The Absolute Best Bars in Boston Right Now

From dive bars with cheap drinks to upscale cocktail bars, here are the best places to grab a drink in Boston right now.

Hecate
Hecate | Photo by Adam Detour
Hecate | Photo by Adam Detour

Nantucket, P-Town, and Plymouth tend to top the list of ideal Massachusetts summer destinations, but the urban core of the Bay State is more than capable of holding its own in the idyllic summer night department. Top-tier brewpubs, distilleries, and cocktail bars abound all throughout Boston, and there’s no shortage of breezy patios and rooftop skyline vistas available if you’re in need of a little fresh air.

As the dog days of summer set in, these venues are perfect for toasting to the long hours of sunlight and high temperatures that we’ll be longing for in just a few short months. So check out this round up of all the best bars in Boston right now, and raise a glass to some summer fun.

Hecate
Hecate | Photo by Adam Detour

Hecate

Back Bay
$$$$

Mixology meets mythology at Hecate, a welcome new addition to Back Bay’s bustling cocktail scene courtesy of the team behind Krasi. While Krasi has a distinct Greek focus, Hecate takes a pan-European approach, equipped with an ultra-somber interior and a small-yet-mighty cocktail list that boasts some highly underrated ingredients accented by splendid illustrations. These spellbinding concoctions range from the Wendigo, a double-punch of Sagamore rye and Flor de Caña rum, to the sotol-laden Santa Muerte, a dream come true for serious agave aficionados.

The Plough and Stars

Central Square
$$$$

The Boston area is no stranger to cozy Irish pubs, but for those who find themselves north of the Charles, The Plough and Stars has been a top contender for more than half a century. Decadent pub fare, a lengthy beer list, and live music can all be found seven nights a week, while weekend brunch offers a diverse array of dishes ranging from a full Irish breakfast to huevos rancheros. Looking for a little change of scenery as you sip your third Guinness? The property’s open-air patio offers the perfect opportunity to bask in the summer sun while soaking in the spirit of the Emerald Isle.

Banyan Bar & Refuge

South End
$$$$

In need of a stiff drink accompanied by the balmy Boston summer breeze? Make that dream a reality with Banyan Bar, a South End staple for colorful cocktails and flavorful fusion cuisine. Although Asian-inspired favorites like Thai curry mussels, okonomiyaki fries, and Vietnamese hummus all grace the menu, the star attraction here is the cocktail list, offering heavy hitters like the fiery Thai chili vodka-forward Supreme Leader and the Gretchen Weiners, a classic blend of lavender vodka, lime, and agave.

Blue Owl

Cambridge
$$$$

A relatively new addition to the Greater Boston bar scene, Blue Owl has been gracing Cambridge’s Central Square with fine food and drink paired with gorgeous rooftop views since September. There’s no shortage of classic cocktails to enjoy around here, but for the adventurous soul, Blue Owl is a top spot for expanding your spiritual horizons. Looking to sample the national distillate of Brazil? Grab a Copa Coffee, a caffeine-laden cocktail made with Novo Fogo cachaça. Curious about China’s signature sorghum-based spirit? The 888 has your name on it. Add in some tasty street food-inspired snacks like Oaxacan molotes and Korean fried chicken wings and you’ve got a true symphony of flavors.

Bricco

North End
$$$$

Two words: espresso martini. There’s no shortage of spots across the city to get your caffeine and booze fix, but when it comes to creating the perfect blend of vodka, Kahlúa, and coffee, nobody does it quite like Bricco. This beloved North End venue is best known for its flagship coffee cocktail, but if caffeine gives you a major case of the jitters, there’s no need to worry—a VuVu Cosmo, Italian Mule, or Maker’s Manhattan are all worthy substitutes. For the totally cocktail-averse, Bricco is also home to a spectacular array of wines, boasting more than 100 different selections sourced from all across Italy and the United States.

Available for Reservations

Backbar

Somerville
$$$$

Located in the heart of Union Square, this beloved bar has been a staple in Somerville for more than a decade. Backbar comes equipped with a cozy atmosphere adorned with stunning wall art, but it’s the bar’s avant-garde, quirky, and ultimately adorable theme that really endears this spot to local Massholes. Bears are the main topic around here—the animal kind, to be precise—and each cocktail is based around a beloved ursine figure, whether it’s an individual species, a pop culture icon, or the Chicago-based sports team.

