PATTERN’s Guide to 12 Best Cocktails Under $12 in Indy

The craft cocktail culture has taken a hold of Indianapolis in a major way and  fortunately, the city has no shortage of interesting places to linger over a delicious concoction. Here are our well-priced favorites from Midtown to Downtown!

LIBERTINE

Up All Night | $12

COFFEE-INFUSED HAMILTON RUM, PLANTATION FIVE-YEAR RUM, CARDAMOM, CHINA CHINA, CREAM, CINNAMON, ANGOSTURA BITTERS

Name and title: Zach Beeson, Bartender

What makes the Up All Night stand out among other craft cocktails?
It’s a well-balanced desert-style cocktail that utilizes popular flavors (coffee, cinnamon) while introducing a little-known amaro (China China). Everyone is familiar with the something-tini that is grossly sweet, but good desert cocktails are rare.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
I’ve been obsessed with wine syrups for a little while now. There are countless flavor profiles available, so they work well with any base spirit and in any type of cocktail. I like them especially for the depth they give a cocktail. Unlike single-ingredient syrups, wine syrups provide complexity through several layers of flavors.

What’s your favorite underrated bar?
Stout House is my favorite underrated bar. They have, what I would consider, some of the best pizza in Indianapolis. They have a great whiskey list and are always excited to geek out over new selections.

SANGRITA

El Hulk | $11

HACIENDA DE CHIHUAHUA PITA. DEL MAGUEY VIDA MEZCAL, LIME, AGAVE, MUDDLED CUCUMBER, MINT, JALAPEÑO

Name and title: Olivia Patterson, Bar/Service Manager

What makes El Hulk stand out among other craft cocktails?
We love and chose El Hulk because of the range of flavors it encompasses. Starting with the Del Maguey Vida, it provides that sweet, smoked flavor of agave. The Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol gives those really grassy and earthy notes. Combining it with freshly muddled mint, cucumber, jalapeño, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice ties them all together and brings out the best flavors of the spirits we chose. We wanted a cocktail that had a fresh spicy flavor but was also cool and refreshing to make the perfect patio drink.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
I’d have to say my favorite ingredient to use in cocktails right now are coffee liqueurs. St. George Nola is has a super rich, bold flavor and pairs nicely in a spin on an Oaxacan old fashioned. J Rieger Cafe Amaro is great in a creamy after dinner cocktail. Most people enjoy the flavor of coffee and these liqueurs are versatile enough to use in a refreshing summer drink or a heartier winter cocktail.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
The Alley Cat Front Lounge is hands down my favorite bar in the city. Corey and Maurie make thoughtfully crafted cocktails filled with fresh syrups and fun twists on classics, but if that’s not your thing, you can head on over to the back lounge for a game of pool and a Budweiser. It’s the local hub for industry people and you can’t visit without seeing a friendly face.

NORTHSIDE SOCIAL

Strawberry Basil Martini | $12

STRAWBERRY INFUSED VODKA. FRESH BASIL, FRESH LIME JUICE

Name and title: Terry William, Head Bartender

What makes the Strawberry Basil Martini stand out among other craft cocktails?
Our Strawberry Basil Martini stands out because we infuse our own strawberry vodka. We use 16 pounds of strawberries about every 10 days! 

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Since fall is right around the corner, I’ve really enjoyed using rye whiskey. It’s big, bold, and spicy with hints of sweet. Not enough people drink rye anymore. A good rye whiskey creates an initial excitement that elevates a traditional cocktail like a Manhattan or old fashioned into something note worthy. 

What is your favorite underrated bar?
My favorite underrated bar is actually one of our sister restaurants. La Mulita is often forgotten next to its bigger sibling next door, Delicia, but they get a lot more creative with their drinks. They always have a featured cocktail that uses new liquors or unique shrubs & syrups to make something truly original or a twist on a classic Tiki drink.

THUNDERBIRD

Anonymous | $9

GIN, RIESLING, SAGE, LEMON JUICE, STREGA, EGG WHITE

Name and title: Michael Schrader, Bartender

What makes the Anonymous stand out among other craft cocktails?
Cocktails are just a part of the overall experience of being a bartender. The most important thing behind the bar is making sure guests are having a good time. When bartenders get into the “craft cocktail” scene, they seem to forget this. At Thunderbird, we want our guests to feel welcome and enjoy their time with us. The cocktail is only one way we do this.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Currently, I make quite a bit of Boulevardiers. It’s the only cocktail I drink anymore. Bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Right now, I’ll switch the sweet vermouth for some amaro, typically Averna. I might switch Campari for Cynar, maybe do a pinch of salt. But f*ck it, I’ll make whatever the guest wants.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
The Colonial Inn. Karaoke seven nights a week and $10 buckets of domestics. It reminds me a lot of small town Indiana, where I grew up. The bartenders all call me sweetheart and the karaoke DJ always calls me Jesus, just like my family. That’s how you know it’s a good bar; when you go in and feel like you’re at home. No cocktail can make up for that.

