They are your go-to source for the best new bourbon, the perfectly mixed Martini and the lowdown on the intriguing character at the end of the bar. But wouldn’t you like to know where bartenders go to drink, where they hang out in the wee hours after their shifts end? Wonder no more, dear reader. We consulted some trusted industry contacts—Simon Ford, Liquor.com contributor and award-winning bartender; Jacques Bezuidenhout, tequila expert and mixologist; and Damian Windsor, who tends bar at LA’s renowned Roger Room—to compile a list of bartender-approved watering holes across the country.
Daddy-O, 44 Bedford Street, New York, 212 414 8884:
On many nights this cozy Greenwich Village bar turns into a party for bartenders who work around New York City. A relative newcomer to the neighborhood, it’s got a timeless charm with a long, comfy banquette, a dark wood bar and a great selection of top-shelf spirits.
What to Drink: Sloe Gin Fizz (Plymouth Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, club soda)
Downtown Cocktail Room, 111 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, 702 880 3696:
The Downtown Cocktail Room is a speakeasy-style bar in a city not known for its subtlety. It’s off the Strip, but bartenders are happy to make the journey, since the Room is one of the few places you can get a well-made drink in Vegas.
What to Drink: Downtown Dill Bloody Mary (house-made dill Bloody Mary mix, Plymouth Gin, cucumber)
The Passenger, 1021 Seventh Street Northwest, Washington, D.C., 202 393 0220:
Bartending brothers Derek and Tom Brown run this not-quite-a-year-old hotspot. Fellow barkeeps might appreciate the absence of a menu—all drinks are made to order—and the Columbia Room, a special “cocktail club and laboratory” for students of the art of mixology.
What to Drink: Gran Clasico Negroni (Old Raj Gin, Gran Classico Bitter, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth)
R Bar, 1176 Sutter Street, San Francisco, 415 567 7441:
After a long night behind the stick, San Francisco mixologists retire to the R Bar. While the establishment stocks many spirits and the cocktails are great, the house drink is a simple glass of bitter Fernet-Branca. The intensely herbaceous Italian liqueur is a favorite among the city’s bartenders.
What to Drink: Fernet-Branca
The Summit Bar, 133 Avenue C, New York:
Run by two bar-and-restaurant veterans, Greg Seider and Hamid Rashidzada, The Summit has quickly established itself as a hangout for the East Village’s many mixologists. It draws others from farther afield with its inventive creations.
What to Drink: Breaking the Law (Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, Dimmi, lime juice, chipotle chile agave syrup, orange bitters, cucumber)
Tony’s Saloon, 2017 East 7th Street, Los Angeles, 213 622 5523:
With its Raymond Chandler looks, sophisticated cocktails and big liquor selection, this historic downtown bar (pictured above) would appeal to any drinks lover. You’ll find your local bartenders here for pingpong on the last Tuesday of each month.
What to Drink: Old Fashioned (bourbon, sugar cube, bitters, orange peel)
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.