Austin’s 12 favorite bars

A citrusy cocktail at El Naranjo - South Lamar. | Credit: El Naranjo - South Lamar
A citrusy martini garnished with a lemon peel at El Naranjo - South Lamar in Austin

Austinites are all about supporting their local watering holes and have a go-to for every occasion, whether it’s a special date night or a casual hangout with friends. Luckily, this eclectic and creative city has a bar scene that aims to please.

A James Beard Award winner serves Oaxacan snacks and mezcal at a marble-top bar in South Austin. A funky homage to all things Texan—and the birthplace of the now ubiquitous Ranch Water cocktail—holds court downtown. In East Austin, a divey pub that embodies the city’s signature unfussiness is also home to one of the most dog-friendly patios around.

There’s a drinking place for revelers of all stripes in this quirky Texan town. Read on for a guide to Austin’s best bars to book right now.

The Roosevelt Room (Downtown)

Brown leather couches and string lights make up the luxe mezzanine space at The Roosevelt Room in Austin.
This low-lit lounge is known for impeccably executed classic cocktails. | Credit: Robert Lerma

When you’re seeking an extraordinary bar experience, look no further than this low-lit sexy lounge. The Roosevelt Room has an award-winning program that includes drinks from essential periods in cocktail history alongside innovative signature drinks—bonus points for an innovative alcohol-free selection which includes The Castaway, made with mint, cucumber, cream of coconut, and more. Happy hour happens daily from 4 pm until 7 pm and features discounts on classic cocktails, beer, wine, and bites such as rosemary parmesan popcorn and chicken liver mousse crostini. The luxe atmosphere and attentive service appeal to both large parties and couples on date night, so reservations are highly encouraged.

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El Naranjo – South Lamar (South Austin)

At this modern South Austin spot, chef Iliana de la Vega—winner of the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas—serves her widely acclaimed Oaxacan food. Dig into fresh ceviches, empanadas, and not-to-be-missed mole, which takes three days to prepare. The horseshoe-shaped marble-top bar offers a comfortable and casual space for sipping a good selection of mezcals, tequilas, and cocktails (locals love the pineapple mezcaliña, brightened with muddled serranos and basil) in a classy yet convivial atmosphere.

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Bar Peached (Downtown)

Those craving a serene drinking experience come to this Austin favorite, housed in a historic Clarksville bungalow. Bar Peached serves Asian-inspired snacks—banh mi tacos, wasabi salt-dusted edamame, and crispy potatoes with miso chile crema—paired with a fine selection of beer, wine, and signature cocktails, with excellent specials during its daily evening social hour. The covered dog-friendly patio under a heritage oak is a lovely spot to while away an afternoon or evening. Pro tip: go on Wednesday for bulgogi-marinated steak and frites night.

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Aviary Wine & Kitchen (South Austin)

A bar stocked with wine bottles and a ladder at Aviary Wine & Kitchen in Austin
This casual spot houses one of Austin’s most adventurous wine selections. | Credit: Cassandra Klepac

Don’t let the simple façade fool you—this casual South Austin spot boasts one of the most unique and adventurous wine selections in the city, plus craft beer and cider with an emphasis on local offerings. Curated by beverage director Alex Wheatley Bell, the wine list is divided into categories named after famous actors and musicians, including David Bowie (sparkly and bubbly) and Etta James (sultry and smooth). The staff’s knowledge borders on nerdy without being pretentious. The ever-changing farm-to-table menu, which could include fried beets with kimchi mayo and stuffed cabbage with ‘nduja sausage, is as exciting as the wine list.

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Ranch 616 (Downtown)

Ranch 616 is a funky homage to all things Texan and has claimed local favorite status for decades. It also happens to be the birthplace of the now ubiquitous Ranch Water cocktail, a refreshing tequila-lime highball. Other signature drinks include the Fire in the Hole, a hollowed-out fresh jalapeño filled with a potent tequila and fresh lime mix, and some of the best margs in the city—a credential that carries extra weight in Austin. Claim a perch under the giant steel pistol sculpture on the patio and pair the drinks with South Texas-inspired dishes such as quail knots, fried frog legs, and wood-fired steaks.

