Where to Grab a Drink in Houston Right Now

From tiki dens and modern wine bars to old school haunts, here’s where you should be drinking this summer.

The best way to celebrate summertime in the Bayou City? Ordering a delicious cocktail from your favorite bar. Obviously, there’s additional points if the venue boasts a shaded patio. The temperatures have been steadily crawling up the 100-degree meter, which isn’t too surprising since heat is essentially Houston’s four-season weather. But it’s still pretty grueling, so getting acquainted (if not already) with the city’s spectacular bar scene should be on the top of your summer list. From cozy, unassumed haunts that keep it simple in the Heights and EaDo, to vibrant Montrose cocktail bars that you’ll never want to leave, quench your thirst with these 25 drinking dens.

Clarkwood
Clarkwood | Photo by Cameron Jones

Clarkwood

Montrose
$$$$

Houston’s latest see-and-be-seen haunt combines 1930s Mediterranean panache and Old Hollywood charm with impressive cocktails and a short but smart library of wines. Dress to impress and ease into the vibe with a French red, rosemary- and grapefruit-kissed Ruby cocktail, or house-curated Persian Cowboy shot finished with Persian key lime juice and zest. The date night spot also shares its courtyard with upcoming wood-fired steakhouse Andiron, upping its game even further.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Idle Hands HTX

Montrose
$$$$

An offshoot of Austin’s Idle Hands, this fun-loving rooftop bar took over the old Rosemont space on the popular corner of Westheimer and Montrose. The concept takes inspiration from travels through the Caribbean and Latin America, dreaming up a relaxed imbibing experience that’ll help tame your wanderlust (for now). Sip a few Palomas and Frozen Painkillers, nosh on Shrimp Tacos and Plantain Chips and Guac, and take your mind to a place far beyond Bayou City.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Highline Park
Highline Park | Photo by Tyler Barrera

Highline Park

Heights
$$$$

From the team behind popular garden bar Wicklow Heights, this flashy sports bar is making its M-K-T Heights debut, rocking a 1,500-square-foot shaded patio fresh off the Heights Hike and Bike Trail. Come here for classic cocktails with a twist, from the floral Violette G&T and citrusy Prickly Pear Marg to the robust Trail to Trail, kicked with bourbon, rum, and mole bitters. Naturally, all of it pairs nicely with elevated pub grub like Truffle Fries and Bang Bang Shrimp.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Winnie's
Winnie's | Photo by Emily Jaschke

Winnie's

Midtown
$$$$

Imagine a treasure chest filled with ice and cocktails. Now imagine those cocktails are stunners like Sazeracs made with 15-year Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey or French 75s with a full bottle of Champagne. Finally, imagine ordering and enjoying said treasure chest along with some char-grilled oysters and one of the best Peacemaker po’boys you can find. That’s what you can experience at this vibey, breezy patio bar from Johnny’s Gold Brick owner Benjy Mason and chefs Graham Laborde and Chris Roy. Say no more.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout via Toast.

Guests to this coffee shop- cocktail bar hybrid will definitely want a double dose of everything. The lineup is jam-packed with slushy and smooth creations like the bourbon- and ginger-based Suffering Bastards and orange-blushed Captain’s Orders alongside Lone Star tallboys and coffees infused with housemade syrups fragrant enough to sate your sweet tooth. The sweetness doesn’t stop there, though. Customers can also chomp on some freshly baked Fluffernutter—made with creamy peanut butter and marshmallow fluff—or Chocolate Coconut Macaroons between rounds at the bar.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Under the Volcano

Kirby/West University
$$$$

This bar’s rather explosive roster of drinks lives up to its fierce name. Serving as the first establishment to introduce the craft cocktail movement to the city, Under the Volcano has been incorporating fresh squeezed citrus and house tinctures into their practice since 1989. The menu keeps it classic, headlined by go-tos like frozen margaritas and Screwdrivers, but they also spice things up with more complex inventions like the Horseradish Pomegranate Margarita and zesty Green or Red, with two kinds of rum and real bell peppers—try downing that with a straight face.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Space Cowboy
Photo courtesy of Space Cowboy

Space Cowboy

Heights
$$$$

One of the greatest upsides of living in Houston is that pool season basically lasts all year-long. Enter this splashy bar and lounge concept, which sits over at the reimagined Heights House Hotel and comes from industry pro Greg Perez (Monkey’s Tail) and his hospitality collective, Night Moves (its Trash Panda Drinking Club is another watering hole you’ll want to check out). Pop in for cocktails like the crushable rum-, passionfruit-, and ginger-spiked Sun Soaked on Montie Beach, or get fired up with a Spicy Lady, made with Heaven's Door Highway 61 Blend, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, mango, lemon, and housemade habanero tincture. For an added touch, you can snag a $20 pool pass and enjoy these beverages in a waterfront cabana (or just stick to the open-access bar and lounge).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first reserved seating.

