Best Cocktail Bars in Atlanta: Drink it In

These Atlanta watering holes are the perfect pit stops to drink in the city and scintillating sips.

OK. You’ve touched down in Atlanta for what is sure to be a travel-defining experience. The one-of-a-kind attractions and experiences. The soul-stirring Southern dining. All these things await you, but after you check-in to your accommodations what’s the first thing you need? That’s right, a drink. But your hotel bar just won’t do. No, you want a spirited destination. A place to rub elbows with locals over signature sips where the conversation and libations flow with ease. And ATL is overflowing with possibilities. Here are your essential stops to drink in Atlanta.

*Please note that some of these businesses might have changing hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check websites for the most up-to-date information.

8ARM

Poncey-Highland cocktail destination 8ARM is one of these unique bars oozing with an eclectic charm that feels more like you’re drinking at the home of a close friend who also happens to be a master mixologist. It’s all about fresh and seasonal when it comes to the drinks, so much so that 8ARM doesn’t even list a cocktail menu on its site. The spontaneity of showing up, telling the barkeep how you feel and getting a spot-on sip to complement your mood is what makes 8ARM an ATL great.

9 Mile Station

📷 9 Mile Station

Perched upon the rooftop of ATL’s popular shopping and entertainment destination, Ponce City Market, 9 Mile Station is all about the experience. Drink in the skyline views and wash them down with classic cocktails, some amplified by the bar’s extensive selection of craft beers. Yes, beer-tails are a thing, and 9 Mile will escort you to cloud 9 with its wildly innovative sips.

Bar Margot

📷 Chris Watkins

OK. Now we know we said you’d want to skip the hotel bar upon your arrival, but when you’re staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, your first stop should be Bar Margot. The five-star hotel’s luxe cocktail bar is a welcome respite even if you aren’t staying at the hotel. Bar Margot cocktails run the gamut from pristine classics to creatively crafty considerations, all worthy of your palate. And don’t tell anyone, but the off-menu “Missing Digit” cocktail is a “you never know what you’re going to get” adventure into the unknown.

Biltong Bar

📷 Chris Watkins

Buckhead beef jerky bastion Biltong Bar is probably the closest you’ll get to experiencing the South African mainstay in the states. But it takes bold, assertive sips to provide an ample contrast with savory meat medallions, and the cocktails at Biltong certainly play their part. Niche classics like the Paper Plane, Jungle Bird and Aviation are a deft foil with a plate of cured meats and cheeses and worth the trip down craft cocktail’s memory lane.

Bon Ton

📷 Chris Watkins

There are some cocktail bars you just have to experience to “get it,” and Bon Ton is one of those places. You can’t put the Midtown all-year Mardi Gras destination in a box as it slings superb seafood with Vietnamese flair accompanied by flawless French Quarter cocktails. Get caught up in New Orleans classics like the rum-forward BonTon Hurricane, Sazerac and a devout walk down the tiki path in the smoked bourbon mai tai.

Empire State South

Midtown’s Empire State South is held in high regard as one of Atlanta’s essential farm-to-table experiences, and with that you need equally inspiring cocktails. From classic martinis and old-fashioneds to spirit-heavy sippers like the Two World Hero (rye, black tea cognac, sweet vermouth, red wine and bitters) and a bevy of party-sustaining punches, ESS meets the call for courageous cocktails.

Establishment

📷 Establishment

Establishment is, well, one of those establishments that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And it’s not because they don’t care, rather the opposite in that they know what they’re doing when it comes to craft cocktails at a level that just comes easy. The Midtown craft cocktail saloon balances bold cocktails like the bourbon-heavy Bluegrass Bramble (blueberry liqueur) with bright offerings like the Oaxacan on Sunshine (mezcal, creme de violet, Luxardo, lime).

Foxtrot Liquor Bar

📷 Foxtrot Liquor Bar

Lively bartenders and patrons unite for a precursor to nightly good times at Foxtrot Liquor Bar in Midtown. Creative cocktails like 24 karrots (vodka, carrot juice, lemon-thyme cordial, ginger, aqua de fava) and Ring My Bell (mezcal, bell pepper puree, lime) accompany a full menu of beer and shot combos that are the one-two punch you were expecting for the night. 

The Garden Room

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📷 The Garden Room

After you’ve popped your antihistamine of choice, swing into Buckhead’s luxe greenhouse, The Garden Room. The lush environs bring the outside in offering an Instagram-worthy experience in conjunction with polished and playful cocktails like the gin-immersed Polar Solstice, spicy Hot Mess margarita and the vodka-forward, color-changing Send Noods. We don’t make the name, we swear. 

