Like peanut butter and chocolate, or Hall and Oates, a new crop of bars is mixing up transcendence in the combination of two beloved things: cocktails and desserts. Forget stale pretzels and Chex Mix. Now, discerning drinkers pair chocolate choux with pisco pulls in London, or smoked Old Fashioneds with cherries jubilee in Texas. Grab a spoon, and raise a glass. Emily Saladino helps us get sweet and sauced at the world’s best cocktail and dessert bars
Provence-born, Gordon Ramsay-trained pastry chef Dorian Picard opened SoHo’s clubby Basement Sate last summer, bringing a members-only vibe to the former Player Bar space. Clever desserts like the London-Brest, shaped like profiteroles and filled with black sesame choux, playfully update traditional French pastry, while mixed drinks with of-the-moment spirits like sherry and pisco keep the sweetness in check.
The Danish capital does not lack innovative restaurants, but, when local barmen Waheed Folami and Niels Peterslund debuted Candeur in summer 2013, it made Nordic waves. The first of its kind in Copenhagen, Candeur serves classic cocktails alongside desserts of the Gallic persuasion, like Grand Marnier-flambéed crêpes suzette, lemon meringue galette and crème brûlée. The name of the bi-level space is a nod to Ludvig Holberg, a Norwegian-Danish playwright who toured France and ran a theater on this very street in the 1700s. Talk about staying power.
When boutique-y design hotel Adelphi reopened with dessert-themed interiors (yep, you read that right) in November 2013, it raised the confectionary bar on Flinders Lane. Enter Om Nom, a cocktail lounge with pastry chef Christy Tania in the kitchen. A veteran of Ritz Paris and Aussie television’s MasterChef Australia, Tania creates architectural desserts like Raspberry Field, a collection of toadstool-shaped raspberry, lychee and rosewater meringues. Liquid refreshment includes the Adelphi Rose, which combines rose- and cucumber-scented gin, cardamom syrup and lychee and grapefruit juices.
House of Flour pastry chef Brian Tan opened this Puxi dessert den in 2009, followed shortly thereafter by a second location in Lujiazui. Shanghai’s pretty people line hoF’s leather banquettes, nibbling caramel chocolate mousse and sweet-tart orange chocolate mud cake. Tan, like all visionaries, is serious about drinking: his bar list includes 10 classic cocktails as well as three to five seasonal drinks. We recommend the Shanghai Mei Mei, an agrodolce house favorite of berry juices, vodka, fresh lime and rose syrup.
Butter & Scotch
Entrepreneurial baking beauties Allison Kave and Keavy Blueher met while running parallel businesses at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, a weekly food market on the Williamsburg and Dumbo waterfronts. Their new joint venture, Butter & Scotch, opened last week in Brooklyn’s burgeoning Crown Heights neighborhood. The retro-chic bar-bakery serves good to the last dollop confections like lemon-lavender cupcakes, hot fudge sundaes and ginger-pecan pies, as well as a full bar pouring seasonal sips like hot buttered scotch and whiskey punch.
San Antonio, TX
Ol' Blue Eyes may have been a whiskey and water guy, but this San Antonio lounge really swings with classic libations like Manhattans, Ramos Gin Fizz and a maplewood-infused Smoked Old Fashioned with Bulleit rye. Open since 2013, Sinatra’s keeps tabs low and excitement high, courtesy of retro desserts like bananas foster and cherries jubilee. All are flambéed tableside for the Rat Pack-era price of $6 a pop.
Hometown hero Kim Hammer, of Raleigh’s organic cupcake and pie shop Bittycakes, opened this sweet spot downtown in late 2013. At Bittersweet, the bar serves seasonal craft cocktails, the kitchen dishes out cookie plates and derby pies, and a framed illustration of an aproned Bruce Willis hangs quietly on a rear wall, reminding diners to “Pie Hard.” Seasonal baked goods make this place a natural diet-killer, but Hammer’s commitment to local produce especially shines in the bar menu, as in a rosemary gimlet with cranberry sugar and fresh lime.