The craft cocktail movement isn't slowing down, but it is changing direction (see our take on the Best Bars in America). In early 2013 a slew of new bars and cocktail-focused restaurants are opening, many of them from big names in the mixology scene who've saved up enough to open their own spots. The dwindling speakeasy trend is being replaced by casual, fine-drinking locales. There's no shortage of classic cocktails in these contemporary bars, but tiki drinks are having their day and most bars are experimenting with bottled or on-tap cocktails to speed up service. Yes, it's going to be a good year for getting tipsy.
Raven & Rose, Portland, OR
Located in a former carriage house from 1883 that's both on the National Register of Historic Places and certified LEED Gold, this three-level restaurant and bar is a very big deal in town. Bar director David Shenaut, who worked his way through other top Portland cocktail spots including Teardrop Lounge, Beaker & Flask, and Riffle NW, implemented two separate programs: classic cocktails served in the building's hayloft-turned-cocktail bar called The Rookery, and a "farm-to-bar" program of lighter, fresher, food-friendly drinks in the dining room downstairs.
Opened: January 4, 2013
Trick Dog, San Francisco, CA
From San Francisco's premier pop-up cocktail party crew, the Bon Vivants, comes a long-delayed "neighborhood craft cocktail bar" in the Mission District. While the space is outfitted in industrial chic, the menu is full of whimsy, designed as a Pantone color guide (pictured above) with drinks named after colors, like the Polar Bear, which contains Mezcal, vermouth, créme de menthe, and angelica tincture. Also on offer are punches and spirit pairings like George Dickel Whiskey and dill pickle gelé (try saying that three times quickly).
Opened: January 7, 2013
Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, New York, NY
Two bartenders who previously ran a highly regarded Northern Ireland hotel bar have moved stateside to open Dead Rabbit, a two-level venue with an interior right out of Gangs of New York. The first floor is a no-seating "stand-up taproom" serving beer, Irish whiskey, and individual bottles of punch, while the second floor "cocktail parlor" offers 70+ 1860s era-inspired drinks including bishops, flips, possets, and cobblers. The food, too, is Irish-American, with house specialties like Welsh Rarebit and Ploughman's Lunch.
Opened: January 14, 2013
San Diego, CA
Bartender Erick Castro (most notably of San Francisco's Rickhouse) has partnered with the guys behind some of San Diego's best cocktail bars (Noble Experiment, Craft & Commerce) to launch a bar/restaurant concept with fountain-style drinks and a menu offering meatballs and apple pie (seriously). Polite Provisions, the name of the bar side of the property, will feature house-made and bottled sodas, beer-based cocktails, and vintage-styled sodas like egg creams and "Tropical Phosphate," along with a 46-tap system that will spit out not only beer and wine, but sherry, spirits, cold-press coffee, and cocktails on draft.
Opening: Early February 2013
Attaboy, New York, NY
Signaling the beginning of the end of the speakeasy trend, this new bar, built on the site of the hidden, reservations-only cocktail bar, Milk & Honey, will open its windows and put up a sign announcing its presence this February. Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy (who ran M&H for years) plan to open Attaboy sans menu; there will only be a "verbal" cocktail menu, but drinkers in the mood for something specific can choose any of the 450 classic drinks from their Bartender's Choice app. (Milk & Honey isn't gone forever, but has relocated to a much larger space opening this month.)
Opening February 2013. No website yet.
Tiki Iniki, North Shore of Kauai, HI
A tropical cocktail bar in Hawaii is about as exotic as ice in Iceland, but this one sets itself apart with the help of a little star power (one of the owners is rock legend Todd Rundgren). They've enlisted other big names in the bar world like mixologist Julie Reiner and third-generation tiki bar designer, Bamboo Ben. Reiner, a Hawaiian native (but New York-based owner of Brooklyn's Clover Club and Manhattan's Lani Kai), is designing the cocktail program with modern interpretations of classic tropical drinks based on fresh-picked island fruits. .
Opening: March 2013
Motel, Austin, TX
Bar Congress alum Adam Bryan will be your concierge when Motel opens in Austin this spring. He'll be rolling out a menu of "historically accurate classic cocktails with modern executions," so expect to see a few cobblers and daisies in bottles or on tap. The space is split between the smaller, Danish modern interior and large Palm Springs-style patio where you can order drinks by the pitcher.
Opening: Spring 2013
Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, IL
Located beneath the barbecue bar, Bub City, will be a tiki bar as envisioned by local cocktail hero, Paul McGee, formerly of The Whistler. The space will feature two bars and a lounge for 200 people with a 20-drink menu of classic and modern version of tiki cocktails, like "A Lonely Island Lost in the Middle of a Foggy Sea," made with rhum agricole, black strap rum, coffee syrup, demerara syrup, pineapple, and lime. Expect homemade tropical syrups, giant drinks for sharing with groups of people, and the constant whirl of the blender.
Opening: Spring 2013
Julep, Houston, TX
Alba Huerta, the general manager of Houston's cocktail mecca, Anvil, is launching a bar of her own this year. The space is a former uniform factory with copper, cream, and brick accents (and some leftover machinery they'll keep on-site for atmosphere). The cocktail menu, a mix of classic and modern drinks, will be heavy on the bourbon (as you may have guessed from the name) as well as scotch.
Opening: Late spring, 2013. No website yet.
Too thirsty to wait for a late 2013 opening? Check out the Best New Bars in America, including where to go for high-end cocktails, local favorites, lounges, and specialty bars now open for business.
—Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer and the publisher of alcademics.com.