Food & Drink

The Best Bars in Indianapolis to Drink at Right Now

Updated On 01/02/2018 at 12:52PM EST Updated On 01/02/2018 at 12:52PM EST
indianapolis beverage director
COURTESY OF HOTEL TANGO DISTILLERY
Revolucion

La Revolucion Cafe & Bar

Fountain Square

A tropical atmosphere to sip a boat drink slow
Tucked back behind the wide-open, bright yellow dining room of Revolucion is a little slice of low-lit, tropical heaven. In the summer, the huge patio makes you feel like you’re on vacation, and in the winter the close quarters of the Tiki Lounge make you feel like you’re in a secret ecuatorial speakeasy. If you’re making plans and letting your outfit choose the venue, this is the spot for Hawaiian prints and a relaxed vibe, not bottle service and cover charges. Try the pitch-perfect Painkiller, an easy-drinking mix of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and coconut.

The Brass Ring

The Brass Ring

Fountain Square

Best for partying with local bartenders late into the night
The Brass Ring is as iconic in Fountain Square as Pioneer Fountain itself, and it has been packing in patrons for years. The bar’s crowd swells when the hospitality workers of the neighborhood stop by after their shifts are over. It’s one of those old, great, dark bars lit mostly with string lights -- but with one essential upgrade: The Brass Ring uses a Bottoms Up system to fill their beers, so if you want to spend your night at a bar where you can get lots of beer fast and spend less time waiting at the bar, The Brass Ring is about to become your secret hero.

Courtesy of Libertine Liquor Bar

Libertine Liquor Bar

Mass Ave

Where necktied drink slingers go to master the Negroni
There are few places in town where you can order a by-the-book Manhattan and get a textbook, old-school cocktail. On the hipster continuum from face tattoos to unironic three-piece suits, the bartenders here fall hard into latter camp -- mustache wax and all. But if you want to spend your evening with a slightly inflated sense of sophistication, this is the bar to escort you. That said, watch your high heels on the deathtrap stairs to the basement bar.

Jolene Ketzenberger/Thrillist

Dorman Street Saloon

Holy Cross

A neighborhood tavern with fancy craft cocktails
Great cocktails often come at the expense of having to wear nice clothes, high prices, and long waits at the bar, but Dorman bucks the trend in every way. This perfect dive bar has a juke box full of Prince hits, and you can get the same quality of drinks as on Mass Avenue, for less money and a lot less pretension. For our money, this is as close as you can get to the perfect spot for the low-key partier: great drinks, outstanding music, and a street where you can safely leave your car and Uber home without worrying about your windows. Try the peppery J. Carpenter if you like heat, citrus, and bubbles.

The Wellington Pub

Broad Ripple

A slice of English repose in the heart of Broad Ripple
This cute shotgun-style bar shares footprint space with Corner Wine Bar, and they’ve finally hoisted a sign outside the door so visitors can find it. The interior of the bar looks like somewhere you might end up if you wanted to go out in the outskirts of London; it is lined floor to ceiling with polished wood, leaded glass windows, and a smoldering fireplace. It’s one of those cozy little nooks that makes for a great place to kick off or end your night, and it may be the perfect bar to avoid the crowds, play darts, and have a relaxed, fun night.

Courtesy of Spoke and Steele

Spoke & Steele

Mile Square

A craft cocktail locale for the business traveling set
In the lobby of what used to be The Canterbury and what now houses Le Meridien, you’ll find another great cocktail spot right in the middle of the action between Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse. Spoke, as it’s known locally, combines all the old bones of the old hotel’s architecture and vibe, but with flavors and decor that is updated for the modern bar patron. You can indulge in cocktails enrobed in cedar smoke and punched up with fresh herbs, and it’s in walking distance from just about every major downtown hot spot.

