50 States of Cocktails

Learn how to drink like a local by discovering the signature cocktail from each state (including Washington, D.C.).

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Tequila Mockingbird from The Little Donkey: Homewood, Ala.

Iconic author Harper Lee hailed from Alabama, so what better way to toast her iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel than with a little liquid inspiration? That classic Southern character takes a wild ride through Mexico with this blanco tequila-based cocktail brightened with pineapple, cardamom, serrano pepper, agave nectar and lime juice. 

The Little Donkey

Smoked Salmon Mary from The Crow’s Nest: Denali Park, Alaska

Alaska’s state fish makes the leap from plate to glass in this explosively savory Bloody Mary. Smoked salmon vodka from Alaska Distillery lends briny undertones, while the house Bloody mix (featuring beef stock, horseradish and plenty of hot sauce) brings the heat. Garnished with smoked salmon strips, this brunchworthy beauty is an ode to the state’s main seafood squeeze. 

 

Photo courtesy of Sean Kennelly

The Crow's Nest

Prickly Pear Margarita from Brittlebush Bar & Grill: Scottsdale, Ariz.

The prickly pear cactus thrives in the Southwest’s desert climate, and its sweet, watermelon-like flavor makes it a prime candidate for infusing cocktail syrups. The proof? This vibrant margarita, bearing reposado tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a fuchsia prickly pear syrup that colors the coupe from top to bottom.

Brittlebush Bar & Grill

Cropduster from Capital Bar & Grill: Little Rock, Ark.

A play on the pale purple Aviation, the Cropduster swaps the old-school creme de violette for housemade blackberry preserves to create a richer, darker descendant. Shaken with Old Tom gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur, it calls to mind the rugged little aircraft that soar over Arkansas’ bountiful fields. 

 

Photo courtesy of Tonic Media

Capital Bar & Grill

Irish Coffee from The Buena Vista Cafe: San Francisco

Pouring nearly 2,000 Irish Coffees each day, The Buena Vista Cafe reigns supreme as master of the cream-capped glass. From the tulip-shaped goblet to the cane-sugar cubes, each element of this time-honored recipe has been tested to achieve the perfect balance of fresh-brewed coffee, Irish whiskey and lightly whipped cream. If you think you hate coffee, you’ve clearly never had one of these.

The Buena Vista Cafe

Tree Line from The Avenue Grill: Denver

A veritable wonderland for outdoor recreation, Colorado is perhaps best known for its scenic forests and fresh air. To capture that woodsiness in a drink, the state’s assorted liquor-related guilds hosted the Colorado Cocktail Contest. The Tree Line was the winning entry, a clever composite of local, small-batch whiskey, aromatic alpine herbal liqueur, lemon juice and farmers market cherries. When muddled, it mimics the reddish-purple earth on the Colorado trails. 

 

Photo courtesy of Agata Indiatsi

The Avenue Grill

Hot Buttered Rum from Artisan Restaurant: Southport, Conn.

Connecticut’s unofficial nickname, The Nutmeg State, stems from a bit of a practical joke. During the 19th century, sailors carried the valuable spice from overseas back to Connecticut, where local merchants acquired a reputation for peddling counterfeit nutmeg seeds made of wood. Supposedly, the spicy connotation stuck with the state through the years. Connecticutians aren’t complaining: This steamy mug of rum, spiced butter, brown sugar and nutmeg never gets old. 

Artisan Restaurant

The Bassett from 1861 Restaurant: Middletown, Del.

Dark, bold and strong of character, this union of rye whiskey, bitter fernet, brown sugar, egg white and walnut bitters represents an important figure in Delaware’s history. It’s named for Richard Bassett, the state’s fourth governor, whose illustrious public career stretched from his time as a captain in the Revolutionary War to his election to the Delaware State Senate and the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. Nice going, Rich. 

1861 Restaurant

Papa Dobles from Sloppy Joe’s: Key West, Fla.

