Where to Grab a Drink in Austin Right Now

Killer happy hours, romantic lounges, and a church-themed bar stirring up sinful cocktails—just in time for SXSW.

Higher Ground
Photo courtesy of Higher Ground

With the dawning of the all-consuming SXSW upon us, an important question is on the minds of every single soul gearing up for an action-packed trip to Austin: “Where’s a good place to grab a drink?” Instead of taking the precious time out of your day to compile a list for that visiting classmate you haven’t seen since high school (how did they even get your digits anyway?), simply forward them our hand-picked list of the absolute best places pouring bevvys within the city limits.

From a cocktail bar guaranteed to impress even the most ardent distillate fans to a place where a devotion to tequila reaches religious levels, we’ve got you and that rando texter you should maybe consider blocking covered.

drink.well.
DrinkWell | Photo by Soleil Roth

DrinkWell

North Loop
$$$$

We all have that knowledgeable friend who knows their Angostura from their Peychaud’s—the type that, should you grab one sub-par happy hour Margarita with, you’ll never live it down. Enter award-winning cocktail bar, DrinkWell, where the extensive and creative libation list will not only satisfy your pickiest buddy, but will have you coming back for second (and third) sips time and time again. Located in the underrated North Loop district, the drinks here may be high-echelon, but the vibe is decidedly neighborly—its small space (only 37 seats and a smattering of spots at the bar) make DrinkWell feel intimate yet friendly. While they always stock a collection of classics like Old Fashioneds and Gimlets, the house drink menu is constantly updated based on what emerges from their mixologists’ amazing minds. But one mainstay throughout the seasons is the exceptional Half Moon Bay, made with Suntory Toki Whisky, Amaro Montenegro, coconut, rhubarb, lemon, and sea salt. Think of it as a Whisky Sour-plus, with complex, bright flavors that will help your evening set sail.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Honey Moon Spirit Lounge
Honey Moon Spirit Lounge | Photo by Cassandra Klepac

Honey Moon Spirit Lounge

North University
$$$$

This joint’s name is seriously on point. The chandelier-adorned, purple-lit, velvet booth-strewn outpost is dreamy enough to put even the most Tinder-jaded in a romantic mood. Add a couple of their drinks, like the espresso martini-inspired The Full Salute, alongside some East Coast Oysters and their exceptionable cheese plate, and you are sure to feel the charm even more. For those who want to go full-on heart-eyes-emoji, try the Old School Old Fashioned, a mix of Old Forester Bourbon, cherry-coffee bitters, and demerara, finished with a soft display of smoke that plays like a love spell on your taste buds.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Higher Ground
Photo courtesy of Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Downtown
$$$$

For those whose allegiance to Sunday Funday reaches monastic-like levels, you can find your ideal fellowship at Downtown’s Higher Ground. The sanctuary-with-a-twist vibe greets you the moment you walk through the door—the downstairs bar is resplendent with stained glass windows, religious icons, and wooden archways sourced from around the world. Head upstairs to find not only a second bar and adorable outdoor patio perfect for post-work drinks in Spring weather, but also a full-on old-school church organ repurposed into a DJ-booth for late-night dance floor worship sessions. And what would a religious-themed bar be without some sinful cocktails? Higher Ground takes this concept literally: Their speciality drinks are named after the infamous seven deadly, including Lust, a crowd-pleasing berry-infused mix of tequila, mezcal, and Absinthe.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

Tiki Tatsu-Ya
Tiki Tatsu-Ya | Photo by Jessica Attie

Tiki Tatsu-Ya

South Lamar
$$$$

Tiki Tatsu-Ya is the latest addition to the Austin scene by the wunderkind team behind nationally recognized Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, and DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya—and, if you’ve had any friends lucky enough to snag a reservation at this coveted hotspot, you’re all too familiar with the non-stop rave reviews. You best believe the hype is real. With its textured walls decorated like the interior of a cavern and covered in 3D skulls, walking in feels like discovering a secret pirate’s grotto, and the drinks are strong enough to satisfy even the most notorious swashbuckler, to boot. Go for the Port Light, a mix of bourbon, port, and tropical fruits served in a ceramic cup festooned with a crawling octopus. And don’t sleep on the food, either—shareable bites inspired by Hawaiian flavors like SPAM on the Half Shell balance out all those stiff tipples, so you won’t leave the space stumbling like Jack Sparrow.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Native

East 4th
$$$$

Initially, Native Bar & Cafe was also a hostel—and, while you can’t (officially) crash there anymore no matter how many Spicy Basil Margaritas you’ve downed, the same warm hospitality echoes throughout the spot. From friendly bartenders to comfy leather couches to a variety of themed exhibits and parties that’ll get you shaking your moneymaker on the hopping dance floor, you’ll never regret rolling through on a Saturday night.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

