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dimly lit Offsuit bar with photographs and cocktails
Photograph: Justin Albaniel

The 31 best bars in Boston

Our guide to the best bars in Boston includes cocktail lounges, wine bars, Irish pubs and dive bars

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Written by
Olivia Vanni
Contributor
Eric Grossman
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July 2021: With ample practice over the last year or so, a lot of us have become expert drinkers—and there’s no better place to show off our new top-shelf boozing skills than at one of Boston’s fabulous bars. It would seem that the age-old cliche that absence makes the heart grow fonder is actually pretty accurate, and now that our city’s bars are back open, we feel like they’re better than ever. So whether you're in dire need of a big night out with all of the beverage bells and whistles, or just a cheap beer in a neighborhood dive, check out this list of our city's most worthy watering holes.

Boston is no longer the bare-bones, old-school drinking town it once was. More than just Irish pubs and dive bars, our city now boasts innovative cocktail destinations, classy wine joints and craft beer emporiums. Whether you're looking for the driest martini, a cold pint of local lager, a creative cocktail or a glass of natural wine, there's a place for you. Boston also boasts bars sure to suit every mood—from buzzy to cozy to totally hip. So go big or go small, celebratory or casual at these drinking dens.

Drank somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList. You can also find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars here.

Best bars in Boston

  • Bars
  • Leather District

Discreetly located within Boston’s Leather District, Offsuit operates under the motto of “no frills, no fuss”—and with no reservations. Take the backdoor entrance to this tiny, 20-seat bar, which is tucked inside Troquet on South’s French bistro, and you’ll find a homey nook serving classic cocktails and playing an extensive library of vinyls. Its sophisticated space is sprinkled with marble tables, antique lamps and bookcases, but the team members here definitely don't take themselves too seriously, with the presence of playful tchotchkes, the occasional novelty cocktail glass and ticketed events purely dedicated to Taylor Swift.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

This Seaport bar may be underground, but its individualized approach to mixology consistently has it gracing the top of must-drink lists nationwide. As fans of this Fort Point joint know all too well, there are no menus or drink lists here, and all bottles are kept out of view. Instead, master bartenders listen to each guests personal preferences before crafting the perfect, custom cocktail from their stock of premium spirits and house-made mixers.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

This lavish Cuban spot is easy on the eyes and spectacular on the drinks. The team behind Yvonne's has kindly gifted our city with this highly Instagrammable bar, where rum cocktails are set ablaze and even the wallpaper is on theme, thanks to its drunken monkey motif. In the spirit of Havana, this place has whole sections of its cocktail menu dedicated to mojitos and daiquiris. There are big format beverages for larger groups… And did we already mention how they set things on fire?

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Downtown
  • price 2 of 4

This low-key, low-lit bar near Downtown Crossing is a favorite after-work spot for locals, attracting everyone from suit-clad financiers to tattooed bike messengers. Even Bono has strolled into this place in the wee hours of the morning for a post-TD Garden night cap, so you really never know who might show up here. Reasonable prices and well-poured drinks keep regulars happy.

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  • Restaurants
  • South Boston

This Southie spot’s wine list is a definite contender when it comes to the best bottle selection in the city. Located on East Broadway, this bar offers plenty of indoor counter seating as well as a slew of picnic tables outside, where folks can collapse, get a generous pour of Pét-Nat and split a seasonal charcuterie board. Word to the wise: Order your grapes by the glass—not by the bottle—because you’ll definitely want to give more than just one of these thoughtfully chosen, artisanal wines a try.

  • Bars
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Perched atop Michael Scelfo's celebrated Harvard Square eatery Alden & Harlow, his Longfellow Bar occupies the historic space once home to Café Algiers. Specializing in craft cocktails and small bites, this bar follows a communal, family-style approach similar to that of its sister establishment downstairs. It offers a laser-focused beer and wine selection, as well as mixed drinks that wow guests with simple ingredients, transformed by house-made infusions, vinegars, syrups and bitters. This Brattle Street bar experience isn't complete without ordering one of Scelfo’s award-winning burgers, which are available anytime and in unlimited supply here (unlike at A&H below). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

Once the site of the beloved bar Locke-Ober and a million three-martini lunches, Yvonne’s has preserved what truly matters—the 19th-century mahogany bar and the same clubby ambiance—while introducing its own modern touches. Folks flock to this cocktail lounge, which can only be entered through a hidden doorway inside a fake storefront posing as a hair salon, to soak in all of its dimly lit glory and down some creative drinks. Snag a seat on one of its rich upholstered couches or a table within its book-laden library to join all of the beautiful people in sipping some beverages—or get even more discreet by finding its second secret door leading to an underground club during the weekends.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Beacon Hill
  • price 2 of 4

We love a bar that mocks our Prohibition past (and Boston’s still strangely strict laws when it comes to alcohol)—and Carrie Nation does just that. Named after an overzealous, hatchet-wielding member of the temperance movement, this cocktail club brings back a little bit of that secretive drinking spirit of yore to modern-day Downtown Boston. Its main bar, outfitted in dark wood and velvety scarlett chairs, is a big attraction for local office workers looking to decompress after a long day with a selection of punches, barrel-aged cocktails and well-crafted classics. But if you’re looking for novelty, make your way to the back, past the shoeshine stand and up a set of stairs to its inhouse speakeasy, where you’ll find old timey billiards tables and intimate seating.

