Base your next trip on visiting the birthplace of your favorite cocktail. Or at least stop in for a drink.
Getting a great cocktail at a great bar is a wonderful experience. But getting a cocktail of noted repute, at the bar where it originated or from the bartender who created it, contributes a certain extra level of special.
There aren’t that many places where you can pull off this trick, but the modern cocktail revival has added to the number of such destination bars. For the intrepid boozehound with some frequent flier miles to burn, here’s a list of a few to hit.
Attaboy, New York City
Cocktail: Penicillin and others
The most potent portal into modern cocktail history is a hole-in-the-wall on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. It’s currently called Attaboy. But it’s the address’ former name that makes the tiny hall so hallowed among cocktail fans. For this was the original home of Milk & Honey, the neo-speakeasy from whose playbook dozens of other bars tore a page.
It’s also the birthplace of more modern classic cocktails than any other bar in the world. The Gold Rush, a honeyed update of the whiskey sour, was created here. So were the smoky-sweet Penicillin, invented by the Attaboy co-owner Sam Ross, and the Greenpoint, a Chartreuse-laced Manhattan created by the co-owner Michael McIlroy.
134 Eldridge St., New York
Clyde Common, Portland, Ore.
Cocktail: Barrel-Aged Negroni
If you’ve ever wondered who’s responsible for the barrel-aged cocktail trend, step inside Clyde Common. There you’ll likely spot the bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who served up his first Barrel-Aged Negroni back in 2009. It’s still on the menu. If you’re in luck, it’ll be joined on the list by a barrel-aged brother, sometimes a Chrysanthemum, other times an El Presidente.
1014 SW Stark St., Portland, Oregon; clydecommon.com
Black Pearl, Melbourne, Australia
Cocktail: Death Flip
This drink sounds like a dare: tequila, yellow Chartreuse, Jagermeister and a whole egg. But plenty of Black Pearl’s patrons have met the challenge. It may be the best-known new drink to come out of Australia during the cocktail revival.
304 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia; blackpearlbar.com.au
Dukes Bar, London
Cocktail: Dukes Martini
The Dukes Bar, wedged in one corner of the exclusive Dukes Hotel off St. James’s Place in London, is a minuscule place. Its most famous offering, however, looms large. The Dukes Martini was created by Salvatore Calabrese in the 1980s, and now stands as a totem of the early days of the London cocktail revival, when cocktail havens were few.
The Dukes Martini is a martini the way a whale is a mammal. Made of several ounces of ice-cold, undiluted gin or vodka, and a trifling amount of vermouth, it is a prelude to a stagger and a nap. If you go, go at 2 or 3 p.m. and don’t make plans for the rest of the afternoon.
35 St. James’s Place, London; dukeshotel.com/dukes-bar
Pegu Club, New York City
Cocktail: Old Cuban and others
Aside from Attaboy, there is no other bar in the world where you can order as many modern classic cocktails at the source. Familiar drinks like the Gin-Gin Mule, Earl Grey MarTEAni and Old Cuban were not invented at this SoHo bar, per se, but they were invented by the woman who presides over it, Audrey Saunders. Close enough.
77 W. Houston St., New York; peguclub.com
Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, New Orleans
The Zombie is arguably the most famous of tiki drinks. So why go to this small hotel bar in New Orleans to get one? Because the owner, Jeff Berry, knows the Zombie better than anyone. Berry is a cocktail historian, with a focus on tiki. Not so long ago, people didn’t really know what went into a Zombie, aside from a whole lot of rum. The Zombie you were served at Bar A was very likely rather different from the one you got at Bar B. Berry uncovered the original 1934 formula. It’s not on the menu (a slightly less lethal version is). But you can order it anyway, and you’ll be sure to get the real McCoy.
321 N. Peters St., New Orleans; latitude29nola.com
Le Lion, Hamburg, Germany
Cocktail: Gin Basil Smash
Joerg Meyer, the owner of this small bar, was inspired to create the Gin Basil Smash in 2008 after trying the Whiskey Smash, a cocktail by Dale DeGroff, a mentor bartender to many young mixologists, at Pegu Club. It’s a simple drink, basically a gin mojito with muddled basil instead of mint. But that was enough to impress most of Europe and etch upon the bar’s exterior the proclamation, “Cradle of the Gin Basil Smash.”
Rathausstrasse 3, Hamburg, Germany; lelion.net
Long Island Bar, Brooklyn, N.Y.
For years, Toby Cecchini tried to absolve himself of the responsibility of having created the Cosmopolitan while a bartender at Odeon in the late 1980s. Attitudes toward the ubiquitous drink were too polarized. But in recent years he’s mellowed, and embraced his Frankenstein creation. It’s not on the menu at Long Island Bar, the Brooklyn tavern he has run since 2013, but if you ask nicely, he’ll make you one. It’s the only reason he keeps cranberry juice behind the bar, after all.
110 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn; thelongislandbar.com
Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco
Cocktail: Chartreuse Swizzle
You can order many wonderful tiki drinks, both classic and newish, at this famed San Francisco drinking den. But its longest-serving bartender, Marcovaldo Dionysos, has a few classics up his Hawaiian short-sleeve. Most notable is the Chartreuse Swizzle, a long, iced drink he invented in 2002. Since then, it has been served in bars across the globe. But at this place you can get it mixed up by its maker.
650 Gough St., San Francisco; smugglerscovesf.com
Suffolk Arms, New York City
Cocktail: Trinidad Sour
Giuseppe González, the owner of this new Lower East Side tavern, is the creator of this most unlikely of modern classic cocktails. Why unlikely? It contains an ounce of angostura bitters, an ingredient usually used in dashes, and a full ounce of orgeat, the almond syrup best known as a necessary working part in a mai tai. A drink so crazy it just might work …
269 E. Houston St., New York; suffolkarms.com
Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, San Francisco
Cocktail: Tommy’s Margarita
This unassuming Mexican restaurant is the best thing to happen to tequila since Prohibition. In the 1990s, Julio Bermejo, the son of the owner, began carrying a wide number of quality tequilas. To showcase the spirit, he streamlined the house margarita, using agave syrup instead of sugar, and jettisoning the Curaçao. What started as a marketing device ended up as a globally adopted variation on a classic.
5929 Geary Blvd., San Francisco; tommysmexican.com