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The best places to grab a drink in Charleston

A photo of Red logo
by Stephanie Barna, Stratton Lawrence
Updated May 23, 2023

Cool drinks go down easy in steamy Charleston. Madeira wine was the beverage of choice here during colonial times, and today, Charleston’s eclectic bar scene still brims with cosmopolitan glamor.

A Park Circle wine bar pours Madeira among its many enticing by-the-glass options. A sleek, French-inspired basement lounge in Downtown Charleston provides respite from the heat. Nearby, a Roaring Twenties-themed hotspot is known for a club-like atmosphere on weekends.

Charleston’s world-class drinks scene is right on par with its stellar restaurant landscape. Read on for a guide to the 8 top bars to visit now in the Holy City.

A photo of The Darling Oyster Bar restaurant
4.7
4.7 (3387)
$30 and under
Seafood
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

The white tile and exposed brick at this King Street landmark immediately convey elegance. That’s partly why many passersby do a double take, then find themselves seated on a mint green barstool, happily chasing raw oysters with an old fashioned. The street-facing raw bar lures you in, and over-the-top indulgences, such as a bloody mary festooned with a lobster claw, crab leg, and cocktail shrimp (with a hushpuppy garnish!), keep you comfortably seated.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined on May 3, 2024
Great food amazing service great decor everything was perfect
A photo of ÉLEVÉ at Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston restaurant
4.1
4.1 (1296)
$30 and under
European
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

The Grand Bohemian Hotel’s rooftop bar, Eleve, draws weekend crowds. Bold, modern colors and decor match the hotel’s art-forward vibe. Pair the contemporary digs with views of the historic Market area and a signature spritz cocktail (plus shareable snacks such as truffle frites and calamari with harissa aioli) and you’re in for a night to remember. Oenophiles also know that Wine Bar on the ground floor may be one of Charleston’s best value secrets with one of the city’s largest by-the-glass selections.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined on Apr 22, 2024
Exquisite food, lovely space! You can speak and be heard by your fellow diners. Big yum!
A photo of Stars Restaurant - Rooftop & Grill Room restaurant
3.6
3.6 (2370)
$31 to $50
American
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

At sunset and on weekend nights, the laid-back rooftop bar at Stars is in high demand. The contrast of a striking wood bar and wicker furniture embellish the view overlooking bustling King Street. A dozen wines on tap are available by the glass, but it’s the signature cocktails, such as a frozen negroni and a classic Hemingway daiquiri, that shine the brightest. The restaurant downstairs helped forge the trend of open-flame cooking in Charleston—plan on dinner, and enjoy the rooftop as an excellent pre- and post-meal hangout.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 6 days ago
Loved it! But our server was training someone else and somehow neither of them really came by the table much. We will 100% be back!
A photo of Prohibition restaurant
4.5
4.5 (2403)
$30 and under
American
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

Nearing a decade on King Street, this loosely Roaring Twenties-themed hotspot now feels like a stalwart of Charleston’s bar scene. It’s a casual place to hang for happy hour or dinner, but by late evening on weekends, a full-on club atmosphere takes over. Whiskey is the main event at the bar—choose from a prolific selection that includes Scotch and Irish whiskey, plus plenty of bourbon. Signature cocktails make good use of the extensive collection, looking to classic embellishments such as egg whites, bitters, and fresh herbs. Bar snacks include crispy cheddar and potato pierogies, a locally inspired cheeseboard, and wings with a Memphis dry rub. Wine and beer lists are just long enough not to feel overwhelming, covering a wide range of tastes with minimal fluff.


Top review
Recruitervip
Dined 4 days ago
Overall excellent experience - both in food and service!
A photo of Bourbon N' Bubbles restaurant
4.4
4.4 (1237)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

This creative King Street spot strikes the perfect compromise for couples who don’t see eye to eye on what defines the perfect drink. The bar’s wall of dark liquor features one of the city’s most extensive bourbon selections. Order hard-to-find whiskeys by one- or two-ounce pours—or try a flight. In a separate room, Champagne takes center stage and bottles can reach the over-$1000 mark. Rest assured there are plenty of affordable by-the-pour options that pair well with shareable snacks such as caviar deviled eggs and blue crab fondue. And if you’re feeling indecisive, there’s a solution—the Charleston 75 cocktail mixes bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and sparkling rosé.


Top review
CLTvisitorvip
Dined 5 days ago
Really great spot for a drink and lite bites. It’s a great place to start your night. Bar space is ample and very cool. Loved the deviled eggs and the Wagyu burger! Best selection of bourbons I’ve seen! And a very knowledgeable bar tender/bourbon specialist😀
A photo of Maya restaurant
4.6
4.6 (634)
$31 to $50
Mexican
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

Enter the dining room at this buzzy modern Mexican restaurant on King Street, and keep walking through a narrow hallway until you’re out back. Here, you’ll find one of the city’s most idyllic garden patios, where mezcal enthusiasts flock for smoky cocktails and perfectly balanced margaritas—great accompaniments for antojitos such as skillet queso and yellowfin tuna tostadas. Choose from a seat at the comfortable bar, covered from the elements and surrounded by greenery, or relax in the open-air courtyard, where a velvet sofa hangs, inviting you to sprawl out and find some tranquilo.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 3 days ago
We had the best time and would highly recommend this restaurant. Hallie has the greatest waitress you could ask for and Jarrod who manages restaurant was amazing. Highly recommend Brussel sprouts, street corn and chorizo flavored chickpea burrito. Great for vegans. We will go back!!
A photo of Topsail Restaurant & Bar restaurant
4.5
4.5 (902)
$31 to $50
Seafood
Mount Pleasant
About the restaurant

Everything about Topsail is designed to take advantage of Lowcountry bounty, from the seafood and balmy weather to local craft brews and spirits. Set just off Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, Topsail's spacious bar welcomes you to come in and hang a while. Snack on lobster rolls and fried calamari and chase them down with an oyster shooter or two (featuring housemade cocktail sauce, vodka, lemon, Old Bay, and pepper). When the weather's nice, take advantage of outdoor patio seating where you can dine on the full menu and enjoy a Charleston Fizz made with a mix of locally distilled vodkas.


Top review
DonOvip
Dined on Dec 9, 2023
We knowledgeable waitstaff. The food is great. It’s one of our favorite places to go with the family.
A photo of Brasserie la Banque restaurant
4.7
4.7 (1132)
$30 and under
French
Downtown Charleston
About the restaurant

There’s no secret password required to slip into this sleek, hidden basement lounge, a rare architectural feature in low-lying Charleston. It operates like an additional dining area for Brasserie la Banque upstairs. Order the steak frites or one of the seafood entrees worthy of a special occasion, though Bar Vauté is also a cool evening escape from the summer heat. The classic cocktails are expertly executed and include French classics such as boulevardiers and sidecars. For those who aren’t imbibing, Vauté offers spirit-free options such as the Nice, a South of France-inspired blend of pear nectar, cinnamon, ginger, and lime. Stop for Apero Hour every Monday through Wednesday from 4 pm to 6 pm to treat yourself to discounted oysters on the half shell, a cheese plate, and a wine spritz for the ultimate Bar Vauté combo.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 3 days ago
We had a marvelous meal! It was a birthday and they absolutely made us feel like the most important people in the room. It was absolutely joyous! Add to that a great server and fabulous food. So fun.
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