• Bar Guide
  • Aviation


    Pigalle | Gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette

    Part of the classic-cocktail trend sweeping Boston, this once-obscure drink is enjoying a newfound popularity. What sets Pigalle's apart? The citrus, mostly. Bartender Michael Florence uses a lightly sweetened, house-made lemonade, and places the lemon-peel garnish on top of the glass rather than in the drink for maximum aromatic impact. 75 Charles St. S., Boston, 617-423-4944, pigalleboston.com

  • Blackandtan

    Black & Tan

    River Gods | Ale topped with a stout or porter

    It's tricky to compare takes on this two-beer pairing: Anywhere you go, a Black and Tan means that somebody has poured a Guinness on top of a Bass. River Gods' impeccably poured version, however, is delivered amid the finest casual-pub atmosphere you'll find inside or out of the People's Republic, giving it the edge. 125 River St., Cambridge, 617-576-1881, rivergodsonline.com

  • BloodyMary

    Bloody Mary

    Masa | Vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, spices

    For some, it's mere hair of the dog; for others, a buzz-inducing liquid salad. But at Masa, Chef Philip Aviles's bloody mary brims with striking flavors — a Ketel One-fueled wallop of pickled jalapeño jacked up with no fewer than 22 ingredients in one chilly, restorative concoction. 439 Tremont St., Boston, 617-338-8884, masarestaurant.com

  • caipirinha


    Chez Henri | Cachaça, muddled lime, sugar

    Too many bartenders have a too-heavy hand with sugar when it comes to this drink — it's not a mojito, folks. Others swing in the opposite direction, seemingly pouring straight cachaça over ice and limes. Chez Henri's version, though, is perfect whether sipped or swigged, preferably with a Cuban sandwich or chicken empanada in the other hand. One Shepard St., Cambridge, 617-354-8980, chezhenri.com

  • ChampagneCocktail

    Champagne Cocktail

    City Bar | Sparkling wine, sugar cube, bitters

    A champagne cocktail isn't just a way to rescue a crappy glass of cava. (Though it does a good job of that.) A well-prepared one makes a good bubbly even better by infusing it with a raw sugar cube and Angostura bitters. City Bar in the Lenox Hotel adds enough of both to achieve a soft finish and a delicate pink tint without overwhelming the wine's flavor. 61 Exeter St., Boston, 617-933-4800, citybarboston.com

  • Cosmo


    Cuchi Cuchi | Citrus-flavored vodka, orange liqueur, lime and cranberry juices

    Once upon a time, the cosmo was a good, tangy alternative to the manly martini. Then Sex and the City came along, leaving behind it a big, syrupy, neon-pink wake. These days, not many bartenders can still make it right — tart, a tad sweet, and fantastically quaffable — but the ones who can, it seems, are all employed at Cuchi Cuchi. 795 Main St., Cambridge, 617-864-2929, www.cuchicuchi.cc

  • Daiquiri


    Woodward | White rum, lime juice, simple syrup

    Classic and simple, the basic lime daiquiri served up by Woodward's expert barkeeps will banish all memories of the strawberry-based blended atrocities you remember from spring break. Expect high-quality rum (our preference: Oronoco) shaken with ultrafresh lime juice for a pucker-inducing, well-balanced sipper. One Court St., Boston, 617-979-8200, woodwardatames.com

  • EspressoMartini

    Espresso Martini

    Lucca | Vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur

    There's nothing like a creamy libation electrified with a shot of java to top off a hearty North End meal. Lucca's oh-so-smooth version features a blend of Baileys, Kahlúa, vanilla vodka, and real espresso, perfect for the second wind needed to mosey down Hanover for a cannoli. 226 Hanover St., Boston, 617-742-9200, luccaboston.com

  • FrozenMargarita

    Frozen Margarita

    Sunset Cantina | Tequila, orange liqueur, sweet-and-sour mix

    Enough already with the artisanal version made with hand-squeezed key limes. Admit it: When you're craving a margarita, what you really want is a frosty tequila-and-sour concoction that makes you feel like you're lost in the Yucatán. With more than 25 varieties (both frozen and not), Sunset Cantina offers endless takes on the fiesta classic. 916 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-731-8646, allstonsfinest.com

  • GinMartini

    Gin Martini

    The Bristol Lounge | Gin, dry vermouth, olive or twist

    This distinguished classic calls for a setting as timelessly stylish as the types who tend to order it, and that means the Four Seasons Hotel's Bristol Lounge. Whether at the heavy marble bar or (better) in a comfy club chair, when the pours are this generous, you'll stay around for a while. 200 Boylston St., Boston, 617-338-4400, fourseasons.com

  • IrishCoffee

    Irish Coffee

    Mr. Dooley's | Irish whiskey, hot coffee

    When it comes to a straightforward Irish coffee, the atmosphere is what makes the drink. Ideally, that's a dark, cozy pub — the kind of place with a mahogany bar and plenty of whiskeys from the Emerald Isle. Mr. Dooley's may be located smack in the middle of the bustling Financial District, but it still invokes Dublin quite nicely. Head in on a night when the wind is blowing and the music is live, and you'll see exactly what we mean. 77 Broad St., Boston, 617-338-5656, mrdooleys.com

