While there is a vibrant drinking culture found throughout the Americas, many of the most notable openings in recent years have been limited to just a few major metropolises. While cities like New York and Buenos Aires are still the heartbeat of the cocktail movement, the range has undoubtedly expanded. There are now progressive bar scenes fueled by native ingredients appearing Costa Rica and Bolivia, while a thirst for natural wines has captivated Mexico City. And in Lima, a city where you couldn’t find a great cocktail outside of a restaurant bar a year ago, finally has a great bar to call its own.
Marking our first attempt at curating a reasonable list of new bar openings that stretches from the Arctic to Antarctic, there’s no doubt that this list could be much longer. But here, in no particular order, is our list of the Best New Bar Openings of 2017:
Lima has lacked a great cocktail bar (that isn’t inside of a restaurant) maybe more than any major Latin American city. That’s no longer the case. Aarón Díaz, who headed the bar program at Astrid y Gastón for several years, and is considered one of the most influential bartenders in Peru, has gone out on his own. This long-awaited spot explores the idea of “Coctelería Conceptual,” a progressive, often molecular take on modern mixology. Díaz worked with Peruvian artists, including Marcelo Wong and Carlos Runcie Tanaka, to create glassware for many of his original cocktails, like the El Dorado, which features ice cubes infused with flecks of gold. With frequent guest bartenders and signature cocktails from some of the best conceptual cocktail bars in the world, Carnaval is quickly becoming the center of Peru’s cocktail community. Facebook page.
Located in Edificio Steinvorth in the heart of downtown San José, Bebedero CR serves what are, without question, the most sophisticated cocktails anywhere in Costa Rica. The bar is led by Liz Furlong, a Canadian born bartender who also owns the excellent brunch spot Maza Cafe + Bistro and is helping lead a new craft cocktail movement in Costa Rica and across Central America (and happens to be a New Worlder contributor). An upscale cocktail den, Bebedero serves a variety of original drinks that utilize touches of Costa Rican fruits and herbs, alongside bar snacks like pejibaye, ceviche with a dry martini leche de tigre, and oysters. Facebook Page.
Upstairs from and run by the progressive vegan restaurant Ali Pacha (one of our best new restaurants of 2016) in La Paz’s historic center, UMAWI, which means “let’s drink” in Aymara, takes advantage of the immense variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants in Bolivia for a line of highly original cocktails, often using locally produced gin, vodka, and singani. The bar has one of the city’s best lists of Bolivian wines and craft beers, and altitude coffees also make an appearance. Facebook Page.
Located beneath Cebicheria La Mar in Palermo, you need to walk down a set of concrete stairs and through a hallway decorated in subway tiles — complete with signs pointing you towards “Uptown & the Bronx” — to enter the newest bar from the creators of The Harrison. Inside this speakeasy is an atmosphere reminiscent of a New York subway station with a network of subterranean nooks to sip on some of the city’s most progressive cocktails. uptownba.com.
Owned by American brother sister team of food writer Scarlett Lindeman and her photographer brother Jake, Colonia Juarez’s Cicatriz is an eclectic café with lots of light and an all around great drinking selection that dabbles in natural wines, artisanal Mexican beers, mezcal, and original cocktails. The always changing food menu, which is limited in the evenings as the drinking picks up, ranges from chicken soup with poached egg to a fried chicken sandwich to market driven salads and fresh baked pies. Facebook page.
Natural wines have taken off in Mexico City in a big way and cozy Loup, a serene spot in Colonia Roma Norte not far from La Glorieta de Insurgentes, is helping lead the way. Their wine list, expertly curated by Gaëtan Rousset, presents of organic and biodynamic wines from France, Chile, Mexico, and Spain that can be paired with a short menu of eclectic dishes (shakshouka, burrata, beef bourguignonne) from Joaquin Cardoso. loupbar.mx.
From one of Buenos Aires’ most renowned mixologists, Seba García, Presidente is the current hotspot for craft cocktails in the Argentinian capital. After running the iconic bar at The Harrison and serving as an ambassador for Campari, García brings years of mixing up specialty concoctions to a stylish space in Recoleta complete with a library and secret bar. The menus pulls inspiration from all around the world, while emphasizing Argentinian ingredients. Small plates and sushi dishes from Santi Ferrer can be enjoyed along with the cocktails. presidentebar.com.ar.
Set in vibrant downtown Austin, Texas, Las Perlas Mezcalería offers a broad agave spirits program alongside handcrafted cocktails and craft Mexican beer brands. With a wide selection of over 400 curated premium agave spirits, some of the bar’s signature cocktails include Las Perlas Margarita, Jarritos Paloma, Oaxacan Negroni, Mexican Mule, and the Spiced Daisy – an original cocktail in the form of a margarita spiced up with fresh pressed jalapeños. Look out for the 400 rabbits, an homage to the children of Aztec goddess of agave, Mayahuel, painted by Kansas City artist Gatlin McClun throughout the venue. Facebook page.
As a beloved New York City institution since the Jazz Age and the former private office to financier John William Campbell, The Campbell in Grand Central Terminal has been restored to its former glory by The Gerber Group. Located in the southwest corner of the terminal and offering classic and modern cocktails, in addition to wines and local craft beers, signature drinks include the Aviation (Nolet’s Gin, crème de violette, Maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon) and John Campbell’s Martini (Stoli Elit, Carpano dry vermouth, olives), while spins on modern cocktails like the Grand Central Spritz (Grey Goose, St. Germain, mint, Prosecco) can be paired with bar fare including charcuterie and tuna tartare tacos. Facebook Page.
It’s hard to mention one without the other. The Office, a faux speakeasy with Pre-Prohibition cocktails, and The Aviary, the NYC branch of the futuristic Chicago cocktail bar, are the Alinea team Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’ first foray into New York City and they have not disappointed. High up above Columbus Circle in the lobby of The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, The Aviary is going where no New York bar has gone before. With $38 deconstructed Bloody Marys laid out on a serving tray, smoke-infused cocktails, as well as other experiments with strange ingredients that seem mismatched but work out majestically, it’s hard not to be impressed. Not to mention all the different types of ice. While The Office is less adventurous, it’s no less interesting boasting a vast collection of vintage spirits. exploretock.com/theaviarynyc; exploretock.com/theofficenyc.
Header image courtesy of Las Perlas in Austin, Texas. Photo Credit: Peter Stanislaus.