VANGUARD

Rum the Jewels vol. 3 | $12

SCARLET IBIS RUM, COCONUT, SAFFRON, PINEAPPLE, ORANGE, MANGO

Name and title: Steve Simon, Bar Manager

What makes the Rum the Jewels vol.3 stand out among other craft cocktails?
The house-made saffron coconut cream. It takes me about five hours to make it, but it’s totally worth it!

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
At the moment, it’s the foie washed cognac I’ve been working on for our fall menu.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
My favorite underrated bar is the Alley Cat Front Lounge. A lot of my favorite people work there, so you can catch me sipping some after-work whiskey with them most nights.

THE BALL & BISCUIT

Desperado | $12

RUJERO SINGANI, ANCHO REYES VERDE, FRESH SQUEEZED ORANGE JUCIE, LIME JUICE. SUGAR CANE SYRUP, JALAPEÑO SLICES

Name and title: Kendall Lockwood, Operating Partner

What makes the Desperado stand out among other craft cocktails?
The drink stands out due to the freshness of ingredients. The bright notes of the Rujero complement the savory/spice of the Ancho Reyes Verde.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
My favorite ingredient to use in cocktails is currently unique flavors such as curry, ginger, sea salt, and even beet juice. These create complex flavors, beautiful colors and it really makes you wonder what you’re sipping (in a more than fabulous way, of course).

What is your favorite underrated bar?
My favorite underrated bar is not so much underrated as it is new-ish and still making a name for themselves. In the little college town of Goshen, IN lives an amazing bar titled Common Spirits. It is ran by an amazing couple who I am fortunate enough to be friends with by the names Jami & Ryan Hawkins. They are hospitable, fun-loving and they make their bar feel like home. The drinks are balanced, beautiful and they are constantly growing and learning every day to achieve greatness. Definitely stop by if you get the chance!

 

PIONEER

Fairlight | $8

CENRAL STATE TABLE, YUM YUM, ALESSIO VERMOUTH CHINATO, BYRRH, SCRAPPY’S ORANGE BITTERS

Name and title: Alec Hofeling, Bar Manager

What makes the Fairlight stand out among other craft cocktails?
I think the Central State Table beer is what I like most about this cocktail. It’s light and refreshing and has a little bit of funk to it. It makes for a delicious, savory beer Spritz.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Recently I’ve been working a lot with some of our homemade sodas made by our FOH manager, Kyle Harrell. We’ve got a House Grapefruit Soda, Turmeric-Ginger Beer, and a Beet-Sumac soda.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
Time Out Lounge off of 62nd and Allisonville is one of my favorites, super low key bar right next to Some Guys pizza. You can go in there knowing you won’t see anybody, it’ll be quiet, and that the bartender will be in sweat pants playing pool with bar regulars. Same goes for Diamond Chips Lounge right next to Mama’s House Korean Barbecue. Shag carpeting all over the place and karaoke every night of the week.

SPOKE & STEELE

Sage Advice | $11

8TH DAY GIN, APEROL, TEMPUS FUGIT KINA APERITIF, SAGE SYRUP, LEMON JUICE, EGG WHITE, 1821 GRAPEFRUIT LAVENDER BITTE

Name and title: Jose Garcia, Bartender

What makes the Sage Advice stand out among other craft cocktails?
My cocktail stands out because it transcends popular conception about judging a book by it cover how something can be both visually appealing and masculine with its strength and savory qualities.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
With the trend of craft cocktails becoming more popular, my favorite ingredient is creativity. Guests are more knowledgeable than ever and with asking questions about their likes and the use our knowledge we can fashion anything they would enjoy.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
Drinking is a social event, allowing different types of people to connect. My favorite underrated bar is the Slippery Noodle because of amazing ambiance and its collection of of spirits and allowing people of all walks of life to enjoy each other’s company.

BLACK MARKET

Mai Tai | $11

CLÉMENT SELECT BARREL, PLANTATION O.F.T.D, PIERRE FERRAND DRY CURAÇAO, ORGEAT, LIME

Name and title: Chris Coy – General Manager/Beverage Director

What makes your Mai Tai stand out among other craft cocktails?
The Mai Tai is my classic Tiki go-to drink. A well-made Mai Tai is not only layered with flavors, but also a really fun drink to play around with to create “your” own version. Using Trader Vic’s 1944 original recipe as a template, the challenge is to come up with the combination of rums (Dark Jamaican Rum and Amber).

