Sacramento’s burgeoning cocktail scene is fast becoming one of the most exciting in California. Sacramento Cocktail Week has been celebrated every year since 2008, and the city now has a host of establishments specializing in the pursuit of mixology. A spirit of friendly competition has emerged between them, each one pushing another to create the next best thing. Here are the best places for craft cocktails in the state capital.
Every cocktail at The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar falls into one of five categories. The Ex-Wife is “Bitter” (aptly enough), and is made up of Cynar, scotch, and Angostura and orange bitters, while the “Rich” Harvey Milk Punch, which honors the late California politician, combines Galliano, brandy, aged rum, and sugar with milk (the remaining categories are “Juicy”, “Classic”, and “Tart and Refreshing”). Made with locally sourced ingredients, each craft cocktail here is deserving of the title, with the resident mixologists utilizing freshly squeezed juices, house-made syrups, and hand-muddled herbs.
Sacramento’s cocktail scene took off in 2009 with the opening of Shady Lady Saloon, a Roaring Twenties-themed bar filled with antique light fixtures and vintage decoration that hosts live blues and jazz five nights a week. It has since gone from strength to strength, being named by Esquire as one of the 25 best bars in America in 2014. They offer some 35 regular cocktails here (and another 10 that change seasonally), with the emphasis on modern adaptations of classic recipes. Their take on the Old Fashioned, the Horse’s Neck, adds house-made ginger syrup to the standard Angostura bitters and bourbon.
Having worked at various venues across the city, barman and beverage director Chris Tucker has been dubbed “the godfather of the Sacramento cocktail” by City Scout Magazine, and he has now brought his expertise to Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. One concoction of his is The Heavy Crown, a mix of scotch, apricot liqueur, dry and sweet vermouths, and orange bitters. They serve rotating draft cocktails here, like barrel-aged martinis, although these make up only a small part of the overall menu that has in excess of 20 different cocktails.
This boutique location invites you to enjoy artisan cheeses and house-cured charcuterie along with your handcrafted cocktails. There can be no doubt about the freshness of the meat here – the glass-walled butchering area is located within the bar itself. If the sight of animal carcasses doesn’t put you off, try one of Block Butcher Bar’s inventively titled cocktails, like the Pterodactyl Party Time (Peloton, Aperol, lemon, egg white, peach bitters, and champagne) or Demon Slayer (Suerto tequila reposado, blackberry and ginger syrup, and St. George absinthe).
Head bartender Ryan Seng holds court at the Grange Restaurant & Bar, located in Sacramento’s upmarket Citizen Hotel. The creative cocktail menu includes a 120-calorie concoction (named simply 120) made up of Fair quinoa vodka, strawberry-cello, lemon, mint, lemongrass, and soda, and the Tusk, an intriguing proposition of Evan Williams bourbon, bacon vermouth, and candied bacon. Come for the weekend brunch and you can put an order in for your very own customized Bloody Mary – choose the spirit, mix, rim, protein, and garnishes.