Food & Drink

The Best Places to Drink in San Antonio Right Now

Updated On 12/14/2017 at 04:40PM EST Updated On 12/14/2017 at 04:40PM EST
San Antonio Beverage Director
Emily Reynolds
Lauren Wilks

Paramour

Downtown

Swanky rooftop bar with modern decor and panoramic city views
SA’s first rooftop bar offers not only a dramatic view of the city, but also a good look at its see-and-be-seen crowd. And why not? This town is resplendent with laid-back icehouses and tequila bars; sometimes it’s nice to have a reason to spend a little more time in front of the mirror before heading out for the evening. Bonus: The bartenders definitely know their business.

Bar 1919 San Antonio

Bar 1919

Southtown

Dimly lit speakeasy with strong drinks and a great happy hour 
The word most often associated with this cozy cocktail bar is “swanky,” and with good reason. This upscale, modern-day speakeasy employs only the best of the best behind the bar, and it shows in every drink they create. The selection of alcohol contained in such a small space is mind-blowing, as is the creativity on display; try a seasonal cocktail, or opt for a classic.

Hills & Dales Ice House

Hills & Dales Ice House

Northwest Side

Well-known dive bar with a large outdoor patio
Once a distinctly blue-collar bar where bikers gathered, this open-air establishment is now drawing a more diverse crowd. Even with a decided uptick in hipness, Hills & Dales has managed to retain its neighborhood-joint vibe -- a necessary quality for staying in business in this part of town. If the decor -- candy-colored retro shell chairs -- and the extensive craft beer list seem familiar, it’s no surprise; H&D’s new owners are none other than the folks behind the venerable Friendly Spot. Still, Hills & Dales manages to create its own buzz, separate from its Southtown cousin’s.

Ashley Cass

Jazz, TX

Tobin Hill

Pearl Brewery spot with inventive cocktails & live music every night
An extensive, global wine, beer, and spirits selection and a tight, Southern-inspired menu pair nicely with the live jazz, blues, salsa, and Texas swing showcased in The Pearl’s first-ever music venue. Open since July 2016, Jazz,TX hit the ground running with live music Tuesday through Saturday nights and a steady stream of events to keep things interesting. Ten house cocktails offer a spin on classics; try the Somewhere in South Texas, a vodka gimlet made with a spicy Dr. Pepper reduction and cilantro salt.

Blue Star Brewing Co.

Blue Star Brewing Company

Southtown

Conveniently located microbrewery with live jazz nights
Blue Star has been brewing in SA since 1996 and offers a range of beers for every palette, from the dry Texican Lager to the knock-you-on-your-ass barley-wine-style King William Ale. Located in the Blue Star Arts Complex, the brewery is a beloved part of Southtown’s history and the perfect place to stop in for a cold one while navigating the Museum Reach district.

Bar America

Bar America

Downtown

Southtown bar with a stacked jukebox and diverse cocktail menu
Originally launched in 1942 as a cafe, Bar America has seen some menu, format, and even location changes over the years. But it has stayed in the Ramirez family, beginning with the current owner’s great-great grandfather. The vibe is relaxed and welcoming, drawing guests from all walks of life. The one thing you won’t find at Bar America is unruly or rude patrons, who by strict policy will be asked to leave. So pull up a stool, follow the Golden Rule, and enjoy one of dozens of draft and bottled craft beers selections and some tunes from the jukebox or DJ.

Freetail Brewing Co. 

Freetail Brewing Company

Shavano Park

Local brewery with some of the best views, beer, and pizza in the city
A relative youngster on the local brewing scene, Freetail manages to broadcast the laid-back attitude of its SoCal-bred founder while still feeling 100% San Antonio. Its signature beers, which are produced at the company’s Southtown brewhouse and available for sampling there, include the always-popular Bat Outta Helles Lager, Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout, and the summer-only Peach Bexarliner.

Emily Reynolds

The Well

Northwest Side

Popular watering hole for young professionals & UTSA students with fried food galore
There’s no shame in being a novice two-stepper, but thanks to weekly dance lessons offered at The Well, there’s no excuse for not getting better. With its nod to old-school Texas dance halls and thoughtful, substantial food menu, The Well is a welcome addition to a Northwest Side that can lean heavily toward chain restaurants. Throw in more than 80 beers on tap and some expertly crafted house cocktails, and we have a well-rounded winner.

