Love beer, wine and spirits? Don’t want to choose between the vineyards of Napa and the beer halls of Munich? You don’t have to. There are plenty of U.S. destinations that offer a range of drink experiences. The following places provide a well-rounded booze itinerary with interesting options for craft cocktails, wine and beer.
While often touted as the Beer Capital of the World, Milwaukee also serves up strong craft cocktails at bars like the speakeasy-style Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge and Great Lakes Distillery, which features their own small-batch premium spirits.
The state drink is the “Old Fashioned ” —Wisconsin puts a twist on it by using brandy instead of bourbon. That being said, there are many venues that put their own unique spins on the drink, like The Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel, which serves up a “Mezcal Old Fashioned” using agave-flavored Crema de Mezcal, and Dream Dance Steak, which offers a “Wisconsin Blue Old Fashion” made with Korbel, Seagram’s 7 or Southern Comfort, sugar, orange bitters, a cinnamon stick and fresh blueberries. If you’re a wine drinker, Dream Dance Steak also offers over 600 retail-priced wines while Vino100 is a wine boutique and bar that hosts regular events and sells over 100 wines for $25 or less.
And of course, no discussion of Milwaukee’s booze scene would be complete without mentioning the number of excellent breweries and brewery tours in the city. Lakefront Brewery is like a live comedy-show-meets-brewery-tour that educates tourists with dirty jokes and good-natured jabs. They also serve title-holding beers like the Wisconsinite, made with 100% Wisconsin ingredients (even the yeast strain); Grist, the country’s first gluten-free beer; and Organic ESB, the country’s first certified organic beer. Best of all, for just $7 you get the tour, four full beers, a beer glass and a coupon to get a beer at another local brewery.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There is much more to New Orleans than the wild Bourbon Street. Home to some of the country’s best craft cocktail bars, farm-to-bar drink venues, wineries, a sustainable craft distillery and breweries, NOLA is a one-stop shop for anybody craving a quality booze experience.
Start your tipsy trip at Old New Orleans Distillery, where you can do a tour and tasting of the city’s iconic Old New Orleans rums. Brewery experiences include NOLA Brewing, Crescent City Brewing and Gordon Biersch, while worthwhile wine experiences are classes at the Wine Institute of New Orleans, wine tasting at Swirl Wine Bar & Market, and live jazz and al fresco wine drinking at Bacchanal Wine New Orleans.
To infuse New Orleans’ jazz culture with cocktails, The Three Muses serves up thoughtfully crafted drinks crafted with homemade ingredients like ginger beer, cherry cola, bitters, olive brine and fruit juices. At Cure, the drinks are inspired by a time when cocktails were developed as home remedies, containing high-quality, healthy ingredients. And at French 75, you can enjoy classic cocktails like the “Sazerac,” “Sidecar” and “Old Fashioned” in a vintage bar that was once a “gentlemen-only” club from the early to mid 1900s.
San Diego, California
Renowned for their aggressively hoppy IPAs and experimental west coast beers, San Diego is a pioneer in the American beer scene and is filled with excellent craft brewers like Karl Strauss, Societe Brewing Company and Ballast Point Brewery. The eco-friendly Stone Brewing Co. is undoubtedly the most famous of the breweries out there; it is the largest craft brewer in southern California and the 10th largest in the country. Sample their “Stone IPA,” a citrusy and hoppy beer with a subtle essence of malt, or the “Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale” made with Chinook, Simcoe and Amarillo hops for flavors of dark chocolate and licorice.
The city is lucky enough to enjoy California’s world-renowned fertile soils, especially in North County. You can easily spend hours perusing the many cellar doors, some of which include Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards, South Coast Winery and Bernardo Winery.
And for a craft cocktail experience, nearby Carlsbad offers one of the world’s most innovative drinks with West Steak & Seafood’s “Chameleon.” The farm-to-bar martini—which comes in mango and raspberry—features an ice cube filled with fresh fruit and liquor, so that as you stir, the drink changes color and flavor. By your final sip, you’re left with a cocktail that’s completely different from what you started with.
Long Island, New York
While most people head straight to New York City to go drinking, Long Island is home to a relaxed experience where you can enjoy wine trails, craft breweries and distilleries while immersed in a world of vineyards, antique shops, beaches, artisanal bakeries and farm stands. Rent a car and drive the North Fork Wine Trail. Wine is Long Island’s most important crop, with the main varietals being Chardonnay and Merlot. There are over 40 vineyards and wineries on Long Island, located mainly on the North Fork.
