Sometimes, especially in the midst of yearslong pandemonium and crisis, you want to go where everybody knows your name — or at least where you can get a stiff drink, crafted cocktail, or mug of brewski and shoot the breeze with a few friendly barflies.
Austin has no dearth of good-natured watering holes where locals and visitors can sup the hard stuff. But as the city has grown and evolved into a diverse cosmopolitan hub, so, too, has Austin’s bar scene progressed and transformed into a vibrant, fertile empire abundant with taverns, taprooms, breweries, honky-tonks, cantinas, biergartens, and good old fashioned holes in the wall.
We celebrate these spirits purveyors in all their intoxicating glory at our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, when we’ll honor the best of Austin’s culinary scene.
Read about this year’s Tastemaker nominees for Bar of the Year below, then join us to toast them all during our signature tasting event and awards program, the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, on Thursday, April 28 at Fair Market. Grab your Early Bird tickets now for this sell-out affair.
This playfully cheeky bar is known for serving up “solid bevs” with a side of high-spirited glib indicative of the trendy Rainey Street District it calls home. And we’re totally here for it! After all, the joint is called Little Brother, so you ought to expect a bit of good-natured tomfoolery. But don’t let that turn you off because the drinks here are first-rate. With a full bar and knowledgeable drink slingers, Little Brother serves up everything from your favorite mixed drinks to boilermakers, shooters, and “coffee booze,” so whatever floats your boat is available here. And speaking of caffeine, a pick-me-up here is a must-try, as Little Brother also specializes in a variety of coffee drinks. If this spot isn’t quite your cup of tea, check out Little Brother’s downtown location for a more subdued coffee and kolaches experience.
This East Austin spot has a storied and boozy history, including formerly housing another beloved local dive bar for many years. While Nickel City does an impressive job of paying homage to that old joint — and tapping into the essence of what a saucy drinking den should be — it also raises the bar by serving up some fancier cocktail offerings and hosting whimsically themed pop-up events. Indeed, it’s Nickel City’s versatility and accommodating nature that make it so appealing, whether you’re in the mood for a perfectly crafted Oaxaca old fashioned, a bewitching Tiki cocktail, or simply a Lone Star and a shot. And if you opt for the latter, you may even find your happy-go-lucky bartender raising a toast and joining in.
It’s unclear whether this speakeasy-inspired downtown bar was named for the joy laborers feel upon vacating the office midweek and heading directly to a nearby saloon to wet their whistles with extreme gratitude. Regardless of its moniker’s muse, Small Victory is a delightfully dimly lit bar that’s great for lounging post-work with a handcrafted sidecar or other brandy cocktail. And given the depth of mastery of Small Victory’s bar staff, you may get the best cocktail of your life simply by asking the bartender to whip up something special for you. And if you happen to be downtown during the holiday season, don’t miss the chance to pop in for Small Victory’s spectacular aged eggnog.
The Roosevelt Room
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it many times more: If you’re looking to eat, drink, and be merry in classy Austin style, The Roosevelt Room should be your go-to drinking establishment. This posh parlor is housed in a historic downtown space where classic design and modern aesthetics blend seamlessly, providing the ideal backdrop for partaking in The Roosevelt Room’s many handcrafted cocktails. The award-winning bar boasts an astonishing 80-drink beverage program with a menu that highlights the key periods in cocktail history alongside fresh house creations. And if all that expertise puzzles your palate, it may be time to pore over The Roosevelt Room’s cocktail classes or even its top-notch Bartending Master Class series.
If the island life is your jam and you embrace the life’s-a-beach mentality, there’s no need to swim against the tide, as Austin is home to what we’ll deem the best Tiki bar this side of Polynesia. But what else would you expect from the innovative culinary pros behind the universally loved Tatsu-Ya restaurant group? Delight in some rum-forward concoctions, or dive right on in to the kitschy Tiki cocktails, like the Slurping Bastard — served in a fantastic chalice that bears a striking resemblance to any Ramen Tatsu-Ya customer in mid ramen slurp — or the Stranded on Saturn gin cocktail, the Cobra Kai, or the banana-forward Forbidden Grog. Or make the whole table happy with a Banzai Boat of shooters.