Courtesy of Hotel Tango Distillery

Hotel Tango Distillery

Fletcher Place

Fireside drinks, straight from the distillery
Hotel Tango started its life as a simple distillery, hoping to use their bar as more of a tasting spot than a fully-functioning Fletcher Place hot spot. But the huge stone fireplace calls to chilly Hoosiers like a siren song, and the rustic, comforting interior makes you feel like you’re having a drink in a friend’s mountainside cabin. The same goes for those thinking they’ll “stop in” for one drink before a long night: You may just find that the easy-drinking cocktails and warm blaze keep you anchored in this gorgeous little gift of a bar scented with burning wood and barrels full of smoky whiskey.

Courtesy of Alley Cat Lounge

Alley Cat Lounge

Broad Ripple

For those who just can’t choose between a dive and a lounge
If you haven’t been to The Cat in a hot minute, you might be surprised to find that it’s grown a Janusian style second (and much fancier) face. Yes, the old, comfortingly gross alley side of the bar still remains, but with the addition of a fancy little bar connected by a hallway. If you don’t want to go far when youe evening goes from classy to trashy, The Cat ensures you don’t have to anymore. They even serve perhaps the second-best bar burger (Workingman’s Friend is still king) in the city, so you can party, play pool, and sober up all in the same place.

The Sinking Ship

The Sinking Ship

SoBro

A Midtown neighborhood spot with the soul of a biker bar
Another name shortened to the essentials, The Ship remains a neighborhood favorite for reliable reasons: You can get exceptional craft beer, or a cheap tallboy of PBR, and your server doesn’t care which one you get as long as you tip well. The bar is beloved by old timers and hipsters alike, thanks to a formidable lineup of hearty vegan, vegetarian, and carnivorous plates available late into the night.

Jolene Ketzenberger/Thrillist

Sam's Silver Circle

Fountain Square

Where beautiful pizza slays your beast of a hangover
Entering this dive is like taking a walk through time, with unkempt walls decorated with old license plates and magazine covers. It is also literally a walk through time, as Sam’s has been around since the '60s as a well-known spot for pizza and cheap beer -- though for a long time both were meant for the working class folks that defined the neighborhood. These days, a younger crowd has moved in, and Sam’s has become a bar where old meets new, and the young meets the established. The Brass Ring is like Sam’s fashionable baby sister, but this place is zero frills.

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Fountain Square

Fun drinks served cheaply and often
Thunderbird claims to be leaving the days of the $12 cocktail behind, embracing more of a big box, low-cost mentality toward its cocktails (though it’s worth noting that there are no prices listed on any of their websites or social media). Either way, this rockabilly-inspired bar is now open from lunch until 3am, slinging their new lineup of vacation-y cocktails and advertising aimed squarely at your mom, or rather, #yourmom, so both you and your mom can enjoy an electric azure Blue Hawaii cocktail to start (or end) your nights with a shot of fun (and sugar).

Dugout Bar

The Dugout

Fletcher Place

A dive so hip it was here 60 years before the cool kids
The Dugout is the kind of stalwart you’d expect to still see standing in the charred remains of a nuclear war. It’s been there long before Fletcher Place was cool (1954), and so it will remain long after the hipsters have packed up their chicken coops and moved to a trendier neighborhood. Drinking at The Dugout is the perfect way to say “screw fancy, screw complicated,” pound cheap draft beers, and watch sports on TV. It’s the kind of place where all your friends will end up anyway, so you can save yourself some Lyft money by just going here first and waiting.

Tappers Arcade Bar

Tappers Arcade Bar

Fletcher Place

Access your inner child while enjoying the fruits of adulthood
OK, OK, so Indy was a little behind the bar arcade phenomenon, but we’re up to speed now, and the fine folks at Tappers have gotten everything right on their first try. Along with a great tap list full of local favorites, the bar will allow you to order Clustertruck or bring your Rook food over from next door to nosh on while you game. Play is free, but parking is a nightmare -- especially on a busy night -- so save the headache and splurge on a Lyft. Tappers is packed most weekend days, so don’t expect the crowds to be small.

