The 21 best cocktail bars in Boston

Whether you’re after a perfectly shaken martini or creative concoction, the best cocktail bars in Boston will deliver
Photograph: Gustav Hoiland The Hawthorne
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Although Boston is quintessentially known for its wide and diverse array of dive bars, Irish pubs and sports bars, locals have been enjoying a cocktail renaissance—as proven by every single one of these awesome cocktail bars. From discreet hideaways and sophisticated hotel haunts to friendly neighborhood hangouts, these bars offer regional spirits, house-made mixers, inventive combinations, and next-wave techniques sure to thrill even the pickiest imbibers. And if all you seek is the perfect dry martini prepared to your specifications without fanfare, well, they’ve still got you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Boston

Best cocktail 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. Master bartenders present patrons not with a menu but with an ear to listen to each imbibers preferences, crafting artisinal tipples from their stock of premium spirits and mixers.

2
The Hawthorne
Photograph: Gustav Hoiland
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Hawthorne

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

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 classic cocktails and tasty small plates are worth the wait. (The soft pretzel with bourbon mustard pairs well with nearly everything.)

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3
Café Artscience
Photograph: Wayne Chinnock
Restaurants, American creative

ArtScience: Culture Lab & Café

icon-location-pin Kendall Sq

A must-visit among area cocktail ners, ArtScience’s bar dishes out thrills with every drink. Science remains the driving force behind the cocktail program, which features such new-fangled drinks as a clarified pina colada and futuristic Rob Roy that involves a sensory cloud made from ArtScience’s famed Le Whaf. Bonus points for the outrageous garnishes, both edible and not.

4
The Baldwin Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ran D.
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Baldwin Bar

One of the city’s most exciting mixologists can be found a 30-minute drive outside the city, in Woburn. Ran Duan took over the drink menu at his parents’ suburban Chinese restaurant and turned it into an experimental bar program that draws 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). In Baldwin & Sons Trading Company, the bar within the bar within the restaurant, things get downright kitschy, with tiki glassware and dry-ice effects.

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5
Brick & Mortar
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Brick & Mortar

icon-location-pin Central Sq

Brick & Mortar is just as hard to find as its predecessor, the Enormous Room, but once you head through the nondescript door and up the stairs, the similarities end. A giant horseshoe-shaped bar and ample bar stool seating have replaced the low, rug-clad seating platforms and hybrid drink/bathroom line. The cocktails shine and the bar snacks (which include bacon-wrapped dates and deep fried house made pickles) fuel the fun.

6
Wink & Nod
Photograph: Courtesy Wink & Nod/Atsushi Tomioka
Bars, Cocktail bars

Wink & Nod

icon-location-pin South End

For its seasonal cocktail menu, the South End subterranean pseudo-speakeasy (no actual password required) tweaks the classics of yore (tikis, Collins) using house-made cordials, juices and infusions. Those looking to impress or be impressed should splurge on the $100 Black Card Cocktail, which could contain a $500 cognac or an impossible-to-find reserve gin. Members of the Scotch Club spend their Tuesday evenings sampling top-shelf bottles with beverage director Michael Boughton; a rotating pop-up restaurant within the space means you don’t have to travel far for rejuvenating sustenance.

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7
Backbar
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Backbar

icon-location-pin Somerville

This hidden bar is best found by looking for the disoriented would-be patrons wandering the parking lot between neighbors Bronwyn and the Independent. Once you find yourself inside, you’ll be treated to outstanding service and meticulously crafted cocktails while seated at low-key wooden block tables. Show up early or make reservations—the staff will make people wait rather than letting them crowd the space.

8
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 made its mark, as bartenders around town regularly incorporate its handcrafted spirits into their own cocktail programs. But now that Bully Boy maintains its own cocktail bar inside its expanded distillery, loyalists can drink inside the mothership. The intimate bar area doubles as an inviting date spot; think gothic wallpaper, velvet booth seating and a collection of Prohibition-era bottles. (A large window overlooks the 750-gallon copper pot still.) Each cocktail showcases one of the house spirits with fresh juices and small-batch syrups and bitters. 

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9
Eastern Standard, Restaurants and cafes, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Eastern Standard

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

Jackson Cannon might well have started it all. When the onetime musician took over the bar program at this hotel restaurant, he changed the city’s cocktail scene by committing to only the finest ingredients and techniques. Fresh juices, house-made infusions, and impeccably sourced liquors and bitters translate to a massive drink menu that is seasonally-inspired and populated by reimagined classics as well as more unconventional offerings. Don’t bypass the wine and beer lists, either, as both are surprisingly expansive. 

10
JM Curley
Photograph: Courtesy jm Curley/Tara Morris
Restaurants, Contemporary American

jm Curley

icon-location-pin Downtown

The only struggle is finding a place to stand at this Downtown Crossing bar, which can get packed during peak times such as Fridays after work. No, wait, the only real struggle is choosing what to drink, given options like Bobby’s Bones (bone marrow-fat washed scotch, Punt e Mes, Benedictine, Angostura) and the Hulk Smash (green chartreuse, lemon, mint), meticulously prepared by a mustachioed bartender. Traditionalists will be doubly heartened by the classic cocktail selection and the reasonable prices. 