It’s a classic Austin scenario: You have friends visiting, they’ve binged Friday Night Lights one too many times, and now they want to hit up a traditional Texas saloon (whatever that means) for a Lone Star or four a la heartbroken Tim Riggins. Enter The White Horse, a honky-tonk lively enough to get you in the boot-scootin’ spirit but chill enough you won’t be judged if you don’t pull up in a Chevy pickup. The famous Wednesday Nights at White Horse series brings out some of the best bluegrass, country-western, and Americana bands around—not to mention, a slew of 10 gallon hat- and boot-clad dancers kind enough to teach you how to two-step. Even if you have two left feet, there’s still lots to enjoy besides whiskey shots at the bar, including pool tables, a photo-booth, and free popcorn to munch on while you take in the tunes.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Lala's Little Nugget
Courtesy of Lala’s Little Nugget

In the often-sweltering Texas heat, the idea of crisp winter temperatures feels like a cool, refreshing breeze (literally). And, while they may not be able to physically change the atmospheric conditions, this Christmas-all-year-round outpost can certainly get you in the yuletide mood. This place has it all: stockings hanging from the ceiling, the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, a velvet Christmas-themed Elvis painting, and Santa memorabilia up the wazoo. And even if the weather outside grows frightful, the Naughty Nugget, with Jose Cuervo Silver, Cointreau, lime juice, pineapple, orange juice, sliced jalapeno, and chili salt rim, will definitely make you feel delightful.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Garage
Garage cocktails | Photo by Julie Cope

Garage

Downtown
$$$$

Austin’s top speakeasy takes the hidden bar theme to a whole new level—that is, to the lower-level of a real-life car park. While finding the spot is an experience within itself (hint: look for the teal and yellow neon sign), those who appreciate the fine craft of cocktail-making will be rewarded with libation gold. The candlelit vibes are complemented by drinks that are equally swoon-worthy. Try the Seven Day Weekend, a popular mix of mezcal, Ancho Reyes, grapefruit, lime, and honey-ginger that’ll put you in a Saturday mindset any given weekday.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Cheer Up Charlie's

Financial District
$$$$

After a long quarantine absence, one of Austin’s most beloved places to drink and play is back in action, bringing as much optimism and joy as its name implies. Pop in Thursdays through Sundays to catch some of the best tracks in the city. From DJs blasting ‘90s country-pop to Beyoncé tribute bands, you’ll want to wear your most comfortable shoes so you can easily break it down on both the inside and outside dance floors. However, even those without TikTok-level moves can find something to love beneath this spot’s large neon lights—take the kale-spiked Lime Margarita, for instance, which we give you full permission to count toward your daily veggie quotient.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Yellow Jacket Social Club

East Fifth Street
$$$$

Need somewhere to bring friends from out of town, catch up with the crew after a long hangout drought, or venture out on a first date? Yellow Jacket is the perfect place for these activities and so much more. Its sheer adaptability is one reason behind its massive popularity among those that call the city home. The patio, lined with picnic benches and shaded by trees, is about as authentically Austin as it gets—which definitely calls for a round of Lone Stars alongside one of their classic Frito Pies.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Armadillo Den

Ford Oaks
$$$$

If your main complaint about the average bar is that there’s just never enough room, drop everything, grab your cornhole gear, and head to Armadillo Den. Located in South Austin, the vast property has space for it all: live music, food trucks, every yard game under the sun, and even an off-leash dog park so Fido can join in on the fun. After working up a sweat, cool off with a draft cocktail like the Southside Sipper, with watermelon juice, lime, mint, and your choice of alcohol (we vote tequila—it’s always the best/worst choice).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Zanzibar

Downtown
$$$$

You would not be wrong to feel like you’ve stepped into a tropical version of a mid-century Rat Pack haunt when you ascend up to this colorful rooftop bar. Beyond the vast collection of greenery, rattan chairs, and tropical tipples (complete with tiny umbrellas), it also boasts one of the best sunset views over Downtown imaginable. It’s simultaneously an ideal place to bring visitors from out of town and an enjoyable destination for lifelong Austinites—because, when the Mai Tais are as good as these, everyone wins.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

LoLo
LoLo Wine | Photo by Julia Keim

LoLo Wine

East Sixth Street
$$$$

Don’t let Schitt’s Creek color your view of natural wine forever. A recent addition to the scene, LoLo is here to prove that organic juice can be just as tasty as the mainstream stuff (and get you just as topsy-turvy as Moira Rose after a couple commercial takes). From the vibrant patio and shady trees covered in disco balls to an awesome staff espousing nuanced knowledge, being here truly feels like an intimate escape from the rest of East Austin. The only thing that could make it better? Adding one of their Flourless Chocolate Tortes to your order.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Easy Tiger

Various locations
$$$$

For those looking to recreate the biergarten experience of Oktoberfest in Munich, nothing beats an evening at Easy Tiger. There are currently three locations—one up North, one down South, and one on the East side—all of them spacious enough to accommodate your whole extended crew along one of the many long picnic tables. And with a menu featuring both unique American craft beers and house-baked pretzels the size of a high school lunch tray, it’s truly a gluten-fiend’s dream.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