Sometimes known as a Hemingway daiquiri, the Papa Dobles is a nod to the peerless American author and his penchant for strong, oversized daiquiris during his time living in Key West. A regular at Sloppy Joe’s throughout the '30s, Hemingway inspired this now-classic blend of light rum, grapefruit and lime juices, and maraschino liqueur. 

Sloppy Joe's Bar

Nuts & Grains Manhattan from A.Lure: Savannah

Georgia is one of the nation’s top producers of pecans, and the nuts’ earthy, roasted flavor makes them a natural sidekick to rye whiskey, especially in a Manhattan. This version doubles down on that effect by pairing rye and sweet vermouth with pecan-infused vodka and chicory-pecan bitters for a liquid version of your favorite Southern pie.

A.Lure

Tropical Itch from Duke’s Waikiki: Honolulu

You might be more familiar with his ocean-hued Blue Hawaii, but famed Hawaiian bartender Harry Yee also created this tiki classic, playfully garnished with a souvenir backscratcher. Designed to satisfy your urge for an instant island getaway, this transportive glass stars dark rum, vodka, orange curacao, passion fruit juice and a dash of bitters. 

Duke's Waikiki

The Vesper Reconsidered from Chandlers: Boise, Idaho

The Spud State. Potatonia. The Potato Capital of the World. Let’s face it, Idaho doesn’t mess around when it comes to its trademark cash crop. So when you’ve had your fill of fries, consider mixing your spuds with spirits next. At Chandlers, the James Bond-approved Vesper boasts a base of locally made potato vodka balanced with gin, Lillet Blanc and orange bitters. 

Chandlers Steakhouse & Seafood

Southside from The Barrelhouse Flat: Chicago

Hardly anyone can agree on this cocktail’s origin. The most-engaging theory posits that it was born on the South Side of Chicago during Prohibition, when gang members fought for quality liquor sources and often required a barrage of citrus to mask the flavor of inferior booze. Today, no one’s bothered by the refreshing blend of gin, lime juice, mint, sugar and Angostura bitters — it’s still a crowd-pleaser.

The Barrelhouse Flat

Hoosier Heritage from The North End Barbecue & Moonshine: Indianapolis

Known as the Crossroads of America, Indiana has built up a proud state heritage. And you might say that this cocktail forms a similar crossroads, uniting high-quality products like rye whiskey, apple cider, rosemary maple syrup and cayenne pepper from around the country to create one uniquely Midwestern experience. 

 

Photo courtesy of Ashley Kelly

The North End Barbecue & Moonshine

State Fair Shake-Up from Lime Lounge: Des Moines

If you’ve ever been to the Iowa State Fair, you’re familiar with its staple beverage: sweet-tart, hand-squeezed lemonade. The only possible improvement to this annual treat? Booze. To create that electric elixir with an adult edge, Lime Lounge shakes fresh-squeezed lemon juice with vodka, sugar, lemon peels and lots of ice to achieve a frothy, dangerously smooth facsimile. 

Lime Lounge

Horsefeather from The Bourgeois Pig: Lawrence, Kan.

Moscow mule enthusiasts will appreciate this simple highball that substitutes rye whiskey for standard vodka. The easy-drinking combination of rye, ginger beer, lemon juice and bitters was created in Kansas during the 1990s and appears to be a riff on the Horse’s Neck. Doubly spicy, thanks to the rye, the Horsefeather is ideal for those who prefer their mule with a stronger kick.

The Bourgeois Pig

The Seelbach from The Oakroom: Louisville, Ky.

Don’t despair, julep fans. The Seelbach would make any Kentucky native proud, with its sturdy base of Bluegrass State bourbon. Cointreau, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters and a generous splash of Champagne round out the chic coupe, which has been served at The Seelbach Hotel’s bar since 1907, delighting famous guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone and FDR. 

