After several years of operating exclusively in survival mode, the season’s newest bars offer a glimpse of a drinking landscape that spans the advent of new aesthetics, like "disco aperitivo," and old standbys, like the well-considered hotel lobby bar.
As Punch contributor and Eater correspondent Jaya Saxena writes in her piece on the rise of disco aperitivo, today's bargoers want “to do a little of it all: drink, eat, dance, without too much of any one." It comes as no surprise, then, that many of the cocktails accompanying this moment are made to transition seamlessly from a hightop to a dance floor.
But while the party bars are embracing drinkers’ restlessness, others are offering a salve for it. At The Danforth, a New England Americana–themed bar from the creators of Death & Co. that opened in July in Portland, Maine, the ambiance is starkly different: built for sitting and staying awhile, with banquettes and big windows instead of dance floors and disco balls. To match, many of the cocktails read as simple riffs on classics, like an Old-Fashioned made with corn and strawberry, or a whiskey highball made with toasted oat soda.
A common thread weaving between these disparate themes, as is often the case in the bar world, is nostalgia—whether for disco or Martinis (and whether the classic is turned kitsch, dirty or dead serious).
To get a sense of how these trends manifest in drink form, here are five cocktails from the country’s most notable new bars, and how to make them at home.
Fizz Italiano | The Let’s Go Disco and Cocktail Club | Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, Lee Zaremba, Jose Cordon and Patrick Costa’s forthcoming bar, The Let’s Go Disco and Cocktail Club, will feature new takes on Italian classics, such as a Garibaldi Spritz made with tangerine and mandarin orange juice and a Negroni made with Old Tom gin and Meletti. Right in line with the bubbly and bittersweet disco aperitivo trend is the Fizz Italiano, which is built on a base of London dry gin and topped with Sanbittèr, an Italian soda that is, in keeping with the trend’s focus on low-ABV, itself a nonalcoholic aperitivo.Read More →
Terra Firma | Pacific Standard | Portland, Oregon
While developing the drinks menu for Pacific Standard at Portland’s KEX hotel, “we didn’t really have a classic spirit-forward drink on our very fanciful lobby bar menu,” says Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the bar’s owner. This Vieux Carré variation fills that role, “grounding” the drinks list. “We named it, aptly, Terra Firma, or ‘solid ground’ in Latin,” explains Morgenthaler. The Terra Firma, made with Japanese whisky swapped in for rye and apple brandy in place of Cognac, puts a modern spin on the classic.Read More →
Golden Slumbers | The Danforth | Portland, Maine
At The Danforth (the latest project from the hospitality team behind Death & Co.), the food and drinks are inspired by New England Americana. The Golden Slumbers feels right at home on the East Coast, stirring together classic flavors such as apple and pear with bright verjus blanc and bitter Luxardo Bitter Bianco, resulting in a cocktail that tastes nostalgic, yet modern.Read More →
Agricole Rhum Punch with Red Wine | Bar Agricole | San Francisco
While San Francisco’s Bar Agricole originally opened in 2010, the trailblazing bar shuttered in 2020 due to the pandemic. In the years since, it’s become one of several bars to find a new home, with an updated menu to match. One drink, the Agricole Rhum Punch with Red Wine, is a riff on Charles H. Baker’s Obispo de Cuba, which is usually made with a dry Cuban rum. This version combines funky aged agricole rhum with a light-bodied red wine, such as a Beaujolais, shaken together with gum syrup and lemon juice. Almost all of Bar Agricole’s drinks comprise ingredients or spirits made by the bar, and this cocktail highlights a pared-back approach that allows the spirit and wine to speak for themselves.Read More →
Salt & Pepper Martini | Temple Bar | New York
Though unorthodox, Michael McIlroy’s Salt & Pepper Martini at Temple Bar has a little something for everyone. Its celery bitters, manzanilla sherry and saline solution elegantly address the common request for an “extra dirty” Martini, while Espelette pepper liqueur and Sweety Drop peppers answer the crowd-pleasing call for something spicy. As the Martini craze shows no signs of slowing down, the Salt & Pepper Martini embodies the ways in which the classic provides a template that can be rewritten again and again.Read More →