The Best Tableside Cocktails

Ever notice it’s always more fun to grab a stool at the bar and watch the mixing in action? These drinks bring the cocktail experience up close and personal, no matter where you sit.

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Belle at The Green Room: Burbank, California

This tableside cocktail at the intimate and experiential lounge is described by staff as like a girl who "dreams of a fairytale romance and finding her prince before the final rose falls." It’s made with Ketel One Grapefruit & Rose Botanical Spirit, St. Germain and clarified lemon, served in a bell jar with smoked jasmine incense and dried flowers.

Erebus & Terror at Bresca: Washington, D.C.

This option on Bresca’s drink menu inspired by Aurora Borealis is an homage to an ill-fated expedition to find the Northern Passage that left ships frozen in Canadian waters under the Northern Lights. It combines rye, Lucano Amaro, De Muller Aureo and Clement VSOP Rum, which is smoked at the table with cherry wood and served in a Nick & Nora glass.

The Burning History at Zuma: Las Vegas

Zuma’s twist on the Penicillin has Suntory Toki Whiskey, honey, freshly pressed ginger juice, yuzu and egg whites. To flavor the glass, it’s placed over a burning stave from a Sherry cask — special in itself as there is a current shortage of sherry wood. "We are literally burning a piece of history tableside to share the experience with our guests," says Jimmy Barrett, global bar development director.

Awake My Love at Bluebird Cocktail Room: Baltimore, Maryland

A new cocktail menu at Bluebird Cocktail Room is an homage to part two of Erasmus Darwin’s poem The Botanical Garden The Loves of the Plants, in which he romanticizes the invaluable system of botany. This sip is like Korean barbecue in liquid form, with probiotic milk kefir, soju, ginger, turmeric and sugarcane. It’s garnished with a piece of pork belly crisped tableside.

Toasted Old Fashioned at Gunshow: Atlanta

The dim sum-style cart service at the eclectic Gunshow in Atlanta extends to the cocktail program, as a drink cart is wheeled around to guests with five weekly-changing options that complement what’s currently on the chef’s menu. With bourbon, bitters, burnt sugar and brûléed cinnamon and garnished with a flamed orange peel, the Toasted Old Fashioned is always a fixture.

Barrel-Aged Malt Jockey at Live Oak: Austin, Texas

Bartender Matt Foster, a self-described "livelong inventor" at Live Oak, created The Bright Ideas, a series of cocktails served in a unique light bulb-like contraption that adds a touch of theatrical flair to the experience of ordering a drink. The first iteration is a fire-infused combination of Scotch, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Carpano Antica Vermouth and chocolate bitters.

Luxury Cocktail Experience at Scotch 80 Prime: Las Vegas

The Classic Cocktail Cart at this whisky-centric restaurant offers a customized Manhattan or Old Fashioned tableside experience. Guests can select bourbon, rye or Scotch as well as different syrups, bitters and vermouth — from light and herbal vermouth to rich demerara syrup — to create their perfect boozy and stirred drink. It can even be smoked à la minute for added depth.

Black & Gold Martini at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse: New Orleans

Restaurateur Dickie Brennan believes that dining is more than food — it’s all about elevating the entire experience. The crown jewel on the Dickie Brennan’s cocktail cart (which also has luxe options like a truffle martini with a cured Wagyu garnish) is the Black & Gold Martini, which stirs Hendrick’s Gin and is garnished with Cajun caviar-stuffed olives and an edible 24K gold leaf.

Smoked Cherry Old Fashioned at The Keep: Columbus, Ohio

For The Keep’s locally sourced cocktail, cherries are marinated in a bourbon blend for a day then cold-smoked with pecan for a rich and sweet flavor. At the table they are muddled and shaken with Bulleit Bourbon and both orange and Angostura bitters. The drink is served in a rocks glass that’s been placed upside down to capture the smoke from a torched pecan plank.

Meat & Potatoes Martini at Lawry’s: Chicago

This savory sipper at Lawry’s in Chicago is a nod both to Illinois’ meatpacking roots as well as the restaurant’s specialty: prime rib. It’s brought to the table deconstructed; the server combines Chopin Potato Vodka with ice, shaken in a shiny mini shaker and strained in a chilled cocktail glass garnished with a skewer of olives stuffed with prime rib and whipped cream horseradish.

Smoking Mary at WP24 by Wolfgang Puck: Los Angeles

Is there anything that can make a salty, spicy bloody mary an even more addictive choice for lazy weekend brunches? How about smoking it tableside? Guests at WP24 can choose from vodka or tequila for a drink that’s combined with tomato juices and seasonings then smoked by the mixologist. It’s served in a crystal decanter to make it easy to dole out the second and third round.

Dragon Berry Mojito at I|O Godfrey: Chicago

No matter the weather, you can enjoy I|O Godfrey’s modern take on the Cuban classic under the sky thanks to the restaurant’s retractable glass roof. It arrives at the table as a glass of frozen dragon fruit, mint and vanilla granita. A hand-held carbonation bottle is used to create lime soda, which is added to the drink along with rum to allow the liquid and frozen portions to mix right before the first sip.

Tableside Champagne Punch Service at Punch House: Chicago

Punch House is an ode to its namesake beverage, so it makes sense that there is an entire menu served by the glass, carafe or bowl. The decidedly luxe choice is this communal cocktail mixed tableside that has Hennessy Cognac, Jamaican rum, black tea, lemon and Angostura Bitters, topped with a chilled bottle of Champagne.

Mizuwari Japanese Highball at The Spotted Owl: Cleveland, Ohio

The name of this drink at the craftiest bar in The CLE refers to the popular way of drinking spirits in Japan: generally two parts cold water mixed with one part spirit. Here, cubes of clear ice are cracked tableside and placed inside a collins glass. They are topped with Toki Japanese Whisky and soda water, stirred and garnished with an expressed lemon peel.

The Mojito Dali at Telefèric Barcelona: Walnut Creek, California

Similar to the way the clocks appear to be melting in Salvador Dali’s surrealist painting The Persistence of Time, this cocktail at Telefèric Barcelona transforms before your eyes. A mixture of rum, lime and mint is poured tableside over a colorful tuft of cotton candy, so guests can watch their fairy-cloud-like orb dissolve.

The Highlander at Bourbon Steak: Washington, D.C.

This combination of Virginia Highland Malt Whisky, Calvados, Lillet Blanc, Dolin Rouge, Averna Amaro and Cardamaro at Bourbon Steak is aged in a miniature oak barrel; the increased surface area of its small size matures the cocktail quickly and adds depth. The barrel is brought to the table, where it’s dispensed, stirred over ice and served.

Build Your Own Martini at Shutters on the Beach: Santa Monica, California

Shutters on the Beach’s bar director Josh Curtis calls this a savory option on the martini spectrum that lets bartenders interact with guests and share a little drink history. Absolut Elyx Vodka is stirred with Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice and housemade banana peel bitters; it’s strained into a glass misted with Tio Pepe Sherry and garnished with a feta-stuffed kalamata olive.

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