Bar One Fourteen

Bar One Fourteen

Meridian-Kessler

Luxurious drinking and dining for the tiny house set
The Patachou family of restaurants continues to expand, this time with a tiny little speakeasy-size “microbar” helmed by Martha Hoover’s Parisian-trained chef son, David. Accordingly, the menu features many upscale versions of gastropub foods (words like butter-poached, smoked roe, and confit appear on the short menu) and a well-curated wine list. The little bar features a perfectly tuned set of Klipsch speakers for the space, so those seeking to entertain all of their senses will find the perfect party for two here. It’s far from the crowds of the Broad Ripple strip but still a short Uber or walk back home for Midtowners.

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1. La Revolucion Cafe & Bar 1132 Prospect St, Indianapolis, IN 46203

La Revolucion delivers Fountain Square with best of both worlds: a Mexican cantina in the front and a tiki party in the back. With décor in vibrant hues inspired by the Day of the Dead, La Revolucion sparks excitement from course one with “Pinchos,” appetizers like chips and guac and nachos with black beans, olives, jalapenos, chipotle sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Continue your meal with tacos, which come with veggies, pork, beef, or chicken or handmade beef-and-pork burgers. The tiki bar serves up expected tropical cocktails, like the daiquiri, mai tai, and caipirinha, but there are also imaginative concoctions like the Missionary’s Downfall with rum, mint, pineapple, lime, peach liqueur, and honey, and the Jet Pilot with aged rums, over-proof rum, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon, anise, and angostura bitters.

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2. The Brass Ring 1245 Shelby St, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Named for the prize of an old-school game played on carousels (catch the ring, get a free ride), The Brass Ring upholds itself as its own sort of prize. And it should -- it's industrial exterior and nautical-tropical interior boast not only a full-service bar with a few local drafts and cocktails aplenty, but a full menu that doesn't even consider traditional bar bites and goes straight for hummus plates, thin-crust pizzas, and fresh wraps and sandwiches.

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3. Libertine Liquor Bar 608 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Libertine Liquor Bar’s food menu is largely international; chilaquiles with braised pork, pickled onion, avocado crema, cilantro, and fritas sit flesh on the menu with rabbit pierogi with ricotta, charred leek, and rabbit jus. Libertine’s beverage ethos celebrates the pioneering American spirit by emphasizing craft distillers and boutique wines. Cocktails are taxonomically classified by spirit on the menu into “Vodka/Gin,” “Brandy/Rum,” “Agave,” and “Whiskey & More,” and standouts include the Hit or Miss – which is anything but – with pineapple-infused Vida Mezcal, jalapeno-infused tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and cilantro, and the Coffee Cocktail with AE Dor cognac, ruby port, egg, sugar, and nutmeg.

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4. Dorman Street Saloon 901 Dorman St, Indianapolis, IN 46202

The Dorman Street Bar has been boozing up guests for almost a century. This saloon is about as divey as they come: the joint is dim and humming with locals enjoying a night out or a post-work drink, the jukebox is singing classic rock anthems and indie songs, and there is a substantial selection of craft beefs on tap and in bottles. The pay-to-play pool goes for about a quarter a round, so bring your jingling pockets on over.

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5. The Wellington 6331 Guilford Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

Indianapolis’s Wellington Pub is an English watering hole transplanted across the pond. The Wellington Pub is a cozy drinking den redolent of pubs across the pond, hearkening back to English tradition, with leaded glass windows, mahogany wooden walls, and tables around a fireplace. Beverage highlights include flights of whiskey, scotch, and bourbon, enjoyed between turns at the dartboard. Enjoy small plates, like a fondue platter and pesto gemelli, and end your Wellington experience by listening to the live bluegrass band downstairs.