We may have said goodbye to our beloved OKRA Charity Saloon, but, thankfully, it’s been reincarnated as Angel Share. New owner Mary Ellen Angel was a longtime general manager of the saloon, and the bar will continue on with one of OKRA’s most important features. It will continue donating a portion of its proceeds (this time, from a special menu) to a different local nonprofit each month. You can even help choose which organization gets selected by earning a vote with each purchase. It’s a bar on a mission, and that mission is best served with a Spanish-style Gin and Tonic garnished with sliced fruit or a quick Lemon Drop shot.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Trash Panda Drinking Club
Photo courtesy of Trash Panda Drinking Club

Trash Panda Drinking Club

Northside Village
$$$$

Tucked away in Lindale Park, owner Greg Perez and team revamped the former Edison & Patton space into a funky, grungy cocktailery, the kind of spot that makes you channel your inner cheeky raccoon for the night. (The bar’s official slogan reads “Death is Coming, Eat Trash, Be Free” in vibrant neon, for crying out loud.) Get loose with the carbonated Purple Kush, or a Bubblegum Martini made with Brooklyn Gin, Green Chartreuse, and “bubblegum broth,” while noshing on birria tacos and deep dish ‘za til the wee hours of the night.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Toasted Coconut
The Toasted Coconut | Photo by Vivian Leba of Snapbox Studio

Sipping an umbrella-adorned drink under the starlit palapa at this tropical oasis is something every Houstonian should experience. A refreshing venture from the crew behind Nobie’s, TTC serves mad vacation vibes with help from a rushing waterfall, adult sandbox, and punny, boozy cocktails like the Tropic Like It’s Hot (jalapeño tequila, POG, lime, hibiscus) from bar director Sarah Troxell. Level up your staycay by pairing your drinks with Ginger Pork Dumplings and Baja Mussels swimming in zesty guajillo broth.

Diversión

Spring Branch
$$$$

Sister concept to avant-garde tasting menu restaurant Degust, Diversión focuses on pure flavors, scratchmade ingredients, and top shelf booze. Chef-partner Steven Salazar goes above and beyond to make sure your drinks are fresh, personally foraging and preserving Meyer lemons for year-round citrus access as well as fashioning his own tinctures, fermentations, and vinegars. The result is next-level cocktails like the Cava and Caviar, a dressed-up tipple made with Brut Rosé, Cognac, local strawberry vinegar, blackberry cordial, and hackleback caviar. The intimate cocktail experience sits just eight guests around the white stone-topped bar, with room for an additional 12 available throughout the space. Those who want to add on bites can turn to the pintxos menu of caviar, conserva, and charcuterie.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Monkey’s Tail
Monkey's Tail | Photo by Shannon O'Hara

Monkey’s Tail

Northside Village
$$$$

Channeling the spirit of Ozomatli (that’s the monkey companion spirit to the Aztec god of music and dance, obviously) this Mexican-American cocktail dive is one of Houston’s vibe-iest neighborhood hangouts. The indoor-outdoor setup is perfect for our ever-changing weather, with a dog-friendly patio on nicer days and a funky indoor space with billiards to keep you entertained during the inevitable rainstorm. There’s also an extensive draft system with 20 taps on a custom-designed tower and superlative food and bev menu. Wash down smashed Chango burgers and barbacoa pizza with a Tequila & Mexican Coke Highball or Dragon Fruit Margarita. Industry legend Lainey Collum is now the bar director, so you can expect excitement in the cocktail menu.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Secret Garden

