Boston has no shortage of great bars—or great bartenders. So we spoke with some of our favorite folks from the other side of the bar to learn where in Boston they like to go for a drink after a long shift, or on that rare night off.
Consult these expert picks the next time you’re in the market for a good cocktail made from a locally distilled spirit—or even just a cold beer and a fun crowd—and you can’t go wrong.
The below interviews have been condensed for clarity.
Tenzin Samdo, Tavern Road
“Drink is almost like going back in time. I love Negronis—they make it exactly as it should be. One of my favorite Old-Fashioneds comes from [Drink bartender] Jan Brown. He does a really good take on the Penicillin, too.
The Baldwin Bar is great for when you want to have really good, spicy Sichuan food and great tiki drinks. Every time they release a cocktail menu it’s always a hit. Each one of their bartenders has their own character. I just go there to have the experience and let them lead me on their journey.”
Ezra Star, Drink
“Two bars that are right next door to each other, and owned by the same people: Lone Star Taco Bar and Deep Ellum. There are two Lone Stars: one’s right up by my house in Cambridge, so that’s my favorite. I also go to Yvonne’s on occasion, which I really enjoy.
Lone Star is really local. Everyone kind of knows each other, and you can blend in really easily. If you just want to hang out and have a drink without anyone talking to you, it can happen. They also serve tacos until 1:30 a.m. So if I get out of work early enough I can slide over and have a taco. “
Kevin Morrison, Eastern Standard
“My local is Audubon. They have been my home away from home, whether it’s just getting off work and having a quick drink, or getting some food and watching a game on a night off. It’s the kind of place where you’re just as at home having a shot and a beer as you are having a well-made cocktail.
Hojoko is taking well thought-out cocktails and presenting them in a very approachable way. Any place that can have a really elevated cocktail program and a menu section for sake bombs is pretty cool.
Audbon’s house Margarita is awesome. It’s super simple with blanco tequila, agave syrup, and lime. When I’m at Hojoko it’s sort of a “dealer’s choice” situation. I’ve been sitting at Daren Swisher’s bars for many years now—I’ve always trusted him.”
Tenzin at Tavern Road is really creative. He has a chocolate Negroni that’s really simple but really good. Whenever I go to Drink, I’ll get anything with pineapple: they fresh-squeeze theirs. I’ll get pineapple on crushed ice to start. A pineapple Daiquiri or a Tom Collins is usually my go-to.
The Hawthorne has a really amazing whiskey selection and some great scotches, but I’ll usually just have whatever the bartenders want to make me. It’s a way for bartenders to give each other feedback.
But when I’m out I’m mostly drinking beer, or something neat. If the bar is slammed I’m not going to order a fancy cocktail, because I’ve been there.”
Stephanie Maness, The Gallows
“If I’m going straight from work, I’ll go to Brownstone or Clery’s on Dartmouth Street. The bartenders that work in the South End or Back Bay area usually migrate to those two bars. We will hang out and talk about our days working the bar. It’s a watering hole for a lot of bartenders in the area.
I do a beer and a whiskey. It’s usually an IPA and a shot of Jameson. A nice beer to sip on, and then a shot of whiskey—that’s the trick.”
Jared Sadoian, The Hawthorne
Eastern Standard late night has been sort of the de facto industry hang out. Tavern Road also has a really wonderful industry following. You go to either of those two places and you know you’re going to see some friends, shake a few hands, and have a good time.
I really love Drink’s Negroni, and their Negroni variations. Years ago when I was a barback at Eastern Standard I went to drink for the first time and they made me a 1794. It was the first time I’d had a Negroni variation, and it just blew my mind.”
Will Thompson, Ruka
“J.J. Foley’s [Downtown Crossing location], Delux Café, and Bar Mezzana. My go-to drinks are a Miller Lite and a Grand Marnier at J.J. Foley’s, Miller Lite and Tequila Ocho at Delux Café, and any wine or a Daiquiri at Bar Mezzana.”
Sam Treadway, backbar
“Eastern Standard and Hojoko are two of my favorite bars in Boston. Both serve great cocktails, beers, and shots. I can explore something new at each—wine or sake, respectively.
Eastern Standard has a mezcal tiki drink right now that’s amazing.
Hojoko? Whatever Joe Cammarata or Daren Swisher tell me to drink!
Eastern Standard has the amazing ability to be one of the busiest bars in town but also have impeccable, consistent, authentic hospitality.
Hojoko is pure fun, if you go there and don’t start smiling within 60 seconds, then there is something wrong with you.”