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Ask a Bartender: What's the Most Unlikely Place You've Ever Had A Great Drink?

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Sure, you expect to have great drinks at the newest craft cocktail lounge or beer bar. But what about the more unexpected locales? We asked a few of our favorite bartenders about the most unlikely amazing drinks they've ever had. Here's what they had to say.


"In Costa Rica at a little beach bar that I'm not even sure had a name.  It was a drink with their national liquor, cacique guaro (which is a sugarcane liquor), lemon and egg white. Divine." — Kat Dunn (Fish & Game)

"Actually, I was visiting my hometown in Ohio recently. I am from a very small town in rural Ohio. The area is very much into fried foods and beer. I was surprised to find at one of the few family owned restaurants, a little Greek restaurant, a proper rye Manhattan. They were even using Carpano vermouth.  It sounds so silly, but that cocktail is so out of place there. I grew up believing that Southern Comfort was a very nice 'whiskey'" — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

"Hands down, British Virgin Islands at the Soggy Dollar. Had the original Painkiller. Small little island in BVI that you have to swim to, in order to get to the all the bars on the beach. Hence the name of the bar: 'Soggy Dollar.'" —Kevin Diedrich (Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen)

"I went to this little hole in the wall bar in Puerto Vallarta. It looked like a dive but when you opened their drink menu they had over 100 tequilas and mezcals. The coolest thing about it was that they had sangrita pairings as well which was amazing!" — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

Back Problems

"I had a very well made Negroni at an airport bar in Reno while waiting for my flight back to Seattle a few months ago." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"The most unlikely place I had a great drink was in a small town in the Czech Republic, on the way to Prague coming from Vienna. I ordered a vodka martini, but instead a delicious sort of Cosmopolitan was brought to me." — Juan Carlos (Copita Tequileria y Comida)

"This tiny reggae bar on the beach in Costa Rica. Everyone ordered beer and I had a Caipirinha. While everyone got their beer, I sat there watching and waiting as this man hand-squeezed eight tiny limes for my one drink. It was perfect, balanced and so refreshing." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"When I went down Bardstown, KY to visit Heaven Hill. Just outside the city is a place called the Bar. It has one of the best whiskey selections I have seen." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

"About 3 years ago my grandfather and I polished off four Tom Collinses at a Cheesecake Factory in Freehold, NJ. We were on our way to a local orchard to get "the best apple pie he ever had." Nature called for Pops and we happened to be passing by a Cheesecake Factory. I, being a sucker for gnarly sweets, decide to go in as well to ogle the cheesecakes. He comes out, asks if I want a drink, and we end up at the bar for an hour gettin' loose. Best Tom Collins I've ever had." — Peter Abbruscato (Pork Slope)

Stabbed With Ice Picks

"After a great party during the Manhattan Cocktail Classic this year, I found myself with about 6 of my friends from the industry and realized we were across the street from the strip club. We opted to go in and grab a drink, and after seeing that the cheapest bottle on the bottle list was Oban 14, we promptly ordered it up and when asked for juices, sodas and sides we wanted, we all answered, "Please.....water and ice." Funny fact, the next cheapest bottle on the list was Malibu." — Pamela Wiznitzer (Dead Rabbit)

"Pam Wiznitzer stole my story!!" — John McCarthy (Greenwich Project)

"The most unlikely place I've had a great cocktail was a bar called The Saint in New Orleans. Their menu was tiki-focused, so I jokingly ordered 10 Blue Hawaiians for me and my friends, expecting a sickeningly sweet blend of rum and juices and silly garnishes.  Much to my surprise, the bartender was great and that drink was the most balanced and delicious drink I had during any event for Tales of the Cocktail." — Darren Crawford (Krescendo, Bourbon & Branch)

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"I never expected to drink good cocktails at my buddy's bachelor party, but that's exactly what ended up happening at Le Lab in Montreal. It was a great cocktail experience to break up the debauchery of that weekend." — Jason Wiles (Poste Moderne Brasserie)

"In New Orleans, the frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose threw me for a loop. Was not expecting such dopeness from there. I just wanted a cold drink in the summer and couldn't resist the sign." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"A drink at a beach hut in Rio." — Luiz "Papa" DaHora (The Park Bistro & Bar)

"I spent some time in Manchester, England, and while I was there, I took a bus to a small town called Briercliffe where I found a small townie bar. I forget the name, but there was an old man behind the bar named Charles. The bar was located on his property, around the back of his house. He told me it had been in his family for 3 generations. Charles had several small barrels where he was aging bourbon. He pulled me a couple of glasses, one out of each bottle and, granted I was younger then, but each one was absolutely sublime. I was alone in the bar until around 7 p.m. and everyone in the small town got off work—the place filled up with about 15 people, all of them knew one another and had obviously been in this town for their entire lives. It was the sweetest, most unexpected tavern I've ever experienced—not to mention the bourbon." — Greg Sorrell (The Patterson House)

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"During college I went to spring break in Cancun. While shopping for souvenirs, I came across a store that had a small table in the entrance. On the table was a bottle of reposado tequila, a bowl of lime wedges and plastic shot glasses. Needless to say at the time I thought it was the best thing ever. We ended up going back to that shop over and over again." — Armand Rodriguez (Juvia)

"I once stumbled upon a bar inside of a cave in Spain. I drank tinto de verano and listened to an amazing flamenco guitarist. It blew my mind." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"The most unlikely place I've had a great drink was at a tiki bar in Milwaukee. A bar in a city not known for its cocktails, the mai tai at Foundation was incredible!" — Griffin Elliott (Sepia)

"I'm about to have a great drink on my next plane flight to San Diego. My GF and I have learned its legal to bring your own minis of booze on the plane, so I plan on mixing up a nice twist on a Negroni while at 30,000 feet." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

Got questions for our bartender crew? List 'em in the comments below!

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