Drinks in the Desert: Coachella Edition

Whether you’re catching Coachella this weekend or heading to the Palm Springs area for some spring sun, here’s where to taste the hot drinks scene.

The vintage inspired bar at Bar Cecil is one of the most coveted seats in town. Photo courtesy of Bar Cecil.

Modern Cocktails

For proper cocktails, head uptown the small, dark and sexy new Tailor Shop (look for the vintage sewing machine in the green hedge). If they’re wheeling the cart, have an Old Fashioned mixed at the table, or declare your Canadian cred with a Spifflicated Butterfly starring Empress 1908 Gin. Japanese whisky and mixology fans should head straight to Sandfish (same owners), a sushi restaurant with inventive cocktails and a killer whisky list topped with Yamazaki. On the LGBTQ-friendly strip of bars on Arenas Road, choose Blackbook for a seriously comprehensive, bourbon-heavy whisky list.

The toughest reservation in town is Bar Cecil, where you want to be sitting at the pretty vintage-inspired bar ordering a French 75 Regal, topped with Moët & Chandon. Truss & Twine‘s big, horseshoe bar is a late-night industry hang, and serves an excellent Hanky Panky. In the same uptown ‘hood, the poolside Colony Club bar at the Colony Palms hotel and the house Negroni on Birba‘s patio are also worthy stops. In a town with few rooftop bars, the High Bar at the Rowan Hotel is a mountain-view, poolside spot to grab a drink..


Look for the Bar/Food sign in a strip mall near the airport to find Paul Bar. Photo courtesy of Paul Bar


It’s no longer much of a secret, but behind a curtain in Mr. Lyon’s restaurant hides a tiny, perfect bar called Seymour’s. The Ultimate Sidecar (for a whopping USD$195) is made with Hennessy 250th-anniversary Cognac, to give you some ideal of the target clientele. Tucked inside Bouschet wine shop in an unassuming strip-mall plaza, find PS Air Bar, complete with airplane-themed décor and aviation-inspired drinks like the Cockpit, spiked with Portuguese cherry brandy. It hosts a raucous drag brunch on weekends. In another unlikely strip mall near the airport, look for the Bar/Food sign to find Paul Bar, which recently celebrated its 4th anniversary by donating the day’s profits to Ukrainian war-relief efforts. Inside, you’ll find a packed traditional bar, a killer burger and famous frozen Sidecars. There’s a rosé-all-day speakeasy hidden within the flower-festooned walls of Fleur Noire Hotel, but so far La Boisson is only open to hotel guests. Perhaps the worst-kept secret in town is Counter Reformation, a wine bar tucked behind Norma’s in the Parker Palm Springs.


Find tiki classics and modern drinks too at Tonga Hut in downtown Palm Springs. Charlene Rooke photo


In one of the great California reservoirs of kitsch, Palm Springs boasts a handful of tropical cocktail bars. The most serious cocktail den might just be Bootlegger Tiki, which has a big patio,in case you don’t dig the highly disorienting effects of sipping a punchbowl with friends in a dark room. Highest for kitsch factor is Tonga Hut downtown, with a second-floor catbird-patio perch and all the tiki classics, plus modern drinks like the coconut-cup Chai Thai. High marks for authenticity sitting poolside at The Reef, located within the mid-century world of Caliente Tropics hotel: order one of the cocktails that comes in the bar’s own series of mugs.

Modern Love Gin is probably the most stylish bottle on any bar cart. Photo courtesy of Palm Springs Spirits

Craft Beer, Spirits and Natty Wine

Las Palmas, a serene hipster brewpub on the main Palm Canyon Drive strip, has not only excellent craft taps and natty wines by the glass, but food pop-ups on the back patio and a fridge full of cans to go. Make sure to try the corn-chip bar snacks, with plenty of hot sauce! 1501 Uptown Gastropub has a big craft beer list, and fun yard-style games on the deck.

Look for Modern Love Gin (especially the Reserve bottling, a lovely copper colour from aging in red-wine barrels), the most stylish bottle on any bar cart, and Racquet Club Spirits vodka and bourbon, behind local bars and at bottle shops.

Dead or Alive complements a great bottle shop with a lively patio scene. For bottles and cans to enjoy in your own room or rental, hit PSBS (that might stand for Palm Spring bottle shop, or poolside beverages and snacks, or…) at the back of the Mojave Flea Trading Post maker market. The bottle shop and snack stop focuses on wine and nibbles from BIPOC, LGBTQ and women makers.


Enjoy old-school piano-bar atmosphere and a barrel-aged Manhattan at Melvyn’s. Charlene Rooke photo

Old School

If you are completely unconcerned with seeming cool, rock a Martini (one free-pour Martini is all you need here, folks!) at the old-school bars inside restaurants like Melvyn’s, Spencer’s, Billy Reed’s or Tropicale.


Coming Soon

Caliente Tropics hotel is planning a retro-drinks concept at Le Ferne, to complement its tiki bar. Watch for a Thompson Hotel (a brand known for its hot bar scene) to open later this year at the perennially under-construction site on the northeast corner of Palm Canyon North and AlejoRoad.

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