Downtown
$$$$

Outside of Bravery Chef Hall at Aris Market Square lies this not-so-secret garden, where you’ll find barkeep Jonathan Gallardo (Hughes Hangar, Prohibition) showing off his mad maestro skills inside a striking glass greenhouse engulfed in lush plants and flowers. It’s easily the best place to grab a stiff date night tipple, especially these days, since you can saunter out onto the 2,000-square-foot patio to enjoy it. Gallardo’s modern plays on classic cocktails come with flair to match the enchanting setting, rocking fun stuff like signature flower branding for the ice blocks and candied citrus accoutrements.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Anvil Bar & Refuge

Montrose
$$$$

Bobby Heugel’s first bar put Houston’s cocktail scene on the map with a focus on form and a robust collection of housemade bitters, sodas, and infusions. The team at Anvil deserves to be taken seriously, too, as the staff goes through an intense training process culminating in a 50-count blind taste test, and a number of skilled alums have gone on to open some of the most exciting bars in town. Cocktail purists can and should journey through the 100-strong lineup spanning iconic classics and twists, while those looking for a taste of the unknown can get their fix via a host of seasonal revamps. There’s also a cool as hell break-even bottle program that makes luxurious sips more affordable.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Julep
Julep | Photo courtesy of Julie Soefer Photography

Julep

Washington
$$$$

Housed in an industrial 1880s-era uniform factory and making Houstonians swoon since 2014, this Southern charmer creates masterful odes to the bar’s namesake drink. We’d be satisfied if they stopped there, but bourbon boss Alba Huerta also ups the game with a flourish of back porch inspirations that read like a history book of the South—bold Sazeracs, Creole rums, and newer cocktails focused on global ingredients like the cardamom-infused Ela Milk Punch. Though it’s been around for less than a decade, Julep’s fast become a timeless Houston institution.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Hammocks and beer—could a lazy afternoon in the Bayou City get any better? Actually yes, because Axelrad also offers board games, picnic tables, food trucks, occasional live music, and a next-door pizzeria that will bring garlic knots straight to your table. Hanging out in this tranquil beer garden is the day-drinking equivalent of getting an exfoliating facial at a spa (especially during prime patio season). The eclectic collection of craft beers, poured from sweet tap handles designed by Venezuelan artist Maria Rangel, only heightens your relaxation while those who prefer cocktails and wine can get down with choices by the glass and bottle.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

This old-school ice house was around before household refrigerators became an “it” appliance. First opening back in 1928, locals frequented the spot to get ice blocks and a couple of cold ones before heading home for the day. Today, they’re doing the same thing, minus the ice and adding in tacos al pastor from the nearby Tacos Tierra Caliente truck. West Alabama Ice House’s sprawling patio and tiny indoor space is so unapologetically no-frills, it earns instant respect. Expect all walks of Houstonian life sharing tables and laughs, from bikers and CrossFitters to some old guy rocking the hell out of a Fu Manchu.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Eight Row Flint

Heights
$$$$

Whiskey, beer, and tacos—you really only need to excel at one component of this holy trinity to survive in Houston, but somehow this Agricole Hospitality number manages all three. The modern icehouse carries over a hundred selections of whiskey, including proprietary barrels of bourbon hand-selected by beverage director Morgan Weber and showcased in a rickhouse-like structure behind the bar. Sip house Old Fashioneds and Green Chile Ranchwaters, play games of ring toss for prizes, and fuel up with superior eats from Berkshire carnitas tacos to Sonora dogs that pair perfectly with house margs. If you’re over in EaDo, check out sibling establishment and breezy cocktail emporium Miss Carousel, where the vibe is domestic-chic, the drinks are seriously tasty, and the patio space leaves picturesque fall nights wanting for nothing.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

With a slew of solid years under its belt, this friendly neighborhood joint continues to hit the mark. That’s probably because all 10 of its expertly balanced classics remain just $8 each, while the seasonal menu and well-versed selection of spirits keep regulars on their toes. Grab a seat on the patio and go from the spot-on Gimlet with housemade lime cordial to a Boiler Maker, which takes a Lone Star and house Old Fashioned pairing and turns it on its side with Luxardo cherries and an Angostura-dipped orange peel. Drink it all in and look out for happenings like half-priced cocktails and pop-up steak nights on Facebook.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

