15 of the Best Cocktail Bars in Austin Right Now
From dive bars to speakeasies to hotel lounges, here’s where to drink cocktails in Austin.
In Austin, we call ourselves a lot of things: Bachelorette Party Capital of the World; Live Music Capital of the World; Bar Capital of the World, none of which are true. But that sure doesn’t stop us from celebrating. You see, folks down here love liquor and a slogan more than anyone. If we’re not guzzling at the bars and nightclubs, then we’re knocking it back on the rooftop pools, by the creek, and at the barbecue via oversized coolers that cost more than an actual refrigerator. Whether you’re the type who needs an Espresso Martini to kick start the afternoon, a Margarita to accompany tacos, or something lethal (yet cheap) on Dirty Sixth, we’ve got you covered. Here are the very best cocktail bars in Austin no matter what mood you’re in.
Swanky under-the-radar hotel cocktail lounge.
Looking for a sophisticated hotel cocktail lounge that’s a little off the beaten path? Head over to Colton House at the quiet end of South Congress Avenue. The all-day coffee and cocktail bar is tucked out back, overlooking the lush green yard and pool for a scenic getaway vibe. Two stories mean you’re pretty much always guaranteed a seat on a cozy leather sofa, perfect for enjoying Simona’s musically themed cocktails. Our favorite is the Spice Up Your Life: Jameson cold brew and Kahlúa, sweetened with Bailey’s, chai, oat milk and nutmeg.
Church-themed night spot with Seven Deadly Sins cocktails.
Wanna go to The Body Shop, and do something unholy? Sadly, Sam Smith and Kim Petra’s naughty spot isn’t a real bar, but here in Austin, you’ll find the next best thing: Higher Ground. A spiritually themed restaurant, bar, and nightclub, this space is decked out in religious artifacts, stained glass windows, and even a DJ booth made from a vintage organ. Peruse a cocktail list inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, including Greed (whiskey, Café Bustelo infused demerara, angostura bitters and mole bitters) and Gluttony (Absolut vodka, heavy cream, coffee dem, Licor 43, and nutmeg).
Chic all-day lounge with the best Espresso Martini in town.
The Codependent, as it’s locally known, is a gorgeous Italian-style bar with a sexy outside patio. In the daytime, it’s a must for the Espresso Martini, which you can totally disguise with an afternoon of “work” since the ample seating and table space double the venue up as a coworking destination. When you’ve flipped the laptop closed, let the good times roll on via a classic cocktail list which features the Miami Vice (Bacardi rum punch, strawberry, pineapple and coconut), and the Amaretto Sour (Amaretto, rye whiskey, citrus, egg white, and bitters).
Art deco-inspired lounge with a historic selection of classic cocktails.
The Roosevelt Room is the crème de la crème of cocktail bars. You’ll order your drink from the extensive list of tried-and-true classic cocktails, guided if necessary by highly trained bartenders who have an encyclopedic knowledge of booze. Organized by era, the drinks span from the mid-1800s Sazerac to Prohibition’s Corpse Reviver #2, to modern classics like the Penicillin. The bar’s house creations are not to be missed, either. Try the best-selling Cigar Box, a smoky blend of Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, smoked black tea syrup, lavender bitters, and tobacco essence, served on an ashtray with a scorched cinnamon stick.
Modern drinks and casual pub fare in a cozy space.
Drink.Well. is almost always referred to as a “neighborhood bar,” but that’s a pretty modest moniker—you won’t find any rotgut well liquor, bad karaoke, or self-serve popcorn machines of questionable cleanliness. What you will find: a warm and inviting space, often standing-room-only during busy hours, as well as a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and cocktails that are both interesting and accessible. Into boozy and bright? Try the crisp Blister in the Sun: Ford’s Gin, tomato-fig jam, lemon, basil and crushed peppercorn. How about rich and complex? You’ll love the Captain’s Log: Novo Fogo cachaça, Chairman’s Reserve spiced st. Lucian rum, grapefruit oleo, honey, toasted coconut, and blackstrap rum float.
Popular cocktail hangout with a large patio and mezcaleria
One of Austin’s coolest—and most popular—cocktail bars is Whisler’s. Set inside a gutted stone building, it features a great patio, a food truck, and a tiny mezcaleria upstairs for agave aficionados. If you’ve ever sat at Whisler’s bar, you know that the patrons who yell drink orders into the back of your head are sort of obsessed with two drinks: Old Fashioneds and 100 Fire’s: tequila, pomegranate, habanero and raspberry. Look out for seasonal specials, too.
Tiny, classic cocktail spot with old-school appeal.
Walking into Small Victory has always felt like an elitist act, entering through an unmarked door above a parking lot into a small, narrow room that forces you to lower your voice and whisper as you maneuver through the tight space. A small plaque marks the entrance these days, but the menu and vibe continue to ooze old-school-cool, as seen in the seasonal cocktail menu of recipes plucked from dusty cocktail volumes of yesteryear. You’ve probably never heard of most of these drinks but don’t let that steer you in the direction of a boring vodka soda.
