While you’re trying to decide which best new restaurants to check out (again), you should probably stop by a new bar and think things over with a drink, which is basically the best kind of multitasking. Boston is home once again to a revolution, but this time it’s all about craft beers and cocktails, which means more fun, and fewer bayonets. Raise a glass -- or three -- and become a regular at these 11 best new bars in The Hub:
Boston's 11 best new bars of the year
Tucked away on Appleton St behind a nondescript door, this subterranean hooch parlor pours legit libations. They thrive on "good spirits" with a seasonal cocktail menu, Monday Tiki industry nights, and a Scotch Club. Highlights from their current slate include The Getaway with Scapa Scotch and house falernum, and The Aguila -- a diabolical concoction made with Montelobos Mezcal and habanero tincture. For deep pockets, try the $100 Black Card Cocktail: Billionaire Bijou with Nolet’s Reserve gin, Punt e Mes, Chartreuse VEP, and Leone orange bitters.
Faster than you can say "shaken, not stirred", The Merchant has become the post-work drink spot for the DX and FiDi button-down set. By the numbers, this American brasserie offers a full-spectrum beer/cider menu with 43 bottles/cans/drafts, ranging from Coors Banquet to Delirium Tremens. They have 52 wines by the glass/bottle, plus three Gotham Project wines on tap. If you’ve had a really good (or bad) day at the office, step it up to a cocktail like a Boston Collins, their spin on the classic with Bully Boy vodka and Earl Grey syrup.
Beverage director Paulo Pereira goes for the gold standard at Brass Union with fun and funky cocktails, house-made mixers, and a plethora of craft beers. Choose between "Beginner", "Intermediate", and "Advanced" thirst-quenchers, but don’t let the labels fool you... they’re all high-test. Skip to the head of the class and sip the aptly named Green Line Extension with bourbon, brandy, and green Chartreuse. They even have a rotating draft cocktail. Speaking of drafts, Brass Union devotes 23 tap lines to notable breweries such as Baxter, Peak Organic, and Pretty Things. Another 23 different craft bottles ensures that you will not leave thirsty.
Über-chill South End hangout Merrill & Co. strikes the balance between mixing serious drinks and not taking it all too seriously. The "let’s just have fun"-vibe resonates in drinks like the ‘Gansett 75, made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, and ‘Gansett. Then there’s the extensive Sherry menu; they have 16 total from five varieties: Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, and Sweet. Their beer roster covers all the craft bases, from Notch Session Pils to Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union. They’re also pouring jazzed-up old-school fountain drinks like Luxardo Cherry Phosphate and Pineapple Shrub.
The Trina’s and Parlor Sports crew resurrected the defunct neighborhood hangout Audubon Circle and remade it as Audubon Boston, a showcase for a standout cocktail menu. For the bold/curious, try the A.B.’retto Sour with Lazzaroni Amaretto, Overproof Plantation rum, lemon, and sugar egg white. Or the Mis Suenos, boosted by Dulce Vida reposado, Punt e Mes, and smoked ginger syrup. For brew-hounds, they also dispense eight craft drafts that'll help wash down their honey jalapeño wings.
The good folks at Abbey - Brookline exported their extensive beer program, brown liquor catalog, and house Martinis all the way to Porter Square. Whether you're sipping a Schlitz tallboy, or a Spencer Trappist Ale (which number among 60-plus brews), or some single-barrel bourbon from the 50-strong whiskey selection, you've made a good decision. Finish your evening like a gentleman with the Abbey Old Cuban Martini, the zippy house-specialty with spiced rum, lime juice, mint, bitters, and sparkling wine.
If Lulu’s was a movie, it would be Beerfest (they even have Smokin’ Blonde Beer Cheese Soup). It’s packing 45 drafts broken down into five categories: "Hop Focused Brews", "Ales", "Lagers", "Belgian Style & Wheat Brews", and the all-important "Oh You Fancy (10)". Cocktails (beer and craft) complicate your decision-making process. Pro tip: definitely check out Lulu’s brunch for s'mores pancakes, mimosa buckets, and Bloody Mary pitchers.
Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north, has gifted us many fine things over the years, like Dan Aykroyd and poutine. Now Earls Kitchen + Bar has crossed the border and landed in The Hub. Their eats rock hard (try the chicken, brie & fig sandwich), but their beverages rock even harder... like Rush. The Bees Knees is exactly that, a combo of Aviation gin, Cointreau, honey, fresh lemon, and Angostura bitters. They’re also re-energizing some classics, like Earls Old Fashioned with Maker’s, Demerara sugar, and root beer bitters. If you like a show with your drinks, the Mad Hatter arrives in a steaming teapot (serving four) with vodka, St. George Poire Williams, black tea, kaffir lime, and coconut water.
Bostonia Public House’s motto is "Sip, Sample, & Be Social", and they excel at making those those things to happen. Crack open a Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp IPA (one of almost 40 beer options), or choose from 70 wines available by the taste, glass, carafe, or bottle -- not to mention, an even deeper cellar of hard to find stuff. They’re also mixing up quirky cocktails, and you should take down a Bostonia Sour with Jack Daniels Single Barrel, lemon juice, Simple Syrup, and a Pinot noir topper.
