was hardly appealing. No, I wanted to mix. Let me behind the bar and I'd whip up a concoction to rival any.

Eventually bartending school beckoned as a wacky adventure I longed to have, and I mixed to my heart's content. Mixology is certainly a handy trade to have at parties to win friends and influence people. And practice does, indeed, make perfect.

It's impossible to learn all the drinks in the world. Literally thousands exist and more are created every day along with new liqueurs―some even appear to glow in the dark. Certainly, in the early part of the twentieth century, a mixer would have better luck learning all the cocktails than he or she would today. Mixologists often named cocktails after the hotel or bar that birthed them or for the patron who desired them. Cocktails such as the Daiquiri and the Mojito became famous in other countries and found their way to popularity in the United States. In today's fast-paced world of starlets and playboys jetting around the globe, the international cocktail is no longer so easy to define.

But a good drink is. Whether it's a Bloody Mary before noon, a non-alcoholic Safe Sex on the Beach after a sweaty workout, or a Garza's nightcap at bedtime, a well-made drink can be exhilarating, like, well, sex. And, depending on the category, just as complicated.

Take tropical drinks, which are built with various kinds of rum and juices to get that island feel. But the classic drinks, the ones that have stayed through the decades from Sinatra to Sting, often only have two ingredients, but they are no less for it.

In the end, drinking―like wardrobes and lovers―comes down to personal taste. You can wear the most popular fashions, but that isn't nearly as much fun as finding your own style or yes, your own cocktail. That's where this book comes in. Use it to try something new and unexpected. Maybe, after a healthy amount of sampling, you'll find that you really do like the same kind of martinis your friends, or even your dear old dad, like. Or you may simply be happy to stick with the frozen daiquiri you loved in college. With a little courage and experimentation, though, you might just find your drink of choice is something else entirely.

So explore the liquor store. Buy something exotic. Begin mixing. Expect a whole new world of adventure to open up. And remember this toast: may your enemies be lethargic and your lovers energetic.

Publisher's Note: This book and the recipes contained herein are intended for those of a legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly and ensure you and your guests have a designated driver when consuming alcoholic beverages.

Sample Recipes
Bloody Bull
For the morning after. Solves problems from last night's out-of-control bachelorette party.

10 1/2 ounces consommé
24 ounces tomato juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons salt
9 ounces vodka

1. Mix all ingredients in a pitcher.
2. Serve in highball glasses with ice.
(Serves 6)

Milk Punch
A truly old-school beverage―served at weddings and brunches through the decades.

8 ounces cold milk
1/2 ounce bourbon
3/4 ounce crème de cacao

1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Add milk, bourbon, and crème de cacao.
3. Shake.
4. Pour into a goblet.

Coffee Flip
Wow. This makes the cobwebs run screaming.

1 ounce cognac
1 ounce tawny port
1 small egg
1 teaspoon sugar

1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Add cognac, port, egg, and sugar.
3. Shake.
4. Strain into a chilled delmonico glass.
5. Dust with nutmeg.


1. a worldwide directory of bartenders. Look up your city or the one that you are traveling to, read the profiles of the bartenders working there, visit them at their bar and strike up conversation. Bartenders are great ambassadors to their cities - they can tell you what you the best things to see and do while there.

2. a resource for cocktail recipes, bar hops, interviews with industry leaders, information about spirits, TBAPOD (the Bartender Atlas podcast) and so much more.

3. creator, facilitator and organiser of cocktail and spirit centred events all over the world including Toronto Cocktail Conference, online giveaways, cocktail competitions and so much more. We do this both as our own events and by working with various spirit brands.


Twitter may be the last place you want to troll these days, but for cocktail advice, respected bartender Derek Brown has been sharing recipes and fielding questions. So ahead and tweet before you tipple.

Photography: Courtesy of Liquor Lab

Buy your ingredients ahead of time before streaming this hour-long class at home ($10/session), where you can learn how to make cocktails with top bar talents across the country. Liquor Lab, which holds an extensive roster of mixology classes, has a few upcoming classes with Dev Johnson, where he&rsquoll focus on cocktails using Santera Tequila (which also has more than 20 videos on its site). You&rsquoll shake, sip and stir a few recipes in this interactive class. The best part? You&rsquoll have plenty of booze left to keep the drinks flowing.


The Epicurious Blog

Our latest print issue�turing a curated collection of our most delicious American recipes—is hot off the presses, and we think it&aposs our best yet. Along with 151 favorites from every corner of the country (think Boston Brown Bread, Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits, Cincinnati Chili, Texas–style Smoked Brisket), you&aposll get so much more.

Each chapter highlights stories and exclusive recipes from some of the biggest names in regional cooking: Chef Jasper White for Yankee Classics, The Lee Brothers for Southern Comforts, Amy Thielen for Heartland Hits, Lisa Fain (aka The Homesick Texan) for Cowboy Cooking, and Sara Forte for Pacific Coast Plates.

We also compiled insiders&apos guides to must-visit eateries and watering holes in all 50 states𠅏rom roadside oyster shacks to old-school steakhouses and whiskey-on-tap juke joints to hip cocktail lounges. We even convinced a few of the nation&aposs hottest bartenders to share their favorite local drink recipes. (Because who wouldn&apost want to know what concoction New York City&aposs Doug Quinn shakes up for himself?)

Plus, thanks to recommendations from you guys, we found the most incredible small-batch food products from coast to coast𠅊ll of which can be shipped right to your doorstep.

So head out to your local Whole Foods, Costco, Barnes & Noble, Hudson News, or other major retailer and grab a copy. Or maybe two so you can have an extra for the car. Just sayin&apos. this one might just be as indispensible for road trips as it is for meal planning.


