Where to Grab a Drink in Boston Right Now

From hush-hush speakeasies to laid-back natural wine havens.

The past year and a half has been particularly treacherous for Boston’s hospitality industry, but fortunately—to quote everyone’s favorite dinosaur-weary mathematician—life, uh, finds a way. From breezy outdoor patios to delivery cocktails, the city’s finest haunts have concocted a treasure trove of genius concepts to weather this never-ending storm, and as the number of vaccinated Americans rises day by day, it seems like the light at the end of the tunnel might just be within spitting distance.

Whether you’re down for indoor dining or prefer an open-air deck with plenty of social distance to spare, Boston’s hottest watering holes are primed and ready to serve you late summer relaxation in a glass.

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 Hong Kong-inspired chicken and waffles, 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.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

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 Catwoman-worthy prowl down Utica Street, where an unremarkable door serves as your 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 miniscule, featuring a wealth of perfectly crafted selections that include time-honored classics (Oaxaca old fashioneds and espresso martinis) alongside new creations like the Lounge Act, a blend of apple brandy, chamomile, falernum, curaçao, and Angostura bitters. Know before you go: Parties are restricted to four or fewer patrons, so roll shallow to this one.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Backbar

Somerville

Just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary, this beloved bar made its debut in the heart of Somerville back in December of 2011, and the city’s cocktail scene has never been quite the same since. Backbar comes equipped with a cozy atmosphere adorned with stunning wall art, but it’s their avant-garde, quirky, and ultimately adorable cocktail 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.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Blossom Bar

Brookline Village

God bless Baldwin Bar superstar Ran Duan, who upended his parents’ original Sichuan Garden space in Brookline Village a couple of years back to bring his amazing cocktails closer to home before becoming one of the earliest adopters of the cocktails-to-go plan. The restaurant is now fully reopened, which means you’re looking at a twofer fantasy of Szechuan delicacies and elixirs like the Bocadillo Sour (Bacardi Carta Blanca, guava paste, mascarpone, lime, mint). Or just put your fate in Duan’s hands and let him woo you off-menu with a bartender’s choice.
How to book: Reserve via Tock or order take-out online.

Brick & Mortar

Central Square

We could not be more excited that our favorite upstairs speakeasy has finally reopened its clandestine doors. The cavernous, brick-walled space celebrates locally made spirits, seasonal ingredients, and a relaxed approach to imbibing. Keep it classy with a cognac and hibiscus-heavy Velvet Rope, 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 pimento stuffed peppadew peppers, garlic bread, and deviled eggs all up for grabs.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

GrandTen Bar

South Boston

Yet another spot that we want to bearhug for reopening (though we’ll refrain, for the time being). Drinks 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 crab Rangoon empanadas.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Every single day over the last seventeen months, we’ve tipped our hat to the many ways local barkeeps have been transforming their formerly indoor operations into open-air concepts. One of our biggest heroes? The folks behind Bully Boy, who last year installed their first-ever cocktail garden across from the distillery. The complex has queued up an enviable spring lineup of cocktails like Mai Tais made with light and dark rum, all of which can be enjoyed outdoors as well as the inside the tasting room if you’re fully vaccinated and seeking a cozier evening.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Create Gallery & Cocktails
Courtesy of Create Gallery and Cocktail Lounge

Bow Market is making it increasingly difficult to drink anywhere else in town. The bar has expanded its seating to the great outdoors, setting up tables on the second-floor balcony overlooking the courtyard and, in turn, conjuring an incredibly relaxing setting for downing one or all of the seasonal cocktails on tap (or heck, sipping a straightforward off-menu tipple, because they can do that, too). Create is also offering vittles from Beeda Baking Co. Patisseries and other market purveyors, so you can make a full evening of it—but only for parties of four or less.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out online.

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. Note that all customers who opt for indoor dining must show proof of vaccination, so pocket that vax card, folks.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Nathalie
Photo courtesy of Nathálie

Nathálie

Fenway

Back in 2016, the miniscule haley.henry shook up our dining scene with its outré roster of tinned fish and funky little-known wines. Cut to now, and owner Haley Fortier is blessedly spreading the wealth. Her latest venture 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, stacked cheese plates, and grilled shrimp with salsa macha and lime. And did you know the bar will open any bottle as long as your table commits to two glasses? Done and dusted.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

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. How has she adjusted over the past seventeen months? By introducing bottles to-go, diving head-first into anti-racist accountability, and while the weather holds out, al fresco drinking and dining.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

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. At the moment, the bar’s verdant outdoor patio is the main attraction for thirsty customers—though stormy weather offers the opportunity to make the deep descent into the basement, where Shore Leave’s stunning indoor dining area awaits. The traditional rum-forward jams are still on point from Mai Tais to Painkillers, and the culinary options punch far above last year’s weight, spanning decadent and dressed-up favorites like bacon cheeseburgers, kimchi hot dogs, fried Brussels sprouts, and Karaage wings.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

haley.henry
BRIAN SAMUELS

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 canned fish, charcuterie, and a sturdy glass of red after a long day’s work? The concept was developed by Sportello alumna Haley Fortier, whose unfathomable expertise in the world of wine has earned the bar a semi-finalist spot on the James Beard Award’s Outstanding Wine Program for two years running. 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.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out via Toast.

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, lemon) to the refreshing B&T (vodka, raspberry, lemon, elderflower foam). They also lay 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 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.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order delivery via Uber Eats.

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 Bar, Trina’s sister property peddling local craft beer, classic pub fare, and a flock of flat screens showcasing all the big games.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Another smash hit brought to you by skilled and inventive bartender Ran Duan, the Baldwin is an old-school cocktail bar stashed inside Duan’s parents’ Woburn-based Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Garden. He’s shaking up classic drinks with creative twists (think: a Derby-worthy julep crafted with Zacapa rum and crowned with a healthy dose of champagne) alongside signatures like the agave-heavy Queen of Tejano (tequila, raicilla, soursop, vermouth, Chartreuse). Then there’s the bar within the bar, Baldwin & Sons Trading Co., an award-winning lounge cranking 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: Reserve via Tock.

In times of crisis, Meaghan Agnew always returns to her tried-and-true gin and tonic. Find out how often by following her on Instagram.
Jared Ranahan is a freelance writer focusing on travel, wildlife, and food & beverage.