Oklahoma City is known as “The Big Friendly.” As my birthplace and the home region of a few dozen of my relatives, I can confirm it is quite friendly. Laid-back and chill for a capital city of roughly 700,000, OKC’s Midwest-meets-Southwest spirit informs its restaurants, bars, and distilling scene. While it is late to the game compared to much of the U.S. when it comes to “craft” food and drink, I’ve slowly documented the region’s rise the past 15 years after my parents moved back to my mom’s hometown. A few key people have been pushing the region forward, including Jeffrey Cole, our distiller interview, who founded the local chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.

I first witnessed a change when chef Russ Johnson opened Ludivine in 2010. It was not just the first seasonal farm-to-table restaurant I’d seen here, but also the first bar attempting classic cocktails and thoughtful use of spirits. Craft cocktail bars slowly rolled out from there — and, eventually, craft distillers. All this unfolded despite tough liquor laws for distillers and often bottom-tier priority in allocation or distribution of spirits in bars. There are currently 13 distilleries listed on Oklahoma’s distillery trail, with a few in or near OKC: Success Vodka, Scissortail Distillery, Prairie Wolf Spirits, Castle Spirits Distillery, Twister Distillery, WanderFolk Spirits (our distiller interview this issue), plus Woodworks Distilling Co.

The last five years have seen bigger leaps. For the first time, a growing number of OKC restaurants with cocktail menus — like fine dining Nonesuch and Grey Sweater or Laotian family eatery, Ma Der Lao (in this guide) — are garnering national acclaim, even if the cocktails and food at the fine dining spots are far from competitive with the nation’s cutting edge. Still, it’s a sign OKC is starting to enter the national dialogue and is on the cusp of another growth spurt. OKC’s “Big Friendly” hospitality is also an advantage many cities don’t have.

Each of these ten bars has nailed that hospitality over multiple visits — and make some of OKC’s best drinks to boot. A couple OKC spots I didn’t get back to in time for this guide, but known for quality cocktails, are Barkeep, Palo Santo, The Jones Assembly, and Library of Distilled Spirits.

Power House exterior at sunset, photo © Virginia Miller

Power House

Clay Berkes is an Oklahoma native with bartending experience from Oklahoma to Austin. He opened Power House in January 2015 in a literal former powerhouse that powered OKC’s historic six-acre Farmers Public Market area. This 1928 building looks like a roadhouse you might stumble across in New Mexico or West Texas. An inviting outdoor patio is graced with a fireplace, shrubs, cacti, and grasses. The dim, cozy bar is lined with wood wainscoting, cozy booths, exposed ceiling, bleached animal skulls, and vintage fridge.

Drink This Alongside shot-and-beer specials and a range of canned, bottled, and draft beers, craft influences pervade market mojitos featuring Oaxacan rum and seasonal fruits. Try their playful Margarita twist made with Hochatown Bourbon distilled in a southeast Oklahoma town of the same name. Or a signature drink like Roasted Hatch Chile Top Shelf Margarita, which tastes like New Mexico with hatch chile-infused tequila, habaneros, and Ancho Reyes Verde.

Bar Arbolada OKC, photo © Virginia Miller

Bar Arbolada

Riley Marshall and Dustin Lancaster opened Bar Arbolada in early 2018 after returning to their home state of OK from Los Angeles. Their years working in LA restaurants and bars show in balanced, sophisticated, yet relaxed drinks. The sunny, lofty space sports marble-topped tables, pendant lamps, and striking floor tiling, warmed by tan booths, greenery, and a vintage desert painting.

Drink This Serving burgers and pimento cheese with Saltine crackers, Bar Arbolada shakes up ubiquitous classics like an Espresso Martini or Paloma alongside forgotten drinks like the Army & Navy: gin, lime, orgeat. The house cocktail list is shorter post-pandemic, but includes simple but well-balanced drinks like the Vitamin G (gin, celery, green apple, lime) or Sandra Dia (tequila, watermelon, and lime given nuance from balsamic vinegar).

Lounge retro sign, photo © Megan Rossman/Oklahoma Tourism

R&J Lounge and Supper Club

R&J is my retro dream dive bar. When it opened in 2014, it was a key sign that OKC was starting to turn a cocktail corner. Decidedly divey, its wood-paneled walls, padded bar, Astroturf patio, and red booths stepped straight out of the 1960s. With blessed 2 PM–2 AM hours daily, it remains my favorite OKC hangout for a midday drink. On the “supper club” side, chefs Russ Johnson and Jonathon Stranger delightfully pull from family and vintage 1950s–1960s menus to serve old school eats like beef stroganoff or Oklahoma’s own chicken fried steak.

