After a year of monthly road trips, I flew to Oahu in March 2021 to work remotely for ten days. Since I’ve had one vaccine and obtained a negative COVID test, I decided it was time for a little sun and sand. Hawaii has been working really hard to keep everyone safe and with near-perfect weather, many restaurants and attractions are outside. I, of course, also wanted to use the trip as a chance to explore the cocktail scene. Although some places have yet to open fully, I still found some incredible bars in Oahu for cocktails and drinks. Here’s where I recommend you go!
Cocktail Bars in Oahu
- Address: 675 Auahi Street, Honolulu
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm-10pm | Closed Sunday, Monday
- Hospitality: 5.0, this place reminded me of some my favorite hometown bars where when you walk in, you’re instantly with friends
- Atmosphere: 4.5, a perfectly cozy neighborhood bar displaying some local art
- Drinks: 5.0, really solid drinks (thanks, Art!)
Bevy is located at the corner of SALT At Our Kaka’ako, which houses other bars, restaurants, and shops. While the bar gives off laid-back vibes, the cocktails are seriously good. Pulling from a broad range of flavors and spirits, you’ll find everything from classics to tropical riffs to Eastern inspired cocktails on the menu. Before long, the DJs from Honolulu will return to play at Bevy and it will be even livelier. They also serve a great menu of local and farm-to-table (and sea-to-plate) fare, along with several items from Taco‘ako which is next door.
I enjoyed two delicious drinks. The one on the left features Zirbenz and is called “Under the Alps”. It also has bonded whiskey, amaro, walnut bitters, and rosemary smoke. So herbaceous and bitter, in the best way. The second cocktail I had introduced me to a Hawaiian Rum Agricole from Kuleana Rum Works in Waikoloa, Hawaii. I had it in a classic daiquiri and it was delicious! During my trip, I was pleasantly surprised to hear of quite a few Hawaiian distilleries across the islands. You’ll see more of those spirits coming up in other drinks in this post.
- Address: 39 North Hotel Street, Honolulu
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm-midnight | Closed Sunday, Monday
- Hospitality: 4.8, the small staff hustled to serve everyone but did it with a smile
- Atmosphere: 5.0, the space is gorgeous and generous with plenty of room to be inside or out
- Drinks: 4.8, while it is technically a wine bar, the cocktail menu is curated with some great off-menu drinks as well
Located in the heart of Chinatown, The Tchin Tchin! Bar is ready to host you and your friends for a night out. Whether on the patio (see below) or in the cozy bar, complete with tufted leather couches, you will feel right at home. The bar features a wide range of spirits, including a great range of Japanese whiskeys and gins. If you are more of a wine fan, they have a very large collection of wines from all over the world.
I enjoyed a Trinidad Sour which is an ounce of Angostura, lemon juice, simple syrup, and some Nikka Taketsuru whiskey. The on-menu drink I had is the Tchin-let, which is a play on a gimlet. Gimlets are made with gin, lime, and a sweetener. This particular one had some fresh rosemary muddled in as well. Very refreshing.
- Address: 2299 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu
- Hours: Every day, 5pm-10pm
- Hospitality: 5.0, even thought they were super busy, the staff was friendly and chatty with guests (which is always a must for me)
- Atmosphere: 5.0, the setting is absolutely tranquil with lit torches, tropical plants, and comfortable seating
- Drinks: 5.0, the drinks were really solid with a great selection of spirits
Located in The Laylow hotel, you’ll find The Hideout. While the bar also serves Stumptown Coffee (from Portland, OR) and breakfast, it transforms into a chill open-air bar in the evenings. If I wasn’t on such a tight schedule, I would’ve definitely stayed all night. I also grabbed some tuna poke which was excellent. The line starts before the bar opens, as it is right around the corner from the pool. I would definitely suggest getting there by 4:45pm at the latest if you are traveling to Oahu during peak season.
