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Smith’s Olde Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Smith’s Olde Bar

The best bars in Atlanta right now

From neighborhood joints to classy cocktail lounges, the best bars in Atlanta cater to all drinking types

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Contributor
Nicole Letts
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Atlanta has a buzzy food scene with amazing restaurants that have racked up accolades near and far. And Atlanta’s bars deserve recognition too. Whether you’re a local looking for a cool new place to hang or a visitor hoping to check out some local institutions, the best bars in Atlanta have the drinks and the vibes to cure what ails you. Sneak in during an off-time to soak in the atmosphere or head out with the crowds on a busy weekend night or big game day for the full experience — even if there’s a wait to belly up to the bar you’ll be handsomely rewarded. These Atlanta bars have perfectly made drinks and the kind of welcoming Southern hospitality Atlanta is known for.

Perhaps you’re the type who unwinds with a hookah bar before heading out for a nightcap, or maybe you’re looking for a few drinks before hitting up the best BBQ spots in town. Found a special someone at the club and want a quiet place to connect over cocktails? Whatever your reason for heading out to the bar (do you even need one?) we’re here to guide you to the best watering holes the ATL has to offer.

So grab your partner or your drinking crew (or just head out for some alone time) and check out these friendly and fabulous hangouts for cold craft beers and expertly-made cocktails. Just remember to stay hydrated — especially if you’re hanging out at one of Atlanta’s best rooftop bars during notoriously muggy conditions. Cheers!

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Best bars in Atlanta

It should come as no surprise that the Westside’s legendary dive, Northside Tavern, tops our list. Located on Howell Mill Road just steps from Atlanta’s burgeoning design and residential districts, Northside Tavern might appear to be a dilapidated eyesore in the midst of renovated industrial splendor. And honestly, it is, which makes it a true Atlanta experience. The famed blues destination draws a crowd for live music seven nights a week and is a must-visit.

If you’re craving a classic martini surrounded by traditional luxury, look no further than the St. Regis Bar at St. Regis Atlanta. Located in Buckhead, one of the city’s preeminent spots for business transactions, the St. Regis Bar is an ideal place to have a post-deal drink. The rich wood tones and leather textures are comforting yet posh, making the St. Regis Bar quintessential Atlanta affluence at its finest. Plus, the people watching opportunities are plentiful: you never know who you’ll see.

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An Atlanta music institution, Eddie’s Attic has been bringing tunes to ATLiens’ ears since 1991. If time allows, plan your visit on a Monday to experience the bar’s weekly, competitive open mic nights for aspiring musicians and songwriters. The winner receives a coveted spot in the bi-annual shootout, which is no small victory; previous winners have included John Mayer and Jennifer Nettles.

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Housed in a former gas station, Leon’s is the sibling to the popular Brickstore Pub, also in the neighborhood. The shaded patio is an inviting spot for sipping seasonally-driven craft cocktails made with fresh ingredients. There's also an on-trend wine list (including lots of pinks and oranges) and a solid assortment of local beers. Don’t miss the hearty pub fare that runs the gamut from a Painted Hills burger and smoked Geechie Boy chicken to steak frites and a local veg and grain plate.

While Eddie’s edges Smith’s just barely (it’s an elders thing), a trip to Smith’s Olde Bar is just as sweet. Over the years, the intimate music venue and bar has hosted the likes of Lady A, Bush and even the late David Bowie. Hometown boy John Mayer has also been known to play surprise shows for in-the-know fans here and there. If music isn’t your thing (no judgement), the pool tables provide just as much entertainment. Kind of.

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This Atlanta institution is packed with regulars — some even honored with brass nameplates — who contribute to the friendly, convivial vibe. Simplicity is the key, so order a no-nonsense pint or basic well drink. The atmosphere is what you come here for: Manuel’s is a destination for parties, post-game celebrations and general revelry. When it’s time for a bite, the Manuel’s Burger is the way to go.

Don’t be fooled by the Southern aristocratic exterior of this Little Five Points gem. The renovated mansion houses a welcoming neighborhood brewery and restaurant. Perfect for hanging out with a group of friends, Wrecking Bar offers a range of well-made beers and stepped-up bar bites. A menu of innovative cocktails will please the non-beer lovers.

