After several years of operating exclusively in survival mode, the season’s newest bars offer a glimpse of a drinking landscape that spans the advent of new aesthetics, like “disco aperitivo,” and old standbys, like the well-considered hotel lobby bar.
As Punch contributor and Eater correspondent Jaya Saxena writes in her piece on the rise of disco aperitivo, today’s bargoers want “to do a little of it all: drink, eat, dance, without too much of any one.” It comes as no surprise, then, that many of the cocktails accompanying this moment are made to transition seamlessly from a hightop to a dance floor.
But while the party bars are embracing drinkers’ restlessness, others are offering a salve for it. At The Danforth, a New England Americana–themed bar from the creators of Death & Co. that opened in July in Portland, Maine, the ambiance is starkly different: built for sitting and staying awhile, with banquettes and big windows instead of dance floors and disco balls. To match, many of the cocktails read as simple riffs on classics, like an Old-Fashioned made with corn and strawberry, or a whiskey highball made with toasted oat soda.
A common thread weaving between these disparate themes, as is often the case in the bar world, is nostalgia—whether for disco or Martinis (and whether the classic is turned kitsch, dirty or dead serious).
To get a sense of how these trends manifest in drink form, here are five cocktails from the country’s most notable new bars, and how to make them at home.