If you’ve spent any time in bars, you already know that some are better than others. Some are sketchy, some are merely good, some are great.
What makes a bar great? In many ways, you know a great bar when you see one. Sure, the drinks need to be well-made, the beer fresh and cold, the bartenders friendly and knowledgeable, and the decor inviting, but a great bar feels like a special place the moment you walk in the door, and you feel special when you’re there. At a great bar, there’s a feeling of what the Germans call “Gemütlichkeit” – warmth, friendliness, social acceptance, a sense of well-being, and an overall vibe of good cheer. These are the best global cities for bars.
Great bars function as what sociologist Ray Oldenburg called the “third place.” The “first place” is the home, the “second place” is the workplace, and the “third place” is the anchor of community life, a home away from home where people go to socialize and relax. A great bar, like TV’s Cheers, with its regulars and welcoming atmosphere, fits the bill to a tee. (Cheers is one of the most iconic fictional bars in history.)
There are obviously many different types of bars –– dive bars, Irish pubs, tiki bars, swanky cocktail lounges –– and each has slightly different criteria for greatness. Housemade bitters and a perfect Corpse Reviver No. 2 aren’t exactly necessary at a great dive bar, and a cheap shot & beer special isn’t required at a bar renowned for its cocktails. A great bar knows exactly what category it falls into, and strives to be that type’s Platonic ideal. (If pricey cocktails don’t interest you, consider the best dive bar in every state.)
To determine the best bars in America for 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed “North America’s 50 Best Bars,” compiled by 50 Best, a brand owned by the U.K.-based media company William Reed, extrapolating the bars in the U.S.
The bars on this list tend to be cocktail specialists, better known for their creative potions than for their array of craft beers or wines by the glass (though some do quite well in those spheres, too). Crafting the perfect cocktail is no easy feat – it’s a cross between chemistry, alchemy, and the culinary arts – but these bars do it with aplomb, and serve the results in environs that will make you want to return time and again. (These are the world’s 25 most popular cocktails.)
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