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A dimly lit bar with tables and banquettes lining either side, with a fountain in the middle, and a bar in the back.
Emilia’s Havana is reminiscent of a 1950s Cuban club, hidden inside the Annie.
Jenn Duncan

20 Essential Houston Cocktail Bars

Fancy lounges, laid-back bars, dives, and everything in between

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Emilia’s Havana is reminiscent of a 1950s Cuban club, hidden inside the Annie.
| Jenn Duncan

Houston is a drinker’s paradise, and with a bar scene as diverse as its citizens, the Bayou City offers everything from premium margaritas, fancy Old Fashioneds, and an assortment of G&T’s and Ranch Waters to craft beers and thoughtfully selected wines.

But where does one find the finest drinks in town? Let this map be your guide to Houston’s 20 essential cocktail bars, which range from revered cocktail haunts to casual, laid-back dives with quality libations.

Is your favorite cocktail bar missing from this map? Shout it out in the comments.

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Johnny's Gold Brick

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This Heights bar, open daily until 2 a.m., is a reliable neighborhood go-to with great music and a solid list of classic cocktails. Gimlets, Manhattans, daiquiris, and frozen margaritas are all $8 all the time.

Lei Low

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Don’t let Lei Low’s nondescript exterior fool you. Beyond the walls of this strip mall bar lie a dimly lit Polynesian hideaway decked out with beachy decor. Tiki cocktails, heavy with rum, are presented in whimsical vessels and will creep up on you. Proceed with caution.

Monkey's Tail

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This Lindale Park hangout offers festive cocktails like the tequila-fueled Fresca Cantarito, which is made with blanco tequila, rum, tamarindo, strawberry, and ginger beer and presented in a clay pot, and frozens like the mango basil smash. The cantina-like vibe complements a great selection of bar food, including pizza, elote, and the famous Chango burger, served with Valentina mayo. 

Bright pink frozen margarita garnished with lime
Dragonfruit margarita at Monkey’s Tail
Monkey’s Tail

Kanpai Club

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Modeled after a Japanese alley bar, Hando’s sister concept serves up sake and Japanese-inspired cocktails, including a rotating list of “frozakes” and matcha highballs. Looking to try some cocktails for less? Stop by after 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday for half-priced cocktails.

an array of tropical cocktails sitting on a bar, including a drink served in a coconut-shaped mug with a tiny umbrella
Kanpai Club’s cocktails offer a fun way to unwind.
Kanpai Club

Eight Row Flint

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Credited with being one of the first bars in the country to serve the Ranch Water cocktail, Eight Row Flint has a trio of options, including the OG and the Green Chile spiked with Serrano tincture. Find an array of frozen cocktails too. Eight Row Flint has frose, margaritas, G&Ts, and also offers a flight of all three.

Better Luck Tomorrow

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From Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu, Better Luck Tomorrow brings thoughtfully built cocktails to the Heights, with a menu that evolves with the seasons. Find half-off daiquiris when it’s over 100 degrees, half-off Irish coffees when it’s under 40, and weekly food offerings like pasta and steak nights.

Permission

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This luxurious bar is a whiskey lover’s dream. Featuring whiskeys from across the globe, Permission makes finding that elusive bottle of Weller, Blanton’s, or E.H. Taylor a little easier. There is also a bespoke gin and tonic for folks who might not be keen on brown liquor.

The Ready Room

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This moody Heights bar keeps a low profile with its discreet exterior signage, and instead lets its ambiance and classy cocktails do the talking. Fun Houston-inspired drinks like the Continental Zydeco, a mixture of gin, Pineau de Charentes, Raspberry Eau-de-vie, and orange bitters, and “house classics” like the espresso martini are bound to make you feel right at home. Come to drink, and stay for the entertainment. The bar has live jazz Thursday through Saturday with a cover charge.

As the 2022 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Bar Program, Julep is the crown jewel of Houston’s cocktail bar scene. Try Julep classics like the Farmhouse Gibson, or spring for the $20 Ramos gin fizz, which is shaken vigorously to frothy perfection.

bright orange cocktail in a coupe glass
The Swimming Upstream cocktail at Julep
Jenn Duncan

Clarkwood

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This sceney bar, housed in the historic Star Engraving Company building, is just over a year old, but has quickly become one of Houston’s hottest drinking spots. The building, which dates back to 1930, was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, making it feel like a true escape within the city. Inside, an intimate bar with 14 seats anchors the minimalistic space, with loungey seating spread throughout. Go for the espresso martini, garnished with a toasted marshmallow.

