Yes, it’s true, Austin has changed dramatically in the past decade or two. And while most of us continue to bemoan the worsening traffic and lack of affordable housing, Austin’s growth — along with a few dashes of local innovation and creativity — has helped craft a truly accomplished bar scene.
From those featuring craft cocktails and master mixologists, to those boasting wine bar maestros and slinging the best boozy sips around, Austin’s bars — like its residents — are a perfect mixture of artistry, ingenuity, and vision.
We celebrate these beloved watering holes and intoxicating hometown bar heroes at our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
Learn more about this year’s Bar of the Year nominees below, then join us August 5 at Fair Market for our Tastemaker Awards tasting event and awards program, where we’ll raise a toast to the winner. Tickets are on sale now.
If you can’t have a good time at Coconut Club, you may as well bury your head in the sand. This two-story downtown bar and dance club, owned by Cole Evans and Brian Almaraz of Cheer Up Charlies fame, is a tropical party come to life. And while some cocktails perfectly embody the beachy ambience, anything and everything goes when it comes to bar offerings here. And that hospitable vibe extends beyond the drinks to the bar’s very heart: At Coconut Club, everyone is welcome, the queer community is celebrated, and paradise comes in the form of dancing the night away.
This moody, softly lit neighborhood bar is known for its “well-rounded” cocktails and food as much as it is for visionary owner Jessica Sanders, who takes as much care in crafting the house cocktails menu as she does in championing the Austin restaurant and bar community and her valued employees. Not only does Drink.Well offer a stellar happy hour and imaginative drinks menu, but imbibers may learn a thing or two about the art of the cocktail from the bar’s knowledgeable staff.
Housed in — you guessed it — a parking garage in downtown Austin, this unassuming industrial-inspired cocktail bar walks the fine line of being approachable while also offering a slick array of cocktails that would impress even the pickiest sipper. The space is lounge-y and alluring, and the drinks are of the variety that make you want to linger for another, especially the Old Fashioned, which may be the best in town.
This cheery east side patio bar and cocktail lounge is an oasis that beckons sunshine lovers to settle in and kick back with a refreshing summer-inspired beverage with friends. From frozen concoctions to classic cocktails, beer, wine, and a few seasonal sippers ideal for taking a respite from the hot Austin summer, Kitty Cohen’s is a sexy spot serving even sexier drinks.
The Little Darlin’
This mostly outdoor laid-back joint oozes South Austin soul and is heralded for its alfresco vibes and tasty bites, as well as its beer and boozier offerings. After all, what Austinite doesn’t dig scoring a spot at a picnic table under a light-strung heritage tree or enjoy a yard game (beer in hand, of course) with friends?
Natural wines are all the rage these days, and there’s no better spot to try and buy these biodynamic beauties than East Sixth Street wine bar and shop LoLo. Featuring an impressive rotating selection of natural wines, which visitors can try onsite or buy to enjoy at home, LoLo also offers a menu of small bites to pair with wines by the glass or bottle, as well as other libations. And the expansive patio easily lures visitors to sip and stay a spell.
Long Play Lounge
At the Long Play Lounge — whether the original St. Johns neighborhood spot or the newer east side bar, which took over on East Cesar Chavez Street when Stay Gold vacated — the music is as important as the drinks. With more than 400 vinyl records spanning all genres, the good tunes don’t quit, and neither do the bar’s excellent craft cocktails and taps of local craft beers.
If you’re looking for a cool Austin dive bar where the drinks are cheap and the beer is cold, you’ll flip for Nickel City, the east side spot from mix (drink) master Travis Tober and Via 313’s Brandon Hunt. Sidle up to the massive bar for a shot and a beer, or enjoy a perfectly crafted cocktail while awaiting your chance to nosh some wings and fries from onsite food truck Delray Café.
This speakeasy-inspired downtown bar may be small, but it is mighty in terms of its carefully curated cocktails and knowledgeable staff. You can’t beat the classic cocktails here, but this intimate and quirky joint really triumphs when the bartenders are left to their own devises to create truly spectacular concoctions.
East side neighborhood bar The Cavalier wants you to be you, Austin. And that means kicking back on the patio with your pup and enjoying classic cocktails, cold beer, “decent wine,” and Southern-style pub grub. Or maybe that means popping a jello shot or a frozen Red Headed Stranger mezcal drink while slaying your friends at darts. Either way, you’re welcome here. At The Cavalier, there’s only one rule: Just don’t be a jerk.