Epicurean and travel guru Nilou Motamed—you may know her from CNN and NBC’s Today Show—spends her days crisscrossing the globe, scouting where we’ll all be going next. Here, her top picks for inventive cocktail bars where great drinks are just the beginning.
An unerringly sophisticated Russian friend once chided me for suggesting we have a cocktail without a bite to eat. “In Russia,” she confided, “we never drink without a few zakuski [savory tapas]. It would be … uncivilized.” She was right, of course, and not just about her homeland. It struck me that my own nights out—and my all-time favorite bars—revolve not just around a perfect Negroni but around a well-crafted menu of snacks and small plates. It’s the former that lure you in the door; it’s the latter that invite you to linger. And maybe have another round.
BubbleDogs, London

What do you get when a star sommelier falls in love with a renegade British chef? A champagne bar and hot dog joint of course. At Bubbledogs, general manager/wine guru Sandia Chang and Chef James Knappett pair champagnes with 16 hot dog renditions, from breaded and battered to curry-slathered. The brick-lined bar is jammed from noon to midnight.

The Commune Social, Shanghai


Shanghai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth. So perhaps it stands to reason that you’d find yourself on a sprawling roof terrace in Jing’An, among chic Chinese, Brazilian expats and European oligarchs-in-training, lustily devouring Iberico ham and chorizo-studded tortilla from the kitchen of a British chef. Jason Atherton was the first Englishman to complete a stage at El Bulli, and it shows: few Spaniards do Iberian cuisine as well as he does. And few Shanghai bars do nightlife as well as this white-hot cocktail/tapas/dessert bar, where each ‘course’ is served in a different beguiling space.

Tippling Club, Singapore


As if it weren’t already one of Singapore’s most inspired and groundbreaking restaurants—overseen by genius Australian chef Ryan Clift—the Tippling Club also ranks among the city’s coolest cocktail bars, whether spiking a bellini with cherry-blossom tea and black-cherry purée, or reinventing the gin martini with cucumber and nori seaweed. And just wait till you try Clift’s zany-licious small plates. In this blissfully bizarro universe, ‘puffed beef tendon’ and ‘truffle styrofoam’ somehow make perfect sense.

Ball & Chain, Miami


Welcome to the New (Old) Miami. If this city’s retro renaissance has a pulsing heart, it’s on SW 8th Street in Little Havana. And the rhythms of Calle Ocho beat strongest at the reopened Ball & Chain bar and nightclub, a 1930s throwback with old-school Cuban jazz and fiery salsa seven nights a week. The food, with fried plantain and homemade chicharrones (pork rinds), hark back to pre-Castro days, and the cocktails offer a twist on the classic island playbook, not least the smoky Calle Ocho Old-Fashioned.

Quinary, Hong Kong


At this sexy spotlit refuge on Hollywood Road, mixologist Antonio Lai deploys a laboratory’s worth of tools to go all mad-scientist on his cocktail menu. His drinks provoke all the senses, with textural and aromatic surprises complementing the flavors. The food, too, aims for shock with the cured pork belly and apple purée served in an unassuming Mason jar—pop the lid and an intoxicating whirl of rosemary smoke will be unleashed. Expect the unexpected.


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