5 Things I Look for in a Cocktail Bar

standard April 23, 2015 Leave a response

5 Things I Look for in a Cocktail Bar

I enjoy visiting bars of many different types, but among my favorites are cocktail bars. The opportunity to taste some great cocktails experience the service, atmosphere and everything else is something I really enjoy.

Even among cocktail bars there are still many different kinds, each offering a different type of experience. From relaxed garden bars offering a very casual atmosphere and light appetizers to the lounge bar with a more formal experience, each one is different.

So that got me thinking… What makes a good cocktail bar? Is the criteria solely the service of great cocktails, or is there something more? And of course everyone’s opinion will be different

So here’s my opinion on what makes a bar great and what I look for in an awesome cocktail bar. I’d love to hear about what you think in the comments!

Friendly Cocktail Service StaffAttentive Service Staff

First and foremost, for a bar to be great it needs to have an attentive staff. When I first walk through the door, I pay close attention to how the staff reacts upon my arrival. The best cocktail bars have a well-trained staff that greets guests promptly in a friendly, welcoming manner. Furthermore they should be excited to see me walk through the door. After all, it’s unlikely that any bar would be worth a return visit if its staff doesn’t care or has an attitude.

Comfortable Atmosphere

Like most bars, the atmosphere at a cocktail bar is important. Whether it’s a big lounge or a small corner establishment, I want to feel comfortable from the time I walk in to when I leave.

No matter if it’s a more formal lounge serving speakeasy cocktails or something more casual, I always take note of my mood. How does this bar make me feel?

First and foremost the vibe from the staff is important, but I always consider physical characteristics such as décor, lighting and music. How does each of these factors contribute to my overall experience? I find this is an important question because the answer will decide whether I return to this spot in the future.

Great CocktailsGreat Cocktails

One of the most enjoyable things about going to a cocktail bar is obviously the drinks. I love going to a place that not only serves up delicious drinks, but something unique as well. You can find a good cocktail almost anywhere, but a bar that produces cocktails that are both unique and daring is one that I want to visit.

So are great cocktails only those thatpush the limits of science and mixology? No, but I’m looking for something beyond the standard Gin & Tonic when I go out.

Friendly Bar PatronsFriendly Bar Patrons

Certain types of customers can definitely add to or take away from my overall experience. Not only do I watch how patrons and staff interact, but I also examine how the customers relate to each other.

There are times when I go to a cocktail bar, I’m looking to simply enjoy the drinks and chat with friends. If customers are loud, rowdy or disruptive they can really poison the entire experience.

So patrons who are respectful of the space and each other will ultimately be an important component to what I look for in a cocktail bar.


A bar can have the best cocktails in the world, but a place that’s reasonably priced is something I look for. I realize that applying creativity with unusual ingredients is not inexpensive, but gouging patrons unnecessarily just rubs me the wrong way.

To be clear I’m not necessarily looking for cheap cocktails; I’m a firm believer in that you often get what you pay for. A night on the town is something I consider a luxury, so it’s important to be open minded about paying more for something that is truly delicious.


Overall, my experiences at cocktail bars have been good but it’s taken some time to discern a good one from a bad one. Over time I’ve found that service staff, atmosphere, great cocktails, clientele and value are what really make a great cocktail bar.

While these five things are what make up my cocktail bar litmus test, ultimately everyone needs to trust their own judgement. Keep an open mind and apply your own criteria and you’re sure to find some awesome cocktail bars in your area.

What do you think? What do you look for in a cocktail bar? Let me know in the comments.


A coffee junkie and beer refugee, Joe enjoys cooking and an occasional mixed drink. When not walking his dog Verner, you can find him spending time with his wife Maggie and his daughter Earl.