Sparkling Pointe serves up refreshing sparkling wines, while Pindar Vineyards is the region’s most popular winery, providing a social tasting room and slow dancing out in the vineyards. And at Vineyard 48, you can enjoy delicious wines while dancing to a live DJ. On the North Fork you can also visit Long Island Spirits to sample artisanal spirits made with local potatoes. In recent years the brewery scene has explored on Long Island, with some top choices being Port Jeff Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company and Southampton Publick House.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Did you know New Mexico is the oldest wine-producing region in the United States? In 1629, the Spaniards—namely the Franciscans—who controlled the area needed sacramental wine, which took the form of Tempranillo produced in the Rio Grande Valley. New Mexico’s wine tradition has continued into current day, especially in Albuquerque, where you can find boutique wineries offering small-batch, artisanal wines. The area is especially known for sweet wines, as they pair well with the spicy foods the locals love, as well as French-hybrid grapes, thanks to the loamy topsoil over clay, which is similar to Champagne, France. You can choose to take a guided wine tour with Routes Rentals & Tours to really learn about local agriculture, or head to the North Valley area and visit wineries like Anderson Valley Vineyards, Milagro Vineyards and, my personal favorite, Casa Rondeña Winery, where you can do a port and chocolate pairing.
While Albuquerque didn’t help to spearhead the craft beer movement in the United States, they’re certainly dominating now, with local breweries like Marble Brewery, Canteen Brewhouse, Chama River Brewing Company and La Cumbre Brewing Company taking home awards at top craft beer events like the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. Head to Kelly’s Brew Pub for a guided make-your-own beer experience.
And as New Mexican cuisine is largely Mexican influenced, craft cocktails often come in the form of delicious margaritas that go beyond the original. At Garduno’s of Mexico Restaurant and Cantina at the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, you can sample a wide array of handcrafted margaritas, with everything from the syrups to the sour mix to the juices made from scratch. Some of the many choices include a “Green Chile Margarita” made with Avion Silver 100% de Agave Tequila, Cointreau, fresh chopped green chili, fresh lime juice and house-made sweet ‘n’ sour; the “Pepeno Margarita” crafted with Cabo Wabo 100% de Agave Reposado Tequila, fresh cucumber, fresh basil, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and a splash of house-made sweet ‘n’ sour; and a “Strawberry Basil Margarita” featuring Patron Silver 100% de Agave Tequila, fresh strawberries, fresh lime juice, basil leaves and a splash of house-made sweet ‘n’ sour. Other top options for delicious margaritas in Albuquerque include El Pinto, Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila and Ibiza, and you can head to the Apothecary Lounge for other classic and craft cocktails.
Puerto Rico, Caribbean
The Caribbean is known for its fruity rum punches and tropical drinks. That being said, there’s one destination that beats the rest of the islands as a boozy vacation spot: Puerto Rico. First of all, Puerto Rico is the Rum Capital of the World, home to the world’s largest rum distillery, Bacardi, the local favorite Don Q Rum Museum and Distillery, and a number of other smaller rum distilleries like Ron Llave, Ron del Barrilito and Palo Viejo. Moreover, by law, rums in Puerto Rico must be aged at least one year, setting a standard of excellence.
Along with having the opportunity to do rum distillery tours and tastings, there are a number of breweries, some of which include Old Harbor Brewery, Compañía Cervecera de Puerto Rico and Magna Special Craft.
For those who want some island wine tasting, head to Bodegas Andreu Solé vineyard and winery in Guánica, known for their Tempranillo and Merlot grapes, for local vino, sangria, music and tapas on the water. Puerto Rico is also home to an array of special booze experiences. At the W Retreat and Spa—Vieques Island, both guests and non-guests can enjoy their nightly Sunset Sip, and sample their cocktail of the day, like a “Metropolitan” made with rye, grapefruit, raspberry and basil, or an “El Boriqua” made with Don Q Silver rum, Passoa, passion fruit juice, lime juice and simple syrup.
In Old San Juan, head to Airenumo to take a Mojito-making class and learn the art of crafting this local favourite (you can also take a city tour or food and drink tour with Melani Daniels. Additionally, as the “Bloody Mary” was invented at the St. Regis New York, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico puts a local twist on the libation with their “Encanto Mary” featuring lime juice, Puerto Rican aji picante, stuffed plantain olives and a rim of crushed plantains.
*This post originally appeared on Travel + Escape
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