 

Photo courtesy of James Moses / Bisig Impact Group

The Oakroom

Sazerac from The Sazerac Bar: New Orleans

The Big Easy has given birth to a wealth of top-notch cocktails — the Ramos gin fizz, brandy milk punch and Vieux Carré among them — but the one true king will always be the Sazerac. Originally made with Sazerac French brandy when it was invented in the 1850s, the recipe evolved to include rye whiskey and an absinthe rinse, which meld with a cube of sugar and the anise-heavy Peychaud’s bitters that make this a timeless New Orleans classic. 

 

Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The Sazerac Bar

Espresso Martini from Portland Hunt + Alpine Club: Portland, Maine

Ever heard of “The Champagne of Maine?” You might be surprised to learn that the top-selling spirit in the state is Allen’s Coffee-Flavored Brandy, a high-proof brandy infused with Arabica coffee extract. The caffeinated hooch is a regional staple, and while most drinkers pair it simply with milk over ice, cocktail bars are now shaking it into craft creations like this martini made with sweetened coffee concentrate, coffee brandy and white rum. 

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

The Diamondback from Bookmakers: Baltimore

Before Prohibition, Maryland led the nation in rye whiskey production — the house beverage at the Lord Baltimore Hotel’s Diamondback Lounge was this rye cocktail. Some might call its formula aggressive, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The mix of rye whiskey, applejack and Yellow Chartreuse is burly and deeply herbaceous, best suited for nights when a Manhattan simply won’t cut it.

Bookmakers Cocktail Club

Ward 8 from Yvonne’s: Boston

Invented at Boston’s Locke-Ober Cafe in 1898, the Ward 8 has survived over a century, and is still served across the same hand-carved bar in the space now known as Yvonne’s. While the original recipe was likely a combination of rye whiskey, lemon and orange juices, and grenadine, the modest tweak of splitting the rye with dry sherry brings this classic roaring into the present. 

 

Photo courtesy of Nina Gallant

Yvonne's

The Last Word from The Sugar House: Detroit

Don’t call it a comeback: The Last Word has been in the spotlight the past few years, but it’s actually been around since Prohibition. Introduced at the Detroit Athletic Club by a well-known vaudeville star, the quartet of gin, lime juice, maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse might seem like a tough sell on paper. Yet somehow, those combative sweet and earthy elements merge into total harmony in the glass. 

The Sugar House

Tomas Collins from Marvel Bar: Minneapolis

Scandinavian immigrants first began to influence the culture of Minnesota when they started mass-migrating into the state around 1880. Luckily for Minnesota, that meant an infusion of aquavit, the signature caraway-infused Nordic spirit. This play on the Tom Collins highlights local dill aquavit along with housemade pickle brine, lime juice and seltzer, finished with hand-chipped ice. 

Marvel Bar

The Maridel from Parlor Market: Jackson, Miss.

Anyone who’s ever ransacked a honeysuckle bush to seek a few drops of sweet nectar will understand the allure of the crushed-ice concoction the Maridel (a traditional Southern girls’ name). Mississippi-made honeysuckle vodka mingles with lime juice, fresh basil and cucumber syrup to conjure springtime in your hand. 

Parlor Market

Planter’s House Punch from Planter’s House: St. Louis

You can’t stop by Planter’s House without swigging the famous house drink. Served by the glass, pitcher and punch bowl, this modern translation is based on the centuries-old, easygoing recipe that combined any richly flavored rum with lime juice, sugar and a ton of ice. Bolstered with cognac, aged rum, curacao, grenadine and bitters, today’s version proves that there’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation.

Planter's House

I’ll Be Your Huckleberry from The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Mont.

Visit Montana during midsummer and you’ll catch huckleberry season at its peak. The plump purple gems are abundant in the Rocky Mountains, to the delight of locals and bears alike. Once you’ve plucked your share, try the berries in a combination that blends huckleberry vodka and jam with ginger, elderflower liqueur and rhubarb bitters in a delicate coupe.

