The 10 Best Cocktail Bars Compared: Where to Enjoy Your Next Drink

The 10 Best Cocktail Bars Compared: Where to Enjoy Your Next Drink

If you're on the hunt for the perfect cocktail bar to unwind, savor exquisite drinks, and enjoy a night out with friends, you've landed in the right place. Cocktail culture has blossomed into an art form known as mixology, where crafting a drink blends science and creativity to achieve the ultimate beverage. A quality cocktail bar doesn't just serve drinks; it offers an immersive experience that tantalizes the taste buds and delights the senses. Whether it's the universally cherished classics or inventive house creations, the essence of a great cocktail lies in its precision, presentation, and the story behind each sip.

Craft cocktails stand out because they're made with high-quality ingredients, including premium spirits, fresh herbs, and homemade mixers and syrups. The dedication to unique flavors and meticulous craft is what sets apart a memorable drink experience from a standard bar visit. Mixology, the heart of the craft cocktail movement, involves experiment and innovation, giving rise to establishments where drinks are not just served but celebrated.

For those seeking not just a drink but a journey through flavors and an ambiance that adds an extra layer of pleasure to every outing, selecting a cocktail bar that embodies the spirit of mixology is key. From the sultry corners of the Velvet Tango Room to the riotous energy of LBM with its heavy metal and Viking vibes, the landscape of cocktail bars is as diverse as the drinks they serve.

Comparative infographic of top cocktail bars features - cocktail bar infographic pillar-4-steps

What Defines a Cocktail Bar

When you step into a cocktail bar, you're entering a world where mixology is king. Mixology isn't just about mixing drinks; it's an art form that combines creativity, precision, and a deep knowledge of flavors to create something truly special. A great cocktail bar isn't just about serving alcohol; it's about crafting an experience that stays with you long after the last sip.

Specialty drinks are the heart and soul of any cocktail bar. These aren't your standard mixed drinks. Each one is a unique blend of flavors, often featuring in-house creations that you won't find anywhere else. From the sophisticated sips of the Velvet Tango Room to the adventurous concoctions of the Hidden Cocteleria, specialty drinks showcase the skill and creativity of the bartenders who make them.

Cocktail Shaker and Mixing Glass - cocktail bar

But what really sets a cocktail bar apart are the in-house creations. These are drinks that have been dreamt up and perfected by the bartenders themselves, often using unique ingredients or innovative methods. It's here that you'll find a Gunslinger cocktail with 100-proof whiskey at LBM, or a mystery and adventure in every glass at the Hidden Cocteleria. These drinks are more than just beverages; they're a signature of the bar's identity and a testament to the creativity and passion of its staff.

In a cocktail bar, every detail matters, from the ambiance and the music to the glassware and garnishes. It's a place where the drink in your hand is not just consumed but celebrated, where each cocktail tells a story of creativity, tradition, and craftsmanship. Whether it's the allure of a secret back room at the Velvet Tango Room or the tropical vibes of a Polynesian hideaway, a cocktail bar provides an escape into a world of flavor and imagination.

A cocktail bar is defined by its dedication to the craft of mixology, its array of specialty drinks, and its commitment to in-house creations that push the boundaries of traditional cocktails. It's a space where artistry and alchemy come together, inviting patrons to explore the endless possibilities of taste and sensation.

As we delve deeper into the nuances of cocktail culture, let's keep in mind that at the heart of every great cocktail bar is a desire to elevate the drinking experience, making each visit not just a moment but a memory.

Essential Elements of a Cocktail Bar

When you step into a cocktail bar, it's not just about grabbing a drink; it's about immersing yourself in an experience that tantalizes your taste buds and elevates your spirits. To create such an atmosphere, certain elements are non-negotiable. Let's break down these essentials: Liquors, Bar cart, Drink mixing tools, and Glassware.