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11
Green Street Grill
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Green Street Grill

icon-location-pin Central Sq

Green Streets long, narrow bar area becomes a pile of people at peak hours—show up for last call or on school nights for optimal results. 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 of more options.

12
GrandTen Distilling
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mary Kate A.
Bars, Cocktail bars

GrandTen Distilling

icon-location-pin South Boston

A local success story: Cousins Matthew Nuernberger and Spencer McMinnan converted an iron foundry into an incubator for small-batch spirits. The bar—a crowdfunded space in the front room that’s open Thursdays through Sundays—is an extension of the distillery’s can-do attitude. Walk through a garage door into the clandestine area, where the creative cocktail menu is written on a chalkboard-painted concrete column. Shuffleboard, foosball, and throwback board games invite you to make a night of it.

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13
OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Oak Long Bar and Kitchen/Richard Mandelkorn
Bars, Hotel bars

OAK Long Bar & Kitchen

icon-location-pin Back Bay

OAK Long Bar & Kitchen is the modern version of the former Oak Room, a longtime Boston institution at the elegant Fairmont Copley Plaza. Though renovations have lightened what was once a stuffy, dark interior, the renowned tableside martini service has remained—as has the drink’s hefty price tag. The friendly bartenders excel at handling the crowds while giving each drink the attention it deserves.

14
Silvertone Bar & Grill, Restaurants and cafes, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Silvertone Bar & Grill
Restaurants, American

Silvertone Bar & Grill

icon-location-pin Downtown

Forward-thinking in its own way, subterranean Silvertone was a local pioneer of the trend for classic cocktails and American comfort food—and the wagon train of regulars it immediately formed remains firmly hitched. The owners good-natured commitment to a bygone era manifests itself in everything from the old prom pictures and liquor ads that line the walls to the reasonable prices charged for smart wines by the glass, served alongside much-loved staples such as macaroni and cheese, quesadillas and meatloaf.

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15
Trina's Starlite Lounge, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Sara Skolnick
Bars, Cocktail bars

Trina’s Starlite Lounge

Rising from the ashes of the classic-but-grimy Abbey Lounge, this Inman Square space has remained a meeting spot for savvy locals. Trinas low lighting and dark wood paneling are brightened up by retro images just about everywhere you look—the bathrooms are wallpapered in mid-century magazine pages—but its the menu full of diner-style comfort food that really keeps the clientele smiling while sipping on expertly executed cocktails. Head here for brunch on Monday to recover from the weekends excesses.

16
Yvonne's
Photograph: Courtesy Yvonne's
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Yvonne’s

icon-location-pin Downtown

What was once Locke-Ober—an old-school, wood-paneled restaurant that hosted a million three-martini lunches—is now a ritzy supper club that’s indisputably sexy. And the lounge area is the place for see-and-be-scene imbibing: if park of a group, start with a large-scale cocktail (e.g. Moscow Mule) before sipping your way through classics like the Ward 8 and more outré offerings like the King Louis (vodka, house coconut, grilled pineapple, banana). Throw in dressed-to-the-nines crowds and the occasional celebrity sighting, and you have a primo scene.

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17
Gallows, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Chris Bourn
Restaurants, Contemporary American

The Gallows

icon-location-pin South End

Situated in close proximity to where Boston’s public hangings occurred, The Gallows embraces its namesake with its macabre décor. While the bar has an inventive cocktail list that highlights original concoctions, the kitchen is famous as one of the citys top purveyors of poutine, and other booze-friendly snacks on offer include scotch eggs and fried Babybel cheese. West Coast-style burgers, made from a custom blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib, also help to soak up the booze.

18
State Park
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

State Park

icon-location-pin Kendall Sq

The tiny, beloved bar area at the dearly departed Hungry Mother eventually led to the opening of State Park. You can split a pitcher of Tom Collins with friends at the indoor shuffleboard table or jukebox. Or grab a seat at the bar and focus on what’s really important—drinking. The cocktail list is a bit short, but the knowledgeable bartenders will make anything you ask for.

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19
Lion's Tail
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Maggie W.
Bars, Cocktail bars

Lion’s Tail

icon-location-pin South End

Housed in the South End’s buzzy Ink Block complex, this a modern drining spot whose cocktail program pays particular homage to underappreciated classics like the daiquiri, the pisco sour and the Old Cuban. (The bar’s namesake concoction is a potent blend of bourbon, allspice dram, gum syrup and lime.) The decor is urban chic and the bartenders friendly and accommodating, even on busy weekend nights.

20
Alden & Harlow, Restaurants, Bars, Boston
Photograph: © Kristin Teig Photography
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Alden & Harlow

icon-location-pin Harvard Sq

Taking over the subterranean digs of former Harvard Square institution Casablanca, the expansive Alden & Harlow has plenty of space for eating and drinking between brick walls lined with reclaimed wood and vintage cookbooks. The cocktails echo the modern American fare, with ingredients like parsnip puree, honeyed kumquat, and fennel-infused Lillet.

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21
Carrie Nation Cocktail Club
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero
Bars, Cocktail bars

Carrie Nation Cocktail Club

icon-location-pin Beacon Hill

If the main bar is too full or brightly lit, head past the shoeshine stand and up the back stairs to the “speakeasy,” with pool tables and intimate seating. No matter which corner you choose to imbibe, you can select from offerings ranging from punches and barrel aged cocktails to well-crafted classics.

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