If you’re seeking quality non-alcoholic options or simply in the mood to double-fist an espresso and a shot of tequila, check out this cheery oasis’ pink picnic table-laden patio. Operating as a cafe and coffee shop during the day, it transforms into a lively spot for cocktails and grub come evening. Start with the Waiting for Coffman, a perfect blend of booze and housemade cold brew, alongside an order of Cauliflower Tots, which are so tasty you’re bound to forget the myriad ways cauliflower has been slowly replacing all our beloved carbs.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

The Roosevelt Room
The Roosevelt Room | Photo by Eric Medsker

The Roosevelt Room

Downtown
$$$$

Bar hop through the centuries at the Roosevelt Room, where delicious craft cocktails are categorized by era. Sip a Clover Club, a Prohibition-era favorite made with gin, raspberries, and lychee, while soaking up the sleek Gatsby-esque digs complete with warm lighting and dark velvet booths. This is where you bring the serious mixologist in your life for a celebratory night out—the delicate bottles of atomizers and bitters lining the top of the marble bar are certain to captivate their senses from the jump.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Kitty Cohen's

Webberville
$$$$

If you’re looking for a 1970s-inspired paradise decked out with portraits of Burt Reynolds, look no further than Kitty Cohen’s retro patio. Centered around a decorative mini-pool, the outdoor area provides the perfect backdrop for splitting a big bowl of gin- and Prosecco-spiked Key Party Punch with friends—served, of course, out of a vintage glass bowl and poured into a matching set of handled cups. Frosés and Aperol Spritzes are equally enticing, especially while lounging about the green umbrella-stewn canopy.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Kinda Tropical

East Seventh
$$$$

Those who’ve never been to Kinda Tropical might initially pass right by it—the gritty exterior stands as an homage to the property’s former life as a gas station. Give it a closer glance, though, and you’ll be pleased to discover a gem of an open-air patio tucked away out back. In tune with the laid-back Texas vibes, standout cocktails include a Mezcal Paloma and the Paint it Black Margarita, dyed jet black with activated charcoal. Vegan-friendly eats like Cuban Yucca Fries and a Jackfruit-based BBQ Sandwich seal the deal.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Haymaker

Cherrywood
$$$$

If you’re looking for a quality sports bar, Haymaker has your back. TVs and large projection screens cover the space like wallpaper, broadcasting everything from football to international soccer to horse-racing. Other attractions include a ridiculous number of beers on tap (40!) plus a roster of gameday-appropriate comforts like Poutine, Italian Hoagies, and Patty Melts. And if you want to bring your dog to help cheer on your team, hit the pet-friendly patio, complete with its own set of flatscreens so you never have to miss a touchdown. Pro tip: Check their website to see which daily drink special will be running before you visit.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

the Little Darlin'

South Austin
$$$$

Follow the bright blue neon arrow off of the road to The Little Darlin’, an unpretentious dive sporting a huge back patio bordered by string-lit trees. Any night of the week, you can find folks perched in oversized Adirondack chairs or posted up on porch swings, blissfully knocking back beers to a soundtrack of classic rock and soul hits. It’s equally fitting for a date, a large group hang, or a lazy afternoon of basking in the sun solo. Don’t sleep on the food either—for such a low-key place, the bites, namely the Carnitas Sliders, punch far above their weight.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Drinks Lounge

East Cesar Chavez
$$$$

Impress your pool shark friends with a trip to Drinks Lounge, a haven for those who like their beers with a side of a break shot. Even if you have less-than-stellar hand-eye coordination, a live DJ spinning serious jams and an open-floor concept connecting the bar to an outdoor patio make it just as compelling. While they keep their cocktail menu fresh by changing it up season to season, the Margaritas remain a steadfast choice for all the right reasons.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Deep Eddy Cabaret

West Austin
$$$$

A city institution since 1951, Deep Eddy Cabaret is basically “Keep Austin Weird” personified. A throwback to a time before music festivals and tech bros, expect no frills here—which is, honestly, a huge part of this joint’s timeless appeal. Settle in with a few ice cold beers and a collection of locals willing to reminisce with you about the good ol’ days, order up some chips with guacamole and jalapeño pimento dip from neighboring Pool Burger, and squeeze in a dip at nearby Deep Eddy Municipal Pool before or after for an idyllic Austin day.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Nickel City

East Eleventh
$$$$

If your version of heaven is a dive bar with an Elvira pinball machine and tropical cocktails—because, of course it is—head to this East 11th Street standout. There, you can order Painkillers based on your desired potency or just say “screw it” and request a full scorpion bowl of their exceptional Zombie. Accompany it all with some classic bar bites like sliders, wings, and Coney Dogs from the onsite Delray Cafe. Regardless of which poison you pick, Nickel City has such a genuine, chilled-out atmosphere, you’re guaranteed to come back for more.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Molly Moltzen is a contributor for Thrillist.