The Best Places to Drink in Charleston Right Now
The Holy City has no shortage of great bars at which you can whet your whistle. From craft cocktails to locally brewed beers to thoughtfully curated wine lists, there’s sure to be a spot for every palate to be found in Charleston. Fortunately for you, we’ve sampled beverages at a wide variety of different spots all across town -- from dive bars to upscale lounges and everything in between -- to bring you this diverse list of Charleston drinkeries, perfect for quenching your thirst. From the brand new to the tried-and-true, these are the places you’ll want to visit on your next night out on the town.
King Street Historic District
A tiki-themed karaoke bar in the heart of King Street
When The Upper Deck Tavern announced it was closing, many Charlestonians wept. Luckily, Recovery Room owner Chris "Boston" DiMattia saved the space and transformed it into a seven-day-a-week karaoke bar. Although the new owners gave the interior a bit of love, all the charm of UDT (and at least one of its bartenders) stuck around for the transition, infusing a great mix of nostalgia and newness. The drinks are cheap and cold, the servers are friendly and knowledgeable, and the list of songs available for karaoke is long and varied. Get there early if you want to sing, because they tend to have a long waitlist on weekends.
A pink-washed champagne bar in an upscale hotel
Hotel Bennett opened earlier this year and it brought with it not one, not two, but four different options for places at which to eat and drink. Our favorite of the bunch is Camellias. Bathed in pink from ceiling to floor, the pastel bar pays homage to the former Charleston public library that the once inhabited the space. The drinks do tend to sway toward the pricier end of the spectrum, but the whole vibe is perfect for an upscale bachelorette party or just a good, old fashioned girls’ night out. Put on your LBD, order a Cosmo, and channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw for a fun night out.
King Street Historic District
A neighborhood cocktail bar with a retro Caribbean vibe
Dalila’s is a cozy, neighborhood craft cocktail bar that gives you that “everyone knows your name” vibe, even if it’s your first time in. It’s a great bar for a first date, as the lighting is moody, the drinks are strong, and the servers are helpful without being overbearing. The cocktail list changes seasonally, but one of our favorites is the Eastern Court (with gin, pineapple, apricot, and lime) that puts a tropical twist to a traditional gimlet. Not sure what you want? Chat with the bartenders, as they are happy to whip something up that fits your taste.
Casual industrial-chic bar & restaurant serving elevated American fare
Bringing a little taste of downtown Charleston over the bridge into Mount Pleasant, Handcraft mirrors the ever-popular industrial chic decor that is found throughout town, and the creative cocktails are similar to what you’d find downtown (without the premiere price tag). The drink menu takes you on a historical tour of cocktails past, present, and future -- ranging from a classic Sazerac to the B-A-N-A-N-A-S (made with peanut-butter-fat-washed rum, chocolate banana cordial, spiced cream, and coconut water ice).
Est. 2018 | French Quarter
Hip cocktail bar helmed by bad ass female mixologist Megan Deschaine
Charleston’s culinary scene has a lot of rock stars, but we’d follow Megan Deschaine pretty much anywhere. So when the badass bartender popped up at a new cocktail bar on Meeting Street last year, we were intrigued to say the least. Doar Bros just celebrated its first anniversary, and Megan and her team are going strong, serving up thoughtfully crafted cocktails that go down smoother than silk. The PSL Milk Punch is a blend of rum, brandy, heirloom pumpkin, and vanilla that tastes like a boozy version of a pumpkin spice latte and it is quite possibly the perfect winter beverage. Pair that with truffle mac and cheese and you’ve got true decadence.
Est. 2016 | Ansonborough
Caribbean-inspired bar with tiki drinks, snacks, and cold beer
Charleston might feel a little chilly outside right now, but inside Cane Rhum Bar, it’s like summer never left. The brightly colored walls, leafy green palm trees, and upbeat island-inspired music make you feel like you’ve jetted off to the Caribbean for the weekend. Rhum Chef Paul Yellin, a self-described “rum drinker with a cooking problem,” has crafted food and drink menus with authentic island flavors and ingredients to chase the chill away. One solid go-to drink is the Charleston Hurricane, made with Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum, Gosling’s Gold Rum, lime juice, guava-passion fruit, allspice simple syrup, and grenadine.
Est. 2015 | Eastside
Upscale cocktail bar with seasonally changing drinks
The dark wood paneling, low light, and bar manager Kyle Degolyer’s proclivity for whiskey-based cocktails -- including a seasonally-inspired cocktail called Legends Of The Fall (made with Wyoming whiskey, Pineau de Charentes, apple, Zirbenze pine liqueur, orange bitters -- all give Mash a cozy feel. The bar also keeps things casual with an indoor bocce court, jukebox, live music a few nights a week, and a happy hour menu that includes $5 bar bites, daiquiris, and shots of whiskey Monday through Friday, making it an ideal spot for any mood.
