We know all about some of the oldest saloons in American history, but what about the best cocktail bars across America? It seems more relevant a topic to the day drunks of summer, and we can think of no better way to send you off in summer style than with some good old fashioned American alcoholism in the most popular places possible. Brought to you, not by ripping off half-assed blogs, but by the word of the dandiest drunks in the business, in a crisp, clean fashion — the way you should be ordering your drinks — we offer up the best bars to booze in across America. Now get going.
Townhouse & Del Monte (Venice, CA)
Established in 1915, Venice’s go-to live music watering hole is not only a gypsy lounge and sage sanctuary for Dogtown, but it’s also an underground, acoustic-friendly speakeasy. One of the five oldest bars in Los Angeles, Townhouse sets in spitting distance to the salty Pacific and filled to the brim with sandy-haired hippies with a dash of class. One of the more sophisticated of the L.A. dives, Townhouse has its Del Monte underground, a speakeasy open to local artists and the occasional Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance party in its low ceiling, high humidity summer showroom. It tickles your liver with the whispers of a thousand dancing hippie fairies.
P.J. Clarke’s (New York City, NY)
Established in New York in 1884, P.J. Clarke’s needs no introduction as it’s been around longer than your great-grandmother. With a history before and after Prohibition, this simple go-to city bar knows the importance of a good, neighborly drink. No stranger to the likes of Buddy Holly, Jackie Kennedy and Frank Sinatra back in the day, P.J. Clarke’s oozes with style, history and the right kind of local flavor. New York has six locations, its original on Third Avenue, open for more than 130 years without so much as a hiccup. But surely they’ve had their bouts with drunk vomit here and there.
Lamberts (Austin, TX)
With a restored historic vibe and a loft that Don Draper could drink himself mad in, Lamberts is not just an exquisite Austin barbecue bar; it’s a craft cocktail lover’s delight. Its downstairs features a quaint, rounded bar with a fully restored dining area — more than 100 years old — leading to a flight of stairs of its brick-exposed loft, decorated in red neon lights and wood floors for quality sounding live music. With an old fashioned that can cure any crooked afternoon and a bar stool one block up from the park, libations at Lamberts are simply a breeze.
The Whistler (Chicago, IL)
Much more than just another Chicago bar, The Whistler is also a gallery, record label and live music venue. With seven nights of music each week — no limit on the genres here — and cocktails that run the gamut of classic, original and contemporary, The Whistler can be a stone’s throw from sobriety or a long mile hike, if you so choose. Not a cover charge in sight and an endless offering good tunes and tasty fluids makes The Whistler a Windy City favorite. For a good dive, try Delilah’s in Lincoln Park. I saw McLovin‘ once, and it made it all worth the unending Fireball I drank.
Rickhouse (San Francisco, CA)
The architecture itself will make you feel like you’re inside of a whiskey-soaked oak cask, aging gracefully with the rest of Rickhouse’s beloved patrons. But that’s not all Rickhouse is good for; it’s heavy on the bluegrass and good times, too. With emphasis on fresh California culture, Rickhouse is all about local vibes, fresh juices, locally brewed beers and California wine. The low-light, rustic ambiance gives the dark city vibes of a moving, grooving San Francisco to a cozy room, and the wooden upstairs loft is good for the bird’s-eye view of Rickhouse’s whiskey classics, fresh punch bowls and modest music.
Casey Moore’s Oyster House (Tempe, AZ)
Even the dusty desert pit of the Phoenix area has its charm, be it Arizona State University’s little known backyard bar, safe from the terrors of youngster drinkers. Located a block off campus in rural Tempe, Casey Moore’s is a cozy, renovated cottage set back amongst a neighborhood of houses as a hidden oyster bar. With an indoor Irish pub vibe and an outstanding outdoor patio offering up a quaint koi pond and a light summer mist for the Arizona heat, Casey Moore’s is a musician’s after party, a businessman’s getaway and a degenerate’s paradise. Oh, and the fountain in the back doubles as a men’s urinal. How beautiful is that!
The Edison (Downtown Los Angeles, CA)
With a step up in class compared to the rest of Los Angeles lounges, The Edison takes ambiance, live jazz and burlesque to a whole new level in an old subterranean power plant, a top cocktail spot amongst the dingy downtown area. With a heavy regard for the staple cocktails of past artists, writers and poets, The Edison mixes history, culture and ambiance almost as good as they mix their drinks. And did we mention…absinthe?
The Franklin Mortgage Investment Co. (Philadelphia, PA)
A railway corridor of a classy corral, Philly’s tiny tank of social lubrication is a four-stool, former bootlegger bar of the Prohibition era, now with a slew of original experimental menu ideas and enough ambition for two. For bourbon believers and fresh fruit lovers, this subterranean cocktail lounge is the right place to be at all times, ever since its birth in the 1920s.
Pinewood Social (Nashville, TN)
Recently established at the end of 2014, Nashville now has its own copper-topped, with high ceilings, open space of a craft cocktail local guru hut. With so many Nashvillains — coining it! — relying on the mellow speakeasy, Patterson House, for their quality drinks, this hip new social spot has much more than just cocktails. It’s a workspace, bowling alley and quiet catch-up all rolled into one, along with a coming coffee bar, swimming pool and bocce ball court all slated ahead. For the productive alcoholic who loves to get shit done with a good buzz, Pinewood Social is your new neighborhood religion.
Zig Zag Cafe (Seattle, WA)
A neighborhood bar tucked away behind Pike Place Market, Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe has two things on its mind: good drinks and good service. Alcohol alchemist himself, Murray Stenson, knows nothing less than perfection in his concocting, thus Murr the Blur offers nothing but the best and allows on the most proficient of proteges behind the bar with him. Dressed and pressed, these gentlemen serve up a classic Seattle experience, unlike the mighty Gum Wall crap tourist trap.
Arnaud’s French 75 (New Orleans, LA)
Known for having the best drinks in the French Quarter, French 75 is a bit more class and a little less ass than the rest of New Orleans. Despite the town’s impressive lineup of dive bars and bead-happy saloons, Arnaud’s is a nod to the classy, well-crafted type of drinking experience. Good for an assortment of experiences, including Dixieland jazz, romantic dining and a few fingers of quality labels, this century-old, formerly gentlemen-only spot puts the “art” in “craft.” Sorry, we get dyslexic when we drink and write.
Multnomah Whiskey Library (Portland, OR)
With its elegantly designed, rich whiskey heritage bombarding your eyes and liver at every turn of the head, Multnomah Whiskey Library is potentially Portland’s pride and joy. One of the most touted, worthwhile whiskey investments one can make, Multnomah’s wealth of whiskey knowledge is measured by the mouthful within its high ceilings and brilliantly-lit architecture. As whiskey lovers, we dare you to find something more satisfying in such a cloudy place.