The Ranch at Rock Creek

City of Tom Dennison from The Berry & Rye: Omaha

Don’t mess with “Boss” Dennison. The legendary racketeer reigned over Omaha for 30 years during the early 20th century, controlling many of the city’s politicians, crime rings and bootlegging operations. That said, he also transformed Omaha’s alcohol industry, converting many of the city’s underground saloons into upscale cocktail lounges. For that, you can raise a glass with hisnamesake draught of bourbon, Suze, apricot liqueur and dry vermouth. 

 

Photo courtesy of Dillon Gitano

The Berry & Rye

Corpse Reviver No. 2 from Herbs & Rye: Las Vegas

After a night of gambling and imbibing on the Strip, an elixir that promises “revival” sounds like just the ticket. Enter the Corpse Reviver cocktails, so named for their power to bring hung-over zombies back to life. The Corpse Reviver No. 2 has achieved fame as the most palatable, with its somewhat magical medley of gin, Lillet Blanc, Triple Sec, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. 

Herbs & Rye

Winter Julep from Firefly Bistro: Manchester, N.H.

Calling all powderhounds: New Hampshire is the ultimate destination for winter thrillseekers, and even established skiing as its state sport in 1998. After a brisk run on the slopes, you deserve the quintessential apres-ski brew, a piping-hot toddy. Firefly’s twist marries belly-warming bourbon with freshly brewed mint tea (a la julep) and sugar, creating a hybrid that delivers the best of both seasons. 

Firefly American Bistro & Bar

The Jack Rose from Colts Neck Inn: Colts Neck, N.J.

Home to America’s first licensed distillery, Laird & Company, New Jersey has been producing its native spirit, applejack, since the 1600s. At one time, the apple-based brandy was made and sold at the Colts Neck Inn, so it’s fitting that the establishment still serves the most-iconic applejack cocktail, the Jack Rose. The rosy trio of applejack, lime juice and grenadine more than stands the test of time.

Colts Neck Inn Steak & Chop House

Agave Way from Secreto Lounge: Santa Fe, N.M.

You’ve officially entered chile territory. New Mexico’s dry desert climate has cultivated a vast range of chile pepper varieties, but none so popular as its crisp green chile. Subtly sweet, spicy and smoky, New Mexico’s green chile provides the bold flavor base for this reposado tequila cocktail made with black grapes, lime juice and agave nectar. 

Secreto Lounge

Negroni On Tap from Dante: New York

When you consider New York cocktail royalty, the Manhattan’s a given. But one could argue that the globally beloved Negroni — a bittersweet study in equal-parts balance — has snatched the limelight recently. The straightforward trio of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth is so admired that you can order one at nearly every bar in the city, in endless variation. Barrel-aged, carbonated and served on tap, the Negroni has inspired its very own menu at Dante, where The Negroni Sessions celebrate the many imaginative forms this stalwart can inhabit.

Dante

Cherry Bounce from Deep South the Bar: Raleigh, N.C.

It’s not often that a cocktail is given credit for establishing a center of government, but it could be the case in North Carolina. Some believe that the Cherry Bounce played a role in persuading the state’s general assembly to adopt Raleigh as the capital. Legend has it that the cherry brandy, the drink of choice at a tavern where lawmakers met during the late 1700s, nudged them in favor of settling in Raleigh. At Deep South, the formula has changed to feature cherry vodka, cranberry and lime juices, and club soda, but the sentiment remains the same. 

Deep South the Bar

North Dakota Night Train from Broadway Grill & Tavern: Bismarck, N.D.

“Night train” is the nickname for a type of sweet, inexpensive fortified wine (with a high alcohol content) that inspired the Guns N’ Roses hit of the same name. Intrigued? Try the homegrown version at Broadway Grill & Tavern that merges surprising flavors like local rhubarb wine, cherry liqueur and chokecherry syrup made from North Dakota’s official state fruit. 