The Last Word - San Antonio

The Last Word

Downtown

Looks like a library, but serves excellent cocktails
If you haven’t noticed, craft cocktails are having a moment in SA right now. One of the folks at the epicenter of this renaissance is Jeret Peña, the man behind several of the Alamo City’s most prominent bars. The Last Word is one of his newest, but it definitely holds its own in the family. Designed to resemble a library, the bar is charming and comfortable. Happy hour prices are fabulous, and so are the innovative libations.

The Bang Bang Bar

The Bang Bang Bar

North Shearer Hills

Welcoming neighborhood bar owned by members of a local band
A dive bar on a grand scale, Bang Bang is the brainchild of former Martini Ranch-owner Jamie Hoppe and two members of beloved SA indie band Girl in a Coma. Several months after it opened in early 2016, BBB garnered some press by introducing a turkey-leg Bloody Mary for brunch -- typical of its fun, why-the-hell-not approach. Bang Bang doesn’t take itself too seriously and might be the perfect place for those seeking a little grit to balance out all the pretty, pretty cocktail bars that garner so much attention around town.

Scott Martin/Courtesy of Hotel Emma

Sternewirth

Tobin Hill

Swanky lobby bar of the Hotel Emma specializing in cocktails
This rustic cool bar, located in Hotel Emma, has soaring ceilings and no shortage of wooden accents or intimate sofas. Craft beers, carefully selected wines, and handmade cocktails pair perfectly with small plates or conversation. The top bartender recommendation is The Three Emmas, which combines gin, gran classico, apricot, and absinthe.

The Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern

Downtown

San Antonio's cocktail mecca since 1933
The Esquire is perhaps SA’s best-known bar, and why not? It opened its doors in 1933 on the day Prohibition ended, and has been a cool, welcoming respite from the crowded Riverwalk ever since. The food is fun (try the sweet and spicy Wildcat Burger or the famous Pimento Grilled Cheese), and the cocktails demonstrate how the bar has evolved while staying true to its historic roots. Taking someone out for their first time in the Alamo City? Have it here.

The Brooklynite

The Brooklynite

Southtown

Award-winning, retro cocktail bar with creative takes on classic drinks
Relaxed but sophisticated, elegant and cozy, warm and inviting -- the list of positive adjectives to describe this modern speakeasy is a long one. Even so, the best thing about The Brooklynite is its drinks. Made with only the finest ingredients, cocktails here are creative and fun. Take the Killer Parties Almost Killed Me, made from bourbon, amontillado sherry, house pecan cordial, pumpkin butter, and angostura bitters. If there’s a better use of fall’s most celebrated squash, we have yet to find it.

Flying Saucer San Antonio

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Huebner Oaks

Popular beer bar serving hundreds of beers and greasy pub fare
A suburban strip-mall location and status as part of a Ft. Worth-based, six-state chain belies the unique personality of The Flying Saucer in Huebner Oaks. What truly stands out here -- aside from the sheer volume of beer varieties offered -- is the attentiveness of the Saucer’s staff and the passion its always-knowledgeable bartenders have for their jobs and their bar.

TBA

TBA

St. Mary’s Strip

College student go-to for reasonably priced cocktails
Tiny TBA stands out on the St. Mary’s Strip for its thoughtful approach to cocktails and its attention to detail. Think dive bar, but without the bathrooms you’re afraid to use for fear of disease. While it’s a true neighborhood hangout, TBA’s bartenders make an effort to engage anyone and everyone who walks through the door. Feeling sluggish? Wake up your mind and body with A Farewell to Hef, made with Diplomático Blanco rum, cherry, coffee bitters, and pink peppercorn.

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar

Downtown

Riverwalk joint with a diverse wine menu
Though not directly on the Riverwalk, Zinc is surrounded by it on all sides. That means it is a haven for tourists, but locals shouldn’t let that keep them away. With an elegant, European vibe, Zinc Bistro has a simple yet eclectic bistro menu and an impressive liquor roster, but it especially excels when it comes to wine. You won’t find a better vino cache in the entire city.