A cocktail bar is only as good as its selection of spirits. The backbone of any cocktail, a carefully curated selection of liquors, is paramount. This includes staples like vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey. Quality matters. A great cocktail bar doesn't just stock up on these basics; it explores them, offering everything from well-known brands to artisanal distilleries, ensuring there's something for every palate.

Bar Cart

Think of the bar cart as the stage where the magic happens. It's not just a storage unit; it's a display that sets the tone. A well-organized bar cart signals attention to detail and pride in the craft. It holds everything a mixologist needs at arm's reach, from spirits to mixers, allowing them to create without constraints.

Drink Mixing Tools

The tools of the trade are what transform ingredients into a symphony of flavors. Essential tools include:

  • Shaker: For combining ingredients vigorously to blend, chill, and dilute, creating a harmonious cocktail.
  • Jigger: Precision is key in mixology. A jigger ensures that each cocktail is perfectly balanced with the exact amount of each ingredient.
  • Strainer: Separates the mixed drink from the ice, fruits, or herbs, ensuring a smooth sip.
  • Barspoon: For stirring, a barspoon gently combines ingredients, preserving the clarity and texture of certain cocktails.
  • Muddler: Essential for releasing the flavors from fresh ingredients like herbs and fruits.

These tools are the paintbrushes of the cocktail world, allowing bartenders to craft their masterpieces with precision and care.


The final touch to any cocktail is the glass it's served in. Glassware does more than hold your drink; it enhances the drinking experience. Different cocktails require different glasses to fully bring out their flavors and aromas. From the elegance of a martini glass to the robustness of a rocks glass, each piece plays a crucial role. Moreover, the right glassware adds to the visual appeal, making each cocktail not just a drink but a work of art.

The essential elements of a cocktail bar go beyond just having the right ingredients. They're about creating an environment where every detail is considered, from the selection of spirits to the tools and glassware used to serve them. It's this meticulous attention to detail that sets a cocktail bar apart, making each visit a memorable journey through mixology.

Building Your Own Cocktail Bar

Creating your own cocktail bar at home is like painting a picture that's uniquely yours. It's about mixing colors (or, in this case, flavors) to match your taste. Let's dive into how you can set up your personal cocktail haven with home bar essentials, your favorite liquors, and display cabinets.

Home Bar Essentials

First things first, you'll need the right tools. Think of these as your paintbrushes:

  • Shaker: For those cocktails that need a good mix.
  • Jigger: Precision is key for the perfect drink.
  • Strainer: Keeps unwanted bits out of your glass.
  • Barspoon: For gentle stirring and layering.
  • Muddler: To release those deep flavors from fruits and herbs.
  • Citrus Juicer: Fresh juice makes a world of difference.
  • Bottle Opener & Corkscrew: Don’t let a cap or cork stand between you and your drink.

With these tools, you're well on your way to crafting delicious cocktails.

Favorite Liquors

Your bar should reflect your tastes. Here’s a basic list to start with:

  • Vodka: A versatile spirit for many cocktails.
  • Gin: For those refreshing, botanical mixes.
  • Rum: Brings a sweet, warm flavor to your drinks.
  • Tequila: For a bit of a kick.
  • Whiskey: Rich and varied for sipping or mixing.

Explore and find what you love. Quality over quantity.

Display Cabinets

Now, where to keep all these treasures? A display cabinet not only organizes your bottles and tools but also showcases your collection. It turns your bar into a focal point of the room. Look for one that matches your style—modern, rustic, vintage—there's something for every taste. Good lighting can enhance the display, making your bottles and glassware sparkle.

In setting up your home cocktail bar, you're doing more than just arranging bottles and tools. You're creating a space that invites exploration, creativity, and enjoyment. It's a place where you can experiment with flavors, entertain friends, or simply unwind with a drink that's perfectly you.

Remember that the heart of a good cocktail bar, whether at home or out in the world, lies in the joy it brings when sharing a drink with others. Let's keep that spirit alive as we explore the top cocktail bars to visit.

