Emilie Baltz

12 Bars You Need to Visit Before You Die, According to Bartenders

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When it comes to sniffing out the best bars, no travel website or hotel concierge knows better than a bartender. Whether you’re looking for a lively tiki bar, the top Martini spot, or a local-favorite dive, you’ll always get better advice from someone who works behind the stick themselves than you would from even the most comprehensive five-star Yelp review. So we asked our favorite bar men and women across the globe, “If you could give a recommendation on the one bar you must visit, which would it be?” And the pros delivered. From a world-renowned hotel bar in London, to an Iowa City tavern, here are 12 drinkeries that should be on everyone’s bucket list, as recommended by bartenders.

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Death & Company, New York, New York

“Every time I see the bar top full of homemade tinctures, I get goosebumps. Their cocktail menu is amazing and has something for everyone. They take everything from classic cocktails to booze long forgotten and twist them into the most amazing concoctions. It is hard to pick a cocktail to try because you can’t go wrong with any of them, however I do suggest the Sabrosa—a velvety mix of tequila, green Chartreuse, falernum, Coco Lopez, celery and lime.” - Caitlin Hula, Cliff House Maine

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Holiday Cocktail Lounge, New York, New York

“They have this playlist of classic songs that everyone knows and loves, and before you know it, it's 3 a.m., and you’re singing 4 Non Blondes at the top of your lungs with a group of strangers. It's a magical bar.” - Bridget Maloney, Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails

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Employees Only, New York, New York

“You enter through a faux psychic shop and pass through a curtain that instantly takes you back in time. The cocktails are all beautiful renditions of classics with a modern twist. The food menu is simple yet delicious—from steak tartare prepared tableside, to bone marrow poppers. Great spot to take a date or crush some old school cocktails with friends. It's always busy, no matter what day or time you go, so be nice to the doorman (He will be dressed in a three piece suit.) and have some patience—you'll get in eventually.” - Nick Bill, LAVO New York

"Go from ‘six-till soup.’ They notoriously serve a nourishing bowl of chicken soup to those still lingering at their 4 a.m. closing time. There is a reason it’s a legend in its own time." - Michael Callahan, 28 HongKong Street

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Dave’s Foxhead Tavern, Iowa City, Iowa

“It's in a little stand-alone building that almost resembles a trailer and has wet the whistle of such greats as Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson and Thom Jones.” - Becky McFalls-Schwartz, Bar Moga

Ritz Paris

Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris, Paris, France

"It’s all about old school service, hospitality and grace. Bartenders should visit to see how it's done at least once before declaring themselves an expert." - Ky Belk, El Five

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Black Cat, Washington, D.C.

“Black Cat in Washington, D.C. has been a staple for 30-something years in a neighborhood that has gone from very dangerous to very swanky in the last two decades. Now, amongst the new foodie restaurants and craft cocktail bars, Black Cat remains without pretense. They still feature awesome music; surly, hilarious bartenders; a pool table, cigarette machine, jukebox and pinball machine; and—as I remember it—a menu that features ‘rail drinks,’ ‘the good shit,’ and ‘the really good shit.’" - Sam Wickham, The Friend

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McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York, New York

“One of the oldest bars in New York City, McSorley’s gets great light, and the walls are just soaked in history. It never gets old looking at all the vintage pictures and things that they've collected over the years. It definitely gets touristy at times, but this bar is amazing and one of my favorites ever!” - Jason Mendenhall, The Wayland, Good Night Sonny and The Wild Son

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Gatsby Cocktail Room, Jerusalem, Israel

“The Gatsby Cocktail Room in Jerusalem, Israel, is a unique experience in a unique city. It’s a bar that swirls you to the 1950s with amazing drinks and service. It is the first cocktail bar that was opened in Jerusalem.” - David Atwood, Industry Kitchen 

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Hop Sing Laundromat, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“If you want to see the largest selection of booze (1600 bottles) in the entire United States, a bar top made up of nickel coins, and some of the tastiest cocktails on the East Coast, this is my pick for a must-go bar. There is a catch though: First is finding the place, which is hiding behind a nondescript metal door in the heart of Chinatown. Second, dress accordingly, as the genius behind the place wants to keep it classy—no hats, no sneakers and no bad attitudes. Lastly, NO PHOTOS INSIDE EVER!” - Cody Goldstein, The Horny Ram and The Flying Cock

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The NoMAd Bar, New York, New York

“The casual menu draws inspiration from traditional pub fare, and the beverage program celebrates classically-focused cocktails while delving into large-format drinks and a selection of reserve cocktails crafted with rare spirits. They also have an extensive selection of sought-after wine and beer!” - Nick Lunn, Mastro’s Steakhouse New York

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Sherry Butt, Paris, France

“The bartenders and guests are so welcoming and hospitable to each other, creating a lovely and natural rhythm. Of course, they serve unique and delicious cocktails, and sometimes you may even get lucky with an off-the-menu creation." - Michael Alexandrakis, Ling Ling Mykonos

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American Bar at the Savoy London, London, England

“To sit and absorb more than 100 years of history directly related to the industry whilst having a drink in a bar that connects you to Ada [Coleman], [Harry] Craddock and the Hanky Panky is something not to be missed. There is a reason this bar has been lauded in the way that it has, and seeing is definitely believing.” - Gareth Howells, VNYL

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