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  • Bars
  • Hotel bars
  • Back Bay
  • price 2 of 4

If you’re looking for old school elegance and a stiff cocktail, you’ll find it at OAK Long Bar. Situated inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza, you’ll find exactly what the name promises: a long, wooden bar where Boston Brahmins and out-of-town hotel guests gather on tufted leather stools to see, be seen and, most importantly, drink. Bartenders in bespoke vests shake a mean (and generously priced) cocktail under the warm light of crystal chandeliers, and the martini service here is nothing short of legendary.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 3 of 4

This global Japanese izakaya chain has a Boston outpost inside the Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, where creative cocktails spotlight foreign flavors. The bar’s mixed drinks, which marry classic Asian ingredients with Western alcohols (like miso and bourbon), taste just as amazing as they look. Grab one of these bright and bold beverages, or embrace those modern, Japanese-inspired surroundings by ordering one of its top-shelf sakes. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • price 2 of 4

Situated inside Sichuan Garden's Brookline Village location, Blossom Bar shakes up Latin-inspired drinks and gives locals a sophisticated craft cocktail experience without having to endure that Green Line ride all the way downtown. This spot frequently refreshes its menu to make way for new inventions, while also maintaining a number of its most beloved beverages. Whether you're sipping a seasonal feature or one of its classics, your drink is sure to be meticulously prepared, peppered with exotic ingredients and served in style.

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

The Beehive may be best known for its lineup of live jazz, but for South Enders, it’s the old-timey cocktail list and snazzy patio that are truly the cat’s pajamas. Patrons can pick between not one, but two bars inside this dimly lit joint, where musicians take the stage and bartenders dressed like 1920s bootleggers make liquid magic. Beverage mainstays include the Queen Bee and Foxtrot, which can also be enjoyed while sitting at one of its white-clothed tables or on its vine-covered patio.

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  • Hotels
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

Take a step back in time and drink at a true Boston treasure at The Last Hurrah. Located inside the Omni Parker House hotel, whose building dates back to 1855, this bar has served many famous faces and welcomed noteworthy writers and intellectuals, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, during their monthly Saturday Club. Even today, The Last Hurrah has an air of old-time sophistication while continuing its tradition as a mainstay amongst the city’s movers and shakers. Pull up to the bar for a pour of whisky or a perfectly chilled martini, and just sit back and watch prominent politicians and businesspeople as they come and go. 

  • Restaurants
  • Dorchester

This Dorchester tavern has a killer cocktail program. Take a seat at this Lower Mills destination and order one of the 19 beers it has rotating on tap. If you’re in the mood for some harder stuff, check out its extensive list of whiskeys (to be sipped neat), as well as its craft cocktails mixed with house-made juices and syrups. Luckily, the kitchen also cranks out incredible, hearty plates of modern comfort food—perfect for absorbing all of that alcohol during a night of prolonged drinking.

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  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • Back Bay
  • price 3 of 4

The world of Greek wine is still relatively uncharted territory for most drinkers on this side of The Pond, so it’s a pretty big deal that Boston has a bar solely dedicated to this country’s aged grapes. Brought to us by the team behind GreCo and Committee Ouzeri + Bar, Krasi literally means wine in Greek—and it totally lives up to its name by offering more than 180 natural, organic and biodynamic bottles all hailing from the Mediterranean nation. The staff is more than eager to guide guests and help them find new wines that’ll be perfect for their palates—whether it’s a citrusy Assyrtiko, floral Moschofilero or a daring Retsina. 

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Back Bay
  • price 2 of 4

Divey and kitschy, Bukowski Tavern exudes the attitude of its namesake author. At first glance, you might think you'd only find cans of PBR and High Life here. However, its draught and bottle lists are extensive, with a serious focus on hard-to-find craft brews. Much of the list features regional beers, and its broad range of styles will satisfy all tastes.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Somerville
  • price 2 of 4

This hidden Somerville spot is best found by looking for the disoriented would-be patrons wandering the parking lot between neighbors Bronwyn and the Independent. Once you make your way inside, you’ll be treated to outstanding service and meticulously crafted cocktails while seated at low-key wooden block tables. Back Bar likes to keep those creative juices flowing, so it frequently changes out one themed drink menu for another.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Back Bay
  • price 3 of 4

Yet another establishment from Chef Jason Santos, this place brings a bit of Baja to the Back Bay. Matching the kitchen’s Coastal Mexican creations, the bar offers an impressive list of mezcals and tequilas that will transport you South of the Border. Its cocktail menu is big on beachy beverages with witty names—like Baecation, Becky Juice and Tequila Is Cheaper Than Therapy—and they’re served with floating, edible skull stickers. So pull up a stool, slowly sip your agave-laced libation and admire the space’s edgy surfer decor.

