5. Old Fashioned -- Sother Teague (formerly of Rye, New York; now at Amor y Amargo, New York)
It's not often that a fully employed man in his mid-thirties -- neither artist nor musician -- is greeted with enthusiasm and genuine care in the heart of one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world, but when I walked into Rye I found an oasis among the affect and artifice of Williamsburg. There, I met a barman I believe would genuinely treat both hipster and has-been to a decent drink and a story and send them on their way, warmer and wiser. That man: Sother Teague. Former test chef for Alton Brown, Sother not only handed me the very definition of an Old Fashioned, he also penned his schedule on his business card and beckoned me back. I'll definitely return, wherever he goes.
4. Negroni -- Tupac Kirby and Miguel Figueredo (The Cocktail Room, Madrid, Spain)
Tupac just couldn't stop smiling and jumping around, his arms flailing as he gesticulated. I felt like I was in slow motion or, perhaps, he was going 100 mph. What was even more surprising is that Tupac, and his slightly mellower partner, Miguel, had just opened the Cocktail Room, which would sap the energy of just about anyone else. Part teaching center, cocktail paraphernalia store, and gathering place for the new Spanish cocktail intelligentsia, you can learn to taste gins or how to flair bartend. What I learned is that if you don't have the love and enthusiasm that these guys have for the craft, you don't deserve to be called a bartender in the same breath.
3. Cold Hot Chocolate -- Craig Schoettler (Aviary, Chicago)
Aviary isn't a bar in the traditional sense. And Craig isn't a bartender in the traditional sense. Aviary is next to Next, and is the cocktail arm of Grant Achatz's culinary empire that thrives on innovation. You sit down as if in a restaurant and order cocktails that may be frozen in an ice ball, put together (forming a two-in-one cocktail) or rested, in a bed of botanicals. They're prepared in a state-of-art cocktail bar/kitchen/assembly line. Sound confusing? It may well be. So, when everyone from the server to the "Chef-de-Cocktails" is gracious and happy to explain, you understand that in one way they fit the most classic of definition of a great bar: by offering an extraordinary level of hospitality.
2. Rob Roy -- Arash Hanjianpour (Candelaria, Paris, France)
If you go to Paris and are hankering for a taco, Candelaria is the place for you. But behind the slim entryway, where you'll need to learn the phrase excusez moi, there is a door that leads to a secret bar that may as well be the bastard child of both PDT and Mayahuel from New York City. Run by Josh Fontaine and Carina Tsou, both formerly of Paris' famed Experimental Cocktail Club, the cocktails here are solid expressions of the new cocktail movement and are far better than stolid, old Parisian cocktail rooms where it's common to receive a middling cocktail for $45 (seriously). My Rob Roy, served by one of the nicest guys you could expect to meet, Arash, was expertly made as he calmly endured a busy night with such annoying requests as this one made by a whiny British expat: "Can I please have a Mint Julie?" (Squeeze your nose at the end for the full effect.)