Bar Flu

I’ve been posting a lot about jewelry and believe me you’ve only been seeing the tip of the iceberg with all of the christmas orders I’ve been working on.  I’ve taken a few hours this morning, however, to write about something else.


Nothing crazy or mind-blowing here.  I just really felt like writing about my 10 favorite bars.  These aren’t in any particular order and I’ve definitely left out some great places, but at any rate, these are MY personal favorites from recent memory.

  1. Holeman and Finch Public House

Where:  Atlanta

If this joint were only a restaurant it would be enough to be put it in on my stomping ground list.  When you add the kick ass bar to the mix and the mixology-hardened badasses that make the cocktails, this is one of my favorite places to eat and imbibe PERIOD.

First of all, they do the best sazerac I’ve had outside of New Orleans.   For those of you who don’t drink ‘em, you need to start.  From what I understand this was THE first cocktail.  Sold in pharmacies at first.  Yeah.  It even has a nice little medicine-bitterness that…really sounds horrible, but it’s great.   I don’t even know how to explain how good the bartenders are.  It’s not human.   Give them the merest hint of what kind of a cocktail you’re in the mood for and they’ll take care of you.  Those trendy mixology places you see all over the Travel Channel?  They WISH they were Holeman and Finch.

The food is insane.  You want a chicken head and a split femur full of marrow with a side of veal brains?  You got it.  Seriously.  You want what might be the best cheeseburger and hotdog I’ve ever had?  They got that too.  Everything, even the bread and condiments, is made right there by the cooks.  And it ain’t expensive.

  1. The Pawn

Where:  Hong Kong

There are a lot of great bars in Hong Kong and I’ve been to a mess of them.  I dig the local places.  They’re great.  Nothing like having a glass of room-temperature gin while being glared at (not necessarily in a bad way) by locals who are wondering why the hell this American dude covered with tattoos is in their bar watching them play darts and sing karaoke.

The Pawn is different though.  This f’cker is an old stone building nestled in the middle of these Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers.  You sit out on the patio on the second floor drinking ice cold martinis and watching Hong Kong swarm around your little sphere of calmness.  The place is old-school British, so if you’re like me and you dig good pub grub in brown sauce, you’re in luck.

There are a few tourists, which is usually a deal-breaker for me.  Thing is, at the Pawn, the tourists are cool as sh*t internationals and ex-pats who make it feel like something out of Casablanca.

  1. Flat Iron

Where: New York City

There are a lot of good bars in NYC, but a lot of them seem like fad places that are crowded as hell or they’re full of total douchebags.  Often both.   Then again, there are so many great bars in the city that avoid both massive crowds AND douchebaggery.  Me?  I like the Flat Iron.

This place has AWESOME bartenders who really, really know they’re stuff.   They’re mixology guys, but they KNOW how to make good, classic, no-frills martinis (which to me is still the most often-f’ked up cocktail on the planet, despite them being simple.)  They also do a great sazerac and our bartender made me an Old Fashioned that was….compelling.

One of the great things about this bar…and I really mean this….is that they don’t serve food.  That’s right.  No mozzarella sticks, no freakin’ hot wings, no freakin’ nacho baskets.  This place is drinks.   It’s a young crowd, but not rowdy.  I can tell you that my sister, our spouses and I shut this place down at something like 4am and STILL weren’t ready to leave.

  1. Boadas

Where:  Barcelona

So like I said, these aren’t ranked, but this joint may be my all-time favorite bar.    Like Flat Iron, they don’t serve food.  UNLIKE Flat Iron, it isn’t a young crowd.  And this is AWESOME.   My Spanish is good enough to get around and my brother in law’s is better, so we were able to chat with the bartender while this fella made me the absolute best martini I’ve ever had.  Ever.

Why was this martini so good?  Well, it was stirred (step one.)  And it was also served  in a 3.5 ounce glass.   These weren’t the stupid mini glasses you see in party stores, these were full height classic stemware, but they held the PERFECT amount of gin.  It took me days of searching, but I’ve found them online at a restaurant supply warehouse and am having 24 of them (the smallest order I could make) shipped to me.  In the States, you’re lucky to find a martini glass that holds less than 5 ounces – a VAT of gin.   Type “3.5 ounce Martini” into Amazon and you’ll get a picture of this:

The inside of this bar is right out of the 40s.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s been updated since it was built.  It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s classy.   We shut this place down too…..which really isn’t saying much as my sister and I shut down pretty much every place we go to.   The bartender ever directed us to a nearby place to get a great toasty early-morning bacon sandwich.

  1. Monteleone Carrousel Bar

Where: New Orleans

I admit that the concept of a spinning bar is retarded.  If you say that this bar is a motorized spinning bar, you’re not technically wrong, but you’re not honestly representing how classy this place actually is.   You really have to GO there to understand.  The bar spins slowly.  Very slowly.  In the center is a 40s or 50s style circular tower of alcoholic goodness and one or two master bartenders whipping up all manner of classic cocktail with relative ease.

Again, no food.  Cocktail-wise, everything is good here, but their special is the Vieux Carre.  This drink was INVENTED IN THE F’KING BAR in the 30s.  How badass is that?   When you sit at this bar, drinking it and looking around at the décor, you feel like it’s 1930s New Orleans and the illusion isn’t shattered until you leave.