Houston Watch Company

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Located just a stone’s throw from the many bars on Main Street, Houston Watch Company is a standout among the numerous places to drink downtown. Situated quietly on the street level of the Southern Pacific Railroad Building, which dates back to 1910, the bar was home to a jeweler for 70 years and showcases original details from the space and its historic past. Order a little something on the rocks and peruse the two-story venue.

Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirits Lodge

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With an impressive whiskey selection and a patio overlooking Downtown’s Main Street, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar feels like a cozy neighborhood bar in the epicenter of the city. Seats at the long, narrow bar make a great place to belly up and converse and are coveted come 5 p.m. when the downtown work day winds down.

Dean's Downtown

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Dean’s has a historic past, with the Main Street building it’s housed in dating back to the late 1800s. Naturally, it lends itself to being considered one of the most haunted places in Houston, but whether you go for supernatural sightings or just a solid, boozy evening, experiencing Dean’s should be part of your Houston bucket list.

Emilia’s Havana

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What once was a storage closet inside the building that houses the Annie Restaurant & Bar, has since been transformed into a lavish speakeasy, with hidden access, reminiscent of a 1950s-style Cuban club. Set apart from other cocktail bars, Emilia’s offers two seatings per night, during which guests may enjoy live music by the house band. The cocktail menu is curated by James Beard award-winning mixologist, Alba Huerta, and includes riffs on Cuban-inspired cocktails like the white rum-fueled Hemingway or an Old Cuban made with Bacardi 10-year rum. A hefty food menu is available too, with indulgences like king crab croquettes and papas with caviar.

Overhead view of the Cana Old Fashioned resting on an Emilia’s menu.
The Cana Old Fashioned at Emilia’s Havana.
Jenn Duncan

Bandista

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The journey to Bandista is half the fun of visiting. Located discreetly behind a bookcase deep within the Four Seasons Hotel, this hideaway is one of the most exclusive places to enjoy a drink downtown. While you can certainly enjoy a glass of wine or a simple liqueur, guests are encouraged to explore the awe-inspiring cocktail menu. Here, cocktails ignite the senses, like the rum-based Strawberry Fields For Now, which is fragrant with balsamic and Fernet-Branca and arrives with a goat cheese biscuit.

A dark red cocktail in a short glass with a biscuit for a garnish
The Strawberry Fields For Now cocktail at Bandista
Kirsten Gilliam

Miss Carousel

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Miss Carousel has the vibe of your friend’s super cool industrial loft, but with an extensive list of spirits and interesting cocktails. Try the Birds & the Bees, made with gin, Italicus bergamotto, yellow chartreuse, honey, and egg white.

Poison Girl

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This no-frills, budget-friendly bar in the heart of Montrose packs plenty of personality within its narrow space, with a row of working pinball machines, a backyard-style patio, and tall walls bedecked with paintings of naked women. The bourbon list is strong, but the bartenders won’t judge if you stick with a Lone Star beer or a plain ol’ vodka and soda.

Anvil Bar & Refuge

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The patron saint of Houston’s cocktail bar scene, Bobby Heugel’s Anvil delivers expertly crafted cocktails in one of Houston’s hippest neighborhoods. The Montrose stalwart has some of the city’s most talented mixologists manning the bar, and is perfect for a first date or a friendly hang. Try something from the ever-changing list of eight originals, or stick with a classic, like the French 75. If you’ve been there, drank that, try Heugel’s new, slightly more upscale sister concept, Refuge, located right upstairs.

Anvil’s bar with a row of bar stools
Anvil Bar & Refuge is a Montrose mainstay
Anvil/Facebook

Wooster's Garden

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There are plenty of places that serve Insta-worthy cocktails, but few compare to Wooster’s Garden. The relaxed Midtown hangout is meticulous when it comes to crafting a drink, and in its presentation. There are a total of 56 drinks on the menu, including non-alcoholic choices and house shots, and all syrups and tinctures used are house made. From pastel-hued mocktails to tiki drinks topped with burning lime garnishes, you’ll want to keep your camera-clicking finger ready.

