Where to go for cocktails
This underground bar been firmly planted at the top of local and national cocktail-enthusiasts' must-see lists for the personal approach to mixology. Master bartenders present patrons not with a menu but with an ear to listen to each imbiber's preferences, crafting artisinal tipples from their stock of premium spirits and mixers.
The Hawthorne is a swanky lounge spread over several subterranean rooms in the Hotel Commonwealth. It can be difficult to find a free space on one of the many couches, but the perfectly-executed cocktails—both classic and inventive—are worth the wait. A variety of small plates keeps the fun going; the soft pretzel with bourbon mustard pairs well with nearly everything.
The Baldwin Bar
One of the city’s most exciting mixologists can be found out in Woburn. Ran Duan took over the drink menu at his parents' suburban Chinese restaurant and turned it into an outré bar program that draws cocktail connoisseurs from all over. Classic drinks like pisco punches get bracing updates (pineapple vinegar?); Duan even won an award at the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition for his Father's Advice (rum, amaro, vermouth, sherry, creme de banana). In Baldwin & Sons Trading Company, the bar within the bar within the restaurant, things get downright kitschy, with tiki glassware and dry ice effects.
Best bars for beer
Lord Hobo Brewing crafts hoppy ales and IPAs like the popular Boom Sauce. Their Inman Square bar features their brews as well as one of the most thoughtfully-curated beer lists around. 40 taps and 30-plus bottles may be a relatively small offering, but the taps rotate frequently and feature craft brews from around the country alongside occasional rare and obscure beers. Despite the rarities and the expert knowledge on tap, Lord Hobo maintains a neighborhood vibe, with a tasty menu of elevated pub fare.
The Publick House
If your thing is Belgian and Belgian-style beers, Publick House has a top-notch selection. You’ll find an astounding collection of Trappist and Abbey Ales, Flemish sours, stouts, eisbocks, and more. The draft list has three sections: Belgian-style, “Here” (regional craft beers), and “There” (elsewhere). You’ll find regional craft brews from Trillium, Fiddlehead, Exhibit A, Hermit Thrush, Maine Beer Company, and others. For sustenance with your strong beers, the menu is equally attractive, featuring a notorious five-cheese mac ‘n cheese and a selection of moules frites with a choice of broth made from different local beers.
The team behind Row 34 is as enthusiastic about craft beer as they are about fresh seafood. The beer list features seafood-friendly options to pair with dishes. The rotating taps are always fresh and unique, often including rarities or exclusives. Breweries such as Bissell Brothers and Upland Brewing have offered exclusive drafts here; regional breweries and other craft favorites are always on tap. For serious craft beer fans, repeat visits will likely introduce new beers every time.
Cambridge Brewing Company
The oldest brewery/restaurant in the city, Cambridge Brewing Company is a well-oiled machine. They produce a range of crowd-pleasing beers in different styles—ambers, porters, English-style ales—as well as some unusual brews like a corn lager or a gin barrel-aged sour with cucumber. The setting is convivial, great for large groups. If you’re looking to try different styles from a single producer, CBC is the place. Enjoy a sampling of beers inside with a view of the brewing tanks or out on the front patio. A varied menu of upscale pub fare keeps the crowds satiated.