Don’t tell Boss Hog or Rosco, but Loretta’s has moonshine. Swig some Georgia Moon Fruit Jar or So Ho Moonshine at this Nashville-style joint on Lansdowne St. Continue your Southern tour with a can of Lone Star, followed immediately by an honest whiskey from their list of 30. The country-time cocktails include stuff like Shoo Fly Punch, which packs one, thanks to bourbon and ginger syrup. There's also the Hibiscus Kiss (vodka, elderflower liqueur), which could cool you off on a hot Georgia day. The wine list is appropriately sarcastic, comprised of only "White", "Red", "Pink", and "Fizzy" options. (Well played, Loretta.).
The Tap Trailhouse combines old-timey drinking with modern mojo to form a Colonial era-inspired gastropub. Crazy... but it works. They went local with their drink program, featuring as many New England brews and spirits as possible -- such as their entirely regional beer list. The fully stocked liquor cabinet (with many varieties of everything) and the beer cocktails on draft are ample enough to fuel a brigade of Minutemen through two revolutions. Other signature drinks are designated by "Ports of Call" (favored by mariners of old), "Ladles", "Bowls & Straws" (traditional social refreshments), and "Pistols & Daggers" (booze-heavy cocktails for shooting and sipping). Go for a shooter of The New Englander with Bully Boy Boston rum and chase it with the house exclusive IPA: Freedom Trail Ale.
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1. Wink & Nod3 Appleton St, Boston
2. The Merchant60 Franklin St, Boston
3. Brass Union70 Union Square, Somerville
4. Merrill & Co.1 Appleton St, Boston
5. Audubon Boston838 Beacon St, Boston
6. The Abbey1755 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
7. Lulu's421 Cambridge St, Boston
8. Earls Kitchen + Bar698 Assembly Row, Somerville
9. Bostonia Public House131 State St, Boston
10. Loretta's Last Call1 Lansdowne St, Boston
11. Tap Trailhouse19 Union St, Boston
Boston Nightlife Ventures' new speakeasy has made a home for the pop-up Whisk, so you can enjoy your cocktails made with Cutty Sark Prohibition Scotch alongside bites like squid ink tagliatelle pasta with baby octopus.
Check out this relaxed American brasserie that's got 60 beers (36 on draft), contemporary comfort eats, and in-house cured and smoked meats.
At Brass Union, the front, tavern-style setting gives way to a funk/soul lounge in back, which boasts vintage table-top video games, board games, life-size Connect Four, and a 14-foot shuffleboard court.
Come to Merril for something between comfort food and fine dining -- you might grab some of their delicious catfish, you might grab some of their tender BBQ ribs, you might just grab something from their craft cocktail menu -- but you will definitely not regret stopping by.
Audubon Boston has a standout cocktail menu, including the A.B.’retto Sour with Lazzaroni amaretto, Overproof Plantation rum, lemon, and sugar egg white. Or try the Mis Suenos, boosted by Dulce Vida reposado, Punt e Mes, and smoked ginger syrup. For brew-hounds, they also dispense eight craft drafts that'll help wash down their honey jalapeño wings. The Pork Muffaletta and Corn Husk Flounder are also standouts.
With a list of 30+ Scotches and 70+ other deluxe spirits, The Abbey will easily coax you into trying some of their equally high-end cuisine (not that you needed any prodding). Get down on Lamb Lollipops and Bison Bolognese before you leave.
This spacious, industrial-looking American eatery is filled with over 50 craft beers and delicious comfort food like the Bad Ass Burger -- natural beef with herbs & butter, short ribs, and a runny egg that's topped with beer cheese soup and served with chili cheese fries.
This upscale casual eatery features Executive Chef Tim Pennington’s made-from-scratch fare of signature Earls dishes and special New England creations. He’s grilling up some mean Angus Peppercorn & Bourbon Mushroom Steaks and the Fenway Burger (stacked high with o-rings and red pepper relish), and then going global with the Jeera Chicken Curry and Crispy Tuna Sushi Cones. The cocktails are especially legit, and you should try the Earls Old Fashioned, elevated by root beer bitters, as well as the Bee’s Knees, a zippy concoction powered by Hendricks Gin and served in a glass honey bear.
Bostonia Public House presents an old-school classic Boston-meeting-place vibe in the historic Board of Trade Building -- show up and try some tater tot poutine, braised lamb pasta, and house-made ricotta dumplings.
Loretta's Last Call is a rare treasure in Fenway, featuring live country/blue grass/roots honky tonk on Lansdowne St. Beer, bourbon, and whiskey will pair with fried chicken and other Southern fare to keep your good times going.
The Tap Trailhouse combines old-timey drinking with modern mojo to form a Colonial era-inspired gastropub. Their local drink program features as many New England brews and spirits as possible, and the fully stocked liquor cabinet & beer cocktails on draft are ample enough to fuel a brigade of Minutemen through two revolutions. Other signature drinks are designated by Ports of Call (favored by mariners of old), Ladles, Bowls & Straws (traditional social refreshments), and Pistols & Daggers (booze-heavy cocktails for shooting and sipping). Go for a shooter of The New Englander with Bully Boy Boston rum and chase it with the house exclusive IPA: Freedom Trail Ale.