Every sector and worker in the hospitality industry has been impacted by the global pandemic. Bartenders are no exception: Over the last 15 months, they’ve devised to-go cocktail menus, pivoted to virtual bartending classes, hosted happy hours on IG live, and found creative ways to collaborate with bartenders around the world without leaving home.
With restaurants and bars reopening, bartenders are simultaneously building pandemic-proof businesses and navigating the new normal of cocktail culture. And as excited as they are to serve patrons in person and to pour drinks into something other than a to-go cup, there’s no denying that the travel itch is real. As evidenced below, travel serves as inspiration for bartenders, pushing them to discover new ingredients, techniques, and traditions. Plus, it’s safe to say that everyone could use a break, so there’s something to be said for taking a trip without an agenda — perhaps someplace scenic, definitely with a glass of something delicious in hand.
Whether it’s paying a visit to a lauded temple of cocktails, revisiting an old favorite, or crossing off a long-awaited special trip, these are the drinks destinations at the top of bartenders’ post-pandemic travel lists.
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The Top Post-Pandemic Drinks Destinations Recommended by Bartenders:
- Jerez, Spain
- Guadalajara, Mexico
- Oaxaca, Mexico
- The United Kingdom
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended destinations!
“Jerez, Spain. This destination has been on my list since I sipped my first dry sherries in New York City at The Beagle, a sherry-focused cocktail bar I worked at in 2011. I can’t wait to see the magical bodegas and drink all the sherry while watching Flamenco! I’ll probably want to get knuckle tattoos of the symbols of the different styles that are marked on the barrels in chalk.” —Abigail Gullo, Bar Manager, Ben Paris, Seattle
“Atlanta. The first stop I’ll make is Kimball House. Miles [Macquarrie] is a kindred spirit when it comes to sourcing and preservation, plus the cocktails they make are second to none. I’ll also spend a delightful late night at Ticonderoga Club. The bar I’ve been wanting to go to the most is Little Trouble. I love the fever-dream izakaya vibe and the drinks look amazing!” —Sean Umstead, Co-owner, Kingfisher, Durham, N.C.
“Guadalajara is my favorite Mexican city and home to some of the most amazing bars ever. I’m going for the 12-year anniversary of Pare de Sufrir. I have a cocktail in my book called ¡Bola Bola! that’s dedicated to Pare. … It’s the most amazing cumbia disco mezcaleria. It’s also a short hop to amazing tequila and other agave distillates. I’ll be seeking out tepe, a type of agave distillate that is made by the Tepehuános.”—Ivy Mix, Leyenda Coctelería and Fiaco! Wine + Spirits, Brooklyn
“I have been eyeballing Oaxaca, Mexico for a couple of years. Immersing myself into the scene and enjoying the flavors from our neighbors to the south would be another great experience to expand my palate and the perception of what’s possible with ingredients. First stop is the hotel bar or neighborhood bar to talk to the local staff and regulars to get the real lay of the land. From there, we can start hopping!”—Steven Salazar, Founder and Bar Chef, Diversión, Houston
“Oaxaca has been on my list for years. Agave has become bigger than ever, and we tend to forget how small families have survived producing agave spirits such as mezcal, not only for sale, but as a part of their lifestyle. I would probably start at the center of the city exploring markets to find some good advice on where to go. There is nothing like meeting small producers to show you what it’s truly like to portray the land around you.”—Gary Wallach, Director of Food and Beverage, Arlo SoHo, New York
“One of my top picks is Chicago. I’ve felt myself being drawn to experience the nightlife and creativity behind Chicago’s ever-changing restaurant scene. I pulled a lot of inspiration from The Aviary while developing The Swag’s new cocktail program, focusing on a more culinary-based experience to serving cocktails.” —Tyler Marsh, Head Bartender, The Swag, Waynesville, N.C.
“The Aviary in Chicago. Much of the inspiration to make signature cocktails for Marigold came from their high level of standards for preparation and presentation. The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego is on my list, too. I plan to stop by the Ballast Point Brewery to explore the barrel-aged Victory at Sea series. Ballast Point has a fantastic beer program, and you can’t beat spending time in the Gaslamp area.” —Ivan Cuevas Zuniga, Assistant General Manager, Marigold at Resorts World Las Vegas, Las Vegas
“Tokyo. As a chef, I have such respect for Japan’s cultural dedication to food and cocktails. Gen Yamamoto would be the absolute first stop. Their cocktails are crafted with real respect for ingredients and an emphasis on balance. The thing to try is the seasonal cocktail tasting menu, which is a one-of-a-kind drinking experience.” —Jimmy Ly, Chef/Owner, Madame Vo, New York
“I have been wanting to do a trip to the U.K. and Ireland to check out their cocktail scene, including Oriole Bar and The Connaught in London, and Panda and Sons and Nightcap in [Edinburgh], Scotland. I’m looking for a great cocktail, a good conversation, and a great time sitting at the bar, just like the old times. I’m kind of a whiskey nerd, so I’ll also visit a bunch of Scotch and Irish whiskey distilleries.” —Damian Langarica, Head Bartender, a.bar, Philadelphia
“I want to simplify. I don’t necessarily want to go to different bars and try all these cocktails because I’ve been making a lot of my own cocktails this year. I want to just sit and breathe in the ocean air of France and Italy, look at a good view, and drink good wine, amaro, and apertifis. I want to go to a tiny town without tourists and drink their table wine and talk to the guy that makes it.” —Jessa Smout, Owner and Head Bartender, Amrita: Handcrafted Beverages, Jackson Hole, Wyo.