The 150 best bars in America

The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal walks into a bar and - we peruse the menu, the clientele, and the drinks list; we scrutinize the drink, the place, the vibe; we take mental notes. Then, we decide to grab a wad of cocktail napkins and start scribbling notes for a list like this.

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Choosing a bar is a personal matter, and, just as each person is unique, so is each bar. Sure, there are plenty of cookie-cutter Irish pubs, tacky tourist joints with sticky-sweet frozen drinks, and lackluster lounges with watered-down booze, but there are also many thousands of wonderful drinking places across the United States, too.

From simple beach bars and swanky cocktail lounges to innovative houses of "molecular" mixology to dusty dive bars and other dens of iniquity, there's a bar for every taste. Bars are ubiquitous and unifying. They are the great socioeconomic equalizer: Nearly anyone of legal age can enter a bar, pull up a stool, and buy him- or herself a refreshing glass of liquid luxury in its many forms, from a budget ice-cold brew to a fine wine to a potent shot to a classic cocktail to a spectacular modernist creation. Bars are relatable and welcoming; they are a comfort to many in good times and bad.

The Daily Meal set out to find the most iconic bars, famous pubs, and legendary cocktail lounges in America. The last time we did this was three years ago, so needless to say, a lot has changed since then.

The List

This year's ranked list includes 150 bars from 42 states and the District of Columbia. New York state dominated the list with 28 establishments, all but one of which are in New York City (counting nine in Brooklyn and one in Queens). California ended up with 18 bars on the list, with Los Angeles and San Francisco each having six make the cut. Texas placed third with eleven bars, while Illinois came in fourth with eight bars, all of them in Chicago. Not far behind was Oregon; six of its seven bars on the list come from Portland's prolific drinking scene. Washington, DC also made a notable contribution; the nation's capital has drinking establishments on the list.

Despite the number of bars from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA, this list should not be dismissed as big-city-centric. We offer choices in some 66 municipalities, including such smaller places as Jacksonville, Oregon, and Jupiter, Florida.

The Daily Meal's list pays homage to bars that have become influencers, whether for their hoppy brews, kitschy drinks and décor, commitment to crafting classic cocktails, or penchant for pushing the bartending boundaries with ambitious ice programs and avant-garde mixology - and also to bars that are just, well, bars. We recognize places that specialize in one variety of liquor, as well as those that have encyclopedic back bars. We include beer bars, and establishments with world-class wine lists.

Our list was chosen by The Daily Meal's well-traveled, bar-hopping editorial staff, with help from our readers, our far-flung city editors, our network of freelancers, and such food and drink luminaries as Daily Meal Council members Lidia Bastianich, television personality, cookbook author, and restaurateur; Rick Bayless, chef, restaurateur, and television personality; and Robb Walsh, award-winning food writer and restaurateur - as well as award-winning whisky blogger and author Gregg Dillon, cocktail blogger Stacie Grissom, and Kurtis Bosley, a Sydney-based but internationally conscious bartender and Group Bars Manager at Public House Management Group.

We judged - and asked our panelists to judge - bars on these criteria:

1. DRINKS: From innovative cocktails and traditional offerings to regional and house specialties, we evaluated each bar's drink menu according to 1) selection; 2) presentation; and 3) fidelity to tradition and/or innovative excellence.
2. MIXOLOGY: The quality of 1) drink preparation and "pour"; 2) presentation; and 3) adherence to hand-crafted excellence.
3. BARTENDER: 1) Professionalism; 2) skills; and 3) personality and style of the bar staff and how they contribute to the drink preparation and the bar's ambiance.
4. DECOR/EXPERIENCE: From the bar's interior to the ambiance to the service of all staff, we evaluated the bar for the overall experience it provides. (For very casual places, where ambiance and service are beside the point, panelists judged how appropriate the surroundings were for the drinks being served.)
5. CUISINE: While not a requirement to make the list, The Daily Meal wishes to recognize bars that offer an exceptional food menu in addition to drink menu. From innovative menu options and traditional regional cooking to modern international fare to plating/presentation to quality and taste, panelists evaluated the bar's cuisine according to 1) freshness; 2) flavor; 3) presentation; and 4) either fidelity to tradition or innovative excellence.
6. ESSENTIALS: Panelists voted for the bars considered "don't miss" establishments, definitive of their city or region. (Think in these terms: You can't leave [given city/region] without drinking at...)

