Feature

The 10 Hottest Bars in Austin

By Veronica Meewes | May 22, 2015 By Veronica Meewes  |  May 22, 2015
Photo by: drink.well

Walk down Austin's iconic, booze-soaked Sixth Street (the city's very own Bourbon Street of sorts) and you'll notice a T-shirt in the windows of most souvenir shops: "Austin, Texas: a sleepy little drinking town with a live music problem." Blame it on the heat, but you could say Austin has more than a handful of bars from which to choose. However, the best ones certainly aren't going to be found on that "dollar shots and you-call-'ems" strip of Dirty Sixth (save for Midnight Cowboy, and more on that below). Read on for some of the hottest spots to wet your whistle right now.

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  • Photo by: Trey Jenkins

    Isla

    Why it's hot: Because the drinks (both classic tiki and rum cocktails plus modern concoctions) are as strong as they are tasty, and the island vibes are perfect for summer chillaxing.
    Must-drink: Come with friends and order one of their large-format punch bowl drinks, like the Chi Chi Bowl (vodka, rhum agricole, coconut cream, macadamia nut liqueur, pineapple juice, lime juice, Angostura bitters), which comes in a seahorse-bedecked vessel.
    ​Insider tip: Their sister bar, Peche, is right next door — stop in there for a nightcap when you're all tiki'ed out.

    208 W. Fourth St.; 512-322-9921

  • Photo by: Stay Gold

    Stay Gold

    Why it's hot: Stay Gold, which takes its name from a line in The Outsiders, is one of the newest East Cesar Chavez bars and features a soul-inspired lounge, a top-notch jukebox and live music on stage almost nightly
    Must-drink: Depending on your mood, slide into a dark booth with a whiskey flight or relax on the back patio with a Freedom '76 (St. Germain, Ancho Reyes, champagne, lemon).
    ​Insider tip: Come hungry and indulge in the Southern-comfort menu at Toaster, the food trailer in their backyard.

    1910 E. Cesar Chavez St.

  • Photo by: Nick Simonite

    Midnight Cowboy

    Why it's hot: What's hotter than a speakeasy-inspired bar in a former brothel where you can reserve a private room and "turn on the red light" to place your cocktail order?
    Must-drink: Though their menu changes often, ask your bartender which drinks are made on the bar cart (tableside or at the door of your private room). 
    ​Insider tip: Visits are by reservation only. Be sure to book ahead of time online and wait for instructions on finding the unmarked door and ringing the correct doorbell...then enter this cocktail oasis in the middle of boisterous Sixth Street.

    313 E. Sixth St.; 512-843-2715

  • Photo by: Half Step Bar

    Half Step

    Why it's hot: On a street where the vodka sodas flow, Half Step is a beacon of light for cocktail enthusiasts.
    Must-drink: While you can't go wrong with Bartender's Choice (trust your bartender!), the Roslyn (gin, Dolin Blanc, grapefruit peel) is a perfect warm-weather refresher.
    ​Insider tip: On a bar crawl or in a pinch? Their outside bar features two cocktails on tap at all times. Right now, it's a ginger Paloma and a margarita.

    75 1/2 Rainey St.; 512-391-1877

  • Photo by: Zilker Brewing Co

    Zilker Brewing Co

    ​​Why it's hot: Not only did Zilker Brewing Co just open at the end of April, but this "American Belgo-style" brewery is located right in the middle of east side Austin, making it one of the most centrally located breweries in town.
    Must-drink: The dry-hopped session IPA is citrusy, hoppy and perfect for summer sipping.
    ​Insider tip: Follow them on Facebook for announcements on special tappings and beer flights.

    1701 E. Sixth St.

  • Photo by: drink.well

    Drink.Well

    Why it's hot: While not a new bar, Drink.Well keeps it fresh with constantly changing drink specials crafted by their expert bar team, solid seasonal food offerings and great one-off events.
    Must-drink: For fresh take on a julep, try their Roseto Julep (pictured here), a mix of Barton 6 Year Bonded Bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, Combier rose liqueur and fresh mint.
    ​Insider tip: Ask about their housemade Twinkies — they feature a different flavor each day, but only bake 12 of them!

    207 E. 53rd St.; 512-614-6683

  • Photo by: Brian Flannery

    Whisler’s

    ​​Why it's hot: Located at the edge of the East Sixth Street strip, this former biker-bar-turned-ambient-cocktail-lounge features a spacious patio and Eastside King Thai-Kun food trailer, so it's pretty much the best place to start (and end) your night.
    Must-drink: In honor of Austin's swimming holes, order The Greenbelt (pictured here): tequila, genepy, Velvet Falernum, verdita and lime.
    ​Insider tip: Follow the outside stairs to enter Mezcalería Tobalá, a speakeasylike mezcal bar that will make you feel transported to 1970s Oaxaca.

    1816 E. Sixth St.; 512-480-0781

  • Photo by: The Wheel

    The Wheel

    Why it's hot: This bike-themed bar just opened this spring and shares a lot with Austin Daily Press and Juiceland — so come hungry and thirsty and stay awhile!
    Must-drink: The Lyllian: Hendrick's, Lillet Blanc, Aperol and grapefruit.
    ​Insider tip: Ask about their $4 whiskey special — the brands rotate each day of the week!

    1902 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; 512-531-9696

  • Photo by: Be Kind to One Another

    King Bee Lounge

    ​​Why it's hot: King Bee Lounge is housed in the former Legendary White Swan blues lounge and kept much of the original mojo of the place, from the killer jukebox and ambient mood lighting to the vintage photos and posters.
    Must-drink: Their house cocktail menu features a seasonal frozen drink; right now, it's a Frozen Port Light (pictured here), a tasty blend of scotch, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses and passion fruit syrup.
    ​Insider tip: You couldn't possibly believe how legit pizza at a divey cocktail joint could be until you try theirs.

    1906 E. 12th St.; 512-600-6956

  • Photo by: Indian Roller

    Indian Roller

    Why it's hot: This "boutique roadhouse" features chandeliers, antlers, a stage for live music and front and back patios — all in far South Austin!
    Must-drink: The refreshing Swimmin' Lemon (pictured on the left) features Deep Eddy Lemon, lemonade and housemade raspberry purée.
    ​Insider tip: Come hungry — their new food trailer Belly Up features a menu of gluten-free sliders, rice bowls and snacks like fried asparagus using gluten-free batter and beer.

    10006 S. Manchaca Rd.

Places Mentioned

drink.well.

BarNorth Loop
Atmo.22 Decor23 Service21 CostE

Whisler's

BarEast Austin
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI

The Wheel

Cocktail BarEast Austin
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM

Midnight Cowboy

BarDowntown
Atmo.25 Decor24 Service23 CostE

Stay Gold

BarEast Austin
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI

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