Where to Drink in Nashville Right Now
You've earned it.
Nashville may be known as Music City, but in a just world we'd be equally celebrated for our cocktail emporiums, dive bars, and spots to sample rare whiskeys. Now that COVID regulations have finally loosened up, you can get back to making sure we're properly recognized. Just make sure to respect safety protocols, social distancing guidelines, and always have a mask on hand. Here are some of the best spots to spend your hard earned drinking dollars.
Attaboy sustained major damage and the tragic loss of an employee during the 2020 tornado that roared through the city, but the community rallied to support them while they rebuilt. Now they're again offering custom cocktails created by talented mixologists who work without the benefit of a predetermined menu. After a quick psychological assessment interview by the bar staff, enjoy the cocktail you didn’t know you needed. You can always express your preferences, but it’s better to be surprised.
How to reserve/order:Knock on the door and wait to be let in, because there are no reservations at Attaboy, but then again, you won’t have any reservations about your drinks either.
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox is what happens when a few friends come together and decide to build their own kick-ass bar. The vibe is like settling in for an excellent post-dinner drink in a really rich friend’s library, decorated with old volumes of literature and history and plush velvet seating. They accept reservations for early seating, but after that you’re on your own to wait your turn. Their Left Handed Banana with local bourbon and chocolate blending with banana and bitters makes the wait worth it.
How to reserve/order:Hold your spot at the bar on Tock or order carryout cocktails, food and charcuterie platters from the Fox website.
Never Never basically looks like a trailer that somebody added a wooden deck to, and in truth, it used to be an old welding shop before transforming into an amiable neighborhood hang. Like a few other local bars, they prefer the “choose your adventure” sort of menu, listing just the spirit and leaving it to you and your bartender to work out the details from there. Luckily, they know what they are doing, and their cocktails tend to be nicely balanced and ingenuitive. They also serve a short menu of comfort foods to accompany their drinks, so you can make a whole evening of it.
How to reserve/order: Never Never never ever takes reservations, so just drop in and make some new friends.
Willie B's Kitchen & Lounge
The historic Buchanan St. corridor was once a creative center for Nashville’s African-American population, with Black-owned businesses stretching up and down the street. Recently a new generation of entrepreneurs has made strides at restoring “The Buc” to its former glory by opening new bars and restaurants in the neighborhood. This sleek lounge highlights drinks made using ingredients from other Black-owned businesses plus a wall of frozen boozy drink machines to keep the party pumping.
How to reserve/order:Willie B’s doesn’t require reservations, but they certainly suggest you hold your table in advance if you want to be seen as part of the scene.
Back in the day, Printer’s Alley was the place to be seen in Nashville, and legendary performers like Jimi Hendrix and Willie Nelson used to grace the stages of the music clubs. Another famous figure was Boots Randolph, he of the only saxophone tune you probably recognize—”Yakety Sax.” The former home of Boots’ popular supper club is now a great new bar named Jane’s Hideaway. Featuring a seasonal menu of clever cocktails made with local ingredients as well as some fantastic comfort food, Jane’s is a big part of Printer’s Alley’s resurgence.
How to reserve/order:Check for an open table on OpenTable or just show up if you plan to lean against the bar.
Bar Sovereign is one of those sorts of places where if you know, you know. Most locals don’t even know about this SoBro lounge, and the tiny sign out front to mark the front door doesn’t offer much in the way of illumination of the pleasures to be found inside the shadow of the many tall buildings springing up around the squat commercial strip. The wildly eclectic decor includes rad art on the walls and what appears to be parts of an exploded piano hanging behind the bar. Just give in to the BS, the house cocktail which is like a whiskey sour augmented with lovely amari.
How to reserve/order: Since Bar Sovereign is so hard to find, they don’t really need to take reservations. If you discover it, they’ll make room for you.
This nautically themed bar and restaurant is reminiscent of Captain Nemo movies throughout history, complete with windows that look like portholes and walls festooned with tropical prints and aquatic color schemes. The drinks menu features tiki classics, and the food offerings are also straight-ahead Polynesian fare. They’ve revived the classic Hotel Nacional as one of their house specials, and the rummy cocktail is perfect for the vibe.
How to reserve/order: Pearl diver doesn’t take reservations, so paddle your outrigger canoe up to the front door and say “aloha!” You can also call 615-988-2265 for cocktails to go.
Earnest Bar & Hideaway
This bar used to be called Hemingway’s, and Papa would have been proud of the old school daiquiris from this solid cocktail bar and restaurant. The rough-hewn stone walls make it feel like a subterranean fortress, but it’s really on the ground floor, and the friendly staff adds needed warmth to the atmosphere. Rather than painstakingly list every ingredient and process used to create their delicious drinks, the menu is fairly cryptic. That’s OK, trust you bartenders or just go with The Girl with the Green Eyes, a light, low-ABV drink that will allow you to have another, and another.
How to reserve/order: Make reservations on OpenTable, or just drop in for a proper daiquiri.
Another major player in the Buchanan Arts District. Minerva Avenue brings a hip ambiance to the burgeoning neighborhood. The expansive patio is a beloved hangout, and the dramatic decor of the main bar befits the inventive cocktail menu offered by a team of talented bartenders. Dress to impress lest you be turned away at the door, but once you’re in, the food, drinks and crowd are decidedly upscale. Make a reservation for one of the coveted booths for a view of the scene, or opt for their custom hookah services.
