Best bars in Boston to get your drink on

All types of drinkers will enjoy this list of best bars in Boston, from cocktail lounges to Irish pubs and dive bars
Photograph: Courtesy Wink & Nod/Atsushi Tomioka Wink & Nod
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To some outsiders, Boston is still thought of as a no-frills, old-school drinking town. Yet the city’s bar scene has undergone dramatic changes in recent years. Once a city populated mostly with hotel bars and Irish pubs, Boston is now brimming with drinking spots of every size and description, from cavernous beer bars to artisanal cocktail lounges. And while our dive bar scene might be waning, there are still plenty of bare-boned watering holes to be found. Consider visiting the best bars in Boston before or after dining at one of the best restaurants in town—not that you need an excuse.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best bars in Boston

1
Drink, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Susie Kushner
Bars, Cocktail bars

Drink

icon-location-pin Seaport District

This underground bar has been firmly planted at the top of local and national cocktail enthusiasts must-see lists for its personal approach to mixology. There are no menus or drink lists, and all bottles are kept out of view. Master bartenders listen to each imbibers preferences, crafting artisinal tipples from their stock of premium spirits, fresh mixers, and house-made accoutrements.

2
Eastern Standard, Restaurants and cafes, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Eastern Standard

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

Eastern Standards bar program remains committed to a higher level of mixology, from using top-shelf spirits to freshly-squeezed juices. Its common now to find Red Sox fans drinking Sazeracs instead of beers, and many a Fenway event-goer stops in for a composed entree rather than a quick bite. Its a great anytime option, especially if drinks are involved. If the warm and inviting interior gets too packed and noisy, try to retreat to the sidewalk patio.

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3
Trina's Starlite Lounge, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Sara Skolnick
Bars, Cocktail bars

Trina’s Starlite Lounge

One of Inman Square’s most popular hangouts, Trinas rose from the ashes of the classic-but-grimy Abbey Lounge. The low lighting and dark wood paneling are brightened up by retro images. Craft beers and well-made cocktails satisfy the barflies that reluctantly give up their stools at closing time. Southern-style comfort food provides sustenance between drinks. 

4
Café Artscience
Photograph: Wayne Chinnock
Restaurants, American creative

Café Artscience

icon-location-pin Kendall Sq

Science remains the driving force behind Café Artscience’s daring cocktail program. Past examples of the staffs wizardry include a clarified piña colada and futuristic Rob Roy that involves a sensory cloud made from ArtScience’s famed Le Whaf. Many drinks feature outrageous garnishes, both edible and non, and rare is the cocktail that isn't a feast for multiple senses.

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5
JJ Foley's
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Pubs

JJ Foley’s

icon-location-pin Downtown


This low-key, low-lit bar near Downtown Crossing is a favorite after-work spot, bringing in a cross-section of patrons - everyone from weary suit-clad businessmen to tattooed bike messengers. Bono is one of the many Irishmen whove drank here, and youll never know who might pull up to the bar. Reasonable prices and well-poured drinks keep regulars happy.

6
Brendan Behan Pub
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Pubs

Brendan Behan

icon-location-pin Jamaica Plain

Named after the Irish playwright, Behans is not a fancy place—its small and dimly lit, with no food on offer—but thats part of its charm. The lived-in environs host an eclectic mix of patrons, who come to Jamaica Plain to catch up with friends or enjoy a solitary pint. Locals love it because they are allowed to bring their own food, usually ordered from the various take-out joints that dot Centre Street.

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7
Green Street Grill
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Green Street

icon-location-pin Central Sq

A cozy Central Square hideaway, Green Street Grills narrow bar area becomes a pile of people during peak hours—show up for last call or on school nights if youre looking for more room. The cocktail list has plenty to choose from but, if you’re not overwhelmed by options, ask the bartender for the “special” cocktail binder for hundreds more options. 

8
The Hawthorne
Photograph: Gustav Hoiland
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Hawthorne

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

This swanky lounge is 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 impressive cocktails and variety of small plates are worth the wait. Drink options run the gamut from inventive mixed drinks to a well-curated assortment beers and wines.

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9
Brick & Mortar
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Brick & Mortar

icon-location-pin Central Sq

Brick & Mortar is still just as hard to find as its predecessor, the Enormous Room - 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.

10
JM Curley
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Rosanna M.
Restaurants, Contemporary American

jm Curley

icon-location-pin Downtown

A popular post-work hangout near Downtown Crossing, jm Curley offers a dimly-lit option for a rendezvous over well-made cocktails. Concoctions both new-fangled and classic are prepped by friendly bartenders. Beer aficionados select hard-to-find brews off of a lengthy list. An elevated menu of comfort fare, highlighted by a popular grass-fed burger and an assortment of cheesy macs.

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11
Gallows, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Chris Bourn
Restaurants, Contemporary American

The Gallows

icon-location-pin South End

Situated near the spot where public hangings were performed in colonial times, The Gallows plays up its macabre location with an ominous black crow sign above the door. The bar area has an unassuming vibe, and the inventive cocktail list highlights original concoctions, including liquor infusions like apple bourbon and lavender vodka. One of the South End’s best beer lists also wins kudos.

