Where to Grab a Drink in Boston Right Now
We’re (almost) back, baby.
There’s no getting around it: Our once-bustling bar scene has been decimated by the pandemic. Many beloved spots have remained closed for months while others have been forced to endlessly reinvent themselves as circumstances keep changing. (And don’t even talk to us about Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne—RIP to both). But as we slowly, slowly creep back to an even newer new normal, more drinking dens are available to us than ever before. And thank the boozy gods for warmer weather, which means we also, finally, have all the al fresco options we can handle. From swanky cocktail lounges to natural wine bars and brewery taprooms, loads of places are beginning to thrive once again, keeping the good times rolling while still respecting the moment with safety precautions in place. Spread the love (not the virus) while practicing some much-needed self care at these top Boston bars.
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 tiki 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 reserve/order: Make a reservation via Tock or order cocktail kits to-go online.
Brick & Mortar
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: You’re here to savor, not quaff (with health restrictions in mind, of course). Don’t be surprised if you skip your next-day dinner reservations because you’d rather return to order just one more cocktail.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served seating.
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 of their ingredients are created, including vodka and flavored liqueurs like almond and cranberry. Right now, they’re playing it safe with a three-days-a-week schedule, but their bottled cocktails are still available to-go, both solo and alongside a food menu spanning bites like grilled cheese and crab rangoon empanadas.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order cocktails to-go online.
Bully Boy Distillers
Every single day over the last fourteen months, we’ve tipped our hat to the many ways local barkeeps have been transforming their formerly-indoor businesses 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 newly reopened complex has cued up an enviable spring line-up 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 more intimate evening.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via OpenTable.
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 dozen seasonal cocktails on tap (or heck, sipping a straightforward off-menu tipple, because they can do that, too). Create is also offering vittles from Humaari Provisions and desserts from La Bottega, so you can make a full evening of it—but only for parties up to four people.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via Resy or order take-out 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 whiskies on top of a singled-out whiskey of the week. There’s also a curated cocktail list plus an impressive canned beer collection on top of a few choices on draft. Have we mentioned the food program that includes booze-friendly comforts like Frito pie, burgers, and hot dogs? Yep, it’s all there.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served patio seating or order cocktails to-go via Toast.
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 newest venture continues to push boundaries with a by-the-glass wine list that exclusively features female winemakers (said wines are also small-batch 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 reserve/order: Call 857-317-3884 to reserve a seat or order take-out.
If it’s named after a Bowie song, it has to be good. Owner and local wine consultant Lauren Friel designed this welcoming Union 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, and she also leads weekly Natural Wine 101 classes. How has she adjusted during these abnormal times? By introducing bottles to-go, virtual wine classes, and while the weather holds out, al fresco drinking and dining.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served patio seating, check out upcoming online classes at Eventbrite, or 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 a subterranean drinking den from the team behind nearby Bar Mezzana. In normal times, you enter through an inconspicuous side door, wind your way down a few flights of stairs, and emerge into an island oasis. One day we’ll get back there, but in the meantime, the bar has created The Life Raft by Shore Leave, a patio space by the building’s main entrance that has just reopened for the season. The traditional tiki jams are still on point from Mai Tais to Painkillers, and the culinary options are far mightier than last year’s, including dressed-up guilty pleasures like bacon double cheeseburgers, kimchi hot dogs, fried Brussels sprouts, and Karaage wings.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via Resy.
Leave it to a 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 heavy glass of red after a long day’s work, at the office or from your living room? The concept was developed by Sportello alumna Haley Fortier and chef de cuisine Carolina Curtin is also a Barbara Lynch alum, having cut her teeth in Menton’s venerable kitchen. 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. After a bit of hibernation, we’re pleased to announce that haley.henry has recently reopened—extra special thanks to the small patio space for giving us a breezier imbibing alternative.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via Resy or order take-out through Toast.
This much-adored Downtown barroom is known for its small-but-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 the best whiskey smashes around. To boot, the quaint streetside patio demands repeat visits in these endless pandemic-ridden times.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via OpenTable or order delivery from Uber Eats.
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 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 anything but trendy. And thankfully, they’ve recently opened a brand-new patio for daily dinner and drinks in addition to peddling cocktails and food to-go. Not only that, but they’ve also relaunched the Starlite Snack and Shack next door, plying hungry drinkers with soft serve, hot dogs, and, yes, even more beer and wine to-go
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first-come, first-served patio seating or order take-out via 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 shaking up classic drinks with creative twists (think: pisco punch spiked with tangy pineapple vinegar) alongside signatures 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 peddling even more audacious delights (see above). So how does it all translate in the current era? Both bars are still open for business, in addition to a gorgeous outdoor patio complete with twinkling lights that invites you to enjoy your Szechuan cuisine and cocktails stress-free.
How to reserve/order: Book a seat via Tock or call 781-935-8488 for cocktails to-go.
Part of the Barbara Lynch empire, this ever-stunning icon famously eschews a formal cocktail menu in favor of a talented fleet of bartenders that pose behind the large, U-shaped bars and ask, “What do you feel like drinking tonight?” The groundbreaking concept has long attracted cocktail geeks from all over the country and everyday vodka-soda drinkers alike, regularly generating lines around the block on Friday and Saturday nights in the before times. Now there’s a waitlist system and a limit on party size, but the unwavering commitment to getting your bespoke cocktail just right remains firmly intact.
How to reserve/order: Stop by to join the digital waitlist or order take-out via Toast.