A pale orange cocktail in a slim goblet, garnished with a star-shaped satsuma.
The Dios Mio, Becky cocktail at Wooster’s is made with Del Maguey Vida, house Becherovka, and egg white.
Dustyn Zenner

Grand Prize Bar

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The Christmas lights twinkle year-round at Grand Prize, a beloved Montrose bar located in a two-story house adjacent to Bell Park. Throw back drinks on one of three patios, or take in a game of pool before settling in for a bite to eat. The bar’s Trophy Case Kitchen features a revolving list of food vendors slinging burgers, tacos, and more.

Johnny's Gold Brick

This Heights bar, open daily until 2 a.m., is a reliable neighborhood go-to with great music and a solid list of classic cocktails. Gimlets, Manhattans, daiquiris, and frozen margaritas are all $8 all the time.

Lei Low

Don’t let Lei Low’s nondescript exterior fool you. Beyond the walls of this strip mall bar lie a dimly lit Polynesian hideaway decked out with beachy decor. Tiki cocktails, heavy with rum, are presented in whimsical vessels and will creep up on you. Proceed with caution.

Monkey's Tail

This Lindale Park hangout offers festive cocktails like the tequila-fueled Fresca Cantarito, which is made with blanco tequila, rum, tamarindo, strawberry, and ginger beer and presented in a clay pot, and frozens like the mango basil smash. The cantina-like vibe complements a great selection of bar food, including pizza, elote, and the famous Chango burger, served with Valentina mayo. 

Bright pink frozen margarita garnished with lime
Dragonfruit margarita at Monkey’s Tail
Monkey’s Tail

Kanpai Club

Modeled after a Japanese alley bar, Hando’s sister concept serves up sake and Japanese-inspired cocktails, including a rotating list of “frozakes” and matcha highballs. Looking to try some cocktails for less? Stop by after 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday for half-priced cocktails.

an array of tropical cocktails sitting on a bar, including a drink served in a coconut-shaped mug with a tiny umbrella
Kanpai Club’s cocktails offer a fun way to unwind.
Kanpai Club

Eight Row Flint

Credited with being one of the first bars in the country to serve the Ranch Water cocktail, Eight Row Flint has a trio of options, including the OG and the Green Chile spiked with Serrano tincture. Find an array of frozen cocktails too. Eight Row Flint has frose, margaritas, G&Ts, and also offers a flight of all three.

Better Luck Tomorrow

From Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu, Better Luck Tomorrow brings thoughtfully built cocktails to the Heights, with a menu that evolves with the seasons. Find half-off daiquiris when it’s over 100 degrees, half-off Irish coffees when it’s under 40, and weekly food offerings like pasta and steak nights.

Permission

This luxurious bar is a whiskey lover’s dream. Featuring whiskeys from across the globe, Permission makes finding that elusive bottle of Weller, Blanton’s, or E.H. Taylor a little easier. There is also a bespoke gin and tonic for folks who might not be keen on brown liquor.

The Ready Room

This moody Heights bar keeps a low profile with its discreet exterior signage, and instead lets its ambiance and classy cocktails do the talking. Fun Houston-inspired drinks like the Continental Zydeco, a mixture of gin, Pineau de Charentes, Raspberry Eau-de-vie, and orange bitters, and “house classics” like the espresso martini are bound to make you feel right at home. Come to drink, and stay for the entertainment. The bar has live jazz Thursday through Saturday with a cover charge.

Julep

As the 2022 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Bar Program, Julep is the crown jewel of Houston’s cocktail bar scene. Try Julep classics like the Farmhouse Gibson, or spring for the $20 Ramos gin fizz, which is shaken vigorously to frothy perfection.

bright orange cocktail in a coupe glass
The Swimming Upstream cocktail at Julep
Jenn Duncan

Clarkwood

This sceney bar, housed in the historic Star Engraving Company building, is just over a year old, but has quickly become one of Houston’s hottest drinking spots. The building, which dates back to 1930, was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, making it feel like a true escape within the city. Inside, an intimate bar with 14 seats anchors the minimalistic space, with loungey seating spread throughout. Go for the espresso martini, garnished with a toasted marshmallow.

Houston Watch Company

Located just a stone’s throw from the many bars on Main Street, Houston Watch Company is a standout among the numerous places to drink downtown. Situated quietly on the street level of the Southern Pacific Railroad Building, which dates back to 1910, the bar was home to a jeweler for 70 years and showcases original details from the space and its historic past. Order a little something on the rocks and peruse the two-story venue.

Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirits Lodge

With an impressive whiskey selection and a patio overlooking Downtown’s Main Street, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar feels like a cozy neighborhood bar in the epicenter of the city. Seats at the long, narrow bar make a great place to belly up and converse and are coveted come 5 p.m. when the downtown work day winds down.

Dean's Downtown

Dean’s has a historic past, with the Main Street building it’s housed in dating back to the late 1800s. Naturally, it lends itself to being considered one of the most haunted places in Houston, but whether you go for supernatural sightings or just a solid, boozy evening, experiencing Dean’s should be part of your Houston bucket list.

Emilia’s Havana

What once was a storage closet inside the building that houses the Annie Restaurant & Bar, has since been transformed into a lavish speakeasy, with hidden access, reminiscent of a 1950s-style Cuban club. Set apart from other cocktail bars, Emilia’s offers two seatings per night, during which guests may enjoy live music by the house band. The cocktail menu is curated by James Beard award-winning mixologist, Alba Huerta, and includes riffs on Cuban-inspired cocktails like the white rum-fueled Hemingway or an Old Cuban made with Bacardi 10-year rum. A hefty food menu is available too, with indulgences like king crab croquettes and papas with caviar.

Overhead view of the Cana Old Fashioned resting on an Emilia’s menu.
The Cana Old Fashioned at Emilia’s Havana.
Jenn Duncan

Bandista

The journey to Bandista is half the fun of visiting. Located discreetly behind a bookcase deep within the Four Seasons Hotel, this hideaway is one of the most exclusive places to enjoy a drink downtown. While you can certainly enjoy a glass of wine or a simple liqueur, guests are encouraged to explore the awe-inspiring cocktail menu. Here, cocktails ignite the senses, like the rum-based Strawberry Fields For Now, which is fragrant with balsamic and Fernet-Branca and arrives with a goat cheese biscuit.

A dark red cocktail in a short glass with a biscuit for a garnish
The Strawberry Fields For Now cocktail at Bandista
Kirsten Gilliam

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Miss Carousel

Miss Carousel has the vibe of your friend’s super cool industrial loft, but with an extensive list of spirits and interesting cocktails. Try the Birds & the Bees, made with gin, Italicus bergamotto, yellow chartreuse, honey, and egg white.

Poison Girl

This no-frills, budget-friendly bar in the heart of Montrose packs plenty of personality within its narrow space, with a row of working pinball machines, a backyard-style patio, and tall walls bedecked with paintings of naked women. The bourbon list is strong, but the bartenders won’t judge if you stick with a Lone Star beer or a plain ol’ vodka and soda.

Anvil Bar & Refuge

The patron saint of Houston’s cocktail bar scene, Bobby Heugel’s Anvil delivers expertly crafted cocktails in one of Houston’s hippest neighborhoods. The Montrose stalwart has some of the city’s most talented mixologists manning the bar, and is perfect for a first date or a friendly hang. Try something from the ever-changing list of eight originals, or stick with a classic, like the French 75. If you’ve been there, drank that, try Heugel’s new, slightly more upscale sister concept, Refuge, located right upstairs.

Anvil’s bar with a row of bar stools
Anvil Bar & Refuge is a Montrose mainstay
Anvil/Facebook

Wooster's Garden

There are plenty of places that serve Insta-worthy cocktails, but few compare to Wooster’s Garden. The relaxed Midtown hangout is meticulous when it comes to crafting a drink, and in its presentation. There are a total of 56 drinks on the menu, including non-alcoholic choices and house shots, and all syrups and tinctures used are house made. From pastel-hued mocktails to tiki drinks topped with burning lime garnishes, you’ll want to keep your camera-clicking finger ready.

A pale orange cocktail in a slim goblet, garnished with a star-shaped satsuma.
The Dios Mio, Becky cocktail at Wooster’s is made with Del Maguey Vida, house Becherovka, and egg white.
Dustyn Zenner

Grand Prize Bar

The Christmas lights twinkle year-round at Grand Prize, a beloved Montrose bar located in a two-story house adjacent to Bell Park. Throw back drinks on one of three patios, or take in a game of pool before settling in for a bite to eat. The bar’s Trophy Case Kitchen features a revolving list of food vendors slinging burgers, tacos, and more.

Related Maps