How to reserve/order: Parties of five or fewer are seated on a walk-in basis only, but larger groups can reserve a booth or cabana via Yelp. There may be a food and beverage menu for cabanas and booths during premium hours.
On busy nights, the line to get into this rooftop lounge at the hip new Thompson Hotel often extends through the lobby 11 floors below. It’s worth the wait to reach the top because floor-to-ceiling windows offer an expansive view of downtown and the bustling crowds skittering around The Gulch. The vibe is sort of a Miami Vice meets old Southern mansion parlor feeling, and there are plenty of fun decor accents to attract the eye. A fun menu of small bites complements a tight list of beers, cocktails and wines so there’s nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy the view.
How to reserve/order: No reservations are taken at LA Jackson, so get there early or prepare to spend a little time in the lobby. They do offer a waitlist if the bar is full, so you can always grab a drink in the downstairs restaurant while you wait to get above it all.
When the husband and wife owners of Headquarters Coffee just down the street decided to expand into other beverages, they discovered this quaint former service station and converted it into a new venture featuring tacos and cocktails, because what else do you really need for a good time? The unpretentious bar quickly became a favorite neighborhood gathering spot where visitors can enjoy affordable drinks ranging from classics to fun new goofs on historic cocktails along with beer, wine and small plates of Mexican-inspired treats.
How to reserve/order: Otto’s is way too laid back to take reservations, and that’s exactly how they like it! You could always order carryout by calling 615-678-4086, but being a part of the friendly crowd is half the fun.
The whole concept of the Kimpton Aertson’s main drinking and dining spot, Henley, is intended to be like being welcomed into a convivial Southern home, and the bar is appropriately stationed near the front door next to the patio. The bartop is cozy enough to allow for constant interaction with your barkeep who will craft up the cocktail of your dreams or offer a specialty from their ingenious menu of custom creations. Respectful of both the craft and the needs of the customers, Henley strives to create exactly whatever experience you’re looking for.
How to reserve/order: Grab a table at Henley’s restaurant in advance at OpenTable, grab a seat at the bar or order for carryout or delivery through Uber Eats.
Walk through the front door of this East Nashville hotspot and you’ll find yourself in a magical, mystical world where robots rule a Polynesian paradise. Yeah, you read that right. The drinks trend toward tiki and the gestalt is more Fritz Lang-ish, and together they mesh for a truly unique experience. Their deeply complex Agricole Mojito depends on a blend of rums to stand above most versions of the minty lime cocktail you may have tried before.
How to reserve/order: Chopper doesn’t take reservations because the robots already know when you’re coming, but you can order for delivery or pickup via Postmates. They also sell their cool custom tiki mugs that you can use in your home bar setup.
Mother’s Ruin Nashville
When the popular Manhattan watering hole Mother’s Ruin announced they were opening a second location in Music City, Germantown residents wondered how the new neighbors would fit in. They needn’t have fretted, because the staff at Mother’s Ruin knows how to please with delectable bar food like those addictive Old Bay Waffle Fries and a menu of fun cocktails that are designed to be prepared and poured quickly and in volume. It’s become an irreplaceable hang for people that like good food and strong drink without the wait or the pretentiousness of some other cocktail bars.
How to reserve/order:Seating is first come/first served, but you can always order food and drink to go from their website.
If you ever visited the sports bar that used to occupy this two-story spot next to Centennial Park, just put that memory out of your brain. New owners have converted the space into a fantastic steampunk-inspired cocktail and cigar bar that feels like a trip into Lewis Carroll’s absinthe den. The downstairs lounge and dining area is intentionally dark with gilded accents to create a sultry vibe, while the top floor is more open and airy. The balcony off the upstairs bar is a great place to enjoy a cigar from their humidor and a crafty cocktail from their seasonally changing drink menu.
How to reserve/order:Make a reservation for a party of six or fewer at Fable’s website or call (615) 645-5150 for larger groups. Walk-ins are also always welcome for the bar and lounge.
The entire back wall at Gertie’s is covered with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with hundreds of rare whiskeys, including some special private single barrel picks that are literally not available anywhere else in the world. Whether you’re sipping it straight or as part of a mixed drink, the selection of brown liquor here is unrivaled. Half price deals on the entire whiskey list on Wednesdays and discounted Old Fashioneds on Thursday make those nights particularly advantageous for a visit.
How to reserve/order: Belly up to the bar or make a reservation at The 404 Kitchen upstairs to make a full evening of it.
The first popular proponent of classic cocktails in Nashville, The Patterson House is where many Nashvillians learned that a velvet rope doesn’t necessarily mean a bar is trying to keep people out to create buzz for entry. Instead, this cozy speakeasy with a library vibe seeks to limit the number of patrons so that their talented staff can really pay attention to each individual customer and every finely crafted drink. In a welcome reaction to the uncertainty of these times, a new popular brunch service features food created by their upstairs neighbors at the innovative chef’s table tasting restaurant, The Catbird Seat.
How to reserve/order:Book your table on Tock or be prepared to wait in the lobby for a bit during prime hours.
Skull's Rainbow Room
Don’t call it a comeback, since Skull’s has been around for decades as a Printers Alley stalwart (other than a period when the bar was closed for a few years). It reopened in 2015, and new visitors can appreciate the renovated space and old-school atmosphere at this elegant cocktail emporium, plus the chop house menu and nightly performances by cool jazz combos. A list of specialty cocktails are named as homages to past characters and locales in downtown Nashville’s history.
How to reserve/order:Make reservations up to two weeks in advance on OpenTable, especially if you want a table to enjoy the musical performances.