The speakeasy trend is nothing new. However, in Los Angeles, a number of bars are legitimate speakeasies, since they were doing business decades ago during Prohibition. One such establishment is King Eddy, in downtown Los Angeles. The bar has some of the original décor that dates back to Prohibition. Other old-school speakeasies that still are bars include Venice’s Townhouse and The Del Monte Speakeasy. Finally, there’s the Blind Barber, which looks like (and is) a barbershop, but has a cocktail parlor you can access through a secret entrance, just like at the speakeasies of old.
New York City
New York City is home to one of the largest concentrations of rooftop bars in the world. These bars deliver views in every direction: The Chrysler Building (Rare View), the East River from Brooklyn (The Ides), and One World Trade Center (The Living Room). Many of these rooftop establishments are open rain or shine; the Top of the Strand, in Greenwich Village, features a retractable roof and great views of the Empire State Building.
New Orleans and cocktails go hand-in-hand. So much so that the Museum of the American Cocktail was founded a few years ago by a number of the city’s most influential drink experts, including Dale DeGroff, known as “King Cocktail.” The Big Easy also is home to one of the world’s premier cocktail events, Tales of the Cocktail. If that’s not enough, a number of classic cocktails are attributed to New Orleans, including the Sazerac, Hurricane, and Mint Julep. Today, some of the most renowned cocktail bars in this great city include Arnaud’s French 75, Cure, and Bar Tonique.
What Louisville is to bourbon, Nashville is to whiskey. Nashville even has its own style of whiskey, dubbed Tennessee Whiskey. Just outside of Nashville are a couple of America’s oldest distilleries: George Dickel and Jack Daniels, both of which are open for tours. Nashville itself has a couple of distilleries, including Corsair (which is part brewery and part taproom), and Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, which first served as a distillery more than 100 years ago.
Denver is a great beer town (this photo is from the local Beer Association), often referred to as the “the Napa Valley of beer.” Perhaps the most well-known local beer house is Coors, one of the largest breweries in the world. The Golden facility is located just outside of Denver and offers tours daily. But what makes Denver such a formidable beer destination are some of the smaller breweries, operations such as Breckenridge, Wynkoop, and Great Divide. Denver also is home to the Great American Beer Festival, which is the largest ticketed beer festival in the United States.
While Colorado is the state for beer in America, Portland is the *city* for beer, boasting more breweries per capita than any other metropolitan area. Some of the more notable breweries include Widmer Brothers, BridgePort, Lompoc, and Hair of the Dog. A handful of local breweries, such as McMenamins, even double as hotels. With so many breweries, Portland is one of the few cities in which you actually can bicycle from brewery to brewery.
While Napa generally is considered America’s premier wine destination, I prefer Sonoma, because it’s more laid-back, approachable, and intimate. Some of my favorite Sonoma County wineries include Dry Creek Vineyard and Truett Hurst, both located just west of Healdsburg. If you need a break from wine, Sonoma County also is home to a number of breweries, including Russian River Brewing Company (in Santa Rosa) and Bear Republic (also in Healdsburg).
If you’re on a budget, San Diego is the drinking destination for you, since the Gaslamp District has more happy hours (nearly 800 at last check) than any other neighborhood in the country. Some of the most notable happy hours include the one at Taste and Thirst, which features half-off drinks, taps, and apps; and the one at Funky Garcia’s, which has early and late options every day. In discussing the San Diego drinking scene, I’d be remiss not to mention the more than 100 breweries and brewpubs around San Diego County, including Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company, which has won numerous beer awards.
I couldn’t talk drinks and not at least mention one destination known for something other than alcohol. That city is Seattle, where coffee is king. While Starbucks originated here (the original is located at Pike Place Market), Seattle also boasts many small coffee shops around town. My favorite doughnut shop: Top Pot, which has locations all over the city. My No. 1 independent coffee shop: Bedlam, located in Belltown.