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Rum in general, but more specifically Rhum Agricole. We’ve been preaching rum ever since liquor found its way into Black Market. It’s a passion that we enjoy sharing with our customers and our self-proclaimed mission to open people’s eyes to what we consider an underappreciated spirit. Now with the Inferno Room opening soon, it’s all rum, all of the time in my brain. With that being said, Rhum Agricole (rum made from fresh pressed sugar cane as opposed to molasses).

What is your favorite underrated bar?
Mai Tiki Bar in Bob Cripe’s basement. The ultimate in Hoosier-home-tiki! As for a true public establishment, how about The Butler Inn? I’ve been waiting my entire 17-year tenure in Irvington, and the Butler has finally clawed it’s way out of super-sketchiness and into the realm of proper, sketchy dive bar. New ownership has definitely injected some life into the place… and I can walk there!

HOTEL TANGO

Gin Bravo | $11

GIN, BASIL, BLACKBERRY, GREEN TEA SIMPLE, LEMON JUICE

Name and title: Dyke Michaels, Manager/Bartender

What makes the Gin Bravo stand out among other craft cocktails?
The Gin Bravo stands out in part because of its rabid fan following and seasonal nature. People love this drink. The marriage of fresh basil and muddled blackberry combined with house-made green tea simple and fresh squeezed lemon juice creates a truly balanced cocktail.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
If I had to choose one, the pineapple spiced rum. Because we have to make everything in-house that we serve, it forces us to get very creative with in-house simples, spirit infusions, and shrubs. Steeping pineapple in our Romeo Rum produces a seriously fun spirit to use in cocktails.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
J Clyde’s on the East Side. I live in Irvington and it’s my favorite neighborhood dive bar. It’s a classic.

HOWL AT THE MOON

Adios Mofo | $8

SKYY VODKA, CRUZAN RUM, CUERVO TEQUILA, PINNACLE GIN, BLUE CURACAO, SWEET AND SOUR, LEMON, LIME

Name and title: Katelyn Martin, Sales and Events Manager

What makes the Adios Mofo stand out among other craft cocktails?
Howl at the Moon is such a high-energy bar, and, as you can see in the picture, our drink fits right in! The bright color is something that everyone immediately recognizes, and the flavor is the perfect way to start off your night. Howl’s twist on this classic makes it one of our most popular signature drinks.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Personally, I like anything that makes a drink stand out. Something that grabs my attention at first, like a bright color or some cool garnishing, makes me want to branch out and try something new. I’m finding that I don’t have a favorite ingredient, but I do love trying new drinks to see how different ingredients pair together! 

NICKY BLAINE'S

The Beach | $10

DEKUYPER CREME DE BANANA, CREME DE STRAWBERRY, PINEAPPLE JUICE, CHERRY JUICE, CREAM

Name and title: Brian Nolan, Assistant General Manager

What makes The Beach stand out among other craft cocktails?
This martini is one of our dessert martinis that doesnt follow the traditional flavor profiles, (chocolate, vanilla, coffee). It is a great combo of citrus and sweet.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
Best ingredient currently is bitters. There are so many flavors been produced now, and that allows a lot of freedom to tinker with recipes.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
I really enjoy Ralston’s on Mass. Ave. Really good food and large area for outside seating.

BONUS!

BINKLEY'S

The LJ | $5 (Thursdays)
The Dew Drop | $5 (Thursdays)

LJ: 1800 TEQUILA, ROSE’S POMEGRANATE TWIST, TRIPLE SEC, SOUR MIX, LIME
DEW DROP: DEEP EDDY GRAPEFRUIT VODKA, ST. GERMAINE, CHAMPAGNE

Name and title: Sean Cook, bartender

What makes your martinis stand out among other craft cocktails?
There’s nobody else in town that does something like these. The Dew Drop is a champagne martini and that’s not something you see all the time. Plus, St. Germaine and Deep Eddy create such a good combination.

What’s your current favorite ingredient to use in cocktails?
I’ve been a bartender for 17 years, and I don’t really have a favorite ingredient. Anything that is really hard to do is my favorite. I like to muddle ingredients and use fruits, egg white, simple syrups—anything you have to put time and love into.

What is your favorite underrated bar?
I love going to Mass Ave Pub. It’s small, but it’s really busy. The bartenders in there are great and there’s good food. Not a lot of people know to go to that area.

Photography and styling by Aubrey Smith.