This bar is extremely light on tourists for being in the French Quarter.  Go in here an order a hurricane and they’re club you with martini stirrers.

  1. Pinky Masters

Where:  Savannah

This bar is loud.  This bar is crowded.  This bar smells like the inside of a cigarette machine on fire.  This bar is FANTASTIC.  Are you a craft beer guy?  Dig microbrews, do ya?   Stay away.  Beer of choice here is Pabst Blue Ribbon and it’s been that way as long as it’s been open.  Long before it was TRENDY to drink PBR.

Light ‘em up.  Smoking is allowed and encouraged.  Best way to meet dames in this joint is to come bearing a few packs of Marlboros and a cool zippo.   Of course, the smoke is dense enough that you really don’t need your own cigs.  It gets so crowded in here that it often spills onto the street.  Savannah is an open-container city, so have at it.

The crowd is a mix of Savannah locals along with grad students and professors of the local college.  So basically this means you can drink PBR and cheap Scotch, talk about modes of semiotic investment in narrative animation, and leave with the best flippin’ bar flu you’ve ever had.

  1. Absinthe Room

Where:  Memphis

This place is on Beale Street, but it definitely IS NOT your typical Beale Street bar.  It’s on the second floor so most of the riffraff is kept out.  Stairs frighten stupid people.  My buddies and I racked up about 500 bucks in this joint (staying a looooong time) played several rounds of pool, darts, and talked to the bartender.  Most of the tourists in there were Australian.   Not sure what that means.  I’d say Australians love absinthe, but most of them ordered PBR.

If you do love absinthe though, this place has it (at least what passes for absinthe state-side) and they serve it in a number of delicious cocktails I don’t specifically remember.   Like I said, we were there a while.

Memphis is one of my favorite US cities.  Lots of good hangouts and places to hear loud, beautiful blues music and drink Wild Turkey.  After a while, though, I like to retreat to a place like the Absinthe Room to have a mellow refresher, shoot some pool with some Australians, and drop some green fairy.

  1. Molly’s

Where:  New Orleans

Last time I was in this joint with my British pal Jeremy, we were there until about 7 in the morning.  Molly’s is another great French Quarter bar split between locals and the more savvy tourists who don’t want the sh*tty fruit-punch beverages and 80s karaoke of Bourbon Street.  The place is dingy and dark, but lively and comfortable at the same time.

Molly’s has two drinks that I jones after when I’m away from New Orleans.  The first is the infamous Molly’s frozen coffee.  Yeah, yeah, I know, but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.  The other is their hot buttered rum, which is a necessity during the winter-time.  You can drop into Molly’s on one of those rare crisp-cold evenings and town on some hot buttered rum and feel like you’re right at home.

This bar also holds the record for me in terms of time spent imbibing.  That 7am departure time I mentioned above?  We started around 4:30pm.  That should give you an idea of how great that place is.  It’s just so damn comfortable.

  1. Rocco’s

Where:  Los Angeles

I wanted to include at least one sports bar so I started racking my brain for the best sports-viewing experience in recent memory.   Rocco’s made the list for a number of reasons.   Great beers are a start.  On top of that, you can choke down a 1 pound cheeseburger with chili fries and hot wings while meat-sweating in the cool Culver City air.

This joint doesn’t suffer from the sportsbar syndrome that a lot of places do.   So many sports bars cram in as many flat-screen televisions as possible (to the detriment of atmosphere) and sacrifice good food and attentive service in favor of offering warehouse-size seating and quick ‘n easy snacks like frozen calamari or slimy hotwings.

Rocco’s isn’t the best bar in LA, or even in Culver City, but it’s easily the best sports bar I’ve been to in recent memory.   More than a sports bar, it’s a bar that plays sports.   That’s what I dig about it.   Good food, good beer, and enough TVs to go around.

10. Whiskey

Where:  Durham

If you check this place out on Yelp or any other consumer review sites, you’ll see two things.  You’ll see people like me ranting about how great the scotch, bourbon, and rye selection is.   How awesome the atmosphere is.  The talented bartenders.  The fact that you can smoke cigars inside the place……And you’ll see college age millennial brats complaining that they were thrown out of the place and they don’t understand why or that they don’t smoke and didn’t understand why the cigar bar was full of smoke.    This ALONE should make Whiskey one of my top 3 places.

The place is absolutely STACKED with whiskeys.  They have literally everything and the bartenders are talented enough to know what to do with the breadth of selection at their fingertips.  Yes, you can buy and smoke cigars as well.  My sis and I reclined in the corner on a Wintery night with our respective spouses, smoked cigars, drank scotch, and just wandered through a bleary-eyed internal wilderness on one of the more delightful cerebral strolls I’ve ever had.    What a great place.

It is CROWDED, though.  Oh yeah.  You have to get there early.  One of the best things about the place, however, is that they actively prevent students in their early 20s from even entering the place.  If you see a 21 year old in the joint having a smoke, they’ve got their ‘cool card’ from the bartenders and obviously have taste and wisdom beyond their years.