  • LIIT

    Long Island Iced Tea

    The Franklin Café | Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, Triple Sec, lemon juice, cola

    Say what you will: There's a certain poetry to something that goes down like a girly drink but can only be handled by true heavyweights. The Franklin Café's LIIT is far less cloying than most, with a meticulously balanced mix of five spirits (minus excessive sour mix) that leaves us sweet on the whole darn drink. 278 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-350-0010, franklincafe.com

  • MaiTai

    Mai Tai

    Highland Kitchen | Rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, orgeat, simple syrup

    With bright citrus flavors and a generous dose of Sailor Jerry rum, Highland Kitchen's mai tai, especially when made by bar manager Joe McGuirk, is like an island getaway for the gullet. The bar also offers a menu of Monday-night tropical-drink specials, a sure-fire way to start the week off right. 150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com

  • Manhattan


    The Beehive | Whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters, cherry

    Every last cavernous inch of the Beehive thrums with bar culture at its most electric, meaning there's no better spot in Boston to down an icy stalwart like the Manhattan. Here, they don't bother messing with funky house-made bitters or newfangled vermouths — it's Angostura and Italian all the way — and they won't cock an eyebrow when you opt to close the deal with a maraschino cherry, either. 541 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-0069, beehiveboston.com

  • MintJulep

    Mint Julep

    Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar | Bourbon, muddled mint, simple syrup, crushed ice

    Kentuckians take two things seriously: horses and mint juleps. Up here, we're not exactly well versed in all things equine. But the drink pourers at Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar certainly do have a handle on the julep, one of their signature offerings. It's served in the traditional metal cup, packed tight with crushed ice and, of course, bourbon. The mint is mixed in perfect proportion, tempering the bourbon's bite without drowning it out. 1310 Boylston St., Boston, 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com

  • Mojito


    Highland Kitchen | Rum, muddled lime, mint, sugar

    If you've ever had one of these made from less-than-fresh mint leaves, dried-out limes, or worse, a mix, you know that all mojitos are not created equal. Highland Kitchen's version is muddled to order in a highball glass and chock-full of bright green leaves, juicy lime wedges, and just enough sweetness to make you smile. 150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com

  • MoscowMule

    Moscow Mule

    Stoddard's | Vodka, lime juice, ginger beer, mint

    Plenty of bars craft a good Mule, but Stoddard's serves this classic in a vessel specifically designed for its consumption: a frosty copper mug that stays icy cold till the last sip is gone. The use of crushed ice — too often skipped in favor of boring cubes — further ups the cocktail's authenticity. 48 Temple Place, Boston, 617-426-0048, stoddardsfoodandale.com

  • Negroni


    Eastern Standard | Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange peel

    Some joints guard their drink recipes like state secrets. At Eastern Standard, a haven for cocktail enthusiasts, staffers will write them down for you. Their formula for that perfect Italian cocktail, the Negroni? Equal parts Beefeater gin, M&R sweet vermouth, and Campari, served on the rocks with an orange garnish. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com

  • OldFashioned

    Old Fashioned

    Noir | Whiskey, sugar, bitters, orange

    Often called the original cocktail, a quality Old Fashioned calls for extreme restraint: Too much sugar throws off everything else. Some bars rim the glass in the stuff, which makes it taste like cotton candy. Meanwhile, if the whiskey's cheap, it tastes more like cough syrup. Noir's version, however, goes down like adult Gatorade — thirst-quenching and invigorating. (Too bad it's not served on the marathon route.) One Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-8010, noir-bar.com

  • PiscoSour

    Pisco Sour

    Eastern Standard | Pisco, lemon juice, egg white, bitters

    This Peruvian refreshment requires a sophisticated touch: The tart citrus should just better the sweetness, and the drink should have a silky head of froth on the surface. Perhaps because Eastern Standard has a whole menu of beverages that use egg whites, its experienced mixologists manage to consistently produce a flavor and a texture that quite literally rise to the top. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com

  • RumPunch

    Rum Punch

    Rumba | Rum, pineapple juice, fruity miscellany

    Rum punch doesn't concern itself with being elegant — first and foremost, it's supposed to bring back happy memories of booze cruises and cabanas. But RumBa's take, which features fresh juices and a mix of three different rums, plus slices of pineapple and orange (and yes, a cherry on top), has it all — and is potent enough to make that harbor view look a little like the Caribbean. InterContinental, 510 Atlantic Ave., Boston, 617-217-5152, intercontinentalboston.com

  • Sangria


    Temple Bar | Red wine, brandy, fresh fruit

    Plenty of bars serve sangria, but often what arrives is simply chilled red wine with lackluster bits of fruit. Temple Bar's version has crisp citrus, hints of spice, and rum — warming and refreshing all at once, whether it's 8 or 80 degrees outside. 1688 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-547-5055, templebarcambridge.com