Est. 2014 | NoMo
Contemporary bar & restaurant with house-brewed beers
Beer lovers will rejoice over the giant wall of beers offered at Edmund’s Oast and Edmund’s Oast Brewing. Whether you’re into one of the house-brewed suds made by brewer Jake Huber, a wide-varied selection of beer from around the country on draft, or one of its creatively crafted cocktails (we’re big fans of The Red Wedding, which includes bourbon and a hibiscus, ginger, thyme, and black tea ice cube), you’ll find a new drink obsession here. Pair it with some of the house-cured charcuterie, and you might never want to leave.
Est. 2014 | Folly Beach
No-frills, Asian-inspired restaurant and saloon
This unique locals’ saloon exists in an area most often associated with tourists and generic fried seafood. Luckily, Jack of Cups isn’t afraid to break the mold and be different, and it’s also got one of the best beer selections on Folly Beach, with both local and regional brews, plus a decent portfolio of red and white wine, at prices that’ll make your wallet (and taste buds) jump for joy. The food menu changes seasonally and its current menu offers some unique, heartwarming options like rosemary beef stew or the cannellini bean burger.
Est. 2013 | King Street Historic District
Jazz-inspired bar and restaurant with creative cocktails and live music
Prohibition’s name might imply otherwise, but the cocktail menu is more than just bathtub gin. The cocktail menu is divided by spirit, ranging from vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, agave, and a special section devoted to the “diverse.” Try the Bourbon Thyme with granny smith apple-infused Jim Beam, lemon, Aperol, thyme, honey, and orange bitters for a playful and palate-pleasing drink. And if that doesn’t do the trick, get out on the dance floor. After all, what goes better with cocktails than dancing?
Est. 2013 | Mazyck-Wraggborough
German-style sports bar with pour-your-own beer taps
Bay Street Biergarten is a lively, energetic beer bar inspired by German-style biergartens found throughout Bavaria. The outdoor patio features giant picnic-style tables, lawn games, and, when the weather’s nice, an almost constantly packed bar. Inside, you’ll find self-serve beer taps, comfortable booths, and a bar serving up local and regional brews and craft cocktails. Between the monthly pop-culture-themed trivia nights, live music, and broadcasts of the latest sports games, there’s always something fun happening at BSB.
Est. 2013 | King Street Historic District
Energetic sports bar and bowling alley with themed parties and live trivia
When you want to have a game night and actually head out of the house, head over to the Alley for an ice-cold beer or cocktails, a rousing game bowling (don’t forget to bring socks!), or a crawl through its many varied arcade games. Whether it be for the Studio 300 party, the Big Lebowski Bash, or just for a fun night out on the town, The Alley is one bar you should definitely pin to your list for a strikingly good time -- sorry, but those puns were completely justified. Remember, the bar shows bowling on ESPN, which means it’s totally a sport and totally counts as exercise.
Est. 2013 | East Central
Mellow watering hole specializing in craft cocktails and mule varieties
Local 616 is a dive bar, but owner Dwayne Mitchell has created an atmosphere that makes you feel like your best friend (who’s great at mixing drinks) opened a bar and you’re their favorite customer. Although it’s definitely off the beaten path, Local 616 is worth going out of your way. As Dwayne would say, “word.”
Est. 2012 | King Street Historic District
Upscale diner-style spot known for house-brewed Moscow Mules
There’s something about a Moscow Mule that appeals to every season, and the best mule in the Holy City can be found at Rarebit. The dark, comfy booths, retro-style lighting, and bartenders who make complicated cocktails at lightning speed all come together to make you feel like you’ve found a hidden gem, even when the place is at capacity.
Est. 2012 | King Street Historic District
Intimate cocktail bar with an extensive drink list
The craft cocktail and “real good beer” menu at Proof is one of the biggest in Charleston, which means the odds of finding a drink to match your unique personality are pretty heavily in your favor. Not finding exactly what you want on the menu? Not a problem, as owner/bartender Craig Nelson and company can fashion practically any cocktail your heart desires. Just tell them what flavors you like and they’ll make it happen. The space is intimate and dark and overlooks King Street, which makes a romantic backdrop for date night.
Est. 2012 | Park Circle
Sports bar with a lively patio and cold beer
Dig in the Park is arguably one of the most fun bars in all of Park Circle, and perhaps in the entirety of North Charleston. Anytime you walk by, the patio looks like a party you wish you’d been invited to, often featuring live music, trivia competitions, sports on TV, or just a general air of camaraderie. Stop by for a happy hour drink (or two) during the week from 4-7pm for $3 well liquors, $4 Angry Orchard, Sweetwater 420, and Samuel Adams Seasonal drafts, and $5 apps.