Broadway Grill & Tavern

Jake’s Bloody from The Fairmount: Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Most states have elected milk as their official beverage, so Ohio really shook things up with its choice of tomato juice. What better way to showcase the tangy tomato (for which the state throws a yearly festival) than in a Bloody Mary? An extra-spicy mix of Clamato, horseradish, mesquite seasoning and Sriracha, Jake’s Bloody throws a curveball with the addition of sharp pepperoncini brine. 

The Fairmount

Stockyard Roots from Ludivine: Oklahoma City

Thanks to its association with the world’s largest cattle market, Oklahoma City is often affectionately referred to as “Cow-Town.” So, naturally, the best way to embody all those stomping hooves in a cocktail is to start with hearty bourbon. Pair that dark spirit with a bittersweet root liqueur and honey, plus orange and chocolate bitters, and you’re ready to hit the stockyards, cowboy.

Ludivine

Northwest Mai Tai from Hale Pele: Portland, Ore.

A whopping 99 percent of the country’s hazelnuts are produced in Oregon, and you’d better believe the state knows how to use them. This tiki joint turns up the classic rum mai tai by swapping almond orgeat (the sweet cocktail syrup laced with orange-flower water) with rich, toasty hazelnut orgeat. The addition of farm-fresh mint and local marionberry liqueur tips the scales even further into Pacific Northwest territory. 

Hale Pele

Philadelphia Fish House Punch from The Olde Bar: Philadelphia

When a recipe has survived nearly three centuries, it’s clear that the creators were onto something. The story goes that some well-to-do Philly Quakers joined together and built a fishing clubhouse on the banks of the Schuylkill River, where they devised this dangerously easy-drinking punch of multiple Jamaican rums, brandy, peach cordial and spiced lemon. It’s rumored that George Washington drank enough of it to give him a three-day hangover. 

Olde Bar

Coffee Milk from Cook & Brown Public House: Providence

Good luck finding this regional treasure outside of Rhode Island. Coffee milk is the official state drink, and the comforting duo of milk and sweet coffee syrup has been a favorite since the 1930s, with fans likening its influence to that of the New York egg cream. Cook & Brown boosts the G-rated original with a bit of blackstrap rum, cold-brew coffee, half-and-half and vanilla simple syrup. 

Cook & Brown Public House

Charleston Light Dragoon’s Punch from Husk: Charleston, S.C.

Resurrected from the archives of the Charleston Preservation Society, this antique punch has proven to be one of the most-popular drinks atHusk. The name refers to a Civil War-era military unit that supposedly spent more time partying than fighting. The good news is that they knew how to make a cocktail, and this cup of Jamaican rum, multiple brandies, lemon juice and black tea (the state hospitality drink) is proof.

 

Photo from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Taken by Peter Frank Edwards.

Husk Restaurant

Desert Heat from Vertex Sky Bar: Rapid City, S.D.

There’s more to South Dakota than Mount Rushmore. With three distinct regions, the state is home to both tree-covered mountain ranges and semi-arid badlands, with varying climates to match. To capture this dual quality of the state’s parched desert heat and howling-cold winter, this tequila cocktail adds jalapenos for intensity and cucumbers to cool the lingering spice, tempered with lime juice and simple syrup. 

Vertex Sky Bar

Tennessee Mojito from Merchants Restaurant: Nashville

Its rolling hills and warm breezes make Tennessee a prime location for peach orchards — and those peaches have been known to roll right into the hands of regional spirit makers. Prichard’s peach and mango rum is a hometown favorite that Merchants puts to work in a cool Southern Mojito with lime juice and fresh mint. Sip it on the porch in place of your usual sweet tea. 

 

Photo courtesy of Ashley Hylbert

Merchants Restaurant

Frozen Margarita from The Pastry War: Houston

There’s no shortage of slushy margaritas once you hit the Texas border — the margarita is the state’s most-popular cocktail, thanks to the subtropical temperatures. But to find the version that leads the pack, head straight for the esteemed Pastry War, where blanco tequila is brightened by both Key and Persian lime juices, sweetened with agave nectar and rimmed with citrus salt. You won’t look back. 