Himitsu

📷 Chris Watkins

Himitsu, a reservations-only lounge in Atlanta’s bustling and affluent Buckhead neighborhood, prides itself on creating a signature cocktail experience with each visit. Accessible via member-endorsed reservations, it is indeed the city’s best-kept secret and a playground to the likes of celebrities, music artists and tastemakers looking to begin or end an evening on a high note with an ever-changing menu of 10 to 12 meticulously prepared cocktails. It’s all about quality over quantity at this bespoke craft cocktail haven. 

Kimball House

Ask any ATL cocktail lover for the best place for cocktails and oysters, and they’ll point you to Kimball House. A mainstay “best cocktail bar” listicle (much like this one), the Decatur cocktail destination’s penchant for perfectly prepared sips has garnered global notoriety. Complex meets classic in drinks featuring everything from spiced honey and cola bitters to fresh herbs and yuzu. 

The Lawrence

📷 Chris Watkins

The Lawrence invests in unique and seasonally inspired cocktails to pair with its locally sourced cuisine that blends American flair with Southern influence. A mainstay in Midtown’s craft cocktail scene, you can expect an experience of equal parts curated and cultivated by adept mixologists crafting cocktails with ingredients like green tea, cinnamon and rhubarb. 

Little Spirit

📷 Zorzi Creative

The cocktail stylings of Little Spirit are best summed up like this: It’s as if your drink just spit a dope freestyle and the crowd went, “Ohhhh!” The intimate bar blends old school hip-hop in its music choices and cocktails like the ODB (aged rum, vanilla, tobacco bitters, mezcal) and the state fruit-sanctioned King Peach (bourbon, Aperol, peach, mint, lemon). Shimmy shimmy ya to this cocktail cypher in Inman Park. 

Octopus Bar

While temporarily closed due to the pandemic, you can’t have an Atlanta cocktail bar guide without including the OG, Octopus Bar. The EAV after-hours destination is ATL cocktail royalty featuring a moving target of well-crafted signature sips and curated vibes every local must experience. 

Parlor Cocktail Den

📷 Parlor Cocktail Den

Intimate with eclectic vibes to boot, Castleberry Hill hidden gem Parlor Cocktail Den delivers on uniting unique individuals around curated cocktails. The space promotes an environment where inspired conversations happen naturally, and drinks like the whiskey/peach old-fashioned Mr. Jones; rum/white tea syrup The Millionaire; and tequila/coconut liqueur La Perla offer a balanced aura to the evening ahead. 

Red Phone Booth

📷 Chris Watkins

Some secrets are just too good to keep to yourself, and Red Phone Booth is one of those experiences. Find your way to the eponymous red phone booth Downtown, enter the highly coveted secret phone number and be transported to a 1920s’ era Prohibition speakeasy complete with aged spirits and cigar service. Highly knowledgeable barkeeps wax poetic on cocktail history as they serve up classic stunners with a flair that defies expectations. 

Rock Steady

📷 Jacob Thomas

Cozy up to Afro-Caribbean vibes and cuisine at Rock Steady. The Westside restaurant is oozing with chic flair, boasting cocktail offerings that celebrate the rich Caribbean and West African diaspora. Explore rum-centric heavy hitters like Mr. Killa (Appleton Estate 12, Smith & Cross, Banks 5, velvet falernum, habanero tamarind curry, grapefruit and pineapple) and Turn Me On (Plantation Dark, Wray and Nephew, pineapple, ginger, passion fruit, bitters) that’ll have you rocking to reggaeton beats in no time. 

S.O.S. Tiki Bar

When it’s time to tiki, heed the call of Decatur’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar. Hawaiian environs take you on an in-state vacation of the senses at this spirited cocktail bar with a focus on lively, rum-forward sips and fresh juices. Experience floral garnishes, flames and the necessary cocktail umbrella in classic beachcomber sips like mai tais, zombies and pain killers. 

Ticonderoga Club

Part restaurant. Part cocktail haven. Part amazing. Ticonderoga Club is an ATL fave slinging signature sips in Inman Park at Krog Street Market. The celebrated Ticonderoga Cup uniting rum, brandy, sherry, lemon and pineapple is a must to understand what the well-deserved hype is about. And, did we mention it’s all available to-go? Oh yeah! 

Tropicalé

If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, then West Midtown getaway Tropicalé is for you. The Instagram-essential cocktail bar is like an intown island vacation, complete with funky straws, umbrellas and hollowed-out fruit as drinking vessels in classic beach-inspired sips like pina coladas, pearl divers and coco locos. Get ready to boomerang that epic coconut toast. 

Chris Watkins is an Atlanta-based writer and photographer and serves as the voice of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (@DiscoverAtlanta) on social media. You can follow him on Instagram @christopherbw.

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