Where to Drink in Nashville Right Now
Take the edge off.
These are the days that sometimes call for strong drink, and we’re OK with that. But drinking alone at home won’t cure what ails you the same way that the socialization that comes with enjoying a beverage at a bar filled with good people will—so get out of the house and enjoy a cup of courage at some of these excellent Nashville establishments. Every one of them is one of the best Music City has to offer.
Chef Sean Brock’s latest restaurant is an homage to the classic elegance of hotel dining, and the beverage program at The Continental is deadly serious about honoring the traditions of iconic spots like The Waldorf and The Ritz on their menu of historic cocktails with the occasional modern twist. Bar Director Jonathan Howard has been a Music City favorite during his stints at some of the city’s best bars, and he’s created a straight-ahead menu of martinis, classic cocktails and after-dinner drinks that perfectly complement the reverential gestalt of the restaurant.
It’s hard to believe that in 2021, some studies say that here are less than two dozen lesbian bars left in the country, and The Lipstick Lounge is one of the survivors. That’s actually an oversimplification of this neighborhood staple since 2002. While the majority of patrons at LL are indeed members of the LGBTQ community, all are welcome to join in for trivia nights, karaoke, a fun boozy brunch or just a beer and a shot, as long as they are respectful of all human beings. If that sounds like a place you’d like to hang out at, stop in and help keep this important refuge of humanity viable and successful.
Rambler Cocktail Bar
No matter what Bob Dylan says, there’s no reason to be homesick or blue in this subterranean cocktail lounge beneath The Sutler. Rambler has an urbane loungey vibe without being pretentious, like your friend that can occasionally actually pull off wearing an ascot without looking like Austin Powers. In addition to elevated bar snacks and tight wine and craft beer lists, Rambler specializes in cocktails that are delicious without requiring 10 minutes of preparation. Their affordable “Three Ingredient Classics” are always a wise choice, and even more so during happy hours Wednesday through Friday.
It’s hard to believe that a three-story bar built in the boiler room of a former dry cleaning facility could be hidden, but that’s the case with Old Glory, tucked away in the interior hallway of Villa Place. Look for the door with the golden triangle, and you know you’re home. Descend down the sweeping staircase and join the party people who are deadly serious about their cocktails made with the freshest of ingredients by bartenders steeped in the history of the classics. Shafts of light beam through high windows across exposed stone and tile walls adorned with living plants during the day, but you’ll probably want to be part of the late night crowd anyway.
Tucked into the middle of the ONEC1TY complex, SandBar is an oasis of good times. Everything about this gathering spot carved out of recycled shipping containers is designed with your fun in mind: sand volleyball courts, frozen drinks made with actual fresh-squeezed fruits, cocktails served in real coconuts, pineapples, and watermelons, ice cold cheap beers, and a child- and dog-friendly patio. The affable staff members are more like cruise directors than bartenders, and that’s a good thing!
After a tough 2020 that included closing for a tornado and a pandemic, Attaboy is back at it with some of the city’s most talented mixologists behind the stick. They're again offering custom cocktails created 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.
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.
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 creative and nicely balanced. They also serve a short menu of comfort foods to accompany their drinks, so you can make a whole evening of it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 selected featured whiskeys from the expansive list on Wednesdays and make mid-week particularly advantageous for a visit.
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.
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.