Three Dots and a Dash, the River North tiki bar, was a winner at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Rum bar at Three Dots and a Dash (435 N Clark) on Fri. August 2nd 2013.

NEW ORLEANS — Chicago's growing cocktail scene has added two more feathers in its cap.

Three Dots and a Dash, the popular River North tiki bar helmed by Paul McGee, was named the Best New American Cocktail Bar at the 12th annual Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans. The Aviary, led by beverage director Charles Joly, was also a winner in the World's Best Cocktail Menu category, beating out finalists from around the world.

"We’ve been fortunate to have received plenty of awards locally but this one is really kinda crazy,” McGee said of the acclaim his bar has received.  “To be the best new bar in the country. I don’t even know if it has sunk in yet.”

McGee was back mixing drinks at Three Dots and a Dash recently and said he was surprised how many people had heard the news. “Almost everybody congratulated one of the members of the staff or myself,” McGee said. “It was a really good feeling."

Given by a panel of judges, the Best New American Cocktail Bar designation seeks to recognize bars that set new standards for the industry while making an immediate impact on cocktail culture. Before his national recognition for Three Dots and a Dash, McGee was previously lauded for his beverage program at The Whistler in Logan Square.

The Aviary’s Joly, who was named American Bartender of the Year at the same event last year, said he was caught off guard to be honored again.

"We were surprised to say the least,” Joly said. “We weren’t really prepared.”

The World's Best Cocktail Menu category honors bars that show creativity, individuality and originality in the cocktails they serve.

Winners were revealed July 19 during the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards ceremony, which is regarded amongst beverage professionals as the Oscars of bartending.

Three Dots and a Dash, part of the Lettuce Entertain You group, beat out three other finalists for the honor: New York's Attaboy and ZZ's Clam Bar as well as Austin's Half Step.

The Aviary, owned by chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas of Alinea and Next, was competing against New York’s Pouring Ribbons, San Francisco’s Trick Dog and The Nightjar in London.

Chicago had three finalists at this year's event. Sable Kitchen & Bar was also nominated for Best American Hotel Bar.

The two wins by The Aviary and Three Dots and a Dash mark the first time Tales of the Cocktail judges have given awards to multiple Chicago bars in the same year. Joly and McGee say this speaks to the rapidly rising profile of craft cocktails and spirits in the city.

“This isn’t about our bar, this is about the Chicago beverage scene,” Joly said. “We had three nominations and two winners this year so that’s pretty great. Sable has been nominated several times and deservedly so. It’s a fantastic bar.”

McGee echoed that sentiment. “We have an amazing array of bars with so many different styles,” he added. “Whether it be Sportsman's Club or Bar Deville or Barrelhouse Flat or Billy Sunday — it’s not just everybody doing a speakeasy type thing. That’s what makes Chicago so special.”

kmarlatt@tribune.com
Twitter @kenneymarlatt