Our Top 5: Cocktails

For someone who appreciates liquor and the nuances of mixing it well as much as I do, choosing five favorite cocktails in a city with this many talented bartenders was a hard one to do. Truth: I haven’t ordered a Jack and Coke in eight years, and I probably never will again. Once your eyes are opened to the art that is cocktail making, you never go back.

My criteria were not simple, and not limited to one type of cocktail, liquor or potency. What makes these favorites are the mastery with which they’re mixed, the quality of the ingredients, the taste, balance (not too sour, not too sweet, but just right), and to a lesser extent, the originality of each drink. Without exception, all my choices pack a punch, so if you’re a lightweight, be careful.

There’s clear criteria that make a good cocktail, but there’s also the personal aspect to choosing your favorite cocktail. You might prefer vodka, whiskey, gin or tequila. All the spots on my list are home to some of Honolulu’s best bartenders, so whatever your flavor, chances are you’ll find something here to appreciate too.

thirtyninehotel: Thai Me Up

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No surprise that the Thai Me Up is also thirtyninehotel’s No. 1 signature cocktail. This one has been at the top of my list for 5+ years now, a miracle considering the fact that I like changing things up so much I rarely order the same thing at the same bar twice in a row. It’s a refreshing twist on the classic mojito, with lemongrass-infused gin (made in-house by one of Honolulu’s master mixologists, Christian Self), fresh basil, lime, ginger and syrup, topped with soda water in a tall glass. Drink it slow, savor it, and don’t try to stand up too fast.

39 N Hotel St.

Our Top 5 archive
Our Top 5: Roast pork (by Myong Choi)
Our Top 5: Burgers (by Ed Morita)
Our Top 5: Poke (by Grant Shindo)