Est. 2011 | Johns Island
Neighborhood pub serving Irish spirits, food, and beer
When it comes to darker liquors like whiskey, bourbon, and scotch, you can bet that an Irish pub like Seanachai has a decent selection of all three. Order up some of that good stuff, or try your luck with the cocktail of the week, made with ingredients picked fresh from the Johns Island Farmers’ Market (or Seanachai’s own herb garden). Sip your drinks inside the warm Irish pub interior, or take them outside around the fire pit.
Est. 2011 | King Street Historic District
Jazzy speakeasy with craft cocktails and a rooftop patio
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic Old Fashioned to warm you up from your belly to your toes. -- and it’s hard to beat the one found at upscale lounge the Cocktail Club. If brown liquor isn't your thing, the Macho Man Dandy Savage (made with dandelion-infused gin, yellow chartreuse, wildflower honey, fresh lemon, orange bitters 13) is also a great choice. They offer lots of great drink specials throughout the week, like a bourbon happy hour on Wednesday and half-off punch bowls on Sundays. Obsessed with the Cocktail Club? Join the VIP list for all kinds of cool discounts and special events.
Est. 2011 | French Quarter
Divey live music venue with cheap drinks and tasty fare
Royal American has been a favorite of live music and beer lovers since its inception back in 2011. Built to look like it was 30 years old, Royal American is the kind of place to kick back a few cold ones, listen to a local or touring band, and just hang with your friends for a while. Throw in some disco fries, some house-made beef jerky, and one of their 32-ounce signature punches (complete with pebble ice for just $8) and it’s no wonder locals have been flocking here for nearly a decade.
Est. 2010 | French Quarter
Cozy and romantic cocktail bar serving hand-crafted drinks
The intimate Gin Joint offers up all the makings of a perfect romantic night out: softly lit, unobtrusive music, and of course, a selection of sinfully delicious mixed drinks. The cocktail menu leans heavily on the eponymous spirit, but the bar is stocked with other popular liquors as well (just don’t ask for anything with vodka). Not sure what to order? Ask for the bartender’s choice for a one-of-a-kind cocktail crafted just for you.
Est. 2010 | French Quarter
Rustic, two-story bar with premium whiskey and regional brews
The Bar at Husk is known for its penchant for whiskey -- it features more than 50 premium bourbons, ryes, and scotches that are delicious whether on their own or in one of the signature cocktails. The atmosphere is especially unique, capturing true Southern essence with its faux-thatch roof and exposed brick walls that make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time a century or two. Order the burger and a barrel-aged Manhattan (it’s barrel-rested for at least 30 days) for a truly transcendent experience.
Est. 2010 | King Street Historic District
Chic and trendy cocktail bar serving up all the classics
The comfortable atmosphere at the Belmont seems to be magically appropriate for every season. We’re not sure if it’s the black and white movies projected on the wall, the fact that there’s (seriously) a limit on the number of people allowed in at a time to give it more of an intimate feel, or the artfully crafted cocktails that make us love the Belmont so much, but they all work together to really get you in the mood of the season. Pair your fresh-pressed seasonal cocktail with a house-made banana and nutella Pop-Tart and settle in for a cozy evening with someone special.
Est. 2008 | Upper King Street
Lowkey dive bar known for cheap beer
We’re not sure that there’s anything that could stop people from going to the Recovery Room -- an evergreen haunt that Charlestonians will continue to frequent decades into the future (at least, we hope so). It’s like that little cockroach from Wall-E: The world might be completely deserted, but Rec Room will still be up and running, slinging PBRs to anyone who’s thirsty enough to want one.
Est. 1996 | French Quarter
Quintessential dive bar in one of Charleston’s most frequently visited neighborhoods.
One of Charleston’s oldest bars, The Griffon has managed to stick around while most everything else around it has closed, rebranded, or disappeared altogether. Its charm lies in the fact that it appeals to both locals and tourists (which makes sense since it’s basically right across from Waterfront Park). Anthony Bourdain (RIP) famously visited its dollar bill-plastered interior during one of his last trips to Charleston, and many people have followed his lead, stopping by for a shot of whisky -- or Jägermeister, as Bourdain did -- and to leave behind a signed memento to grace its walls. It’s basically a rite of passage at this point, so be sure to stop by at least once during your tenure to experience this piece of Charleston history.
Est. 1970s | French Quarter
A nondescript cocktail bar with decades of charm
Faculty Lounge in its current iteration has been around only since 2013, but the building in which it sits and its historic moniker have roots dating back all the way to the 1970s. Faculty is the kind of place that you’d never know was there unless you were a local. After a bartender buzzes you in and you step inside, you’ll find a cheap happy hour (and a pretty affordable list of drinks even during non-happy-hours) and chill atmosphere with a sort of mid-century modern vibe, plus entertaining bartenders thrown in as an added bonus.
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