In Search of the Ultimate Last Word

More than most cocktails, the Last Word has a split personality. The mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and lime juice is an old drink, invented before Prohibition struck. But it is also a new drink, having only really been discovered and embraced by bartenders and drinkers alike in the last 15 years. You can’t even call it a comeback cocktail, because, in order to have a comeback, you had to have been something to begin with. The Last Word was nothing and nowhere until the 21st century.

The Top Three

Paddy O'Brien's Last Word

Tom Macy's Last Word

Erik Adkins' Last Word

All thanks for its current currency—or blame, depending on your viewpoint—goes to Murray Stenson, a veteran Seattle bartender who spotted the drink in an old copy of Bottoms Up! (1951), tested it, liked it and, in 2004, put it on the menu at Zig Zag Cafe, where he was working at the time. Word (ahem) of the drink spread through the nascent cocktail community, and it was soon being served in New York and elsewhere, attaining the status of “bartender’s handshake”—that is, a cult cocktail that, when ordered, communicates your in-the-know-ness to all barkeeps and booze enthusiasts within earshot.

It is, of course, no longer a cult cocktail. It is a classic cocktail, a drink that is constantly riffed upon (the Paper Plane, Final Ward, Naked & Famous and Division Bell are all modern takes on it), and one you can get at any self-respecting cocktail cove. A good number of those bars, in fact, have taken up the drink as their very name, including ones in New York City, Ann Arbor, Edinburgh and, until recently, San Antonio.

With the drink so ubiquitous, we felt it high time to go in search of the last word on the Last Word. Joining myself as judges were bartenders Karin Stanley (Existing Conditions), Joaquín Simó (Pouring Ribbons) and Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole and Trou Normand). Together, they tasted through 12 versions of the sour culled from bartenders across the United States, including a recipe from Murray Stenson himself.

It was a tough room for the drink somewhat surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of love evident for the Last Word. Like the Aviation, another one-time “bartender’s handshake,” the cocktail seems to have suffered a backlash in bartending circles in recent years.

Simó called the blend of ingredients, “Chaos. There isn’t a single shrinking violet in the mix. Every ingredient is a haymaker.” Stanley took issue with the maraschino liqueur: “Love Chartreuse, hate maraschino,” she said. “Maraschino drives me up the wall.” Vogler, meanwhile, suggested that it’s past its prime. “No, I don’t think it’s a favorite of any of ours,” he said. “It was one of the first new-old drinks. It had a relevance at a certain point in time.”

With this skeptical attitude, we plunged into the tasting and, against all odds, found a thing or two to like. The Last Word is famously an equal-parts cocktail, and the panel believed the proportions should be honored. But those parts can be subtly adjusted. Simó was an advocate of using overproof gin to allow that spirit more of a chance to stand up to the powerful flavors of the other ingredients. Stanley approved of cutting back the maraschino liqueur to half and making up for the volume with simple syrup. And Vogler thought, given the brute strength of the spirits involved, proper dilution of the cocktail was important.

All assembled agreed that the drink, despite its weighty components, should be light and bright and have a clean, dry, crisp finish. “That’s the quality of a good sour,” said Simó. Above all, the judges looked for balance. Any participating recipe that tasted too much of any one of the ingredients—save the gin—was quickly rejected.

Despite the initial pessimism, the tasting had a fairy tale ending of sorts: the Last Word from The Last Word, a cocktail bar in Astoria, Queens, won top honors. The recipe, by Paddy O’Brien, was straightforward aside from the gin. O’Brien leaned on the fairly obscure Warwick Rustic Gin, a juniper-forward craft spirit from New York State, and bumped up the volume from three-quarters of an ounce to a full one ounce. The judges found it piquant and well-integrated, with a creamy middle palate and pleasing, lower-register notes throughout.

Second place went to Tom Macy of Clover Club, a frequent victor in PUNCH cocktail tastings. His gin of choice was Tanqueray No. 10. But the twist that perhaps nudged his mix to the front of the pack was the Jack-Rose-like trick of splitting the citrus element between lime and lemon juice. “Everything seems to be speaking in turn,” observed Simó. “Everything has a moment in the sun.” (Macy, apparently concurring with Vogler’s dilution thesis, instructed that the drink be shaken “a little longer than you normally would.”)

Ranking third was Erik Adkins of San Francisco, who also went for Tanqueray No. 10, but kept his citrus wholly lime. The judges found it balanced, juicy and bright. Just missing the mark, but nonetheless appreciated, were Last Words from Meghan Dorman of Raines Law Room and Dear Irving and Murray Stenson himself, both of whom opted for standard Tanqueray.

Faced with these superior versions of the cocktail, the hard hearts of the judges warmed up to the drink.


Owner and Pitmaster Billy Durney spent nearly 20 years in celebrity security and private protection before turning his barbecue hobby into a business. He traveled around the country to hone his smoky craft and opened Hometown in 2013. The restaurant specializes in pit-smoked meats and makes everything (except the locally sourced pickles) in-house. Fugitt suggests the brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, and beans.

Operating out of a permanently parked trailer, Kerlin is a husband-and-wife operation with some interesting techniques. As Fugitt notes, most briskets are smoked at between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit for six to 20 hours. Kerlin smokes its brisket at 400 degrees for 12 hours. The result? A thick black crust encasing tender, succulent meat. The restaurant also serves free beer.


Watch the video: Θάνος Χατζής u0026 The Stendor Band - Άκου BARMAN Official Video (January 2022).