Difference Between Cocktail Bars and Ordinary Bars

When we talk about places to grab a drink, you might think all bars are pretty much the same. But there's quite a difference between a cocktail bar and your ordinary bar. Let's break it down.

Cocktail Lounge: This is a place with a focus on craft cocktails. Here, mixology is king. Bartenders, or mixologists, often create their own syrups, infusions, and mixes to craft unique drinks you won't find anywhere else. A cocktail lounge usually has a more upscale and intimate atmosphere, making it perfect for date nights or catching up with close friends.

Full Bar: This term refers to bars that offer a wide range of alcoholic beverages, including spirits, wine, and beer. While you can certainly find cocktails here, the focus isn't solely on craft concoctions. Full bars cater to a broader audience, offering something for everyone.

Wine Bar: As the name suggests, wine bars specialize in wine. They offer a wide selection of wines by the glass or bottle, from common varietals to rare finds. While you might find some basic cocktails or beer options, the main attraction is the wine list. These places often have a sophisticated vibe, attracting wine enthusiasts who enjoy discussing grape varieties and vineyards.

Upscale Atmosphere: This is more about the vibe and less about the drink menu. An upscale atmosphere means elegant decor, comfortable seating, and often, a dress code. Cocktail lounges and wine bars usually fit this description, providing an environment that feels a bit more exclusive than your neighborhood dive bar.

So, why choose a cocktail bar over an ordinary bar? It all comes down to what you're looking for in a drinking experience. If you're interested in exploring unique flavors and enjoying a drink crafted just for you in an intimate setting, a cocktail lounge is your spot. If you're more about a casual night out with a wide range of drink options, an ordinary bar might be more your speed.

The best place to enjoy a drink is one that matches your mood and preferences. Whether it's the sophistication of a cocktail lounge, the variety of a full bar, the focus of a wine bar, or the relaxed vibe of an ordinary bar, there's a perfect spot out there for every occasion.

Top 10 Cocktail Bars to Visit

When it comes to enjoying a good drink, the setting can make all the difference. If you're on the hunt for a place that offers more than just a standard drink menu, look no further. Here's a list of the top 10 cocktail bars that stand out for their unique offerings, atmosphere, and dedication to the craft of mixology.

Velvet Tango Room

Sophisticated sips and a secret back room set the Velvet Tango Room apart. This spot is all about precision and class, where bitters are measured with an eyedropper, ensuring each cocktail is nothing short of perfection.


For those who love heavy metal and Viking vibes, LBM in Lakewood is your haven. It's a place where you can let loose with a Gunslinger cocktail, proving that strong drinks and loud music are a match made in Valhalla.

Cloak and Dagger

Opening its doors amid the pandemic, Cloak and Dagger has adapted with a unique "Tales of Life & Death" mixology menu. It's a testament to creativity and resilience in the face of COVID-19, offering a memorable experience with every visit.

Tropical Hideaway

Craving a taste of Polynesia? This tropical hideaway has you covered with its Blackbeards Ghost cocktail, transporting you to sandy beaches and sunny skies with each sip.

The Fairmount

Known among Cleveland Heights locals, The Fairmount pairs truffle fries with its house shot, the Verdita. It's a cozy spot for those looking to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life.

All Saints Public House

Dog-friendly and perfect for patio season, All Saints Public House in Battery Park is where good food and drinks can be enjoyed in the company of your four-legged friends.

Society Lounge

Step back in time to the glamorous café society of the early 1900s at Society Lounge. Here, a Cucumber Gimlet or a 4th St. Sour awaits to be enjoyed with a raised pinky, in true refined fashion.

Garden City

Perched atop the Van Aken District, Garden City offers a rooftop hang spot where craft cocktails are the stars of the show. It's an inviting place to indulge in your favorite drinks under the open sky.

The 9

Within the swanky confines of century-old bank vaults, The 9 serves up its iconic Gold Coffer cocktail. It's an opulent setting where the drinks are as rich in flavor as the surroundings are in history.

