Where to Grab a Drink in Boston Right Now
There is plenty to drink about.
Obviously, this is tricky. Our classic bar scene has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with several beloved spots permanently or temporarily closed and others having to endlessly reinvent themselves as circumstances change. Our state’s case rate has been creeping up, which makes indoor anything a fraught proposition. So this time around, we are keeping our focus on the best bars in town -- from swanky cocktail lounges to all-natural wine bars to brewery taprooms -- that have adapted to the circumstances, creating or expanding outdoor drinking areas, offering cocktails to go, and otherwise keeping the good times rolling while respecting the safety of their customers. Go show them your love, and keep up with all your other favorites on social for updates on pop-ups and other temporary offerings.
Bully Boy Distillers
Every day over the last seven months, we’ve tipped our hat to the ways local folks have found creative ways to bring their experiences outdoors. One of our heroes: the folks behind Bully Boy, who have opened their first-ever cocktail garden across from the distillery. Two words: boozy popsicles. Plus, the distillery is offering online cocktail classes so you can imbibe and support from home.
How to order: Reservations are encouraged and can be made through OpenTable.
Create Gallery & Cocktails
Bow Market is making it increasingly difficult to drink anywhere else in town. The latest addition to the indoor-outdoor Inman Square institution is an intimate crowd-funded space that’s part art gallery, part draft cocktail enclave. The bar has expanded its seating to the great outdoors, setting up tables on the second-floor balcony overlooking the courtyard -- the most relaxing way to enjoy one or all of a dozen seasonal cocktails on tap -- or heck, order a simple off-menu cocktail, because they can do that for you, too. Create is also now offering vittles from Humaari Provisions and desserts from La Bottega, so you can make a full evening of it.
How to order: Book a seat through Resy or order takeout online.
The Quiet Few
This is serious drinking for serious whiskey enthusiasts -- and in Eastie, no less. The “top shelf, low-brow” bar boasts close to 100 whiskey pours on top of a whiskey of the week. There’s also a curated cocktail list as well as an impressive canned beer list on top of a few draft choices. Have we mentioned the food menu that includes Frito pie and both burgers and hot dogs?
How to order: Indoor seating is still closed, but the new patio -- first-come, first-served -- means you needn’t skip a whiskied beat.
Back in 2016, the miniscule haley.henry shook our dining scene with its outre menu of tinned fish and little-known wine producers. Cut to, and owner Haley Fortier is blessedly spreading the wealth: Her newest venture in the Fenway continues to push boundaries with a by-the-glass wine list that exclusively features female winemakers (said wines are also small production and/or natural). And did you know the bar will open any bottle as long as your table commits to two glasses? Done and done.
How to order: Call 857-317-3884 to reserve a patio seat or order takeout.
If it’s named after a Bowie song, it has to be good, right? Owner and local wine consultant Lauren Friel opened up her first solo spot to highlight obscure natural wines that come in at a great price point. No snobbery here. Friel encourages you to order wine by the pretty label by displaying them prominently, and she also leads weekly Natural Wine 101 classes. How has she adjusted during these abnormal times? Wines by the bottle to go, wine classes moved online, and while the weather holds out, a weekly Wednesday takeover of the Bow Market courtyard to sling wine pours under $12 and oysters from Hooked Fish.
How to order: See the bar’s online class schedule, order wine to-go online
If Trader Vic’s met a New Orleans speakeasy, you’d end up with Shore Leave, a cheeky delight of an underground tiki bar from the team behind nearby Bar Mezzana. In normal times, you enter through the inconspicuous side door, wind your way down a few flights of stairs, and emerge into the tropics. One day we’ll all be back underground, but in the meantime the bar has launched The Life Raft by Shore Leave, a new patio space at the bar’s main entrance and is open Wednesday through Sunday. The traditional tiki cocktails are still on and are still merely the jumping off point for elixirs like Air Conditioned Eden (a pineapple infused martini with Bianco and dry vermouths, Agricole rum, and a molasses-based gin from Germany). The food menu is tiny but does the job: pork rinds, Sicilian pizza, and a cheese plate from Formaggio.
How to order: Patio seating is first come, first-served.
This wonderful little wine bar in Downtown Crossing brings something new to an otherwise largely ignored neighborhood of Boston. Who isn’t up for canned fish, charcuterie, and a heavy glass of red after a long day’s work (at the office or at home)? The concept was developed by Sportello alumna Haley Fortier; chef de cuisine Carolina Curtin is also a Barbara Lynch alum, having worked in the Menton kitchen in the past. It’s casual, it’s interesting, and with nearly 50 (mostly old-world) wines to choose from, whether full or half-bottle selections, haley.henry has created a great space to unwind.
How to order: Make a reservation by calling 617-208-6000 or order takeout through Toast.
The much-adored Downtown barroom is home to a thoughtful variety of creative cocktails and a small-but-stellar selection of brews, if that's your thing. But you really should put a serious dent in the cocktail list. There’s even one of the best burgers in town on the menu to soak up all your liquid debauchery. Bourbon lovers, be on the lookout for one of the best whiskey smashes in town. The small streetside patio demands repeat visits.
How to order: Call 617-338-5333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation.
Trina's Starlite Lounge
Dive bars close, but dive bars rarely open. Exception: Trina’s, a neighborhood hangout that retains some grungy aspects of long-ago predecessor Abbey Lounge. Trina’s low-key vibe pairs nicely with its unpretentious approach to cocktails: keep them fun, keep them seasonal, and keep them from being too trendy. And all the love in the world to them: they’ve opened a brand-new patio, open daily for dinner and drinks, and are also offering cocktails (and food) to go. Not only that, but they’ve also opened the Starlite Snack and Shack next door in the Parlor Sports space, where you can grab soft serve, hot dogs, and, yes, beer and wine to go. And speaking of Parlor Sports -- the beloved sports bar is currently popping up on Sundays at Audubon, with outdoor seating and flatscreens set up to watch a little football.
How to order: Starlite’s patio is first-come, first-served or you can order takeout through Toast.
Brought to you by skilled and inventive bartender Ran Duan, The Baldwin is an old-school cocktail bar tucked inside Duan’s parents’ Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Garden II. He’s reviving classic drinks with creative twists, such as pisco punches with pineapple vinegar, and offering signature ones like the fan-favorite Father’s Advice (rum, amaro, vermouth, sherry, creme de banana). Then there’s the bar within the bar -- Baldwin & Sons Trading Co., an award-winning lounge space serving even more audacious cocktails. So how does it all translate in the current era? A gorgeous outdoor patio, complete with twinkling lights, lets you enjoy Szechuan cuisine and cocktails in a stress-free manner.
How to order: Walk in or book a table through Tock.
In the former warehouse district that is now Fort Point, underneath the popular Italian restaurant Sportello, you’ll find Drink, a Boston bar like no other. Drink is part of the Barbara Lynch restaurant empire, and it provides no cocktail menu, just talented bartenders lining the large, u-shaped bars who ask, “What do you feel like drinking tonight?” Drink’s main premise attracts cocktail geeks from all over the city, but it still draws in the everyday vodka-soda drinker, too, with lines around the block on Friday and Saturday nights in normal times. Now, there’s an outdoor patio, a curated drink experience to go, and a Grown-Up Happy Meal ($40) that includes Drink’s signature burger, fries, a choice of bottled cocktail, and yes, a mystery toy.
How to order: Walk-ins go on a digital waitlist or takeout can be ordered through Toast.