Regarded as America’s most prominent wine region, the Napa Valley also boasts a thriving cocktail culture, ranging from the most elaborate concoctions designed by master mixologists, to classic cocktails enjoyed at one of the valley’s casual neighborhood “dive” bars. This “High/Dive” concept can be found in each of the valley’s towns, from Calistoga in the north to American Canyon at the valley’s southern gate. Some of the region’s most celebrated “Highs and Dives” include:
At the very northernmost part of the Valley, the town of Calistoga offers the best of both worlds. At the ultra-luxurious Solage Resort and Spa, Solbar delights guests with a vibrant bar featuring creative cocktails developed by a well-trained bar staff, complimenting Solbar’s renowned cuisine. Kelly Dallas, one of Solbar’s bartenders explains, “The cocktail culture in the Napa Valley has taken on a ‘Bar-Chef’ identity influenced by the abundance of absolutely fresh, rare and unique ingredients available to us.” In her opinion, “The restaurants whose chefs are willing to work with their bar team will undoubtedly have the most potential for creativity behind the bar. Solbar has always had a leg up in that respect.”
Susie’s Bar, established in 1944 and located on Lincoln Avenue, the town’s main drag, offers visitors the chance to meet local Calistogans. Housed in an old brick oven bakery building, complete with the original tracks for the trams that carried the large bags of flour from the street, this classic neighborhood bar offers a well-stocked top shelf selection of liquors. Co-owner owner Frank Kibbish explains, “We are the local hangout, but with the amount of visitors we see from around the world here in Calistoga, we also have to have quality liquor, as well as Pappy Van Winkle behind the bar.” Open late every day, the bar has also become Calistoga’s nightlife. Kibbish adds, “Many of our visitors don't want to end their evenings at 8 or 9 p.m., and are very happy we’re here for them to continue enjoying their stay in Calistoga.”
For a classic experience, the basement speakeasy bar at Goose & Gander, known as “wine country’s public house,” was a pioneer in Napa Valley’s craft cocktail scene, with its bar program developed by respected mixologists Scott Beattie and Michael Jack Pazdon. Proprietor Andy Florsheim claims, “There has been a cocktail culture lurking in Napa Valley for some time now, and when Goose & Gander opened in 2012 in our basement bar of Walter Martini's 100-year-old house, it really emerged.” He adds, “It makes sense that in a place where everything is ingredient-driven, that the retro fresh cocktail program at Goose & Gander would be so well received.”
Bar Manager Emma Kreis adds, “Many people who work in the Napa Valley wine industry would rather unwind after their shift with a craft cocktail than over a glass of wine.” Often, visitors also appreciate a refreshing cocktail after a day of wine tasting. Goose & Gander offers more than 40 craft cocktails, each made with handcrafted ingredients. “One of the most enjoyable parts of our job is helping our guests decide what suits them best,” adds Kreis.
In contrast, locals and visitors flock to Ana’s Cantina, where on any given night you might find a Napa Valley winemaker or chef belting out a karaoke tune, or a wedding reception extending the party. Ana’s is known for its energetic, down-home vibe, that often extends to the wee hours of the morning, adding to the growing after-hours scene in St. Helena.
Known as the “culinary capital” of the Napa Valley, the town of Yountville proves that a well-made cocktail can be the ideal meal pairing. Yountville’s many fine dining establishments dot the quiet streets in the walkable town and most offer full bars, providing the opportunity to have a cocktail before, during, or after a meal. Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Napa Valley prides itself on a knowledgeable bar staff known for mixing craft cocktails to enhance the dining experience either at the indoor, energetic bar, or outside on the restaurant’s patio, enhanced with oversized, comfortable furniture and cozy fire pits. Bottega Senior Manager and ‘Bar Guru’ Matthew Engelbracht says, “After a day of wine tasting sometimes a cold beer is the best thing to cleanse the palate, however our guests always enjoy a good Negroni, specifically our ‘Barrel Aged Negroni’ as well as our ‘Italian Gin and Tonic’. The cocktail culture in the Valley is thriving and we understand the importance of using local fresh seasonal ingredients from the abundance that surround us.”
At the other end of town lies Pancha’s, one of the most revered neighborhood dive bars in not only Napa Valley, but all of wine country. The staff is all related at this throwback “cash only” bar, which allows smoking on premise. Pancha’s has become a primary stomping ground for winery and restaurant staff, including some of Napa Valley’s most well-known chefs, after their shifts have ended. This infamous neighborhood watering hole is also known for its hefty pours.