Alamo Beer

Alamo Beer Company

Eastside

Beautiful brewery with some of the city's best beer
ALAMO began brewing its Golden Ale in 2003 and now produces three other year-round varieties and six seasonals. In 2015, it opened this brewery and biergarten in the city’s emerging Eastside district, where it sits in the shadow of historic Hays Street Bridge and offers one of the best views of Downtown you can find anywhere in the city. The compound is big and beautiful -- really well-designed and one of the few breweries that would be an equally ideal venue for an upscale wedding or grabbing a quick beer after work.

The Friendly Spot Ice House

The Friendly Spot

Southtown

San Antonio's best outdoor drinking spot with famously decadent cheese fries
This is the most aptly named bar ever; you’ll always find a mix of hipsters, families, dogs, and tourists of all ages, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and races chillin' in the brightly colored retro lawn chairs. It is all outdoors, offers 250+ kinds of bottled beer and nearly 100 on tap, serves a mean Michelada, and is an ideal place to watch a Spurs game under the stars on TFS’s huge screen. From October through May, there are few better places to while away a Sunday afternoon.

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1. Paramour 102 9th St, San Antonio, TX 78215

San Antonio's first rooftop bar, Paramour offers cocktails as spectacular as its views. While you're enjoying its industrial, rustic digs, considering dropping some cash on their selection of Pappy Van Winkle, the world's most sought after rye whiskey, and sip it as you look over the beautiful cityscape.

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2. Bar 1919 1420 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78204

In the heart of the Blue Star complex is Bar 1919. Not just your friendly neighborhood watering hole, it's a house of craft cocktails that takes itself seriously -- and expects you to as well. They have nearly every scotch and bourbon ever made and are proud of the fact that they only carry one kind of vodka.

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3. Hills & Dales Ice House 15403 White Fawn Dr, San Antonio, TX 78255

Located in its namesake neighborhood, Hills & Dales Ice House is a renovated, iconic neighborhood dive just steps away from UT San Antonio campus. The beer is cheap -- and there are over 80 labels to choose from -- with 16oz domestic pours for under $5, and domestic bottles for under $3. The craft beer selection is slightly pricier, and features local San Antonio and other regional Texas brews, as well as national favorites. Relax and have a cold one on the expansive patio of this one-time biker bar institution.

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4. Jazz, TX 312 Pearl Pkwy, Bldg 6, San Antonio, TX 78215

Jazz, TX is not just a music venue: it’s Tobin Hill’s hub for all things music, booze, and food. Located in the 3,500sqft space once dedicated to bottling beer at the Historic Pearl Brewery, Jazz, TX carries on the venue’s penchant for beverage. It features original, quality cocktails with a Southern edge, like a south of the border negroni and a Texas-style rye Collins. In addition to craft cocktails and nostalgic Southern fare (think fried okra and chilaquiles), it's known for a wide variety of music genres -- jazz, blues, salsa, Texas swing, big band, and more. Jazz, TX combines live music, dancing, and a versatile food and drink menu into its South Texan repertoire.

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5. Blue Star Brewing Company 1414 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78210

Since 1996, this microbrewery has been crafting 100% organic beers and serving an array of unique pub fare: think jalapeno brisket poppers, bratwurst plate, chicken-fried steak, and "Frito pie." The company also has a weekly jazz night, late-night shows, group bike rides, and other community events.

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6. Bar America 723 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78205

The historic Bar America is a bar with a legacy. Born in 1942 as Café America in a different location, the one-time cash- and beer-only watering hole now boasts a liquor license (and thus a full bar, top shelf selections intact) both inside and on their back patio. The star of the dive is their craft beer selection, which runs 22-taps deep, but classic cocktails like Moscow Mules, Bloody Mars, Margaritas, and Martinis carry their weight during happy hour, every Tuesday through Saturday.

