On St. Patrick’s Day, every city is a great place to drink. But what about on the other 364 days (365 this year!)? To pick the best drinking cities in the country, MONEY hunted for the destinations that combined the most bar and winery options as well as the best prices on draft beers and a mid-range bottle of vino. We also gave extra consideration to those cities where it’s easiest to walk or take mass transit, so that you can go out on the town without having to worry about driving back to your hotel. Cheers!
The average draft beer in Steel City costs only $3, and for just a bit more you can drink in some great atmosphere, too. Butcher and the Rye was a James Beard semifinalist for “Outstanding Bar Program” and maintains a whiskey library with 600 varieties. Cocktails, which cost $10, are expertly made, but you can also nab a pint of Yuengling for a mere $4. If you’re the type to go for bespoke, stop by Bar Marco, a no-tipping boîte where the bartenders concoct a drink tailored just for you, based on your “likes.” Go during happy hour, where the tailored bar experience is $6 a cocktail, and the food menu is half price.
You’d expect the bars to be good in one of the unofficial homes of American beer (Miller Brewing Company originated here). Throw on some plaid and stop by local-fave Camp Bar, which looks like an Adirondack lodge inside—complete with fireplaces, twig furniture, wood walls, and taxidermy. Look for the rotating menu of drink specials, like $5 Moscow Mule Mondays and $3 Jameson shots on Whiskey Wednesdays. For a more gussied-up evening, Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge is the spot. The city’s oldest cocktail bar, opened in 1938, Bryant’s an Old Fashioned Cocktail Hour, Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., when you can get $5 Depression-era cocktails. Go for the Candle Light, vodka and raspberry peach puree served (of course) flaming.
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Just because Orlando is home to the Magic Kingdom doesn’t mean kids have all the fun. Don’t leave town without kicking back a Mai Tai at Aku Aku Tiki Bar, a rattan-decorated hideaway with a rum list longer than a small phone book, including options from Trinidad, Barbados, and St. Croix. Extra cool: Hanson’s Shoe Repair is a speakeasy that fronts as a shoe repair shop in the oldest building in Orlando (built in the late 1800s). You have to call to get the secret password (it changes daily), which gets you entrance to the intimate, 20-seat rooftop cocktail bar. Cocktails, at $12, can be pricey, but the grown-up magic of gazing out on the town Uncle Walt built is free (as are the regular jazz performances).
This home of the University of Arizona, perhaps unsurprisingly, specializes in inexpensive brews ($3 average per draft) and wines ($10 for a mid-range bottle). A great place to try them both: Tap & Bottle, which keeps some 21 brews on tap at all times—including local Dragoon IPA and Longmont, Colorado’s, Left Hand Wicked Juju—most of them around $5 a pint. For something a bit scruffier, try The Buffet, which Esquire called one of the best dive bars in America, in part because of the free shuffleboard and in part because you can buy a glass of Maker’s Mark for $4, all day, every day.
Call it Southern comfort: there are at least 11 new craft breweries slated to open in Atlanta this year alone. Rather imbibe in an established local favorite? Try the indoor/outdoor Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, in the Old Fourth Ward, where the Anchors Aweigh cocktail ($9) is a frothy mix of pineapple rum, lemon, egg white, and bitters. At happy hour, their salt & vinegar popcorn is served free, and you can nab a mystery beer for a buck. In the Little 5 Points area, The Porter Beer Bar offers more than 700 kinds of bottled brews for around $5. Also yours for a five spot: their addictive garlic Belgian fries with charred onion mayo. Of course, you may need to order an extra beer to wash it down.