Where to Grab a Drink in Houston Right Now

Fun-loving sports bars, posh hotel lounges, romantic cocktail dens, and so much more.

Clarkwood
Clarkwood | Photo by Cameron Jones
Clarkwood | Photo by Cameron Jones

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Houston is diverse AF, and that’s exactly why we love it. This mashup of cultures extends to our high-brow, low-brow bar scene, meaning you can find pretty much whatever kind of drinking experience you’re after here. Feel like chasing beers with whiskey at a timeless Texas ice house or dingy dive? You got it. In the mood for sophisticated Japanese cocktails and romantic fine wine? Sure thing. Or maybe you’re down for a night you won’t quite remember, rubbing elbows with fabulous drag queens at the local gay club or tying one on at a rowdy sports bar. Yeah, we got that, too. There’s a lot to experience, so we helped narrow it down. These are the best bars to visit in Houston right now, from midtown to downtown, Montrose to the Heights.

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 will soon share 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.

Tongue-Cut Sparrow

Montrose
$$$$

Espresso Martinis seem to be all the rage these days, and while we’re sure there are some lame takes out there, Tongue-Cut Sparrow’s stimulating spin isn’t one of them. The ambitious, formal cocktail bar—operating out of the old Penny Quarter Space behind Anvil—makes its version with coffee liqueur from local Xela Coffee Roasters and espresso from Blacksmith, with a beautiful, buttery lemon wafer on the side (because of course). Drop in for the signature top-tier hospitality (think perfectly chilled glassware, complimentary house snacks and hot towels, and some of the city’s top talent behind the bar), and stay for the damn good drinks.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

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.

Night Shift
Night Shift | Photo by Justin Bowers

Night Shift

East End
$$$$

This buzzy passion project comes from talented hospitality vets Justin Ware (who managed Johnny’s Gold Brick for years) and Patrick Abolos (a top ten placeholder of the United States Bartenders Guild World Class Competition), offering a much-needed escape for hard-working Houstonians. There’s a stiff, seasonally rotating cocktail menu to help with that—smashes, swizzles, mules, and more—plus dope additions like a roof deck overlooking downtown and a ceiling with controllable LED uplighting that can change up the vibe on demand. Eats come from chef Danny Leal, who takes inspiration from his Mexican heritage to craft bites that’ll fuel you well into the night (last call for food isn’t until 1:45 am).
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.

Shoot the Moon

Spring Branch
$$$$

Houstonians who have gotten used to not having to interact with people over the past two years can now get their kicks at this self-serve bar from local beer hotshot Kevin Floyd (known for kickstarting the beer program at The Hay Merchant). Operating as the city’s first tavern with this particular format, the setup’s pretty simple: Show up, check in with a team member and open a tab, and take care of your own damn drinks from there via your newly minted, self-pour access card. There are over 80 beers, wines, cocktails, and liquors on draft or in bottles, plus higher-end mixers and sodas from the vending machine. If this bar ain’t the future, we don’t know what is.
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: 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 Lemon Drop shot in hand.
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.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

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: Reserve via Google.

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 throwback 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 damn 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.

This twin-faced powerhouse offers a 94-tap beer and wine garden on one side and a craft cocktail and whiskey den on the other. In between, you’ll find a spacious courtyard with plenty of shaded benches, swing seating, fire pits, and a packed crowd getting down on saisons, IPAs, and smoky mezcal- and bourbon-spiked numbers (as well as Pork Shank Platters with 'nduja). Serious efforts are taken to keep things cool, in both the theoretical sense—stylish aesthetics, a dog-friendly patio, boozy brunches—and the literal sense, with a three-sectioned temperature-controlled cooler in the bier garten and a crystal clear ice maker in the cocktail lodge. Drinking over in Midtown? Check out equally-as-stunning sibling watering holes Wooster’s Garden and Holman Draft Hall.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

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.