For a city that prides itself on keeping things weird, its bars are very polished—something that really shouldn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with Austin. The town’s food and drink scene has grown nearly as fast as its population over the past several years, and local drinkers have benefited. Austin’s eclectic bar scene is home to many great watering holes, ranging from lovable dives and live music spots to classy cocktail joints.
So below: 12 of Austin’s best bars. To be clear, this isn’t an ordered ranking or a definitive list of every great bar in the city, but rather a rundown of our favorite cocktail haunts worth checking out on your next Austin bar crawl.
1133 East 11th St // nickelcitybar.com
The newest member on this list, Nickel City opened in the summer of 2017 and quickly found a loyal following. Take a seat at the retro bar for a serious lesson in whiskey and brandy—they’ve got lots. Don’t ask for the cocktail menu, though, as there isn’t one. In fact, they avoid the term “cocktail” entirely, and simply call everything a “mixed drink,” offering up classics and originals using house made ingredients. The most incredible thing at Nickel City? The affordability. They’re proud to report that they don’t have a drink on the menu for which you’ll shell out more than a Hamilton.
1816 East 6th St // whislersatx.com
Whisler’s offers more than first meets the eye. The small, intimate indoor bar gives patrons a chance to discuss their likes and dislikes for the perfect cocktail suggestion or custom cocktail, and the outdoor patio makes this a spot to occupy all night long. But don’t forget to head upstairs, because that’s where they keep the Oaxacan-style mezcalería, which pours one of the best selections in town.
75 1/2 Rainey St // halfstepbar.com
This cocktail haunt believes in keeping it small—both the length of the cocktail list and the bar itself. The cozy bar encourages patrons to spend their time outside at the picnic tables or playing cornhole under bistro lights. The cocktail list is small but mighty, and features fresh ingredients and drinks that appeal to novices and pros alike. It’s the kind of menu not often seen from a bar with an outhouse… For all that, you can thank Half Step owner, Chris Bostick, formerly of The Varnish in Los Angeles—itself a great bar.
108 East 7th St // smallvictory.bar
This Downtown bar’s unsuspecting entrance gives you the idea that you’re walking into an overly curated hipster speakeasy. Luckily, the bar shies away from that and offers a respite from the antics happening a block away on 6th St. Small Victory keeps things high-brow with their custom ice program, but on the whole delivers well made cocktails and prides itself on delivering the perfect Martini, customized just the way you like it.
Las Perlas Mezcaleria
405 East 7th St // lasperlasaustin.com
Las Perlas Mezcaleria is the outpost for the LA concept that claims to be the country’s first true mezcal bar. Just a stone’s throw from East 6th Street, there’s a vibe that beckons agave lovers to sit back, relax, and enjoy a few glasses. The decor is brighter than expected in a mezcaleria thanks to an elaborate bookcase holding backlit bottles ripe for the sipping. Since mezcal is a slightly misunderstood spirit, they offer memberships to their Mezcal Collective, which offers monthly tastings for members.
1808 East Cesar Chavez St // weatherupnyc.com/austin-1
Take a seat at this vintage-inspired NY offshoot bar housed in a two-story house—inside at the gorgeous, copper top bar or outside on the spacious patio packed with metal lawn furniture. The cocktails at this unique haunt bring together new age spirits and old school classics. Weather Up’s atmosphere and cocktail list are reflected perfectly by the bar’s penchant for showing Wes Anderson flicks on their movie nights.
313 East 6th St // midnightcowboymodeling.com
Once an illicit massage parlor, Midnight Cowboy used to be the only clandestine show in town. Since opening in 2012, the bar has kept up its standards and still makes entry a tough task. You’ll need a reservation (available in two-hour stints) and a little help from a green light to find the signless door. Once you track down the unsuspecting space, you gain access by pressing buzzers that pay homage to cocktail greats like Sasha Petraske and Julie Reiner. The cocktail list offers classic cocktails along with original recipes and even a few tableside options via a rolling cart.
718 Congress Ave #100 // thetownsendaustin.com
Another one of Austin’s downtown cocktail spots, this upscale bar is housed in a historic building that dates back to 1875. With a renovation that included a visit from an acoustician, the bar has a luxe feel and a performance space that features live music. Since one of the co-creators of NYC’s Employees Only has a hand in the Townsend, you know their cocktails and service will be on point. Expect classics alongside signature options to enjoy with their bar snacks during happy hour and late night alike.
307 West 5th St // therooseveltroomatx.com
Give Austinites live music and a well made cocktail, and you’ll win. The Roosevelt Room knows this, and offers it in spades. Sit back and enjoy the lively, industrial-chic space with a craft cocktail in hand. Make sure to chat up the friendly barkeeps, who are among some of our favorites in town.
405 East 7th St // sevengrandaustin.com
Courtesy of the same hospitality group behind Las Perlas is this very impressive whiskey den. With 400-plus bottles, it’s a haven for bourbon, scotch, Irish, and everything else drinkers. But for those just starting their love affair with whiskey, Seven Grand offers the Whiskey Society program, which allows members to participate in exclusive tastings and visits with brand ambassadors. In case you don’t want to just sip straight spirits all night long, Seven Grand has a full bar for making plenty of whiskey (and not-whiskey) cocktails.
1300 South Lamar Blvd // backbeat-atx.com
Sporting the same owner as drink.well, the mid-century modern Backbeat brought a new vibe to South Lamar. Stop in for a drink on their rooftop or a meal accompanied by a cocktail from their rum-forward menu rife with classic and original drinks.
Garage Cocktail Bar
503 Colorado St // garagetx.com
We’ll say it… this is a hard spot to find. Tucked into a location that was once a small valet office in a parking garage, you’ll now find craft cocktails and a surprisingly haute cocktail list offering “custom,” “vintage,” and “refurbished” categories, because, you know, it’s in a garage. Since there are only 15 seats in the whole place, you can expect attention from the bartenders who will direct you to the perfect tipple, and with great efficiency.