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6. Spoke & Steele 123 S Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46225

This downtown spot that looks like the house of a wealthy and ultra-stylish friend slings creative American dishes across its whitewashed lounge and rustic bar with the kind of culinary confidence that can only come from sourcing produce from the nearby Compart Family Farms (among others). Hefty charcuterie boards and sandwiches with house-cured meats make the rounds while house cocktails are infused with spicy, smoky flavors to match.

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7. Hotel Tango Whisky 702 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Hailing from military roots, Hotel Tango Whiskey is a veteran-owned artisan distillery in Fletcher Place, just outside of downtown Indianapolis. Inside Hotel Tango is a tasting room, bar, and retail establishment, all housed in a refurbished 19th-century carriage house. Poured up are Victor Vodka, Romeo Rum, Golf Gin, Lima Charlie Limoncello, and Mike Moonshine, all designated with military phonetic nomenclature. With high quality local ingredients like Indiana-grown corn, good ole American booze is made even better (is that possible?) when enjoyed by Hotel Tango’s cozy fireplace.

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8. Alley Cat Lounge 6267 Carrollton Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

Enter this classic dive bar in an alley just off the Broad Ripple strip and be prepared for pool tables, a jukebox, and cheap drinks. The space is dark and grungy yet comfortable and friendly. You can stop in pretty much any time: the bar and kitchen are both open from 7am-3am. If you're there for dinner, try the exceptional tenderloin -- it's practically legendary.

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9. The Sinking Ship 4923 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46205

SoBro’s The Sinking Ship manages to stay afloat, thanks to its meat-heavy plates that are as tasty as its vegetarian options. The pub’s menu is divided into “Appetizers,” “Salads,” “Meals,” and “Burgers,” and it spans Stoner Fries, with queso blanco, bacon, pickled jalapenos, and red onions, a Thai seitan salad, with romaine, cucumber, tomato, sesame sticks, and house peanut vinaigrette, and the Chuck Norris, a burger patty with fresh jalapenos, wasabi mayo, and pepper jack. Inside The Sinking Ship’s main room, marked by dark wooden high-tops, the wryness continues: though the content playing on its flat-screens is “provided” at the Ship’s “discretion,” staff members will “entertain changing the channel if the price is right.”

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10. Sun King Brewing Co. 135 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202

At Sun King Brewing Company, you are literally entrenched in the production of Indy’s most ubiquitous craft brews, including house staples Sunlight Cream Ale, Wee Mac Scottish-style Ale, and Osiris Pale Ale. Tables and chairs sit cheek-by-jowl with the vats that produce the liquid gold, and with rotating seasonal and unique specialty beers on tap, Sun King still manages to feel like a small-batch brewery, despite its mass production and distribution. The large, hangar-like space injects its slate-gray walls with pops of bright red-orange, and the amusement continues with an impressive array of board games.

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11. Sam's Silver Circle 1102 Fletcher Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Sam's Silver Circle pulls out all the stops: neon signs in the windows, floor to ceiling posters and magazine cut-outs, friendly staff, and a covered patio. This classic Indy dive serves up decent-enough food and drinks at more than decent prices to keep you happy all night long. Go for the karaoke or trivia nights, or just get a craft brew and a pizza. The stromboli with pepperoni, sausage, and banana peppers is always a solid choice, too.

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12. Thunderbird 1127 Shelby St, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Fountain Square’s Thunderbird hasn’t completely shed its former guise as a mid-century live music venue. The old-fashioned black upright piano is the visual epicenter of the room, and the bar is lit like a stage, though Thunderbird is now a Southern-leaning gastropub, where dishes like pickled okra fries, hot chicken biscuits, and a pimento patty melt shine. It's also a gem of a craft cocktail bar; and the drink menu, divided into "Chillers" and "Thrillers," features the noteworthy Escape from New York Sour with bonded bourbon, vanilla, lemon, strawberry, egg white, and red wine. on the drink menu of “Chillers” and “Thrillers,” take a vacation with the Escape from New York Sour, with bonded bourbon, vanilla, lemon, strawberry, egg white, and red wine.