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  • Bars
  • Jamaica Plain
  • price 1 of 4

Named after the Irish playwright, Behans is not a fancy place—its small, dimly lit and with no food to offer—but thats part of its charm. It makes up for its lack of frills with its colorful mix of patrons, who come to Jamaica Plain to catch up with friends or sit over a pint solo. Locals love it because they're allowed to bring their own food, usually ordered from the various take-out joints that dot Centre Street.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Allston/Brighton
  • price 1 of 4

The Model was once as an unpretentious neighborhood dive until one day, when it suddenly became an “it” spot through no fault of its own. Nowadays, trendy yuppies and down-to-earth townies share the space—the former demographic is often devoted to dancing, while the latter sticks to sucking down the bar's cheap, lethal drinks (don’t call them cocktails). The jukebox remains one of the best around town.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • price 2 of 4

One of Inman Squares most popular hangouts, Trina's rose from the ashes of the classic-but-grimy Abbey Lounge. This bar's low lighting and dark wood paneling contrast with retro images splashed just about everywhere you look. Craft beers and well-made cocktails satisfy the barflies who reluctantly give up their stools at closing time. 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • price 2 of 4

One of the city’s most exciting mixology programs is based out in Woburn. Ran Duan took over the drink menu at his parents’ suburban Chinese restaurant and turned it into a libation sensation that draws in cocktail connoisseurs from all over. Duan even won an award at the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition for his Father’s Advice (rum, amaro, vermouth, sherry, creme de banana). If visiting on a weekend, head upstairs to check out the library-themed Baldwin & Sons Trading Co. for even more top-shelf cocktail magic.

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Somerville
  • price 2 of 4

A Davis Square mainstay, the Burren is one of the most popular (and largest) Irish pubs on the northern side of the river. During the afternoon, the front room—with its wood-slatted floors and gentle light pouring through the windows—is full of folks sipping pints of Guinness (or any number of local brews) and listening to informal Irish seisiúns. At night, the Burren is packed, largely with students from nearby Tufts University, who crowd the big room out back for the live (and loud) music.

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Downtown
  • price 2 of 4

Tinned fish, charcuterie and small plates set the stage for this Downtown Crossing bar and its unique wine offerings. Its selection of bottles celebrates small, independent and often female producers. You'll find that most of the pours here are natural wines, and the friendly staff is more than willing to help nervous novices navigate their way through the menu to find varietals suited to their tastes. Sample one of the wines sold by the glass, or—if you commit to two glasses—they’ll open any available bottle for you. 

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

A wall of record sleeves, graffiti-covered restrooms and laid-back feel make this place a favorite amongst locals, passing bike messengers, and people from all over town who appreciate a cheap drink or two. Its kitschy vibe (complete with Elvis memorabilia) and low-budget appeal make the Delux a South End staple.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Central Sq
  • price 2 of 4

Brick & Mortar is still just as hard to find as its predecessor, the Enormous Room. But once you head through the nondescript door and up the stairs, youll encounter a giant, horseshoe-shaped bar and ample seating. The cocktails shine and the bar snacks (which include bacon-wrapped dates and deep fried house-made pickles) are done just right.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Beacon Hill
  • price 1 of 4

Though often crowded, this unpretentious little Beacon Hill pub is a good spot to seek respite from a hard day of relentless sightseeing or antiques-hunting. The Sevens provides some welcome knuckle and grit to the relative daintiness of the area. 

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Downtown
  • price 2 of 4

A popular post-work hangout near Downtown Crossing, jm Curley is always a solid option for a weekday rendezvous over well-made beverages. Friendly bartenders mix an eclectic selection of drinks—from bar book classics to jm originals—for the cocktail-lovers out there. Meanwhile, beer aficionados have their pick of hard-to-find brews off of a lengthy list. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Roxbury
  • price 2 of 4

The city’s first modern craft distillery has already changed the local drinking scene, as bartenders around town regularly incorporate its handcrafted spirits into their own cocktail programs. A trek out to the distillerys tasting room is a must for any cocktail connoisseur in the area. The intimate bar features velvet booth seating. a collection of Prohibition-era spirit bottles and a large window overlooking the gorgeous copper pot still. Each drink lets Bully Boys spirits shine alongside fresh juices and small-batch syrups and bitters.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

Your tropical paradise is just a T ride away, thanks to this South End watering hole. Shore Leave's bar program offers a bevy of Tiki cocktails, including classics like the Mai Tai, Blue Hawaii and Painkiller, as well as other creative, wonderfully fruity concoctions that you'd love to be slurping down while sunning on some beach. To complete the illusion of being on an exotic getaway, the interior is meant to resemble an island oasis, complete with a bamboo-accented bar and jungle-inspired design touches.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Allston/Brighton
  • price 1 of 4

If you’ve lived in Allston or had friends who lived in Allston, then you’ve spent way too much time at “The Silly”—and not regretted it one bit. Its appeal might lie in its dated signage, in its dart boards and pool tables, or its profane bathroom graffiti—all of which are marks of a true dive bar. But mostly it’s the cheap beer, the potent (and still cheap) mixed drinks, the convivial staff and the metal-leaning soundtrack that keep you coming back for more.

More of Boston's best bars

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