So if you're looking for a new watering hole or trying to find the best bar in town on your next trip, check out our 150 Best Bars in America for 2018.

#150 Club No Minors (Houston, Texas)

#149 Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors (Orlando, Fla.)

#148 Mario's Fishbowl (Morgantown, W.Va.)

#147 Frankie's Downtown (Dallas, Texas)

#146 The Capital Bar & Grill (Little Rock, Ark.)

#145 Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer, Alaska)

#144 Kon Tiki Restaurant Lounge (Tucson, Ariz.)

#143 The Griswold Inn Tap Room (Essex, Conn.)

#142 Pengilly's Saloon (Boise, Idaho)

#141 Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis, Ind.)

#140 Johnny's Tavern (Lawrence, Kan.)

#139 Goodnight Gracie Jazz & Martini Bar (Royal Oak, Mich.)

#138 The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery (Oxford, Miss.)

#137 Charlie B's (Missoula, Mont.)

#136 McGovern's Tavern (Newark, N.J.)

#135 The Velvet Tango Room (Cleveland, Ohio)

#134 Academia (Austin, Texas)

#133 Edna's (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

#132 Cook & Brown Public House (Providence, R.I.)

#131 Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (Jackson, Wyo.)

#130 AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar (Columbia, Md.)

#129 The Alembic (San Francisco, Calif.)

#128 Multnomah Whiskey Library (Portland, Ore.)

#127 Room 11 (Washington, D.C.)

#126 Taste by Niche (St. Louis, Mo.)

#125 Donna (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#124 Wang Chung's Karaoke Bar (Honolulu, Hawaii)

#123 Callaghan's Irish Social Club (Mobile, Ala.)

#122 Billy Sunday (Chicago, Ill.)

#121 The Shanty (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#120 The Baldwin and Sons Trading Co. (Woburn, Mass.)

#119 Tradition (San Francisco, Calif.)

#118 The Porter Beer Bar (Atlanta, Ga.)

#117 ROKC (New York, N.Y.)

#116 The Kill Devil Club (Kansas City, Mo.)

#115 Marvel Bar (Minneapolis, Minn.)

#114 Range (Washington, D.C.)

#113 Maison Première (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#112 No Vacancy at the Juniper Hotel (Hollywood, Calif.)

#111 Prairie School (Chicago, Ill.)

#110 The Dubliner (Washington, D.C.)

#109 Dutch Kills (Queens, N.Y.)

#108 Dick's Place (Mendocino, Calif.)

#107 The Beachcomber (Wellfleet, Mass.)

#106 The Silver Dollar (Louisville, Ky.)

#105 Spirit of 77 (Portland, Ore.)

#104 McMahon's Public House (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#103 33 Taps (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#102 Molly's Shebeen (New York, N.Y.)

#101 Polite Provisions (San Diego, Calif.)

#100 Square Grouper Tiki Bar (Jupiter, Fla.)

#99 Cooter Brown's Tavern & Oyster Bar (New Orleans, La.)

#98 Tiki-Ti (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#97 Voodoo (Las Vegas, Nev.)

#96 George & Dragon (Phoenix, Ariz.)

#95 Yard House (Austin, Texas)

#94 McGillin's Old Ale House (Philadelphia, Pa.)

#93 Leyenda (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#92 Spirit (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

#91 Libertine Liquor Bar (Indianapolis, Ind.)

#90 Bar Liquorice (Baltimore, Md.)

#89 The Bella Union (Jacksonville, Ore.)

#88 Yvonne's (Boston, Mass.)

#87 Galaxie (Louisville, Ky.)

#86 Clover Club (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#85 Distil (Milwaukee, Wis.)

#84 The Carousel Bar & Lounge (New Orleans, La.)

#83 Nick's English Hut (Bloomington, Ind.)

#82 Pete's Dueling Piano Bar (Austin, Texas)

#81 Clyde Common (Portland, Ore.)

#80 The Bar Room at the Beekman Hotel (New York, N.Y.)

