One for the Road: Museum Bars

Enjoy some world-class art while having a world-class drink at these cultured watering holes.

We firmly believe that bartending is an art form. The most talented mixologists are right up there with Pablo Picasso, Kiki Smith and Francisco Goya.

So it’s more than appropriate that many of the top museums in the country boast excellent bars. Whether you’re looking for some culture or a delicious drink with a sophisticated atmosphere, you need to check out these six establishments.

Bravo, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617 369 3474:

Enjoy your lunch or dinner while contemplating works by Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Holzer and more at this elegant restaurant in the Museum of Fine Arts’ contemporary wing. It’s one of the best spots in town for a weekend brunch, with a list of light and fruity cocktails to match. Wait for warm weather and order one on the  terrace.

What to Drink: The Impressionist (Campari, Cointreau, prosecco)

The Modern, Museum of Modern Art, 9 West 53rd Street, New York, 212 333 1220:

From Van Gogh’s Starry Night to Warhol’s Cambell’s Soup cans, MoMA holds one of the planet’s finest collections of modern art, and its restaurant is similarly world-class. Both the Dining Room and the more casual Bar Room (pictured) share a list of more than a dozen craft concoctions and an impressive selection of spirits.

What to Drink: South by Southwest (Gran Centenario Plata Tequila, P&H Soda Co. Hibiscus Syrup, lime, mint)

Play, Museum of Sex, 1 East 27th Street, New York, 212 447 7529:

When you’re the watering hole inside the provocative Museum of Sex, you’d better turn up the sex appeal. And this spot certainly does, with dim lighting, leather couches, vintage Playboy magazines on the coffee tables and even a drink diners lick out of a skin-textured plate. Behind the stick is Jim Kearns, a veteran of renowned Big Apple establishments including Pegu Club, Death & Company and Mayahuel.

What to Drink: Clare Quilty (Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky, mezcal, bourbon, Galliano Ristretto, amontillado sherry)

Proof on Main, 21c Museum Hotel, 702 West Main Street, Louisville, 502 217 6360:

Next time you’re visiting the bourbon trail, you can eat, drink and sleep in a museum. Seriously. Every part of the 21c Museum Hotel, from the bathrooms to the elevators, is full of contemporary art, and its restaurant offers an amazing selection of bourbon. (Not going to Louisville? There are now two other 21c Museum Hotels with excellent bars: Metropole in Cincinnati and The Hive in Bentonville, Ark.)

What to Drink: 12-year-old bourbon flight (W.L. Weller 12 Year, Ezra B. Single Barrel, Old Medley)

Ray’s & Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 323 857 6180:

Situated right in the middle of the outdoor plaza at LACMA’s extensive museum complex, Stark Bar and its sister restaurant Ray’s might be the best place for people-watching in Los Angeles. Have a seat on one of the comfy couches and order a few clever creations from noted bartender Paul Sanguinetti.

What to Drink: (Far) East of Manhattan (masala-infused rye whiskey, Amaro Nonino, sweet vermouth, bitters)

Terzo Piano, Art Institute of Chicago, 159 East Monroe Street, Chicago, 312 443 8650:

The Art Institute of Chicago’s 250,000-square-foot Modern Wing houses this locavore Italian eatery. It’s committed to using meat and produce sourced from within 150 miles. That philosophy extends to the drinks menu, which features a range of regional spirits and a rotating selection of seasonal house-made sodas.

What to Drink: Winter’s Dream (Valentine Vodka, Sound Spirits Depth Cacao Liqueur, Koval Walnut Liqueur, espresso, vanilla, cream)

(Photo courtesy Ellen Silverman)