Top 10 Cocktail Bars

Garage (Photo by John Anderson)

1) The Townsend

Justin Elliott excels again as the director of hospitality and bar program at this elevated bar and performance venue. The handsome hideout delivers reimagined vintage tipple that pairs seamlessly with charcuterie boards and thoughtful small plates.

2) Roosevelt Room

Sectioned by eras, their extensive menu tickles a cocktail nerd like me. It spans from the early years (e.g., Martinez), to Prohibition (e.g., Last Word), and even highlights the "dark ages" (e.g., Cosmopolitan, no joke!). Bartenders' hands appear to float under spotlights as they shake and stir up an impressive range of beverages.

3) Garage

This sexy yet cozy hideaway is the ideal post-dinner cocktail lounge. If you can look past the fact that it's tucked away inside a car park, expect no gimmicks here – just properly made classics with quality ingredients.

4) Isla

It's no shocker that the Péché could successfully execute a Caribbean-inspired cantina, sans tackiness. Here, this upbeat joint slings bold, rum-forward sippers like umbrella-garnished tikis and a beautifully balanced daiquiri on draft. Spam sliders to help soak up all the booze? Come to momma!

5) Midnight Cowboy

Over the years, this brothel-turned-bar has evolved from a novel concept to becoming an institution among cocktail enthusiasts. The bartenders expertly craft signature drinks and classics by request, sometimes even tableside. It's a Dirty Sixth oasis without the raunch that still feels a bit naughty.

6) Half Step

Chris Bostick mastered a cocktail concept that stands apart from the countless watering holes along Rainey Street. The combination of an indoor haunt and a shaded outdoor retreat welcomes cocktail-lovers that crave straightforward, seasonal drinks without the fuss.

7) Drink.Well

This North Loop ol' faithful doles out creative concoctions with a side of hearty eats. Don't let the laid-back neighborhood vibe fool you. The bartenders often weave seldom-seen spirits and ingredients through the ever-changing cocktail menu.

8) Bar Congress

This stately hangout is consistently my no-fail pick. Jason Stevens performs liquor wizardry using intriguing house-made ingredients and obscure spirits. From shift-shots to zero-proof concoctions, guests are sure to find something that suits their mood, no matter the time of night.

9) Geraldine's

Located inside the newly unveiled Hotel Van Zandt, this fourth-floor bar is a focal point in the luxe dining space. The plush lounge that overlooks the skyline comes to life during sunset. The Austin-centric cocktail menu is quirky, cheeky, yet stylish. The Ladybird (Amontillado sherry, Argus Ciderkin, sarsaparilla bitters) and Willie's Cup (High West Double Rye whiskey, hemp seed milk, sage) are two standouts.

10) Whisler's

Sandwiched among numerous dive bars, this easygoing bar appeals to Eastsiders that desire something beyond well drinks. I appreciate that it doesn't try to over-complicate things. They simply whip up solid drinks to satiate neighborhood folks who bring their bikes and pups. Thai-Kun dishing out spicy nosh on-site doesn't hurt either.

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