12
Wink & Nod
Photograph: Courtesy Wink & Nod/Atsushi Tomioka
Bars, Cocktail bars

Wink & Nod

icon-location-pin South End

For its seasonal cocktail menu, this South End subterranean pseudo-speakeasy tweaks classic options by using house-made cordials, juices and infusions. Those looking to impress can splurge on one of the “black card” cocktails; packed with pricey ingredients, these run up to $100 each. Members of the Scotch Club spend their Tuesday evenings sampling top-shelf bottles with the beverage director, while a rotating pop-up restaurant churns out bold bites.

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13
Bully Boy Distillers
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bully Boy Distillers
Bars, Cocktail bars

Bully Boy Tasting Room

icon-location-pin Roxbury

The city’s first modern craft distillery has already changed the city’s 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 area cocktail lover. The intimate bar area features velvet booth seating and a collection of Prohibition-era spirit bottles, and theres a large window overlooking the gorgeous copper pot still. Each cocktail showcases Bully Boys spirits with fresh juices and small-batch syrups and bitters.

Best Boston bars by type

Bars, Cocktail bars

The best cocktail bars in Boston

The international cocktail renaissance has shaken up the city’s once-staid bar scene. There was a time when Boston was better known for Irish pubs and dive bars, and upscale watering holes were largely confined to hotels. These days, Boston’s cocktail bars offer everything from fresh herb infusions to barrel-aged concoctions, but it's not all about seasonal ingredients and cutting-edge experimentation. Some of the best Boston bars concentrate on getting the simple things right, like an impeccable dry martini.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

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Bars

The best Irish pubs in Boston

What makes some Irish pubs better, or more authentic, than others? It may be something as simple as having craic (a Gaelic term that denotes a rollicking social atmosphere). Boston’s Irish pubs cover incredibly varied ground—some, like Phoenix Landing, also serve as sports bars; some, like Matt Murphy’s in Brookline, rank among the best Boston restaurants; and while some are quiet retreats, others double as nightclubs. Whether you're after great music, a cozy literary vibe or a blacker-than-black pint of Guinness, the Hub's pubs have you covered.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

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Bars

The best dive bars in Boston

Ask ten Bostonians for the definition of a dive bar and you'll get ten different answers. Dollar drafts? Unsavory locals? Big Buck Hunter? The term “dive” may have its roots in the Wild West, when bar patrons would dive under tables at the first sign of a drawn weapon. You’ve no need to fear loaded firearms in these neighborhood joints offering cheap drinks and a no-frills atmosphere. Many of the city’sIrish pubs and sports bars also fit the description and while dive bars aren’t usually associated with craft beer, Bukowski’s is a much-loved exception.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

Bars, Wine bars

The best wine bars in Boston

Better known for craft beer, Boston has its share of excellent wine bars. Connoisseurs may want to reserve a table at one of several Boston restaurants with notable lists, such as French fixture Les Zygomates and Barbara Lynch’s South End spot the Butcher Shop. It’s also worth checking out the free wine-tasting sessions held in chic specialist shops.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

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Bars

The best karaoke bars in Boston

Read our essential guide to Boston's best karaoke bars—insider tips and recommendations, written by local experts. From the intense renditions of Courtside's Mark the Shark to the rowdy Thursday night parties at The Asgard, Time Out's editors bring you the finest karaoke bars in Boston.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

LGBT

The best gay bars in Boston

The capital of the first state to legalize gay marriage, Boston has a thriving LGBT scene, yet the city has surprisingly few exclusively gay bars and clubs (though parties in nightclubs like The Estate bump up the weekly options). Jamaica Plain has a growing lesbian population and a prime hangout, Bella Luna Restaurant & the Milky Way Lounge, which hosts the regular Dyke Night bash. In summer, the LGBT party migrates to Cape Cod’s Provincetown—quite possibly the gayest seaside enclave in the world.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

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Bars

The best patio bars in Boston

As survivors of yet another infinite New England winter, we’re more than ready to ditch our coats and soak up the weather the best way we know how: by imbibing al fresco at one of Boston's patio bars. From spacious rooftop joints with a maritime view (The Landing) to cheery fence-lined terraces (Deep Ellum), here are eight spots guaranteed to quench your thirst while also providing some much-needed vitamin D. Just remember, it’s against city law for bars and restaurants to serve alcohol on their patios without also serving food, so be prepared to order a snack or two.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

Bars

Boston craft beer guide

Boston has an illustrious brewing history. Founding father Samuel Adams was also a brew master, and throughout the 19th century the city had more breweries per capita than anywhere in the United States. Though the 18th Amendment put a stop to that, the last couple of decades have seen a resurgence of the craft. Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain was at the forefront of the local trend when it was founded in the 1980s. A tour of the facility (including samples) is among the best things to do in Boston, but if you’re looking for a bar to sip suds from around the world or around the block, try one of these ten Hub-area craft beer bars.RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

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