The Best Bars in Nashville Right Now
From whiskey libraries to a new absinthe lounge, these are the bars you should patronize immediately.
It goes without saying that the strip of Lower Broad downtown is dominated by bars sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on both sides of the street, so visitors don’t have to go far to find a drink. But locals tend to frequent watering holes outside of the bachelorette zone, preferring neighborhood spots without a country music star’s name emblazoned on the side of the building. For a proper cocktail served by an expert mixologist, you might need to get off the beaten track, and here are some of our favorite tracks to beat it to.
After a move from downtown to East Nashville where it slid into the former home of popular Bar No. 308 and the somewhat baffling National Park-themed CAMP, Jane’s Hideaway has emerged like a phoenix better than ever. Maintaining commitment to nightly live bluegrass and Americana music alongside a tight menu of elevated Southern cuisine and clever cocktails, Jane’s is a welcome addition to the neighborhood that continues to draw long-time fans across the Cumberland River to visit an old favorite.
The latest project from ebullient restaurateur and frequent television cooking competitor Nina Singto, Bar East is a dead sexy cocktail lounge that features one of the only rooftop bars on the East Side. Dine on internationally-inspired upscale street food small bites while you enjoy creative cocktails, beer, and wine. The space is filled with Instagrammable surprises from the high fashion restrooms to the inviting aerie on the uppermost floor. East Nashville has never seen something like this.
A true multi-purpose facility serving food from breakfast until late night with specialty coffee service from local favorite Crema, vintage bowling lanes where Reese Witherspoon spent her birthday and an outdoor area that features plunge pools, table tennis, and bocce, Pinewood Social manages to still put a focus on its top-notch cocktail program. Long before custom ice programs became a pretentious necessity at upscale lounges, the dedicated mixologists at Pinewood carved their cubes by hand from huge blocks of ice delivered daily. Those cubes end up in some of the most creative cocktails in town, but please don’t spill your drink in the bowling lanes.
The name “Pushing Daisies'' is a bit of a double pun. Its subterranean location below its sister restaurant The Twelve Thirty Club does feel a bit grave-like when patrons have to walk down flights of stairs from street level, but once they enter the vibrant and hip lounge, the mood is definitely more lively than funereal. A daisy is also a genre of classic cocktails, blends of sweet and sour like Whiskey Sours, Daiquiris, and Sidecars. The most famous daisy is the Margarita, and that’s the theme behind this bar that creates multiple iterations of Margaritas using premium spirits and bespoke mixers and garnishes. Justin Timberlake is a partner in The Twelve Thirty Club and has been known to make an appearance at Pushing Daisies, so you never know, tonight might be the night to hang with JT.
Bastion actually boasts two bars. One is the intimate space before diners have the pleasure to enjoy a menu at the small tasting restaurant at Josh Habiger’s amazing, award-winning chef’s table. But the Big Bar at Bastion only offers one food item, probably the greatest nachos you’ll ever encounter in Nashville. The remarkable melange of vegan or rotisserie chicken chips and cheese and queso and cotija cheese and pickled onions, jalapeños, olives, and sour cream are absolutely revelatory, but don’t let them distract you from the inventive and affordable cocktails that the talented mixologists slide across the bar to intelligent patrons. The vibe of the amiable bar space is like being invited to a garden party at Josh’s house under lights strung across the yard, but with even better drinks.
There’s no menu at the bar on the floor above chef Sean Brock’s modernist Appalachian restaurant, Audrey. Instead, patrons are presented with a basket containing five different pieces of fresh produce that will be combined with a single spirit and some creation from the restaurant’s R&D lab to create a quintet of fascinating complex cocktails of the day. The atmosphere is zen-like and the drinks can be life-changing, so give in to the experience.
EG & MC
Brought to you by the team behind the popular pizzeria/craft beer bar Slim & Husky’s, EC&MG exudes the same playful attitude as its sister restaurant. Serving Southern-inspired tapas and elegant cocktails in a lovely ambiance accented by works from local artists, this chill spot has quickly become a neighborhood hang. Power Hours from 5 pm until 6 pm on Fridays are a particularly popular time to stop in for great deals on wine and spirits.
Even after chef Ford Fry opened up his Nashville location of The Optimist after an almost interminable delay, there was still more to look forward to with the announcement of Le Loup. True to the seafood-centric focus of the restaurant below, Le Loup serves oysters, clams, mussels, and a few other small plates that are the perfect accompaniment to the menu of inventive cocktails. In addition to elegant highballs and other drinks served straight up in a coupe glass or over rocks, the bar offers a fun selection of various iterations of the martini throughout history. Sipping on a vesper with some raw oysters and mignonette in the lush lounge-y atmosphere of Le Loup is a perfect way to put the troubles of the day behind you.
This late 18th-century blacksmith shop has been thoughtfully converted into a lovely restaurant and bar that still pays homage to the original business where food is cooked over an open fire like a forge and drinks are crafted with the precision of a master craftsman. The outdoor champagne garden and courtyard is an ideal spot to enjoy affordable cocktails crafted using top-shelf spirits and exotic ingredients.
Rosemary & Beauty Queen
Situated in a classic yellow East Nashville bungalow, Rosemary & Beauty Queen really does feel like being invited into someone’s home for an evening of fun and frivolity. Well, if your host invited pumping DJs in to entertain and added an outdoor deck with another bar and swings to sit in while you sip on seasonal cocktails or partake in cheap craft beer deals and shot specials.
The downstairs bar in the lobby of the converted art deco-style movie house that is Sinema is pretty dreamy, but head upstairs to the dead sexy lounge for a real treat. Boasting one of Nashville’s best whiskey collections and a fun menu of movie-inspired drinks like the gin-based “We’ll Always Have Paris” and a nautical rum and port “Old Man + the Sea,” the master mixologists at Sinema know how to put on a show. They also offer an extensive menu of creative non-alcoholic adult beverages that go far beyond most “mocktails.”
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.
Chef Sean Brock’s downtown 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 created a remarkable martini and caviar pairing tasting experience with The Vesper Club, an hour-long journey through a flight of globally-sourced caviar and accompanying cocktails.
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.
Like the original location in the Lower East Side of New York City, Attaboy features some of the nation’s most talented mixologists behind the stick who create custom cocktails 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. Attaboy was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s national Best Bar Program in America award last year, so you know they’re on top of their game.
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 offer a $2 “Happiness Upgrade” to their already excellent piña colada with the addition of coffee grounds and a sherry floater.
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. Together they mesh for a truly unique experience. Patrons are limited to just one Robo Zombie apiece, but that’s all you’ll need to get where you want to go.
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.
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.