Cambridge is a city filled with poets, doctors, lawyers, and scientists trying to figure out how to move human beings from Earth to Mars. Unsurprisingly, these people need a drink every now and again. Thankfully, the city has a lot of great places to get one, so read on to find Cambridge’s best breweries, speakeasies, and bars with drinks named after endangered species.
On almost every night of the week, Lamplighter is either hosting a cheese tasting, screening a movie, or housing a different pop-up kitchen that serves anything from dumplings to waffles. All of that’s great, but not even necessary. The beer is that good and the converted mechanic’s shop space is a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon. We prefer the funkier back room with the couches and tiger murals, but the Birds of a Feather New England IPA tastes just as good wherever you drink it.
The area around MIT and Kendall Square is filled with labs and teams of scientists looking for black holes and cures for male pattern baldness. That’s all good stuff, but the ArtScience Culture Lab & Cafe might be most important of all, because it’s the lab trying to find a tastier and more aesthetically pleasing way to get you drunk. The cocktails here look like they were put together with chemistry sets and the menu reads like the periodic table, but you don’t need to know what acid phosphate is to enjoy drinks made with alpine herbs or Thai bird chili. The food here isn’t much, but you should absolutely try to start your night with drinks at the bar.
Brick and Mortar is a speakeasy with no sign, no TV, and lighting that makes you feel like a noir detective with a derringer tucked up your sleeve. So you might be surprised that it serves the types of sugary shots you enjoyed when you still had your drinking training wheels on. Every night they feature four rotating shots in their “crush on a stripper” special for only $20 total. If you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, you can get a shot of tequila, a beer, and a sangrita for just $8. Whether you’re here to reenact freshman year or sip a more mature cocktail of scotch, cynar, and apricot, you’ll drink well.
There are 44 different cocktails on the menu at Cuchi Cuchi, a burlesque-themed tapas place in Central Square. Trying all of them in one night would be a bad idea, but you should consider working through the entire menu over the next couple of years. Put this place on your “let’s get drinks and a few bites” list, not to mention your “let’s go to a place where it won’t be weird to wear feathers and lace gloves” list.
If you’re a bar with mounted animal heads on the wall, cheap shot-and-a-beer combinations that involve decent liquor and beer, and frozen blue margaritas that are actually good, we’re probably going to like you. The Automatic in Kendall Square meets all of those criteria, and it also helps that the food at this Kendall Square spot is the best kind of bar junk food (things like buffalo bacon burgers and Korean fried chicken sandwiches).
Porter Square’s Toad is the neighborhood bar you wish your neighborhood had (unless you, uh, live in Porter Square). It’s a comfortable little spot with a small selection of burgers, craft beer, wine and liquor, and free live music every night of the year. Don’t be surprised if you go in for one drink and end up staying all night.
Shay’s in Harvard Square calls itself both a pub and a wine bar. If you think those terms are mutually exclusive, you’re right, and the pub definitely wins out over the wine bar at this underground spot. It’s covered with beer ads and has a wooden bar that looks like it might’ve been shipped over from Cork. But despite feeling like a place where fiddle music might break out any moment, it actually does have a wine list that’s very much worth exploring since almost half of it features bottles under $30, and it has plenty of half-bottle options as well. Whatever you’re drinking, you should enjoy it on the shaded patio out front if it’s nice out.
If you’re ever having people over and want to trick them into thinking you’re classy, open up a bottle of wine and prepare a cheese plate - people are really, really impressed by cheese plates. This explains part of the appeal of UpperWest in North Cambridge, which, thanks to an extensive old world wine list and craft cocktails, is one of the city’s classiest places to drink despite being in a low-ceilinged basement with track lighting and wood-paneled walls. The small plate and snack menu is filled with good charcuterie options like marinated white anchovies, smoked pork, and fresh ricotta to go along with your drinks.
This big, perpetually crowded restaurant in Harvard Square is primarily known for its very good menu featuring things like smoked lamb belly and walnut hummus. But you shouldn’t only be coming here to share small plates because the drinks may be even better. There aren’t a lot of bartenders that can pull off cocktails with saline, but the ones here can.
There are few things more disappointing than opening up a drink list only to find out that the restaurant doesn’t have a full liquor license (damn puritans). But Oleana makes up for it with a wine list so big you’ll feel like you need a bookmark to get through it. If that’s not enough for you, they also have a collection of wine-based cocktails made with things like vermouth, elderflower, and chamomile. This is one of the best wine lists of any full-service restaurant in the city.
Since it’s operated by a brewery, you probably assume that Lord Hobo has good beer. It does, but what you may not realize is that it has good beer brewed by other breweries, too. This place has a ridiculous 40 taps of craft beer and cider (almost all of it local) and a wine list and full liquor license, too. It’s small, comfortable, and never too rowdy, so you can focus on your drink the way a good drinker should.
The best thing about drinking at the Sinclair, is that there are three different ways to drink at the Sinclair. You can grab a drink (or several drinks) while catching a show. You can have a glass of wine while exploring the gastropub menu in the restaurant (hopefully on the patio overlooking Harvard Square). Or, you can chill for a few hours in the downstairs bar, which has pinball, good cocktails, and a strong selection of craft beers to go with a lot of the same food you can get upstairs.
Scotch has entire bars dedicated to it, bourbon comes in bottles that look like antique lamps, and certain tequilas are poured for guests at the royal wedding by the distillery owner/Sexiest Man Alive. But rum, on the other hand, kind of gets forgotten (maybe that’s because rum-and-cokes were one of the first drinks that almost all of us had, and they usually ended up on the floor). At La Fabrica in Central Square, though, rum gets the respect it deserves. Here you’ll find a list of rums distilled in 17 different countries, a bunch of tropical rum cocktails, and a fun space where you can drink them while dancing. They also stock a few bottles of David Ortiz’s wine, and any glass of wine that makes you kiss your hands, tap your chest, and point to the sky is a good glass of wine.