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Atlanta has a decent number of rooftop bars, but the one at Hotel Clermont is particularly lovely. You might need to wait a bit (Tiny Lou’s and the lobby bar are options if you just can’t wait), but it’s worth it. Lounge around in lawn chairs on the astroturf, sip a frosé when it’s hot, a hot toddy when it’s not, snack on street food and enjoy the beautiful views, especially as the sun goes down.

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A bar specializing in cocktails and beef jerky is quite frankly a must-stop. Named after the South African snack, biltong (it’s basically dried meat), the bar features a nifty selection of house-invented libations along with classic remixes. They also proudly serve biodynamic wines and craft beers. For a unique liquor-free order, try one of the notable and on-trend zero proof elixirs. No one will ever know the difference except you and your non-existent next-day hangover.

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If plump briny oysters, casual celeb sightings and seasonal batch punches are your style, you’ll love Ford Fry’s Oyster Bar. Dubbed a fish camp and touted as a more laid-back version of big sister restaurant, The Optimist, Oyster Bar is an upscale trip to the sandy coast without ever leaving Atlanta. Indulge in salt water specialties while sipping on local brews complete with complimentary, branded drink huggers. They make the perfect, packable souvenir.

Two Ford Fry bars on one best bar list? Yes. JCT Kitchen & Bar is the first, the original and therefore, it earns a spot, too. Located above its parent eatery, JCT Kitchen, JCT Bar is the place to catch skyline views while savoring a fine glass of wine or your favorite beer. Plus, you can enjoy live music from local DJs and bands.

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Don’t let the sandwich bar name get in the way of what’s really the star of the menu: soda bottle cocktails and a slushie-inspired whiskey and coke. With two locations, there’s plenty of Victory to go around, but we’re partial to the Inman Park spot because of its BeltLine accessibility and plentiful outdoor seating. Spiked sodas are served in their glass bottle vessels while the whiskey-coke slushie comes in the go-to Southern drinking glass, the mason jar. Be sure to order a sandwich, too – because who doesn’t love a snack?

This Edgewood bar has everything you need in a late-night bar (or anytime, really). Head to Church, as it’s affectionately known, grab a cheap beer and find a couch upstairs, then check out the walls packed with wacky art and bits of advice from namesake Sister Louisa. Of course a ping pong match is a must, as is Church Organ Karaoke (temporarily cancelled). Sister Louisa’s is a prime spot when you want to roll in for one last drink or two.

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Designated Atlanta’s 'elevated beer garden,' 9 Mile Station earns that label honestly. For one, it’s more like dining in al fresco sophistication than in brewski bliss. For another, it’s quite literally elevated. The venue sits atop Ponce City Market, a former Sears building turned food hall and shopping district. While it’s more luxurious than its more common German beer hall cousin, 9 Mile Station does deliver on a robust beer menu. Order a flight to sample multiple varieties.

While the words 'upscale and 'bowling alley' are rarely used in the same sentence, in the case of The Painted Pin, it’s actually a spot-on description. This is an excellent choice for adults who want to act like kids without their kids. The boutique bar and lounge offers traditional sips like beer and wine, but you’d be remiss not to try their frozen Moscow Mule. It’s the quintessential cool-down after a heated match on the lanes.

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Cypress Street Pint and Plate is the place to watch a televised game, bask in a few hours of sunshine or catch-up with friends. The neighborhood dive is known for having 17 beers on tap and 40 more in bottles. The staff also uses local beers in some of the food recipes. Take the fried mushrooms, for example: battered in locally made SweetWater, they are then dunked in a blistering oil bath.

18. Himitsu

Leave it to the lounge named after the word for 'secret' in Japanese to pique curiosity. The reservation-only, dimly lit lounge is a sexy spot in a covert location. To secure entry, submit a request via email to hello@puraibeto.com using the subject line 'LOVE.' If chosen, you get a code back for that day’s availability and given directions for access where an interesting menu of Japanese cocktails and small bites awaits.

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