I love cocktails because each one feels unique and each one presents a chance for a human connection at a bar. There's nothing quite like a drink mixed right in front of you by a person you can talk to.
But when I already have the human connection close by and I just want to share a drink with friends, showing up to the table with an armful of carefully balanced daiquiris isn't nearly as satisfying as passing around a bottle of wine or setting a sloshing pitcher of beer on the bar. If it's mixed drinks and community you’re seeking, the local bar scene has you covered on both fronts.
Before there were even cocktails, there was punch: liquor and often wine or beer mixed with fruit juice and other ingredients. Punch runs the gamut from the delicately spiked concoctions found wherever parlors still exist to the frat-house buckets holding every type of cheap liquor. The former, when available in bars, is usually premixed in big batches and served by the cup. Mississippi Avenue's Quaintrelle, for instance, serves a rotating classic punch that's among the most satisfying $6 happy hour drinks in town.
The happy medium between a party-sized punchbowl and a single-serving cocktail is a staple of Tiki bars everywhere: the Scorpion Bowl, a communal beverage enjoyed with the simple, perfect addition of very long straws. Regain literally seconds of your life by forgoing ladles and cups, and instead sit at an intimate distance from your friends, sucking liquor through long and silly straws.
Scorpion Bowls—and their fiery cousins, Volcano Bowls—can be had at Tiki mainstays like karaoke haven the Alibi, which serves an old-fashioned recipe where the citrus, orgeat, and rum are joined by both brandy and gin ($28, serves 2 or more), and Hale Pele, where a secret blend of warming spices makes for a cozy night by an actual fire within the towering, cinnamon-dusted volcano in the middle of the drink. Plus, ordering it sets off an artificial thunder and lightning storm throughout the bar to announce your awesomeness ($26 serves two to three, $44 serves three to six).
The irreverent bendy straw meets the polite-society glass punchbowl exactly where you would expect it to: Teardrop Lounge. Ten years ago, I felt chronically underdressed at this Pearl District time capsule of the mid-'00s fancy-cocktail renaissance. But now you're as likely to see young folks in work attire as boomers in sweatshirts advertising their kids' or grandkids' alma maters. Teardrop always features a few punchy options—a Scorpion Bowl for good measure and a sweet rum and vermouth operation called Best of Both Worlds with raspberry syrup and a bottle of Tiger beer dunked headfirst (all $32 half, $60 full—be warned, the beer may water the small bowls down too fast).
For date night, there may not be better two-strawed sippers than the ones at Eem on North Williams—especially the Pineapple Fantasy, a pineapple rum and rye whiskey drink with tropical fruit and ever so slight spiciness ($13 or $24). If you need a first date conversation piece, you're in luck as you never quite know which strange ceramic vessel you'll get: Cartoon blowfish? Woozy looking elephant? Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? And if you get stood up, worry not: Each of their double-sized drinks is available in a single serving as well—but if you end up with more than you bargained for in the dating department, go for the Daggermouth, which serves four to six ($49 or $68).
Don't dig the Lady and the Tramp vibes of all those straws? North Mississippi’s Interurban has long made a night by the patio firepit feel like a rustic campout with their bottled Manhattans and Negronis. Both are unfussy ways to satisfy three or four people for an hour or so ($45/bottle). DIY types should hit Gado Gado, where you can be served a housemade fat-washed liquor with “accoutrements” (syrup, soda, limes, and ice) for mixing your own drink. That may sound like a pain, but it’s worth it for the rum infused with the restaurant’s beef rendang. And at what’s fast becoming the best spot for a cheap burger and beer combo on North Killingsworth, Tulip Shop Tavern, you can try any of their “Party Shots,” but you’re going to need to bring—or make—a friend, since they’re only served in pairs. Pro tip: The tequila and iced coffee shot will pull you right out of that double-cheeseburger coma.
Of course, there's not necessarily anything wrong with drinking alone. But when you drink with friends, why not drink together?