The once sleepy town of Napa has evolved into a vibrant destination, offering a nightlife once unimaginable in wine country. Locals and visitors alike stroll the city after dark, taking in theater and musical performances in the city’s many clubs and entertainment venues. Relative newcomer Miminashi, Napa’s Japanese style Izakaya restaurant, features one of Napa’s most popular bars, mainly because of the bar manager, and one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Bar Stars,” Andrew Salazar. Salazar has developed Miminashi’s famous “Rolodex of Cocktails,” featuring 125 new and classic cocktails expertly described on several rolodexes found on the restaurant’s lively, u-shaped bar. Salazar claims, “Most guests order a restaurant-featured cocktail from the beverage menu or fall back into their routine of go-to drinks. One of the main reasons for offering the Rolodex of Cocktails is to showcase a thoughtful cross-section of select spirits, specialty ingredients produced in-house, and techniques that run the gamut of the bartender's 'bag of tricks.'” He adds, “We have created an environment where allows guests are eager to expand their cocktail palate.”
For a more casual, yet equally enjoyable cocktail experience, head over to the nondescript Henry’s Cocktail Lounge on Napa’s Main Street. On most nights (and afternoons), you will find local industry folks to millennials crowding the intimate “cash only” bar. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, and the drinks are cheap and strong, making Henry’s a quintessential neighborhood “dive” bar.
In fast-growing American Canyon at the south end of the valley, visitors may imbibe at Table 29 Bistro & Bar at the Doubletree Hotel & Spa, where the bar program features cocktails crafted with locally made gin from the city’s award-winning Loch & Union Distillery. Sandy Smart, Director of Sales at the hotel says, “The cocktail culture is alive and well in this land of plenty. Our guests really enjoy a great cocktail, especially our signature ‘AC-Tini’ martini.”
Locals of “AmCan” frequent the Junction Brewery & Grill, which was named after the Napa Junction railroad station built in American Canyon in the late 1800’s. Back then, the area was called Napa Junction and the station served as a meeting place where travelers would switch trains to go to North Napa, Sacramento, Sonoma or Marin County. The Junction Brewery showcases its own house-made brews, as well as a full bar with a friendly staff and neighborhood vibe.
Well known for producing great wine, the Napa Valley’s many bars, restaurants and clubs are proving that between its high concept establishments and friendly neighborhood dive bars, the cocktail culture is alive and well in wine country.
755 Silverado Trail N., Calistoga, CA 94515
‘The Bitter Edge of Winter’
1 oz. Angostura Bitters
1 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. egg whites
5-6 leaves of exotic mints from our edible flower garden shared with the kitchen.
Activated charcoal and bitters spray to garnish
1365 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, CA 94515
1205 Main St., St Helena, CA 94574
Goose & Gander
1245 Spring St., St Helena, CA 94574
G&G 86 Dignity
1.5 oz butter washed Toki Japanese Whisky, infused with candy cap mushrooms
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Sarsaparilla Syrup
Bottega Napa Valley
6525 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
Bottega Barrel-Aged Negroni
Punt e mes
Equal parts of each and then aged together in American Oak
Garnished with an orange peel
Bottega Italian Gin and Tonic
Garnished with juniper berries, Meyer lemon, grapes, and a rosemary sprig
6764 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
821 Coombs St., Napa, CA 94559
1 1/4 oz. gin
1/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey
1/2 oz juiced ginger
Garnish: dehydrated lemon wheel seasoned with white pepper and fennel pollen
Henry’s Cocktail Lounge
823 Main St., Napa, CA 94559
Table 29 Bistro & Bar
3600 Broadway St., American Canyon, CA 94503
1 oz Loch & Union gin
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Sour Apple Schnapps
1 Lemon Wedge
Splash of Cranberry
Garnish with Apple
Served in a Martini Glass
Junction Brewery & Grill
10 W American Canyon Rd., American Canyon, CA 94503
About Visit Napa Valley
Visit Napa Valley is the official tourism marketing organization for the Napa Valley, with a mission to promote, protect and enhance the region’s position as one of the world’s premier wine, food, arts and wellness destinations.
The Napa Valley, conveniently located just an hour from the San Francisco Bay Area, consists of the following distinctive towns, including, from north to south, Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford/Oakville, Yountville, the city of Napa, American Canyon, and the outdoor recreation area of Lake Berryessa.
The Napa Valley Welcome Center, located at 600 Main St. along the riverfront in downtown Napa, provides visitors with expert Concierge services from Napa Valley Ambassadors who offer complimentary Napa Valley Guidebooks, maps, brochures and winery tasting passes. The Welcome Center, open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., also offers complimentary Wi-Fi and a mercantile shop featuring locally sourced gift items.
For additional information on the Napa Valley, or to plan your Napa Valley experience, please explore VisitNapaValley.com, follow us on Facebook and Instagram @VisitNapaValley.