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Il Brutto (East Austin)

An exclusively Italian wine list and one of the city’s best amari and vermouth programs await at this modern Italian joint. If you’re not sure of where to start, enlist the assistance of general manager Charity Sadoy, who curated the vino selection. Pull up a stool at the bar and let her guide you through a flight, or create a bespoke pre-meal drink. Then dive into a thoughtful food menu that balances local and imported ingredients featuring housemade pastas (including gluten-free options) such as agnolotti with ricotta, Parmesan, and pistachios and pappardelle with lamb ragu.

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DrinkWell (North Loop)

Mixology-driven drinks headline the experience at this North Loop jewel box. DrinkWell’s sensational seasonal cocktails include well-executed classics and innovative blends, such as the Paperback Romance (pisco, gin, grapefruit, lemon, a bergamot-forward aperitivo, and peach bitters). The creative drinks pair well with farm-to-table snacks, including crispy Brussels sprouts with butternut squash puree, and heartier fare such as mushroom mac and cheese and a house burger with smoked onion aioli. Happy hour happens from Monday through Saturday with discounted drinks and food, but note that DrinkWell does not take reservations and can’t accommodate parties of more than eight—so get there early or prepare to wait.

Whisler’s (East Austin)

To say Whisler’s is one of Austin’s most essential bars may be an understatement. For starters, it’s owned by industry vets and housed in a historic building that was once home to Rabbit’s, a decades-old neighborhood favorite. Its shabby-chic interiors make an ideal backdrop to sip on inventive drinks such as Paris in Time (tequila, za’atar, chartreuse, honey, and lime) and Sputnik the Plane (date-infused rye, yuzu vermouth, floral liqueur, and chicory). If the interior gets crowded, head to the spacious patio, complete with Golden Tiger, a local food truck that slings top-notch burgers and chicken sandwiches. Agave lovers will want to stop by Mezcaleria Tobalá, a tiny haunt upstairs that’s open on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Cavalier (East Austin)

A longhorn sculpture and several beers on tap at The Cavalier in Austin
The daily happy hour at The Cavalier is known for a killer local brew selection. | Credit: The Cavalier

Owned and steered by Rachelle Fox, a service industry veteran, this divey pub embodies the unfussiness that Austin is known for. The Cavalier’s relaxed atmosphere is enhanced by New Orleans-meets-Texas fare—think Jamaican jerk chicken wings and shrimp po’boys, alongside plenty of vegetarian options—and one of the most dog-friendly patios around. Add an eclectic playlist, a daily happy hour featuring generous pours, local brews, and Austin FC soccer on the screen, and you’ve got yourself a revered city stalwart.

Geraldine’s (Downtown)

Celebs are known to descend on this Hotel Van Zandt venue during SXSW. Geraldine’s has a sprawling space for watching some of the city’s most talented musicians seven days a week. It also draws crowds for thoughtful craft cocktails, local beers, and zero-proof drinks such as Octopus’s Garden, a botanical blend with lime, basil-honey syrup, and cucumber. If you’re feeling peckish, graze from a modern Southern menu that includes buttermilk biscuits with maple-honey butter and grilled Gulf shrimp (also available on the adjacent poolside terrace) and you’ll quickly see why this is one of Austin’s hippest hangouts.

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Nido (Bouldin Creek)

Nido is a glamorous urban oasis in The Loren at Lady Bird Lake, a luxe Bouldin Creek hotel that opened in 2022. Begin at the restaurant’s elegant lobby bar, though you’re likely here for the large covered terrace with unmatched river and skyline views. The modern American menu from executive chef Brad McDonald (who hails from MICHELIN-starred spots including Per Se and Noma) is equally impressive, featuring octopus carpaccio, stuffed chicken wings, fresh oysters, and more. Pair the seasonal dishes with one of the many by-the-glass wine options or a craft cocktail such as the Austin ‘04, made with earthy amaro and locally distilled light whiskey, best accompanied by a fiery Bat City sunset.

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Tweedy’s Bar (University of Texas)

The former Spider House Cafe space got a second life as this vintage rock-and-roll gem. Tweedy’s is adored for its wide craft beer selection, signature and tap cocktails, and superb non-alcoholic options such as dragon fruit lemonade and iced lavender matcha lattes. Although its interiors were refurbished, the spot is still rich with the same rustic charm as its predecessor—and its adored dog-friendly patio remains a popular meeting spot from noon until 2 am.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Claudia Alarcon is a Mexico City-born writer based in Austin, Texas covering dining, drinking, and travel since 1999.

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