Hidden Cocteleria

Tucked away behind Hola Tacos in Lakewood, this hidden cocteleria offers mystery and adventure with its menu of Central and South American cocktails. It's a spot that promises an escape from the ordinary, one drink at a time.

Each of these cocktail bars brings something unique to the table, whether it's the ambiance, the drinks, or the story behind them. They're proof that the art of the cocktail is alive and well, offering experiences that go beyond the glass. So, whether you're in the mood for something sophisticated, exotic, or downright adventurous, there's a cocktail bar on this list that's sure to quench your thirst.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cocktail Bars

What should be in a cocktail bar?

A cocktail bar needs a few key things to stand out. First, a wide range of liquors is crucial. This includes the basics like vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey, but also more unique options like amaro, absinthe, and mezcal. The goal is to have the right spirit for every drink.

Next, a bar cart or a well-organized bar area is essential. It should hold all the drink mixing tools needed to craft the cocktails. This includes jiggers for measuring, shakers and stirrers for mixing, strainers, muddlers for mashing ingredients, and a citrus press for fresh juice. Good glassware is also key, as the right glass can make or break a cocktail's presentation.

How to build your own cocktail bar?

Starting your own home cocktail bar might seem daunting, but it's really about gathering a few home bar essentials. Start with selecting your favorite liquors, focusing on quality over quantity. Then, add a bar cart or designate a space in your home where you'll keep your spirits, tools, and glassware.

For drink mixing tools, start with the basics: a shaker, a strainer, a jigger, and a spoon. As you get more comfortable, you can add more specialized tools. Display cabinets or open shelving can be a great way to show off your liquor collection and make it easy to access everything you need.

What is the difference between a cocktail bar and an ordinary bar?

The main difference lies in the focus and atmosphere. A cocktail bar, or cocktail lounge, is all about the art of mixology. It's where you go for specialty drinks and in-house creations that you might not find anywhere else. The atmosphere is usually more upscale, with a focus on providing a unique drinking experience.

An ordinary bar or full bar might offer a wide range of drinks, including beer and wine, but the focus isn't necessarily on craft cocktails. A wine bar, on the other hand, specializes in wine and might offer a small selection of cocktails or other spirits.

In short, if you're looking for a place where the drink is not just served but crafted, where the ambiance elevates the experience, and where the bartenders are more like artists, a cocktail bar is where you'll find it. Whether you're setting up a bar at home or seeking out the best cocktail lounge, it's about creating and enjoying experiences that are a step above the ordinary.


Exploring cocktails is more than just about tasting different drinks; it's about immersing yourself in a culture that values craftsmanship, ambiance, and the art of hospitality. At socialmix, we understand that crafting cocktails goes beyond mixing ingredients—it's about elevating social experiences, creating moments that connect people, and turning each sip into a memorable journey.

In our exploration of the best cocktail bars, we've seen how each establishment brings its unique flavor to the table, from the sophisticated sips of the Velvet Tango Room to the adventurous spirit of the hidden Cocteleria. These places don't just serve drinks; they serve stories, ambiance, and a sense of belonging. They remind us that a great cocktail bar is not just about the quality of the drinks but the overall experience it offers.

Building your own cocktail bar at home? It's not just about stocking up on liquors and tools, but about creating an atmosphere that reflects the essence of your favorite cocktail lounges. Whether it's selecting the right drinkware or curating a playlist that sets the mood, every detail contributes to the experience.

Elevating social experiences isn't just a goal; it's a journey. At socialmix, we're more than just a source for high-quality bartender tools and drinkware; we're a community dedicated to celebrating the art of mixology and the joy of connection. Whether you're a seasoned mixologist or just starting out, we invite you to join us in this journey, to explore new flavors, share your creations, and make every drink a reason to come together.

So, as we conclude our tour of the top cocktail bars and the vibrant culture they represent, let's raise our glasses to the art of crafting cocktails. Here's to the experiences we've shared, the memories we've made, and the many more to come. Cheers to your next unforgettable cocktail experience with socialmix.

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