Another smash hit brought to you by skilled and inventive bartender Ran Duan, the Baldwin is an old-school cocktail bar stashed inside his parents’ Woburn-based Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Garden. He’s shaking up classic drinks with creative twists (think: a tropics-worthy Mai Tai crafted with Havana Club rum and crowned with a healthy dose of falernum) alongside signatures like the agave-heavy Cenote Sling (tequila, acidified tomatillo, guava, bergamot). Then there’s the bar within the bar, Baldwin & Sons Trading Co., an award-winning lounge cranking out even more audacious delights. Both bars are currently open for business, along with the restaurant’s gorgeous twinkling light-laden outdoor patio that invites you to enjoy your Szechuan cuisine and cocktails with a side of fresh air.
How to book: Via Tock

Brick & Mortar

Central Square
$$$$

This cavernous, brick-walled space celebrates locally made spirits, seasonal ingredients, and a relaxed approach to imbibing. Keep it classy with the tequila and campari-heavy When Doves Cry, or spring for a DTO—that’s Daiquiri Time Out, a certified group favorite complete with four rum-laden shots to really get the party started. Keeping with the sharing theme, Brick & Mortar also serves up a small-yet-mighty selection of tasty bar snacks, with blue cheese-stuffed roasted dates, east coast oysters, and deviled eggs all up for grabs.

Officially launched in 2011, Bully Boy made Boston history as the city’s first craft distillery, providing thirsty Bay Staters with a much-needed spot for sampling locally produced spirit. A certain global catastrophe forced the distillery to put visits on hold for the past year and half, but local drink enthusiasts are officially welcome once again, with the on-property Cocktail Garden open from Thursday to Sunday. At this outdoor bar, visitors can get a first-hand glimpse into each Bully Boy spirit in action, with a wealth of classic and original cocktails all up for grabs.

Casa Romero

Back Bay
$$$$

When it comes to hidden gems, Casa Romero is the Boston equivalent of the Hope Diamond. Tucked in a tiny alleyway just off of Commonwealth Ave, this charming venue has been one of Back Bay’s top purveyors of Mexican cuisine for the past half-century. While there’s no shortage of wines and frozen cocktails around here, Casa Romera has mastered the art of the margarita with nine distinct varieties gracing the menu. Keep it classic with an orange-heavy El Amigo, or spring for La Fantasma, a fiery concoction that pairs perfectly with an order of Camarones a la Diabla.

Available for Reservations

Citrus & Salt

Back Bay
$$$$

Looking for a little Baja flair to beat the heat? Don’t book that flight to Cabo just yet—all the agave-loaded cocktails you could possibly ask for are waiting right on the edge of Back Bay at Citrus & Salt. This bright and cheery venue excels at the art of cocktail-crafting, offering a wealth of options ranging from the ultra-smooth and citrusy Beautiful Liar to the lychee-forward Tails From Below, a drink that accents its rich agave flavors with prickly pear and butterfly pea tea. Of course, no visit is complete without sipping on this spot’s flagship cocktail—the Citrus & Salt Margarita, a beloved classic that comes in six different flavors.

Available for Reservations

Drink

Fort Point
$$$$

After a lengthy pandemic-induced hiatus, beloved Fort Point venue Drink has made its lauded return, and we couldn’t be happier. In stark contrast to your typical cocktail bar, this buzzing basement-level institution has no menu—guests are welcome to name any drink that their heart desires, whether it be a simple Old Fashioned or a Ramos Gin Fizz. While this storied spot is beloved by serious cocktail aficionados, it’s also the perfect place for new drinkers to cut their teeth—just name a few of your favorite flavors and boom, your new go-to boozy beverage has arrived courtesy of Drink’s top-tier staff.

GrandTen Bar

South Boston
$$$$

The Southie-based GrandTen Distilling is home to a wide array of spectacular spirits, and when it comes to finding your favorite, it’s best to head straight to the source. Drinks around here are slung mere feet away from the place where many ingredients are created, including infused vodka and flavored liqueurs like almond and cranberry. Right now, they’re playing it safe with a four-days-a-week schedule, but their bottled cocktails are still available to-go, both solo and alongside a limited food menu spanning bites like sweet and salty cashews and buffalo cauliflower empanadas.
 

haley.henry

Downtown Crossing
$$$$

Leave it to this wonderful little Downtown Crossing wine bar to bring something special to an otherwise largely ignored Boston neighborhood. Who isn’t up for tinned fish, charcuterie, and a sturdy glass of red after a long day’s work? The concept was developed by Sportello alumna Haley Fortier, who has unfathomable expertise in the world of wine. It’s casual, it’s interesting, and with nearly 50 mostly old-world selections to choose from, including full and half-bottle offerings, it all adds up to a fantastic place to unwind.

Available for Reservations

jm Curley

Downtown
$$$$

This much-adored Downtown barroom is known for its stellar selection of brews, but you really should put a serious dent in the cocktail list with tempting options ranging from Milano Sours (Fernet, Rittenhouse rye, orgeat, and lemon) to the refreshing B&T (vodka, raspberry, lemon, topped with elderflower foam). The bar also lays claim to one of the best burgers in town—perfect for soaking up all that liquid debauchery. Bourbon lovers, be on the lookout for one of the tastiest whiskey smashes around. To boot, the quaint streetside patio is a top spot for taking in the hustle and bustle of Boston with a cocktail firmly in hand.