Drink This Classic cocktails here are shockingly cheap in the $5–10 range, veering from tiki to highballs. But check the board behind the padded bar for house drinks and modern-day classics like a Trinidad Sour. Bartenders keep the vibe relaxed as you order another while keeping the bill under $20.

Neighborhood Provisions interior, OKC. photo © Virginia Miller

Neighborhood Provisions OKC

Overlooking a golf course and lake with expansive views and floor-to-ceiling windows, Neighborhood Provisions OKC opened August 2022 in Edmond, less than 30 minutes from OKC. The massive bar room and dining rooms are run by a tight team led by founder Alex Hammill and chef Jim Camp. Their swank, members-only Caché is a French-inspired 1920s speakeasy bar with live music hidden inside the restaurant. Though we have seen the like for a couple decades since first trending in NYC and SF, this OK rarity benefits from Oklahoma ease and hospitality.

Drink This  In the restaurant bar, drinks were more complex and interesting when they opened under beverage director Rachel Custer, but expect common but thoughtful plays on a Gimlet, Daiquiri, or Old Fashioned. Caché is home to OK’s largest liquor selection and cocktails like a Chai Spice Sazerac or a Spicy Sanchez margarita variation.

Flamingo Tiki exterior, OKC, photo © Virginia Miller

Flamingo Tiki Room

Flamingo Tiki Room opened mid-2022 as a sister to neighboring OSO Paseo from Humankind Hospitality. It’s worth including on its own not just because of its hot pink exterior, but for its big city design. Rather than a kitschy tiki bar, it’s chic, refined, and tropical with tiki spirit. Flamingo is marked by retro floor tiles and feather lamps, dark green walls, seductive banquettes, an elaborate center wood bar, and hot pink-covered tables on the back patio. The space is so striking, it would stand out in any major city.

Drink This While the cocktails can sometimes veer a touch sweet, the pursuit of balance and tiki history is evident in their colorful cocktail menu. Expect beloved tiki classics like Three Dots & a Dash or Cobra’s Fang. The house original Flamingo showcases grassy rhum agricole with light rum, Jamaican overproof rum, coconut, lime, pineapple, orgeat, falernum, hibiscus, pink pineapple, and sparkling wine. Tiki mugs, volcano bowls, and tacos from neighboring OSO keep this rum destination festive.

Ma Der Lao exterior, OKC, photo © Virginia Miller

Ma Der Lao

Ma Der Lao is a restaurant more than a bar, and one that has made major waves for OKC since opening in 2021. Ma Der (as locals call it) has been on best national restaurants lists since 2022 and is James Beard-nominated. Co-owner brother and sister chef Jeff Chanchaleune and bartender Jeslyn are schooling OK — and the entire region — on proper Laotian food. Go for the food, but stay for Jeslyn’s playful cocktails featuring craft spirits and Southeast Asian flavors.

Drink This Jeslyn’s Margarita riff, Little Dragon, has made waves with a mix of tequila, palm sugar simple syrup, lime juice, mandarin liqueur, Tajin, and jaew som, a fish sauce and chile dipping sauce. Her neon green Sala (palm fruit) Green Cowboy syrup enlivens gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lime, and Accompani Flora Green liqueur in the Last King cocktail.

Mary Eddy’s Tiger’s Blood cocktail, OKC, photo © Virginia Miller

Mary Eddy’s

Mary Eddy’s launched in the hip, artsy 21c Museum Hotel not long after it opened in 2016. The food was solid and the cocktails okay. After a complete pandemic transformation, from lofty and bright to soothing and seductive with velvet teal banquettes and striking wallpaper, Mary Eddy’s has evolved to become a stronger-than-ever restaurant. At moments, they have served some of the most creative cocktails I’ve had in OKC.

Drink This A rare (for these parts) small producers’ wine list complements vibrant, culinary-influenced cocktails like Tiger’s Blood: reposado tequila, mezcal, carrot, habanero, cinnamon, lemon, and smoked paprika. The most memorable drink I’ve tasted here is one of the best I’ve ever had in Oklahoma. Their Wishing Well cocktail deftly combined Cognac, Jamaican rum, aquavit, mango, cinnamon, lemon, and silken tofu to silky, nuanced effect.

