Planning spring and summer travels? If spirits and cocktails usually factor into (or downright dictate) your destinations, let the winners of the 2016 Spirited Awards be your guide. A panel of beverage industry luminaries puts the nominees through numerous rounds of voting before the winners are announced at the annual Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans each July. So before a new crop of winners is announced at the 2017 awards, take this time to check out the best of the best.
Left coast, best coast? If you’re heading to San Francisco, put yourself into the cable hands of the Best American Bar Team at ABV in the Mission, bask in the presence of the World’s Best Spirits Selection at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant and get your tiki-est of tiki on at the Best American Cocktail Bar, Smuggler’s Cove. A little to the north, you might meet American Bartender of the Year, Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common or the irreverent Pépé Le Moko. Morgenthaler is also the winner for Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer, for both his book and blog.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, you can bookend one incredible night out of visits to the Best American Restaurant Bar (Saxon + Parole) and Best American Hotel Bar (The Elephant Bar at The NoMad). Need some essential reading for the flight? Check out the Best New Cocktail & Bartending Book, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual: Secret Recipes and Barroom Tales from Two Belfast Boys Who Conquered the Cocktail World by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry and Ben Schaffer—phew! If New York is still deep in winter, flee to Miami Beach, where the Best New American Cocktail Bar, Sweet Liberty, awaits. On the flight down, check out the Best New Spirits Book, Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production by Sarah Bowen.
Clear significant time for an extended stay in London (arguably the center of the international cocktail scene at present) to take in all that the city has to offer. For starters, pay a visit to Declan Mcgurk and the Best International Bar Team at American Bar at the Savoy. Next, brace yourself by grabbing dinner and a drink at the Best International Restaurant Bar, Hawksmoor Spitalfields. Let the evening go off the rails a little as you careen from the Best New International Cocktail Bar (Oriole) to the holder of the World’s Best Cocktail Menu (Dandelyan) and the most aptly named Best International Cocktail Bar (Happiness Forgets) before crashing into Herbs & Rye’s sister from an English mister, Best International High-Volume Cocktail Bar, Callooh Callay. Sober up (or at least gather your wits), because you’ll certainly want to remember your visit to the Best International Hotel Bar as well as World’s Best Cocktail Bar, The Connaught Bar at the Connaught. Keep your eyes peeled for Best American Brand Ambassador, Bacardi’s Colin Asare-Appiah, a Londoner who might be posted up at a bar somewhere, preaching the gospel of rum or working on how he’ll support the next Bacardi Legacy or Speed Rack competition. Essential reading for the flight across the pond? Check out the London-based winners for Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication, The Cocktail Lovers.
Flying further afield? Why not stop in and have a drink made by the awesome coiffed International Bartender of the Year Hidetsugu Ueno of Bar High Five in Tokyo? Elsewhere in Asia, keep an eye out for Londoner at large and Best Bar Mentor Angus Winchester, a consultant who is currently based in Hong Kong, as well as Best International Brand Ambassador Max Warner of Chivas Regal, for whom all the world’s an office.
Either before you hit McCarran or immediately upon your return (or if you never even leave the county), you can always journey waaaaay over to West Sahara Avenue to pay your respects to Las Vegas’ first Spirited Awards recipients, Nectaly Mendoza and his team at Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar, Herbs & Rye. There you can raise a toast with a Daiquiri Time-Out or just a cheeky shot of 2016’s Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient, Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum from Barbados; Herbs barman Kinson Lau reps the stuff, and will be happy to educate you about it.
Wherever you end up this year, you can raise a toast (a daiquiri, please) or knock the bar with the tipple of your choosing in celebration of the life of the late Sasha Petraske, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner without whom the beverage landscape would be a far less delicious and decorous place.
Cheers and bon voyage!