A whole bunch of notable industry folks (including Anvil’s Bobby Heugel, Theodore Rex’s Justin Yu, and many more) came together Avengers-style to open this neon-lit neighborhood hangout a few years back. Today, the crew continues to fly beyond the rigid structure of top-tier lounges and tasting menus, showing off a sense of humor with everyday food, a short and smart list of brunch-y cocktails (try the chilled Meyer Frappe, dosed with either dry sherry or vodka), and a heartwarming, all-are-welcome attitude (including your dogs on the patio). There’s also a break-even wine selection modeled after Anvil’s spirits program alongside specials like euphoric “Party Melts” at the bar after 9 pm and nourishing half-priced burgers.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Truck Yard

EaDo
$$$$

Brews, grub, and tunes—there’s no better way to describe this boozy haven. This monster truck-sized beer garden is a carnival for kids of all ages, rocking live music, flat screens, delectable food trucks, and a legit Ferris Wheel that, one sweet day, you’ll get to use again. Post up in an open-air truck bed or unwind with friends at an umbrella-shaded picnic table with signature Trash Can Punches, Strawberry Spritzes, Mojitos, and Mules. For those looking to enjoy the afternoon breeze while indulging in several glasses of tangy, salt-rimmed Margaritas, the covered patio is a perfect spot to capture those vibes away from the blinding sun. Also, there’s a bonus for those with both regular babies and fur babies—the bar is kid-friendly till 9 pm and pet-friendly all night long.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Present Company

Montrose
$$$$

We’re guessing you could use a vacation right about now—or at least a little fun that somewhat resembles a vacation. That’s where this kitschy watering hole comes in, rocking palms and flamingos, neon signage and wall gardens, plenty of outdoor space, and vibes that will transport you straight to Palm Springs. Festive drinks (including refreshingly boozy spins on LaCroix served in the can) sit alongside rotating frozen concoctions, beers, and wines, while classic shareables like nachos, pizzas, and truffle fries keep folks sated. Also, brunch.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who is probably at a patio bar right now. Stop by and say “hey” @baviggiano on Twitter and @brookiefafa on IG.
Adrianne Reece is a contributor for Thrillist.

Lei Low

Heights

With summer in full swing, it’s hard to find a better place to escape the heat than a tiki bar. This Heights-born speakeasy totes an abundant selection of rum, so unwinding tiki-style is an easy feat. Customers can ‘lei low’ with spirits such as their passion fruit-based Port Light, a Jungle Bird (Jamaican rum infused with mango, pineapple, and lime), and their classic Jump The Shark cocktail that’s brimmed with berries galore. If interested in some heat—maybe the extra sweat will cool you down—cozy up with their Tonga Queen, a warm serving of coconut rum coffee buzzed with almond syrup and a gallop of spiced whipped cream.


 

Notsuoh

Downtown

For those craving for a more eccentric bar experience, look no further than Notsuoh. Seriously, there’s something about this little hole in the wall spot that’s just it. Tucked away in the heart of Downtown, this venue wasn’t always a watering hole. Notsuoh (which is Houston spelled backwards) was previously a coffee shop from 1996 to 2003, before owner Jim Pirtle revamped the cozy location into a bar. After briefly closing in early 2021 due to COVID-19, the space reopened in September of that year as a temporary clothing store. Talk about an evolution. This gem boasts a vintage, mystical flare, and that is evidenced in their artsy crowd. The weathered aesthetic is perfect for some grungy FOMO with 90’s-esque feel-good elements such as live music, board games, rare art pieces, and poetry sessions. Their crowded bar is just as lit. Patrons can unlock a world of lemon-garnish cocktails and beer, which is the centerpiece of their menu.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Lee’s Den

Rice Village
Serving as an intimate refuge on the second level of Local Foods Market, this wine bar rips an eclectic page from the cool book. When stepping inside, customers are instantly greeted with airy, neutral toned decor and the scent of flavorful bar bites. Every inch of Lees Den is bordered with plush, chartreuse green seating, exposed brick, and minimal flecks of amber and rustic brown from their stunning table design. Their bar menu is just as dreamy, and doesn’t skip out on the flavor. Fawn over favorites such as their soothing Blood Orange Spritz, brown sugar cubed champagne cocktail, an aromatic Port & Tonic, and their signature Spring Thyme Spritz, a syrupy number swooned with a peach and thyme vermouth.