When the Financial District shuts down for the evening and Friday classes are dismissed, the bars in Boston swell with rolled shirtsleeves and punched-up water cooler chatter. The bartenders and sommeliers driving Boston’s bar scene know exactly what details are necessary to coax in a crowd for a hard-earned cocktail—or three. Comfortable bar seats, amiable servers, and bar snacks that match the quality of your tonic are key. With evolving late-night transportation and an enthusiastic crowd of young professionals, Boston bars work hard to appeal to diverse clientele. Sleek, marble-topped hotel bars turn out classics prepared from leather-bound drink bibles, while bartenders in bowties and suspenders create custom recipes based on each individual patron’s flavor preferences. As it goes, state law in Massachusetts frowns upon traditional “happy hours,” encouraging Bostonians to be a little more creative with their post-work refreshments. Rather than deciding where to go for a drink based on a good deal, the most unique cocktails and inviting atmospheres receive top marks.
Chinatown is keeping the secret about this neighborhood hot spot for modern Asian cuisine, but it won’t last for long. With its stained wood banquets and enormous street art style mural, you’ll love this high-octane Far East escape. Sip amped-up versions of Polynesian-style drinks while watching kung-fu films to a soundtrack of 90’s hip-hop. Try the Kamehameha (pronounced ka-meh-ha-meh-ha, as the bartender politely informed me), made with Thai chili-infused vodka, fire puncher vodka, lime, and coconut milk.
Brick & Mortar
This mysterious Cambridge hideaway is one of those places you have to have already visited to find, but I’ll give you a hint: Located to the left of the entrance to Central Kitchen restaurant is a dimly lit, unmarked staircase leading to this speakeasy-style cocktail bar. Don’t leave without sipping the Sister Mary, a sultry, sweet mix of Chinaco tequila, Aperol, elderflower, and grapefruit.
While this Somerville watering hole is well known for its wine selection, its ever-changing creative list of cocktails gives it its flair. An intimate place with cordial and modern character, go here for a late-night date of post-dinner desserts and drinks. Try a favorite, like the lemon poppy-seed cake with strawberries, yogurt, and sorrel paired with a seasonal specialty cocktail or a classic citrusy Moscow Mule.
The award-winning brainchild from celebrated Boston chef/restaurateur Barbara Lynch, this highly praised craft cocktail bar in Fort Point is worth the weekend wait that begins as early as 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. With no pre-made list to choose from, what you drink is up to you and your personal mixologist to decide. Experience shows they love a challenge. When asked to concoct “The World’s Most Sophisticated Shot,” I received a seven-layered aperitif arranged by density, including a layer of vibrant crème de menthe, yellow chartreuse, and ruby-red amaro.
This Kenmore Square kitchen and bar earns its accolades for never failing to meet the Bostonian’s code of cocktail conduct. Order your favorite retro-era drink, or pick from a list of imaginative preparations with charming mottos like The Black Douglas—“poetry with a sword”—made with dry Lustau Amontillado sherry, blended scotch, licor 43, and bitters. Its expansive selection of creamy egg-white cocktails is equally popular with daring drinkers.