Laidback ice house and mezcal bar known for margaritas and tacos.
La Holly Cantina is a total sleeper; it looks like your quintessential neighborhood ice house, but a closer look reveals not just a nicely curated selection of Mexican spirits (mezcal, tequila, sotol, raicilla) and great tacos, but a cocktail menu that also deserves some props. As we approach perfect spring weather, La Holly’s patio becomes the place to sip on frosty cocktails. Choose from the spicy frozen margarita and the jamaica and mezcal, an icy blend of housemade hibiscus syrup, lime, triple sec, and Kimo Sabe mezcal.
South Congress and Rainey Street
Coffee & cocktail counter serving “solid bevs” with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.
By day, Little Brother Bar is a walk-up coffee counter serving good beans, lunch from Better Half, and retro vibes. As the sun sets, the tiny space switches gears to moonlight as a full bar in which highly qualified bartenders serve perfectly executed cocktails and boilermakers while operating a VHS player. Our fave is the Honey, I Killed the Vodka made with vodka, tarragon, cardamom honey, lemon, and prosecco.
Low-key neighborhood whiskey bar.
Picture this: a chill, low-lit bar with a small patio in a shopping strip next to a laundromat. Okay, now imagine this bar has a respectable selection of booze and employs bartenders who are friendly and know how to make a perfect Old Fashioned. The Wheel is highly underrated (and its regulars would probably like it kept that way), but we’d be remiss not to mention this dog-friendly, whiskey-focused cocktail bar where you can hang out while you wash your king-sized comforter. For a fragrant spin on the classic Old Fashioned try The Madison: stirred rye whiskey, vanilla bean syrup, orange bitters, and clove.
Skilled bartenders serving a small drink menu in a low-key bungalow.
Half Step is the crown jewel of Rainey Street, a beacon of light in an otherwise fairly dismal party district. Like many of its neighbors, Half Step is housed in an ancient bungalow, its interior stripped of anything not made of wood. The bars are a jumble of various unmarked liquids— fresh juices, housemade shrubs, tinctures, bitters. The classic cocktail menu is concise, but note that the folks behind the bar are capable of making literally anything you can call. Try the Ginger Paloma on draft (tequila, ginger, lime juice, grapefruit juice, Jarritos grapefruit soda).
Sophisticated speakeasy in the heart of Dirty Sixth.
Austin’s OG speakeasy continues to evolve, constantly pushing the creative envelope with highly conceptual menus that blur the line between cocktail bar and performance art. Menus are changing, meaning patrons have an element of surprise with each visit. If it’s your first time, don’t miss the Talk Dirty, made with Grey Goose, tarragon-infused dry vermouth, and caperberries. Make a reservation and escape the chaos of Dirty Sixth by buzzing “Harry Craddock” on the unmarked door.
A former parking lot booth transformed into a high-style cocktail hideout.
Garage is a strange, circular, cement room that formerly served as an attendant’s office for the parking garage it's tucked within. The cocktails and level of talent in this bar are what consistently pack Garage with all types of people. The vehicular-themed menu includes several categories: Custom (accessible signature cocktails like the best-selling grapefruit and rosemary-infused Indian Paintbrush); Vintage (classics like the Old Fashioned); Refurbished (modern classics with a twist like the Earl Grey-infused Penicillin); and GTO (aka the out-there category with complex, boozy takes).
Smoking room-style bar with hundreds of whiskey options.
Seven Grand is a whiskey nerd’s dream come true with over 400 from all over the world to choose from. The decidedly “gentlemanly” bar is outfitted in lots of leather and wood, pool tables, taxidermy, ample seating, and a patio that adjoins its next-door sister bar, Las Perlas. Sit and marvel at the library of spirits, from rare Scotch and Japanese whisky to Texas bourbons. Enjoy your spirit neat or in Seven Grand’s five classic whiskey cocktails, including the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Rye Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, and Mint Julep. Overwhelmed by the choices? Don’t worry, the highly knowledgeable bar staff is always standing by to offer thoughtful recommendations.
Neighborhood gem with craft cocktails and pizza.
It’s simple: King Bee has fantastic cocktails, fantastic pizza, and owners with hearts of gold who are loved by friends and strangers alike. When you walk into the spacious bar on the corner of East Twelfth and Chicon, your eyes will take a moment to adjust to the sparse lighting and you will be stopped in your tracks by the overwhelming smell of pizza. Step up to the bar and order from the handwritten cocktail menu; while it will shapeshift seasonally, the perennial favorites remain the frosty Bee’s Knees (gin, local honey, lemon juice) and the Naked and Famous (mezcal, Aperol, yellow chartreuse and lime).
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