  • Sazerac


    Clio | Rye, absinthe, bitters

    Sazerac greatness, like all greatness, is in the details. So listen up when Clio bartender Todd Maul — using his knife to direct sprays of lemon-peel oil over a cocktail glass — dispenses the wisdom he discovered in a book from 1937: "You zest a lemon over the glass. Only savages throw the peel in. "When a drink's ingredients are this few, such attention to detail makes all the difference. 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200, cliorestaurant.com

  • ScorpionBowl

    Scorpion Bowl

    East Coast Grill | High-proof spirits, juices, flames

    No one orders the granddaddy of all booze elixirs when they've got good behavior on the brain, and few places are more conducive to misbehavior than East Coast Grill. So never mind that their "Erupting, Flaming Volcano" kicks the butt of standard college-bar versions, with a mix of gin, five rums, brandy, and tropical juices; you're here to have fun, damn it. Just focus — if you can — on the thing's flavor…if not its acid-green straws, blue plastic monkeys, and the fact that it's on fire. 1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-491-6568, eastcoastgrill.net

  • Sidecar


    Green Street Grill | Brandy, lemon juice, orange liqueur, sugar

    A good sidecar needs the three S's — sweet, sour, and strong — to achieve perfect harmony. If any of those are off, you end up with something that tastes like cold Theraflu. The skilled hands at Green Street Grill smartly rim the glass in sugar, then leave the cocktail itself on the biting, citrusy side. The result? Each sip is in balance and goes down ultrasmooth. 280 Green St., Cambridge, 617-876-1655, greenstreetgrill.com

  • SingaporeSling

    Singapore Sling

    Cuchi Cuchi | Gin, cherry brandy, Bénédictine liqueur, pineapple juice

    Give thanks to Ngiam Tong Boon, the legendary Raffles Hotel bartender who in 1915 thought to throw together this fizzy, gin-based concoction. Cuchi Cuchi honors his legacy with its dangerously addictive version, and thanks to the place's art nouveau décor and flapper-style waitstaff, it gets the time warp just right, too. 795 Main St., Cambridge, 617-864-2929, www.cuchicuchi.cc

  • TomCollins

    Tom Collins

    UpStairs on the Square | Gin, lemon juice, sugar

    This classic requires precision: in other words, a proper mix of sweet, tart, and bitter, which is harder than it sounds. Nearly every version we tried was dull, dull, dull. But the bartenders at UpStairs on the Square get it right, with your choice of gin, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and just a touch of simple syrup. 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-864-1933, upstairsonthesquare.com

  • VodkaMartini

    Vodka Martini

    The Oak Bar | Vodka, dry vermouth, olive

    When we order ours dry, we mean parched. When we say cold, we mean arctic. And when we demand clean flavor, give us a selection of at least 10 premium vodkas. The ever-proper Oak Bar rolls out all of the above — and also pours just half of your martini, serving the rest of it in a mini shaker on ice. Meaning neither you, nor the top third of your drink, gets unnecessarily sloshed. 138 St. James Ave., Boston, 617-267-5300, theoakroom.com

  • WardEight

    Ward Eight

    Locke-Ober | Whiskey, lemon and orange juices, grenadine

    This little delight was invented at Locke-Ober in 1898, so the bar has perhaps an unfair advantage. But origins aside, the Ward Eight served here brilliantly pits its bite of rye against bright citrus. And despite the drink's pretty pink hue, it packs an impressive punch — not to mention a cheek-burning warmth that lingers after every sip. 3 Winter Place, Boston, 617-542-1340, lockeober.com

  • WhiskeySmash

    Whiskey Smash

    Drink | Whiskey, lemon, mint, simple syrup

    At Fort Point's cocktail mecca, Drink, the going practice is to tell the bartenders what sort of stuff you like, then let them surprise you. For those of us who have trouble describing our tastes, however, the method can fall short. Order a classic Whiskey Smash, and everyone wins: What with all the muddling and mint sprigs involved, you'll witness the full extent of the staff's mixing prowess and enjoy one of the most pleasurable drinks ever invented. 348 Congress St., Boston, 617-695-1806, drinkfortpoint.com

Drink Up!

So, where can you get a good drink around here? Maybe it's the economy. Or Mad Men. Maybe it's the epic winter staring us down. Could just as easily be the national cocktail renaissance (mixology seminar or artisanal bitters tasting, anyone?) that has hit Boston like a tsunami — and arguably turned the bartender into the new celebrity chef. But whatever the reason (and most likely, it's all of the above), something is driving us to drink. And you'll get no complaints from us: not when it means we have more informed and intoxicatingly creative bar talent than ever before. To find out who's leading the pack, our team of ace imbibers canvassed the city, sipping highball and low in search of the best versions of 30 iconic libations. Behold, our list of the classic and popular drinks that every well-stocked bar and well-trained bartender should be able to produce — plus the people and places that shake it all up best. Bottoms up.