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7. Freetail Brewing Company 4035 N Loop 1604 W, San Antonio, TX 78257

Freetail Brewing Company is a bat-themed brewpub offering small-batch craft beers and pizza. This casual spot also has some of the most scenic views around town, and a great happy hour. Drink some of the best beer in San Antonio for $1 off and get an order of chips, salsa, and queso for only $5. If chips aren't your thing, check out the soft pretzel, served with beer queso & spicy mustard -- also a measly $5.

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8. The Well 5539 Utsa Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78249

If it’s your first time at The Well, get ready to giddy up because this bar/restaurant/dance hall is a doosey. A large outdoor beer garden space lined in plastic grass (complete with a stage to host live acts) leads into a warehouse with two bars and an expansive seating area that can be converted into a dance floor. Iconic Texas-style comfort eats are abundant: carrots are glazed with whiskey, chopped beef is piled onto waffle fries, and steak is chicken-fried in a cast-iron skillet. Their lively bar is no joke, with 80 beers on tap and cocktails that have kick (Poteet Popper: Tito’s vodka, strawberry, jalapeño, lemon).

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9. The Last Word 229 E Houston St #10, San Antonio, TX 78205

Whether you're after a traditional cocktail or one of the 15 craft choices in their lineup, The Last Word has you covered. The bartenders here are anything but pretentious, are are ready and willing to help you find your ideal drink. Our recommendation? Start with the Seasonal Julep, then work your way from there with the help of the experts behind the bar.

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10. The Bang Bang Bar 119 El Mio Dr, San Antonio, TX 78216

This dive bar is loud, super casual and wildly unpretentious with a vintage roller derby vibe. The space hosts DJs and live music in addition to karaoke nights in its squat red building stationed next to a Kelly green tire store. The best part of this music-focused little dive? There's never a cover charge.

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11. Sternewirth 136 E Grayson, San Antonio, TX 78215

This rustic cool bar, located in Hotel Emma, has soaring ceilings and no shortage of wooden accents or intimate sofas. Craft beers, carefully selected wines and handmade cocktails pair perfectly with small plates or conversation. The top bartender recommendation is The Three Emmas, which combines gin, gran classico, apricot and absinthe.

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12. The Esquire Tavern 155 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205

The dim interior of this bar founded in the ‘30s is lit with oil lamps on the tables and is a taxidermists dream, including animals such as a Rio Grande turkey and a huge bison head. While The Esquire’s bar food is fantastic -- get the fried pickles -- this place is known for their cocktails.

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13. The Brooklynite 516 Brooklyn Ave, San Antonio, TX 78215

Visiting The Brooklynite is like being transported to another time and place, somewhere between Mad Men and a Victorian speakeasy. You might expect a heavy waft of cigar smoke, but all you’ll get are some incredible craft cocktails. Cool off with a Summer Pimm's, made with house pineapple gomme, lemon, cucumber, salt, and Topo Chico.

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14. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium 11255 Huebner Rd #212, San Antonio, TX 78230

This open concept bar offers over 200 beers from around the world, plus all your favorite classic pub snacks.

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15. TBA 2801 N St Mary's St, San Antonio, TX 78212

This place is often called a "hidden treasure" of the St. Mary's strip. It's a favorite dive bar of this bustling area. Although it has the casual appeal of a typical dive bar, it's also a relatively clean establishment suitable for all.

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16. Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar 207 N Presa St, San Antonio, TX 78205

Located in a historic building in the heart of San Antonio, Zinc Bistro and Wine Bar boasts an extensive wine menu: 4,000 bottles are stored in the restaurant's very large wine cellar.

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17. Alamo Beer Company 202 Lamar, San Antonio, TX 78202

Brewed by born and bred Texans, Alamo Beer is a source of pride for the Lonestar State. A nod to the “Alamo” beer popularized by San Antonians during the pre-Prohibition years, the brewery crafts a focused list of quality brews – a signature golden ale, Vienna-style amber lager, a German pale ale, and a pilsner. The industrial space features a well-manicured outdoor beer garden, which seems more reminiscent of a museum grounds than a popular bar.

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18. The Friendly Spot 943 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78205

The Friendly Spot took the old model of the ice house and modernized it for the craft beer fan. Instead of sipping on Lone Star or Coors Light, you’ll have to decide which beer to order from one of their 76 taps or 250 bottles on hand.