#79 The Violet Hour (Chicago, Ill.)

#78 Occidental (Denver, Colo.)

#77 The Whining Pig (Phoenix, Ariz.)

#76 Seamstress (New York, N.Y.)

#75 barmini by José Andres (Washington, D.C.)

#74 Apothéke (New York, N.Y.)

#73 Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tenn.)

#72 Robert's Western World (Nashville, Tenn.)

#71 Ticonderoga Club (Atlanta, Ga.)

#70 McSorley's Old Ale House (New York, N.Y.)

#69 BackBar (Hudson, N.Y.)

#68 The Wayland (New York, N.Y.)

#67 Barnacle Bar (Seattle, Wash.)

#66 The Varnish (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#65 McGreevy's (Boston, Mass.)

#64 The Sound Table (Atlanta, Ga.)

#63 The Magdalenae Room (Providence, R.I.)

#62 Half Step (Austin, Texas)

#61 Brimmer & Heeltap (Seattle, Wash.)

#60 The Brewer's Art (Baltimore, Md.)

#59 Gooski's (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

#58 Spilt Milk (Chicago, Ill.)

#57 Sassafras Saloon (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#56 Slowly Shirley (New York, N.Y.)

#55 Tiny's Restaurant & Lounge (Santa Fe, N.M.)

#54 Raven & Rose (Portland, Ore.)

#53 Diamond Reef (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

#52 Kask (Portland, Ore.)

#51 B.D. Riley's (Austin, Texas)

#50 Beach Tree Bar (Kailua, Hawaii)

#49 Bit House Saloon (Portland, Ore.)

#48 Vesper Bar (Las Vegas, Nev.)

#47 The Hawthorne (Boston, Mass.)

#46 Prizefighter (Emeryville, Calif.)

#45 Vena's Fizz House (Portland, Maine)

#44 The Office (Chicago, Ill.)

#43 Bar Goto (New York, N.Y.)

#42 Bar Crudo (Phoenix, Ariz.)

#41 The Polo Lounge (Beverly Hills, Calif.)

#40 Mace (New York, N.Y.)

#39 The Old Seelbach Bar (Louisville, Ky.)

#38 Charlie Was A Sinner (Philadelphia, Pa.)

#37 Daquiri Time Out (Galveston, Texas)

#36 Tommy's Mexican Restaurant (San Francisco, Calif.)

#35 Holeman & Finch Public House (Atlanta, Ga.)

#34 ABV (San Francisco, Calif.)

#33 Julep (Houston, Texas)

#32 Altitude Sky Lounge (San Diego, Calif.)

#31 Social (Fort Collins, Colo.)

#30 Mai Tai Bar (Honolulu, Hawaii)

#29 BlackTail (New York, N.Y.)

#28 French 75 (New Orleans, La.)

#27 Employees Only (New York, N.Y.)

#26 Trick Dog (San Francisco, Calif.)

#25 Weather Up (Austin, Texas)

#24 Café D'Mongo's Speakeasy (Detroit, Mich.)

#23 Dante (New York, N.Y.)

#22 Monk's Café (Philadelphia, Pa.)

#21 Big Bar (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#20 Proof (Charleston, S.C.)

#19 Lost Lake (Chicago, Ill.)

#18 King Cole Bar (New York, N.Y.)

#17 Milk Room (Chicago, Ill.)

#16 Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston, Texas)

#15 Dram & Grain (Washington, D.C.)

#14 PX (Alexandria, Va.)

#13 Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.)

#12 Attaboy (New York, N.Y.)

#11 Cannon (Seattle, Wash.)

#10 Everson Royce Bar (Los Angeles, Calif.)

#9 Please Don't Tell (New York, N.Y.)

#8 Sweet Liberty (Miami Beach, Fla.)

#7 Sazerac Bar (New Orleans, La.)

#6 Death + Company (New York, N.Y.)

#5 The NoMad Bar (New York, N.Y. )

#4 Bar Agricole (San Francisco, Calif.)

#3 The Dead Rabbit (New York, N.Y.)

#2 The Aviary (Chicago, Ill.)

#1 Broken Shaker (Miami Beach, Fla.)

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