The 35 Best Bars in Boston

It took some liquid courage, but we've bravely ranked the greatest bars in America's most spirited city. From cocktail dens to funky dives, here's your ultimate guide to drinking in Boston right now.

Custom cocktails flow at Drink, Barbara Lynch’s Fort Point landmark. / Photo by Brian Samuels Photography

1. Backbar

Cocktail connoisseurs flock to this inconspicuous spot, hidden behind a nearly unmarked door, for co-owner Sam Treadway’s seriously artful libations—from whimsical twists on milk punch to drinks highlighting obscure spirits such as Greek mastiha.

Somerville, backbarunion.com.

2. Drink

With the opening of Drink in 2008, Barbara Lynch ushered in a new era of craft-cocktail bars—and Fort Point development. More than a decade later, its no-menu approach is still pushing our palates in unexpected directions.

Fort Point/Seaport, drinkfortpoint.com.

3. Eastern Standard

This brasserie’s bustling bar, a linchpin of Boston’s cocktail culture, continues to wow Sox fans, late-night industry types, and business suits with equal aplomb. For that, thank the impeccable service and masterful libations that set new standards every night.

Fenway/Kenmore, easternstandardboston.com.

4. The Publick House

A beer lover’s shrine, this is still the place to find unique Belgian imports, only the best New England–made favorites, and—thanks to owner David Ciccolo’s peerless reputation and relationships—super-rare trophy brews that occasionally surface like whistle-wetting white whales.

Brookline, publickhousebrookline.com.

5. The Baldwin Bar/The Baldwin & Sons Trading Co.

Stunning cocktail presentations catch the eye at acclaimed barman Ran Duan’s destination-worthy pairing—a downstairs den and an upstairs library lounge, respectively—set within a suburban mansion. But even billowing clouds of dry ice and striking florals can’t compete with the attention-grabbing, inexhaustible creativity—yogurt-washed Aquavit, for instance—inside each glass.

Woburn, thebaldwinbar.com.

6. Trina’s Starlite Lounge

Trina’s shines thanks to an idiosyncratic recipe: a kitschy throwback ambiance, eccentric regulars, and mouthwatering vittles with a rockabilly-diner edge. Not to mention, of course, spot-on drinks such as the signature “Star-pop,” a rotating carbonated cocktail that matches the spot’s fizzy energy.

Somerville, trinastarlitelounge.com.

Photo by Brian Samuels Photography

7. The Hawthorne

Here, the sophisticated, living-room-inspired décor makes us feel totally at home—if our home happened to be in Architectural Digest, that is. The ambiance complements Jackson Cannon and Jared Sadoian’s approach to cocktails: respectful, well-tailored riffs on the classics.

Fenway/Kenmore, thehawthornebar.com.

8. Haley.Henry

Good vibes flow like pinot at this intimate, hip-hop-soundtracked wine bar. Servers will uncork any bottle if you’ll drink two glasses, so go ahead: Explore the exceptionally curated selection of unique, small-production pours that pair with trendy tinned seafood.

Downtown, haleyhenry.com.

9. The Longfellow Bar at Alden & Harlow

This sleek, bi-level bar is long on exciting cocktails—from low-proof drinks to rotating tipples inspired by whatever album dominates the turntable. You can also sip ’em on a small, seasonal roof deck while noshing utensil-free foods, including crab Rangoon nachos.

Cambridge, longfellowharvard.com.

10. Deep Ellum

Boston’s always been a beer town, but this dressed-up watering hole raised the bar on craft-brew selections when it opened in
2007. Drafts skew sessionable and thirst-quenching, with elevated eats—like kimchi-topped hot dogs—to sop up the suds.

Allston, deepellum-allston.com.

Backbar. / Photo by Eddie DiCroce

11. Brendan Behan Pub

One of Boston’s greatest pubs is named for one of Ireland’s greatest writers. But really, anyone who loves good craic would want to wax poetic on the cozy space, surprisingly stellar beer list, and live-music seisúns.

Jamaica Plain, brendanbehanjp.com.

12. Rebel Rebel

Acclaimed sommelier Lauren Friel’s self-described feminist wine bar specializes in all-natural grapes from small producers, reflecting the team’s social-justice-oriented sensibility. The result? A winning and woke concept.

Somerville, rebelrebelsomerville.com.