Available for Reservations
Nathalie
Photo courtesy of Nathálie

Nathálie

Fenway
$$$$

Back in 2016, the miniscule haley.henry shook up our dining scene with its roster of tinned fish and funky little-known wines. The second bar from haley.henry’s Fortier continues to push boundaries with a by-the-glass wine that leans heavy on the small-batch and natural side, as well as an enticing menu of artful shareables like Berbere spiced nuts, summer squash salad, and mushroom arancini. And did you know the bar will open any bottle as long as your table commits to two glasses? Done and dusted.

Available for Reservations

Nautilus Pier 4

Seaport District
$$$$

A perfect solution for the indecisive imbiber, the Seaport’s Nautilus Pier 4 is a veritable juggernaut in terms of drink selection, with free-flowing beer, cider, wine, sake, and spirits all up for grabs. Cocktail-wise, Nautilus plays host to a plethora of perfectly crafted brews ranging from the rum and tropical fruit-heavy Nantucket Nectar to the Teach Me How to Dougie, a Cali Swag District-inspired drink that’s packed with an ultra-refreshing punch of mezcal and ginger. If you’re in the mood for a little vino, Nautilus comes equipped with an encyclopedia-sized wine and sake list, providing guests with the perfect red, white, or bubbly to pair with their tuna poke.

Available for Reservations

OFFSUIT

Leather District
$$$$

Intimacy is the name of the game at OFFSUIT, a tiny haunt tucked away in Boston’s Leather District. The night begins with a prowl down Utica Street, where an unremarkable door serves as a portal into a world of refined drinking and dining. There are just 20 seats packed into this pint-sized watering hole, but OFFSUIT’s cocktail selection is by no means minuscule, featuring a wealth of perfectly crafted selections that include time-honored classics like Oaxaca Old Fashioneds and espresso martinis alongside new creations like the Lounge Act, a blend of apple brandy, chamomile, falernum, curaçao, and Angostura bitters.

Available for Reservations

The Quiet Few

East Boston
$$$$

This is serious drinking for serious whiskey enthusiasts—and in Eastie, no less. The “top shelf, low-brow” bar boasts close to 100 whiskies on top of a singled-out whiskey of the week. There’s also a curated cocktail list plus an impressive canned beer collection alongside a few choices on draft. Have we mentioned a food program that includes booze-friendly comforts like Frito pie, burgers, and hot dogs? Yep, it’s all there.

Rebel Rebel

Union Square
$$$$

If it’s named after a Bowie song, it has to be good, right? Owner and local wine consultant Lauren Friel designed this welcoming Bow Market spot to highlight obscure natural wines that come in at a great price point. No snobbery here—Friel encourages guests to shamelessly order wine based on the pretty label by displaying them prominently.

Shōjō

Chinatown
$$$$

It’s rare to find a bar that offers superbly crafted cocktails, tantalizing cuisine, and a gorgeous interior, but Shōjō manages to check off all the boxes. Equipped with a laundry list of decadent dishes ranging from smoked BBQ sauce-drenched pork bao to the massive Shojonator burger, the bar has perfected the delicate balance of hearty American fare mingled with East Asian culinary flair. While the bar boasts an impressive collection of whiskey sourced from Japan, Taiwan, and the US, Shōjō’s cocktail game is just as impressive, offering Vietnamese coffee martinis and boozy baijiu mules.

Available for Reservations

Shore Leave

South End
$$$$

If Trader Vic’s met a New Orleans speakeasy, you’d end up with Shore Leave, a cheeky delight of a subterranean drinking den from the team behind nearby Bar Mezzana. Indoor dining offers a welcome escape from the glaring sun, providing guests with an opportunity to make the deep descent into the basement where Shore Leave’s abundantly cozy dining space awaits. The traditional rum-forward jams are still on point from Mai Tais to rum Old Fashioneds, and the culinary options pack just as strong of a punch, spanning decadent and dressed-up favorites like cheeseburgers, spicy avocado rolls, fried Brussels sprouts, and karaage chicken sandwiches.

Available for Reservations

Trina's Starlite Lounge

Inman Square
$$$$

Dive bars close all the time, but you rarely hear about dive bars opening. Exception: Trina’s, a neighborhood hangout that retains the charmingly grungy appeal of 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 anything but trendy. If the weather’s cooperating, be sure to snag a seat on their open-air patio, an idyllic setup for crushing cocktails and a treasure trove of tantalizing comfort dishes ranging from crispy fried chicken and waffles to chili cheese dogs. After a few rounds, you can keep the party going just a few steps away at Parlor Sports, Trina’s sister property peddling local craft beer, classic pub fare, and a flock of flat screens showcasing all the big games.

Jared Ranahan is a freelance writer focusing on travel, wildlife, and food & beverage.