Where to Grab a Drink in Boston Right Now
From cozy neighborhood pubs to upscale speakeasies.
As we head into the busy holiday season, the time has come for Bostonians to brace themselves for another classic New England winter. It can be tough living in a city where the freezing air hurts your face and we’re always just a few flakes away from a certified n’oreaster, but fortunately, the city is loaded with cozy pubs, speakeasies, and bars that are perfect for hiding from the wind with a stiff drink in hand. We’ve rounded up the best drinking establishments in the city—from new hotspots to old favorites—so as you plan your next night out on the town, be sure to keep these fun and festive locations in mind.
A brand-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—negronis, sazeracs, and fat-washed rum Old Fashioneds, to name a few—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 Baijiu A Drink has your name on it. Add in some tasty street food-inspired snacks like Oaxacan molotes and oxtail beef patties and you’ve got a true symphony of flavors.
How to book: Walk in
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.
Citrus & Salt
Looking for a little Baja flair to warm things up this winter? 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-loaded Baecation, a drink that accents its rich fruit flavors with Flor de Caña rum. 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.
Just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary, this beloved bar has been a staple in Somerville since December 2011. Backbar comes equipped with a cozy atmosphere adorned with stunning wall art, but it’s the bar’s 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
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.
Baldwin Bar superstar Ran Duan upended his parents’ original Sichuan Garden space in Brookline Village a couple of years back to bring his amazing cocktails closer to home. 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, and 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: Via Tock
Brick & Mortar
This 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
Bully Boy Distillers
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 their tours on hold for the past year and half, but local drink enthusiasts are officially welcome once again, with 45-minute excursions taking place on Sundays and Thursdays. Post-tour, visitors can head over to the on-property tasting room to experience each spirit in action, with a wealth of classic and original cocktails all up for grabs.
Create Gallery & Cocktails
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.
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.
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.
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). 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 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.
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, 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.
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. Know before you go: Parties are restricted to four or fewer patrons, so roll shallow to this one.
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 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.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating
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 year and a half? By introducing bottles to-go, diving head-first into anti-racist accountability, and while the weather holds out, offering al fresco drinking and dining.
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.
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 has returned just in time for the cold weather, offering guests 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 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.
Trina's Starlite Lounge
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.