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Milwaukee's Best Cocktail Bars

Jun. 22, 2017
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Cocktails are gaining steam in Milwaukee. Increasingly, bartenders are seeing cocktails as a way to experiment with flavors the same way chefs create new dishes. Restaurants are pairing food not only with beer or wine anymore, but cocktails as well. If you're looking for some of the best cocktails in Milwaukee, check out any of these ten spots.

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge


Arguably Milwaukee's favorite cocktail joint, Bryant's has been around in one form or another since the 1930s. Many classic cocktails were invented here, including the pink squirrel, which has gained popularity as an ice cream drink at supper clubs. The plush, lounge atmosphere gives the feeling of a speakeasy mixed with a cozy retro basement. There are no menus here, so chat with your bartender on what types of flavors you like to come up with some options. Bryant's has a great happy hour with $5 Depression era drinks Sunday through Thursday.



The little Bohemian chic Goodkind hidden in Bay View has one of the best bar programs around, thanks to bar master (she's a master, guys) Katie Rose. Her cocktails are complex, balanced, playful and utilize the latest trendy spirits. Homemade syrups and tonics abound, like peppercorn chai syrup, bay leaf and thyme tincture, and matcha tea infused honey. Goodkind is well worth the visit just for the cocktails, but lucky for us the food is amazing too. Grab a bar snack of chicken liver mousse, or a larger plate of champagne battered mushrooms to nibble on while you sip.

Odd Duck


Don't be confused when you browse the drink menu at Odd Duck and don't see any drink names. They go by numbers here, and they're up over 100 at this point (though how they keep each one straight is anyone's guess). Each cocktail lists its ingredients though, so you do still know what you're ordering. The list is heavily influenced by the seasons, so right now there's a lot of berries, herbs, fruits and even vegetables. Right now, #68 is available which includes sotol, a liquor similar to tequila, vermouth, bay tincture, celery, dill and lime for a vegetal, herby drink.

The Phoenix Cocktail Club


Playful is the key word at Phoenix. This modern, dimly lit bar is housed in a building from 1848, but the signature cocktails are definitely from this century. (There is a classic cocktail section with favorites like Manhattans, if you must.) The cocktail menu is divided into sections with titles like “Colors!” and “Kick Ass Potions,” and a few drinks come with coloring books or comics made by the bar. Grab a drink called War in Bed with sesame vodka, ginger, lime, miso and soy, or try one of three adult slushies like the Obi Wan Negroni.

Foundation Bar    


If you can't get to the South Pacific, Foundation is the next best thing in Milwaukee. The place is packed with Polynesian decorations like puffer fish lights, wood carvings and a fish tank behind the bar. The drinks are tropical and tiki-inspired, with classics like mai tais made with Trader Vic's original 1944 recipe, planter's punch, and Singapore slings. All good tiki bars need to have souvenir cups, and Foundation has a couple. Grab a royal Hawaiian in a cup festooned with a mermaid, or the rum barrel that comes in glazed pottery barrels with the name of the bar on the back.

Vermuteria 600        


The posh little Hotel Madrid houses an upscale Spanish restaurant and a lovely bar called Vermuteria 600. Its focus is on vermouth, including the centerpiece of many of its cocktails, a house-made vermouth that's on tap. The cocktail menu is inspired by a Bates Cocktail Index book from 1934, so expect lots of Hemingway-era classics with a modern twist. Some drinks come with a tongue-in-cheek presentation, like the signature vermouth cocktail that comes in a vintage children's Thermos with a licorice straw. Go with a group and order Tomas the T-rex, served in a huge ferocious dinosaur container.

Dock 18 Cocktail Lab          


Dock 18 is called a cocktail lab for a reason: they make everything that goes into every cocktail and experiment with new flavors and infusions all the time. It's Twisted Path Distillery's tasting room and Bittercube's lab, all housed in the Lincoln Warehouse. The menu changes each week, or as often as necessary when they run out of ingredients, so you'll get something new every time you come. It's a tiny space, so they encourage customers to reserve bar spots with a deposit, or even better, purchase a cocktail tasting menu in advance to get a well-rounded representation of their current menu.



Finks bills itself as the “everyman's cocktail bar” and that's pretty much spot on. There's no pretentiousness and not a whole lot of gimmicks, just good drinks in a quirky, laid-back atmosphere. The most complicated cocktail on their current drink menu is probably the Clockwork, which contains whisky, orange marmalade, rosemary simple syrup, egg white and bitters. Watch for special themed cocktail menus, like a recent Star Wars event. They're adding a patio to the back of the building complete with fire pit that should be open later this summer.

The Outsider


Seven stories up on the rooftop of the sleek Kimtpon Journeyman Hotel in the Third Ward is The Outsider. The space is custom made for enjoying summer weather, with plush couches in lounge areas, fire pits, oversized games, and an amazing city view. The current cocktail menu is heavy on bitters and bitter spirits, which is popular right now. The Handle with Care is a refreshing blend of gin, Cocchi Americano, elderflower liqueur and cucumber tincture. You can order snacks and wood fired pizzas to be delivered from Tre Rivali downstairs.

Boone & Crockett      


Boone & Crockett has been at the front of MKE's cocktail renaissance since it opened about five years ago. The space is cozy with a vaguely antique western theme, which seems to sit well with the many hipsters that frequent the bar. Barrel aged cocktails are the specialty, and there's always a few available. The most popular option is the old fashioned which benefits from aging in wood. Otherwise, expect a lot of gin, bitters, Fernet and rye. Bonus: Gypsy Taco has taken up permanent residence on the back patio, so you can get a taco fix along with your old fashione


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