While the cocktail menu is on the smaller side, the drinks are spot on. The offerings are fresh, tropical, and unique. After visiting bars in Oahu for ten days, I’ve seen a lot of the same drinks over and over. I enjoyed “The Lucky Kid”. The drink is made with Pau Maui vodka, Ancho Verde, lilikoi, ginger & lime tea syrup, and pineapple juice. It was slightly spicy and got me excited about Shaker & Spoon‘s upcoming vodka box. (I am not normally a big vodka drinker.)
- Address: 62 North Hotel Street, Honolulu
- Hours: Tiki with a Trader Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10pm | Enchanted Courtyard Pāʻina Friday, Saturday 6pm-10 pm | Closed Sunday, Monday
- Hospitality: 5.0, they have a super friendly and attentive staff that work together to serve customers
- Atmosphere: 5.0, what’s not to love about a nicely appointed tiki-style bar with an occasional lightning rainstorm
- Drinks: 5.0, very solid drinks that feature local spirits
Noa Laporga and Angelina Khan have a reputation for curating a good and spooky time. Other ventures include an annual Haunted Plantation and a pop-up Ghost Bar. After a year of their most recent venture, Skull & Crown Trading Co., being closed due to the pandemic, I am sure it has included some frightful moments as well. But, good news! As of March 13, 2021, Skull & Crown is open once again. I was fortunate to be there on re-opening night and you feel the excitement in the air. Guests queued safely outside the door and a cheerful Noa greeted everyone personally as they walked in. Reservations are required for the time being.
In addition to admiring the decor, I also enjoyed a couple of cocktails and some veggie spring rolls from the restaurant next door. While the menu includes classic tiki drinks, the specials of the night by guest bartenders Jacob and Art were too good to pass up. I enjoyed the perfectly balanced cocktail (top center) called the ‘Olu ‘Olu. It’s made from Kuleana Hui Hui and Nanea rums, coconut water, white grape, lilikoi, lemon, and absinthe. My second cocktail was the beauty at the bottom, the “Smol Kine Trouble in Lil China”. It’s a blend of Smith & Cross, Plantation Pineapple rum, lime, grapefruit, guava cinnamon syrup, absinthe, and Angostura bitters. Here’s hoping one or both migrate from specials to regular menu offerings.
5. Hau Tree
- Address: 2863 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu (inside Kaimana Beach Hotel)
- Hours: Every day, 7am-10pm
- Hospitality: 5.0, excellent service and attentive staff
- Atmosphere: 5.0, a modern beachy bar that makes you want to slow down for a little while
- Drinks: 5.0, really incredible and inventive drinks
This bar came highly recommended by several bartenders I had talked to on the island. I always look forward to checking out the places other bartenders love, especially when they have women behind them. Hau Tree is an absolutely beautiful bar with a great view of the beach. The open-air concept is light and the decor is lovely. I honestly felt like I was sitting inside a home decor magazine.
The drink menu is full of delicious drinks. I tried three cocktails, all in the name of research! From left to right:
- “Feel the Sunshine” – Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole rum, Pau Maui vodka, yellow chartreuse, pineapple, yuzu, calamansi, Regan’s orange bitters, and soda
- “Kaimana Cocktail” – coconut-washed Broker’s gin, apricot liqueur, Gran Classico bitter
- “Hau Tree Highball” – hibiscus-infused Pau Maui vodka, yuzu, soda
The “Kaimana Cocktail” was my favorite but all three were delicious. Hau Tree also offers a very popular Brunch and Dinner service so you’ll want to make a reservation. Speaking of great food, there are also some awesome restaurants that focus primarily on food with solid on-site bars in Oahu as well.
Restaurants with Great Bars in Oahu
- Address: 3452 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu
- Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 5pm-8:30pm and Friday, Saturday 5pm-9pm | Brunch Sunday 9:30am-2pm | Closed Monday
- Hospitality: 5.0, this place is actually fairly large when you include the patio, the staff’s efficiency made it feel very small and intimate; a perfect date spot
- Atmosphere: 5.0, classic and cozy setting
- Drinks: 5.0, the drink I had was amazing
Mud Hen Water was initially on my list because of their food. Finding modern Hawaiian cuisine was high on my list, and this place serves just that. They also have a good number of vegetarian dishes which I also appreciate. The food was served hot and fast and was SO good. For once, I managed to order the perfect amount of dishes and was truly happy with each. I enjoyed the beet poke, a tempura fish sandwich, and the miso-butterscotch rice pudding with a ginger lace cookie.
