If you want to be a serious player in the bar world these days, you need a snack menu by a big-name chef and a bill of fare that’s interesting, appetising and varied enough to keep people propping up the bar all night.

One of Tokyo’s newest cocktail bars, Tokyo Confidential, marries a “rowdy house-party” vibe and stunning views with high-low bar snacks by chef Daniel Calvert (of two-Michelin-starred Sézanne), whose highlights include an Everything Bagel with cream cheese and 30g of Kristal caviar, and warm chocolate madeleines with rum cream. “Bars are now seen as more of an all-encompassing night out as opposed to a pre- or post-dinner option,” says owner Holly Graham, who is also managing editor of DRiNK Magazine, “and most of us bar-industry folk are pretty passionate about food and beverage as a whole, so it just makes sense.”

The Everything Bagel at Tokyo Confidential
The Everything Bagel at Tokyo Confidential © Millie Tang

Food and cocktail matching is not the point here – it’s more about creating a hospitable atmosphere, says Graham. “I told Daniel I wanted bougie yet down-to-earth, affordable luxuries so people could feel fancy in an unpretentious way.”

Manhattan’s Sip & Guzzle features a menu by chef Mike Bagale, formerly of the three-Michelin-starred Alinea, that marries traditional Japanese izakaya food with fine-dining technique. In Sip, the oak-lined Edo-styled bar in the basement, guests can enjoy cocktails by mixological superstar Shingo Gokan (SG Club, Tokyo) alongside tuna kooridashi with shaved hibiscus ice and avocado, or a milkbread sando filled with A5 Wagyu beef. 

The “bikini sandwich” at Guzzle bar, Manhattan
The “bikini sandwich” at Guzzle bar, Manhattan

Upstairs, at Guzzle, Super Lychee Martinis and Yuzu Mugiritas by NYC luminary Steve Schneider (Employees Only) meet sides of “electric” chicken and mochi fries. Bagale has even created custom packaging for some of the snacks, inspired by street-food packaging he’s seen in Japan – the wafer-thin Bikini Sandwich comes in a delicate sleeve labelled with a cheeky anime illustration.

At Chinato, Ray Zhou’s moody new cocktail bar on New York’s Lower East Side, Chinese-style cuisine is the order of the day. Morsels created by Zhaojin Dai – sous chef at two-Michelin-starred Korean restaurant Jungsik – include frog drumsticks with water chestnuts and seaweed and avocado tacos scattered with flowers. Zhou’s inventive cocktails, meanwhile, fuse classic spirits with oriental flavours including goji berries, ume plum, osmanthus and lapsang souchong tea. “Our bar-snack programme, like our cocktails, is fun and full of surprise,” says Dai. 

The Portrait Bar at New York’s swanky new Fifth Avenue Hotel has pulled out all the stops, with a menu of “parlour snacks” by James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini. In a library setting designed by Martin Brudnizki, you can nibble hot dog au poivre, devilled eggs and Comté gougères while sipping Campari and fig-leaf sodas and Japanese whisky with yuzu and star anise.

I’ve long admired the spirits list at Core, Clare Smyth’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant in west London; and now – hallelujah – this massively oversubscribed establishment finally has its own bar, Whiskey & Seaweed, where you can stop by for caviar sandwiches, lobster rolls and Caesar salads of ikebana-like delicacy alongside elegant cocktails showcasing the best of British drinks producers.

Flamed pistachios at Chez Zou in Manhattan
Flamed pistachios at Chez Zou in Manhattan © Teddy Wolff
A waffle with coconut sorbet and fennel at Kwānt
A waffle with coconut sorbet and fennel at Kwānt

Luxe bar food is definitely a thing right now – but it’s not all caviar and lobster. At Chez Zou in Manhattan, pistachios are flamed tableside with anisette-flavoured arak; at Paradise Lost, a “tropical hellscape” on the Lower East Side, partygoers can sip neo-tiki rum cocktails while eating fistfuls of popcorn tossed with sea buckthorn and brown butter.

Veggie Orochi chips at Paradise Lost bar
Veggie Orochi chips at Paradise Lost bar © Noah Fecks

And save space for dessert – at Kwānt in Mayfair, bite-sized indulgences created by chef Joni Ketonen, formerly of The Fat Duck and St John, include a chocolate nemesis brioche and a waffle with coconut sorbet and fennel pollen.

London’s Tayēr + Elementary bar was one of the first indies to make food a talking point – current bites at the bar include truffle crisps with cauliflower dip, nduja and anchovy, and dulce de leche cheesecake with spiced coffee ice cream. “I believe the future of hospitality is somewhere where the lines between bar and restaurant have blurred,” says co-owner Monica Berg. “It allows your guests to ‘have it all’ in one place.” Consider cancelling that dinner reservation.  


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