Ponyboy interior OKC, photo © Virginia Miller


Named after the beloved character from S. E. Hinton’s iconic Oklahoma-written novel (and 1983 film), The Outsiders, Ponyboy walks that fine line of hipster hangout with a dive bar heart. There’s vintage wallpaper and family portraits on the wall next to a slew of beers, a couple natural wines, karaoke, dance parties and live music keeping it communal, while the whiskey-heavy spirits list also includes a range of made-in-OK spirits.

Drink This Fun, unfussy cocktails play with high-low juxtapositions, like a “Fancy Vodka Cran” or Peach Cobbler featuring cream sherry. Their “regionally famous” Irish Coffee is a house favorite, as is boozy hot chocolate two ways: “Simple” with whipped cream vodka, or “Fancy” with Kapriol juniper berry-based herbal Italian liqueur, mint amaro, and Maggie’s Farm 50/50 Dark Rum.

OSO Paseo’s frozen Mangonada, photo © Virginia Miller

OSO Paseo

Bright white, breezy, and sunny from lots of large windows, OSO Paseo is a bit ubiquitous-in-these-parts Tex Mex but with Baja, California flair. Yes, this means fish tacos and queso, esquites (Mexican street corn), and some of OK’s better birria. Local flair comes in the form of brisket burnt ends tacos in Dr Pepper BBQ sauce. For drink lovers, the Baja-tiki theme is the draw. Think a range of margarita variations next to boozy tiki classics.

Drink This It’s hard to top OSO’s frozen slushie Mangonada: aged Jamaican rum brings the (oh so welcome) funk, vivid with mango, lime, savory-sweet hit of chamoy (salty, sweet, sour Mexican chili fruit sauce) and Tajin chili-lime seasoning with a candied tamarind straw. Alongside booze-forward tiki classics like a Zombie or Sidewinder’s Fang, there are house imbibements like Formidable Dragon: blended aged rum, black and overproof Jamaican rums, molasses, honey, orange juice, lemon, lime, amaro, and Topo Chico.

O Bar

While some of the glassware and decor exude a bit of a 1990s vibe, O Bar is housed in the Ambassador Hotel with a rooftop deck, cigar menu, food from the French bistro downstairs, live music, comfy couches, and solid cocktails. Thus, it’s a rarity in OKC: an  urban rooftop bar-with-a-view.

Drink This Martini Mondays feel retro (Sex and the City, anyone?), with the likes of Spiced Citrus Cosmos or long-ago-trendy bacon-fat-washed whiskey cocktails. But you’ll also find a few things peeking out for spirits and cocktail geeks, like a Bird of Paradise featuring Probitas Rum with genepy and acidified pineapple syrup.

Previous articleNew Release Roundup February 2024
Next articleAmerican Independent Bottlers Open New Markets for Craft Distillers
Founding The Perfect Spot in 2007 sharing top recommends globally in food and drink, Virginia Miller is W. North America Academy Chair for The World's 50 Best Restaurants, regular columnist at The Bold Italic and Medium, Distiller Magazine, American Whiskey Magazine, Whisky Magazine, VOICES, Liquor.com, Gin Magazine, etc. She held roles as Zagat SF/NorCal editor, SF Guardian restaurant critic, Table8 National Editor/VP of Content. Published in over 60 international publications, she’s covered global dining, travel, spirits, cocktails, hotels and bars with regular columns at Time Out, Where Traveler, Google’s Touringbird, Food Republic, Thrillist, Travelux, to name a few. She wrote The Official Emily in Paris Cocktail Book. Virginia consults in dining, spirits, cocktails and drink. She co-created Avion’s Reserva Cristalino tequila with Pernod Ricard’s House of Tequila innovation, marketing and distilling teams and is now working multiple agave spirits projects in Mexico over recent years, including cutting edge innovation products and blends for different clients. She consults for multiple distilleries on short-term projects, whether evaluating and providing feedback on samples or products or multiple versions. She helps create various samples and flavor profiles with distilling teams or in labs, edits or writes tasting notes, provides feedback on marketing materials and leads tastings virtually or in-person. She leads tastings virtually for Whiskies of the World and for company parties or private events, educating on a range of spirits. Virginia creates drink menus for Michelin-starred restaurants (like Dominique Crenn’s Golden Poppy in Paris, a multi-month project creating an entire menu of cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails with stories and photos for the restaurant’s launch). She aids in honing and curating food and drink menus and provides feedback on dishes and drinks. Virginia judges in many international dining, food, spirits, cocktails and bars competitions and awards (including SF World Spirits, ADI Craft Distilling, Tales of the Cocktail, Good Food Awards, IWSC in London, Nola Spirits Comp, Whiskies of the World, etc.) and has visited over 13,000 restaurants and even more. top bars around the world.