The drink above is the “Pālolo Penicillin” which is made with Xicaru mezcal, Mezzodi, lemon, and ginger. It was the perfect blend of smoke and spice. Sorry, I can be a little predictable at times. Ginger and mezcal are my weaknesses when ordering a cocktail. If I see it on the menu, I have to try it.
7. Moku Kitchen
- Address: 660 Ala Moana Boulevard #145, Honolulu
- Hours: Every day, Noon-9pm
- Hospitality: 4.0, due to the pandemic, the service is more of a cafeteria style, you order and pay at the bar and your food is brought out to you
- Atmosphere: 4.5, the restaurant is big and busy with a patio and graphic art all around
- Drinks: 5.0, based on the drink I had and the other things I wanted to try on the menu
Moku Kitchen is also located inside SALT, around the corner from Bevy. The menu is full of locally-sourced goodies from local farms and artisans. I had a really incredible fresh meal. It was super delicious and healthy, which isn’t always easy to find. I enjoyed the Szechuan Stir-Fry Green Beans with Mac Nuts and the Roasted Squash Ravioli with spinach and walnut-sage pesto. So amazing, I almost went back for a repeat.
Across the island of Oahu, Moku Kitchen’s Mai Tai riff is well-known. The “Monkeypod Mai Tai” is a blend of Kula organic silver and dark rums, macadamia nut orgeat, curaçao, lime, and honey-lilikoi foam. It is tart and sweet and delicious. The foam sliding down the drink stuffed with a fresh pineapple slice is vacation in a glass.
- Address: 602 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu
- Hours: Every day, 4pm-10pm
- Hospitality: 5.0, the servers were friendly despite the place being very busy
- Atmosphere: 5.0, the space is beautiful and welcoming
- Drinks: 5.0, all the drinks I tried were fantastic
What’s not to love about a great meal, quality cocktails, and good live music? When I visited 1938 Indochine, I enjoyed all three. Southeast Asia’s popular street food provides the inspiration for the menu. I enjoyed some spicy lemongrass fries and an impeccable mushroom and tofu curry. The restaurant also offers an extensive list of bourbon and Scotch and has the largest whisky collection available in Hawaii.
I enjoyed the “Smoking Passion” which is made with El Silencio mezcal, yellow chartreuse, Giffard Passion Fruit, lemon, egg white, and a malbec float. Super good! Since they have a focus on whiskey and bourbon, I had to try a cocktail that featured that spirit as well. I tried the “Sabai Sabai”. It features Old Tub bourbon, Thai basil, ginger, demerara, lemon, and Angostura bitters.
Other Bars in Oahu Worth Visiting
During my visit in March 2021, some places had yet to open. In addition to the places mentioned above, there are several other bars in Oahu worth visiting.
- Bar Leather Apron – by the time you’re reading this, Bar Leather Apron has likely reopened. They were on the cusp of announcing reservations the week I left. Located in the Topa Financial Center, this bar takes its inspiration from international travels. The drinks and ambiance evoke elements from the best bars in the world.
- Lewers Lounge (inside Halekulani) – Lewers is currently closed for renovations but will reopen later in 2021. This cocktail lounge offers some of the best live jazz in Oahu, alongside tropical and classic drinks.
- Miro Kaimuki – this place is open, but it’s so popular that I wasn’t able get a reservation. The restaurant serves up French-style cuisine in very reasonably-priced prix fixe menus for brunch and dinner, alongside impeccable cocktails.
- La Mariana Sailing Club – known as the oldest operating tiki bar in Oahu, La Mariana is a true destination. Located close to the Honolulu airport, it’s rumored that you will feel lost among the industrial buildings it’s nestled amongst. View the full menu.
Mahalo for reading! I hope you found some bars in Oahu that you’re looking forward to checking out. If there’s any place I missed, feel free to drop your recommendations into the comments.