Now that football season is over and the snow is setting in, it’s time to turn our attention to yet another sport: drinking. OK, sure, it’s not really a sport, but it’s definitely something to keep us occupied in the winter months here in Boston. And while we’d all be content doing so at home, getting out and experiencing the best bars for winter drinking is half the fun. Which is exactly why we’re giving you nine local spots to better push you out of your home and into society this winter. You’re welcome.
Best spiked hot chocolate
MET Back BayAddress and Info
Sure, you can microwave your Baileys, but you’re far better off heading to MET for not one but four different melted Taza varietals, each spiked with a different liqueur (amaretto, espresso liqueur, white creme de menthe, and the aforementioned Baileys).
Local 149Address and Info
While Boston has plenty of bars with fireplaces in them, we’re partial to Local 149 because it’s a genuine wood-burning entity. Plus, you can hang out approximately six inches away from its grate.
Best hot cocktails
Russell House TavernAddress and Info
Lots of booze havens around town experiment with gourmet hot toddies, but Russell House turns up the heat (yes, HA. HA. HA.) with a hot toddy-Old Fashioned hybrid called the Fashionably Hot (see, they’re funny too!). Russell’s canny barbacks start with rye, add some amaro (and a black tea tincture for a smoky flare), and then top that sucker off with cinnamon and vanilla syrups before heating the whole thing up to gut-warming level.
Bristol BarAddress and Info
It’s nicknamed “Boston’s Living Room” for a reason. The bar within the lounge is equipped with oversized plush sofas, mood lighting, and plate glass window views of the passersby outside. Of course, as great as the couches are, the martinis are even better. And sure, we’re definitely not complaining about the food.
Best dark beer list
Lord HoboAddress and Info
Kendall Square/Inman Square
Is there a Boston bar that doesn’t pour a passable Guinness? Among them all, Lord Hobo does right by the lesser-known stouts and porters, from a lower alcohol Irish stout to one called Tart of Darkness. All we know is that each one goes down like a warm milkshake.
Best spot to watch winter sports
Parlor SportsAddress and Info
A lot of bars that cater to the football crowds pull way back after the first week of February. Parlor, however, is a four-season, four-sport kind of hangout -- and a no-nonsense one at that. No buzzy restaurant crowd distract you from the game; just five screens tuned to the basketball and hockey games of the moment, best chased with a $9 classic cocktail.
Best comfort food bar menu
MarliaveAddress and Info
Marliave understands the thrill of rich, gooey, old-school pleasures slurped down barside on a glacial winter day. Translation: cheese-rich classics like French onion soup and macaroni and cheese... with black truffles.
Best bar to wear your ugliest sweater
JJ Foley’sAddress and Info
Yeah, none of us are looking our best right now (and if you are, we don’t want to hear about it). JJ Foley’s motto? Drink before dress. OK, not really, but Foley’s is one of those places where you can sport soiled Uggs and a mess of a pullover and not feel an iota of self-consciousness.
Best post-workout bar
Blu RestaurantAddress and Info
Working out is a surefire way to combat seasonal affective disorder. Working out, then hitting the bar without ever leaving the gym? We swear, if everyone knew that the Downtown Equinox contained a full-service bar within its four walls, membership levels would skyrocket. There is a singular pleasure in hauling your ass out of the yoga studio and into the bar space, only to spot your instructor already sucking down a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
1. MET Back Bay279 Dartmouth St, Boston
2. Local 149149 P St, South Boston
3. Russell House Tavern14 JFK St, Cambridge
4. The Bristol200 Boylston St, Boston
5. Lord Hobo92 Hampshire St, Cambridge
6. Parlor Sports3 Beacon St, Somerville
7. Marliave10 Bosworth St , Boston
8. J.J. Foley's Fireside Tavern30 Hyde Park Ave, Boston
9. Blu4 Avery St, Boston
MET Back Bay is a classy space sporting crown molding and banquettes, but with down-to-earth DIY bars, like the American Ham and Cheese Bar, Crafty Marys bar at brunch (Bloody Marys), and a heavenly burger bar that we highly recommend. You can opt for beef, salmon, turkey, or falafel base, and then add either regional American treatments, or venture outside the States with a Japanese option (including wasabi mayo), or a Greek varietal (hummus). A favorite? The Paris burger, made with brie, a fried egg, caramelized onions, and truffle mayo.
The Local 149 puts the emphasis on "Local," offering a cozy and welcoming atmosphere for folks to pick from more than 20 brews on tap and eat delicious and fresh bar grub in South Boston.
Named for the 19th century Harvard furniture dealer that first occupied the building, RHT is a two-floored pub/resto in bustling Harvard Square, brought to you from the owners of Grafton Street/Temple Bar. RHT's slinging a New England-heavy menu of modern American "artisanal fare" and craft beers. Their craft cocktail is also definitely worth checking out.
Housed inside the Four Seasons, the Bristol offers fine dining with even finer floor-to-ceiling views of the Public Garden. This posh space is serving everything from gourmet salads to house-aged steaks to delicate New England scallops. The highlight of the menu, though, is the Bristol Burger. An 8oz patty topped with Vermont cheddar, lettuce, Bermuda onion, tomato slices, and the lounge’s own pickles, it's simple, tender, and one of the best burgers in the city.
While hobos are generally seen as bindle-carrying and dirty, the Lord Hobo in Cambridge is living well at the top of the vagabond hierarchy, serving specialty cocktails, beer, and American comfort food in a rich mahogany space with large flat screens. The 40 taps offer everything from the best New England breweries have to offer to interesting Euro selections -- when was the last time you had a craft beer from Norway?
From the makers of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Somerville comes Parlor Sports, the... sportier, flatscreen-ier next-door hangout for dudes who desperately want to see if starting Sam Gash on their fantasy squad was a good move while towning nachos and High Lifes in a (surround) sound environment.
Marliave first made its debut in 1885, opened by a French immigrant who brought over a closely guarded cachet of Francophile recipes. It’s had its ups and downs in the 13 decades since, but Marliave really is an undersung institution. Where else can you enjoy French onion soup and rarebit at the bar while savoring a drink called the Chauncey Warbucks (Baker’s bourbon, absinthe, grenadine, bitters)? The first floor reeks of backroom politics gone by, while the upstairs dining space provides a charmingly anachronistic view of Downtown Crossing (you forget how little the architecture has changed here). Oh, and on those deep February nights when you cannot bear to drag your ass out the door? Marliave delivers. Rarebit in bed, baby.
Locals love hanging out at J. J. Foley's for many reasons. Their backroom dartboard, late-night bar menu, and great beer selections are just a few of the things we appreciate about spending time at J. J. Foley's. We highly recommend this bar to anyone looking for a fun place to drink in South End.
This romantic spot near Boston Common hosts an expansive dining space and sweeping views of the city. Enjoy simple, refined New American plates like flash fried calamari, pan-seared cod, and short rib while you sip on wine from their affordable and expansive list by the bottle and by the glass.