13. Delux Café

Colored Christmas lights, walls crowded with bric-a-brac, and kitchen-table closeness make this street-corner stalwart a quirky yet warm place to grab a drink. Soak up the vintage-jean-jacket vibe while downing the “Clam Slam” combo: a ’Gansett tallboy with a mystery shot.

South End.

14. Brick & Mortar

The infamous “Daiquiri Time Out,” a quartet of bar-industry-favorite shots, is the go-to order for the cool kids who congregate around this drinking den’s copper-topped horseshoe bar—and canoodle in its dim corners, heads bobbing to vinyl records.

Cambridge, brickmortarltd.com.

15. Sound Advice

We (strongly) suggest a visit to this spiffy new lounge from the folks behind Death & Co., New York City’s influential mixology mecca. Don’t miss the “Palindrome,” made with apple brandies, sweet cream, egg, and salted coconut.

West End, soundadvicebar.com.

16. Hojoko

An anime-punk energy flows through this rock ’n’ roll izakaya at Fenway’s Verb Hotel, which recently added a Tokyo-style vinyl lounge dubbed the Groove. Drink-wise, the party playlist is packed with sake bombs, Japanese whiskeys, and funky frozen cocktails.

Fenway, hojokoboston.com.

17. Fool’s Errand

Star chef Tiffani Faison’s standing-room-only cocktail klatch plies its party guests with irreverent libations and funky wines, plus fancied-up finger foods—say, potato mille-feuille with caviar and lobster gravy.

Fenway/Kenmore, foolserrandboston.com.

Photo by Drew Katz

18. Yvonne’s

The original hand-carved mahogany bar that adorned Locke-Ober, Boston’s late high-society landmark, is still here—now topped with modern-looking white marble, as befits the next-gen glitterati preening over communal cocktails such as the “Antoinette”: scotch with chamomile, Aperol, and honey, served in a teapot on an elegant tray.

Downtown, yvonnesboston.com.

19. Oak Long Bar + Kitchen

Like the sparkling chandeliers hanging from the original vaulted ceiling, the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s bar exudes a stately, mature sexiness. Here, over a glass of bubbly, you might meet your second spouse—or at least someone to help you forget the first.

Back Bay, oaklongbarkitchen.com.

20. The Automatic

Few bars straddle the highbrow/lowbrow line as deftly as the Automatic, where Mudslides share menu space with dirty martinis and Aviations. Braised duck nachos and spicy Frito pie, meanwhile, match the wood-paneled, 1950s-SoCal-roadhouse aesthetic.

Cambridge, theautomaticbar.com.

21. The 21st Amendment

This ancient State House–side haunt is the political class’s go-to spot for drowning sorrows, toasting victories, or plotting revenge. In other words, there’s perhaps nowhere else in Boston better for eavesdropping over a pint or a well-mixed Manhattan.

Beacon Hill, 21stboston.com.

22. Wally’s Café

Rare in Boston is the humble hole in the wall that can claim Charlie Parker performed there. But such is the case with Wally’s, a decades-spanning joint that still jumps with beer- and wine-pounding hepcats bopping to nightly live jazz and blues.

South End, wallyscafe.com.

23. Wink & Nod

The self-described “speakeasy,” home to a members-only Scotch Club, mixes serious craft cocktails in a jazzy, zebra-print-carpeted underground bar. Its real secret weapon, though, is the kitchen, which plays host to multi-month pop-ups from international-cuisine-
spanning chefs.

South End, winkandnod.com.

24. Club Café

It’s the gay Cheers: a place where everybody knows your Grindr name (or wants to, anyway). The ’80s-founded institution continues to draw long weekend lines, thanks to the intergenerational appeal of its clubby backroom and live piano lounge.

South End, clubcafe.com.

25. A4cade

This geeky hideaway offers a retro gaming experience (hello, Tetris ), gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches, and kitschy drinkware—ever sipped fruity rum from a glass shaped like R2-D2?—that belies pro-level mixology.

Cambridge, a4cade.com.

26. Slade’s Bar & Grill

Murals depicting prominent community leaders of color testify to 1935-founded Slade’s important place in Boston’s black history. Today it remains a vibrant, familiar-feeling hangout thanks to regular live entertainment, playful cocktails (bourbon lemonade!), and super-satisfying soul food.

Roxbury, sladesbarandgrill.com.

27. The Banshee

Every Boston bar airs Pats and Bruins games. The Banshee, though, is a premier meeting place for soccer fans of just about any stripe. It even opens early for some European matchups, so you can cheer on Manchester City with a bloody mary. Score!

Dorchester, bansheeboston.com.

