Slideshow: Our Favorite Cocktails of 2011

Old Money at GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago
Old Money at GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago
"I'm all for pushing the frontiers of mixology, but sometimes I just want a drink with a few fine ingredients, and none I've had recently quite compares to Old Money coming out of GT Fish & Oyster. Like its name, the cocktail is rich and luxurious, with enough bitterness to make it interesting."—Nick Kindelsperger
The Maddow at JBird in NYC
The Maddow at JBird in NYC
"For me, the ideal cocktail isn't just balanced, but perfectly integrated—the ingredients mingle together so well that you almost can't pick out where one flavor ends and another begins. Jason Littrell stirred up this excellent example, a variation on the perfect gin Manhattan made with Hayman's Old Tom gin, Dolin dry vermouth, Carpano Antica, St Germain, and Whiskey Barrel-aged bitters. He was even willing to share the recipe!"—Maggie Hoffman
Bloody Mary at Aviary in Chicago
Bloody Mary at Aviary in Chicago
"My most memorable cocktail of 2011 was also the most interactive. It's served deconstructed, so before filling the glass with tomato juice and vodka, you can take in the thoughtful details, from the frozen Worcestershire sauce to the perfect celery orbs and tomato-flavored ice."—Jessica Leibowitz
Perríto de Sal at La Condesa in Austin, Texas
Perríto de Sal at La Condesa in Austin, Texas

Cocktails at La Condesa. [Photo: La Condesa]

"I was expecting to love the food at Austin's La Condesa, so the excellent cocktails were just an added bonus. I loved the perríto de sal (a Spanish-language take on the cocktail name "Salty Dog"). Fresh grapefruit and lime juices back up a base of sotol, a tequila-like agave spirit (here, Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Blanco) that pairs perfectly with the sharp citrus and the added herbal bite of chartreuse. Straightforward but distinctive, just like the contemporary Mexican restaurant."—Carey Jones

Lost Leader at Kask in Portland, OR
Lost Leader at Kask in Portland, OR
"This smooth and zesty cocktail is like a powdered sugar-sprinkled lemon bar in liquid form, but refreshing and even more aromatic, thanks to the herbal notes of Hayman's Old Tom gin and herbsaint blended masterfully with pear liqueur, Ron Matusalem platino rum, and fresh lemon. A huge lemon twist makes certain that you'll smell this cocktail before you taste it."—Maggie Hoffman
The Buffalo Nickel at 15 Romolo in San Francisco
The Buffalo Nickel at 15 Romolo in San Francisco
"What's better than drinking straight bourbon? Drinking the Buffalo Nickel at 15 Romolo, which tastes like nothing so much as bourbon accentuated. Buffalo Trace is amped up with a richly layered blend of ginger syrup, root liquor, coffee tincture, and bitters, infusing the bourbon with a rich just-sweet-enough warmth. The drink's not always on the menu at Romolo, but fortunately, the kind bartenders have no problem making me one whenever I drop in."—Lauren Sloss
Stockyard Pony at Big Star, Chicago
Stockyard Pony at Big Star, Chicago

[Photo: Michell Eloy]

"Swap out the orange and sugar of an Old-Fashioned for Aperol, and you'll get an idea of the Stockyard Pony: bourbon, lemon juice, Aperol and Angostura bitters. Complex but refreshing, a perfect taco chaser."—Carey Jones

Salty Dog from The Spotted Pig, NYC
Salty Dog from The Spotted Pig, NYC
Grapefruit juice always feels like the right call at brunchtime, and if you're leaning towards the cocktail side of the menu, it's the Salty Dog you want. The Spotted Pig makes a Salty Dog (where's the Slinky Cat? or Stripey Fish?) with a house-infused grapefruit vodka mixed with a tangy, slightly sweet red grapefruit juice. The highball is salted with a thick coating of coarse salt around the rim that you'll be licking even after the last slurp of the drink. —Erin Zimmer
Whatever Murray Stenson Served Me At Zigzag Cafe, Seattle
Whatever Murray Stenson Served Me At Zigzag Cafe, Seattle
"I got a bit worried when bartender Murray Stenson started combining Elijah Craig small-batch bourbon, cognac, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and orange Curaçao into a single drink along with a wash of Pacifique absinthe and a sugar cube, but I needn't have. The cocktail was strong and spirit-forward, but with a complex, sweet and spicy nose from the vermouth and cognac. This is the kind of bar and bartender you need to be willing to hand over the steering wheel to. He won't do you wrong, I promise."—J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
Rhuboulevardier
Rhuboulevardier
"A Boulevardier brings together bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth—it's basically a bourbon-based Negroni. But this year I found myself turning away from Campari toward the more subtle and interesting Gran Classico. If you haven't ever tried this stuff, seek it out—Gran Classico is intensely aromatic, made with bitter orange peel, gentian, rhubarb, and wormwood. It's a bit less sweet and aggressive than Campari, and it's awesome stirred with bourbon and a little homemade rhubarb syrup in this variation on the Boulevardier."—Maggie Hoffman