Dr. Clint Lanier and Derek Hembree make a great point in the introduction to Bucket List Bars: Historic Saloons, Pubs and Dives of America ($17): travelers all too often settle for the first pub, bar or saloon they see and are subsequently faced with aloof service, microwaved grub and a beer list straight from a frat house party. No more, they declare. Their collection of watering holes — though with its faults — provides at the very least a superb starting place for the thirsty traveler.
The pages that follow this introduction are a libational laundry list of select bars in a few regions of the U.S. including NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Denver, Las Vegas and LA. Their lists are far from exhaustive, but, of course, a complete catalog wouldn’t quite fit “bucket list” stature, and would be one hell of a tome. Each of the cities has primers on a few top-tier drinking spots to try out, complete with cliff notes on history, what you should try (both to eat and to drink) and nearby distractions and notable bars. This final section is what we like most about Lanier and Hembree’s work; it makes the bar the jumping-off point for a whole adventure in a new place.
And while the book’s photography is less than stellar and it tends to be short on bars even in the cities selected, a paired iPad app and a website with bolstered content (updates on bars on the list, historical articles, additional places to see and things to do, videos of each bar on the list and their signature cocktails) gives the book some definitive clout. We recommend Bucket List Bars be safely tucked in your luggage bag from now until the day you finally quit drinking.