Eastern Standard. / Photo by Emily Hagen

28. Straight Law Bar

There’s no passport required for the sherry flights at the bar inside owner-sommelier Deborah Hansen’s tapas spot, Taberna de Haro. Still, whether you’re sipping fortified Spanish wines or spirit-based cubatas, the experience here feels totally transportive.

Brookline, tabernaboston.com.

29. La Fabrica Central

Huge artworks featuring sugar-cane fields reference the deep rum selection at this Latin-Caribbean hot spot. No wonder the mojitos pack ’em in—as does the music, with samba and other live bands in the front lounge and DJ-driven beats in the back nightclub.

Cambridge, lafabricacentral.com.

30. Jacques Cabaret

From feather-boa-draped bachelorette parties to a surprisingly silver-throated karaoke contingent, this 1930s-founded haven for Boston’s queer community attracts increasingly mixed crowds with its dive-bar charm, super-cheap drinks, and, of course, nightly drag shows.

Bay Village, jacques-cabaret.com.

31. Croke Park “Whitey’s”

Southie sure has changed, except at this no-frills dive chock-full of local color. Here, you’ll play darts or shoot pool, and—over cheap, stiff drinks—trade Old Boston memories with grizzled barflies who get friendlier as the Guinness flows.

South Boston, crokeparkwhiteys.com.

32. Biddy Early’s Pub

Like its historical namesake, an Irish folk doctor who once rankled the church establishment, this bona fide dive is refreshingly defiant of its buttoned-up Financial District environs. Here, rat-race-weary suits soothe their souls with cheap buckets o’ beer and pub darts.

Financial District.

Shore Leave. / Photo by Natasha Moustache

33. Shore Leave

Cocktail magi Ryan Lotz spikes this subterranean tiki bar’s far-flung concept with local flavor. Case in point: the eponymous signature potion, which marries near- and far-made rums with Madeira and molasses, staples of New England’s Colonial era.

South End, shoreleaveboston.com.

34. The Bleacher Bar

At this watering hole tucked underneath Fenway Park’s bleachers, beer-swilling sports fans cheer—and rightly so—for the home run of a view: a giant mesh screen looking directly onto center field.

Fenway/Kenmore, bleacherbarboston.com.

35. Banners Kitchen & Tap

Size isn’t everything, but claiming the largest TV in New England—about 40 diagonal feet—is an important bragging right for a sports bar. Virtual golf simulators and a more-ambitious-than-average cocktail program also set this sprawling, slick TD Garden–side newcomer apart.

West End, patinagroup.com/banners.


Photo by Mona Miri

Behind the Bar with: Lauren Friel

Need help navigating the wild world of natural wines? Just ask the owner of Rebel Rebel (#12) and partner in Dear Annie, an upcoming grapes-focused Cambridge pub.

A must-try for the natural-wine novice: California producer Forlorn Hope has a label called Queen of the Sierra. It’s extremely approachable and versatile—you can drink it with a lot of different foods. They’re great Tuesday-night bottles, a way to dip your toes in and learn how natural wines look, feel, smell, or taste differently, without investing a ton of money.

Why Vermont wines rock: They use a lot of hybrid grape varieties that have been created to withstand cold temperatures. You get a lot of fascinating expressions: aromatic white wines, and red wines that can be very high in acid but also have a savory herbal quality.

Her current obsession: I’m really excited by Chilean wines right now. There’s a style there called pipeño, made from the interesting país grape; its history goes back to the Spanish conquistadors. It produces aromatic red wines that smell and taste like they came from the Loire Valley or Italian Alps.

Photo by Joe Greene

Behind the Bar with: Ran Duan

The founder of Woburn’s Baldwin bars (#5) and Brookline’s Ivory Pearl, an upcoming French Mediterranean–inspired seafood spot, shares three ways to shake up your cocktail game this month.

The key to pairing cocktails with seafood: I tend to look for beverages with higher acidity, lower ABV, and higher carbonation. One of my favorite things to drink with oysters, for instance, is a Pimm’s Cup.

His must-order drink of the moment: At Mariel, all of the mojitos are really, really tasty and well executed. I like that they stir the mint with a bit of the stem—so it has a little bitterness to offset the sugar.

A spirit everyone should try this spring: I think there’s going to be bigger demand for subcategories of tequila and mezcal, like pechuga, which is a mezcal made with raw chicken. People want to hear a story now when they’re drinking. They want to know where it’s coming from and who created it.