 

Photo courtesy of Julie Soefer Photography

The Pastry War

Salt Lake Spritz from Pallet Bistro: Salt Lake City

In a state where beers above 4 percent ABV are considered liquor and a cocktail’s primary spirit is limited to one-and-a-half ounces, the breezy, low-alcohol spritz can be ubiquitous. Pallet’s variation marries tart cranberry juice, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and Prosecco, a fusion that’s light and bubbly enough that you can tell the bartender to keep ’em coming. 

 

Photo courtesy of Stacey Jo Rabiger

Pallet Bistro

Vermont Martini from Ye Olde Tavern: Manchester, Vt.

Visiting the Green Mountain State during sugaring season? You’ve hit the maple jackpot. As the nation’s leading producer of the sticky-sweet syrup, Vermont is renowned for its maple-infused treats. But after you’ve dribbled it all over your pancakes, stop in to this Colonial-era tavern to see the state’s liquid gold shine in a no-frills martini featuring local Vermont vodka distilled from whey and 100 percent pure maple syrup. 

Ye Olde Tavern

Captain Marryat Julep from Julep’s: Richmond

Get ready to wrap your hands around one of the oldest recorded julep recipes. Though most often associated with Kentucky, the julep was most likely invented in Virginia, where it was prepared with brandy instead of bourbon. An Englishman named Captain Marryat was touring the U.S. in the 1800s when he discovered the refreshing beauty of the julep. This recipe follows his original blueprint: apple and peach brandy, fresh mint and simple syrup over a mountain of crushed ice. 

Julep's

Barrel Aged Raincoat from Local 360: Seattle

Looking for a reprieve from that damp Seattle drizzle? Cozy up with a wintry cocktail that celebrates the Evergreen State’s exceptional homegrown spirits. House barrel-aged moonshine and dark walnut liqueur tangle with maple syrup and chocolate bitters to create the liquid equivalent of a thick flannel blanket. 

Local 360

Sheeney’s Rickey from Teddy & The Bully Bar: Washington, D.C.

The Rickey looms large over D.C.’s drinking scene, especially since it was instated as the District’s official cocktail in 2011. Created in the 1880s at Shoomaker’s Bar, the simple highball typically features gin or bourbon, half a lime and seltzer. Teddy & The Bully takes a new-age approach, pairing D.C. gin with a sweet bourbon reduction and floating a zesty lime foam over the surface. Bubbly, aromatic and gently acidic, it gives the original a run for its money. 

Teddy & The Bully Bar

Black Walnut Manhattan from Bridge Road Bistro: Charleston, W. Va.

Fall is prime time to experience the bounty of West Virginia’s black walnut harvest. The annual Black Walnut Festival is a treasure trove of nutty spectacles, from baking contests to flea markets that salute the state specialty. While enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to slurp a few special Manhattans made with West Virginia bourbon, spiced walnut liqueur and black walnut bitters. 

Bridge Road Bistro

Brandy Old Fashioned from Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge: Milwaukee

Order an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin and you might be in for a surprise. Out-of-staters will likely expect to receive rye whiskey or bourbon, but Wisconsin custom dictates the use of brandy instead. Local tastes run sweet, so you’ll find that brandy topped with sugar, bitters and Sprite, but you can always adjust your order by saying “sweet, sour or press,” which tells the bartender that you want Sprite, Squirt or half-Sprite, half-seltzer. 

 

Photo courtesy of Dan Bishop

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge

Howitzer from The Rose: Jackson, Wyo.

Yee-haw! When in cowboy country, do as the locals do — and name your punch after a historic artillery piece. Inspired by the Chatham Artillery Punch from Charles H. Baker (the 19th-century American author known for his cocktail prowess), the Howitzer packs some heat with its rousing blend of rye whiskey, cognac, red wine, cinnamon and bitters. Plus, you can choose your own  Wild West adventure and try it hot or cold. 

 

Photo courtesy of Rich Goodwin

The Rose

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