After a long evening of shaking and stirring cocktails, even bartenders need a drink. But as many of the nation’s best will tell you, this sacred moment typically isn’t the occasion for trying something new. Instead, cravings tend toward the familiar, the reliable. For Brandyn Tepper of Hinoki and the Bird in Los Angeles, for instance, something special happens when bartenders treat their bar like home—patrons feel less like customers than guests invited into an intimate, cared-for space. Or for Chris Benton of Le Foret in New Orleans, the best bars are like black holes; they beckon you in for one drink and suck you into an atmosphere that’s impossible to leave.
From Austin to Brooklyn, Chicago to Los Angeles, ten of the country’s best bartenders share where they go to savor the best of their craft.