Although Boston is quintessentially known for its large breadth of dive bars, Irish pubs and sports bars, locals have recently witnessed a cocktail renaissance—as proven by every single one of these awesome and overall best cocktail bars in Boston. It’s no longer a debate: we are a first-rate cocktail town. From hidden speakeasies to glamorous hotel bars, the city’s spots offer regionally made spirits, in-house shrubs, creative glassware and next-wave techniques to engage even the pickiest imbibers. Which is not to say Boston’s bartenders have gotten too big for their britches: convivial customer service is still at a premium. And if all you seek is the perfect dry martini presented without fanfare, well, they’ve still got you covered there too.
Best cocktail bars in Boston
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.
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 imbiber's preferences, crafting artisinal tipples from their stock of premium spirits and mixers.
One of the city’s most exciting mixologists can be found a short 30-minute drive outside the city, in Woburn. Ran Duan took over the drink menu at his parents’ suburban Chinese restaurant—a revelation in its own right—and turned it into an experimental 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.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ran D.
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 spot’s many couches, but the classic cocktails and variety of small plates are worth the wait. The soft pretzel with bourbon mustard pairs well with nearly everything.
The only struggle is finding a place to stand at this Downtown Crossing bar, which can run four people deep on the weekends. 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 handlebar-mustachioed bartender. Traditionalists will be doubly heartened by the classic cocktail selection and the attendant $9 price tag.
The tiny, beloved bar area at restaurant Hungry Mother eventually led to the opening of sibling State Park, a full scale bar nearby. 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.
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 entire 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.
The long narrow bar area becomes a pile of people and high tops at peak hours—show up for last call or on school nights for optimal results. The menu's 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.
It’s still 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) are done just right.
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. But now that Bully Boy has opened its own cocktail bar inside its expanded distillery, loyalists can drink inside the mothership. The intimate, 26-seat bar area feels like something out of New Orleans, with gothic wallpaper, velvet booth seating and a collection of Prohibition-era spirit bottles on the top shelf; the only nod to modernity is the large window overlooking the facility’s new 750-gallon copper pot still. Each cocktail is just $9 and showcases one of the in-house spirits with fresh juices and small-batch syrups and bitters. If you’re committed to Ubering home, opt for one of the $15 cocktail flights.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bully Boy Distillers