It happens quickly. One day you’re buying rounds of lemon drop shots and covering yourself in glitter, and then you wake up somewhere down the line and the only thing you care about after 10pm is your Netflix queue and a full bottle of ZzzQuil. This might happen when you’re 23 or it might happen when you’re 63. If it happened already, this guide is for you.
Below you’ll find two lists of options. One has a bunch of relatively calm bars that you’ll still feel cool drinking in, and the other has some places where people who don’t need this guide already know they’re supposed to go.
Fun Places Where No One will spill a drink On You
One of the great things about not going out anymore is being able to watch a lot more TV. Who needs drunken hookups and dancing when you’ve got British period pieces? Think of Lord Hobo, then, as a kind of halfway house between your couch and the club. That’s because it’s not just a bar with a great craft beer selection and plenty of tables for conversation, it’s also a bar with a big screen that regularly shows things like Teen Jeopardy with the sound on. It’s always great to be able to go out and still not miss out on any of your shows.
When you stop going out, you usually find that you have a lot more money on hands - money you become pretty reluctant to part with. That’s why places like Toad in Porter Square, one of the few places in the city where you can hear live music without paying a cover, are so essential. Even if you don’t come here for the music, you’ll have a great time at this tiny little living room of a pub that has a small selection of burgers and tots to go along with beer, wine, and liquor.
If you miss the days of drinking in your basement during high school, but don’t miss drinking Smirnoff Ice and rum that comes in plastic bottles, head to UpperWest in North Cambridge. It’s a little wine bar hidden in the basement of a veterans hall, and while the barebones decor, track lighting, and wood paneling may make it look like your childhood basement, the charcuterie, extensive wine list, and complete absence of your parents make it a definite upgrade.
In the tasting room at Bully Boy in Roxbury, you’ll find wrought iron gates, walls lined with wooden barrels, and ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It’s all kind of vampire-chic, which is appropriate considering you’re trying to recapture the night. Since this is a distillery, you’ll want to try as much as possible, so we recommend going with one of the cocktail flights.
At some point in your twenties, going out with your friends becomes game night with your friends. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re looking to ease that transition, head to the GrandTen in Southie, where you and friends can drink craft cocktails while playing board games, foosball, or Nintendo (the original system). The last time you played Zelda you were probably drinking a juice box. A martini made from gin distilled on site is better.
Places that are just a little rowdier for when you really want to go out
Just because you don’t want to go clubbing anymore doesn’t mean you don’t want to hear some music. It just means you’d prefer to hear it sitting down, with a glass of Malbec, and maybe a crispy duck leg tostada. Beehive in the South End is bumping every Friday and Saturday night with live music (usually Latin or Jazz), along with a really fun, though really crowded bar. If you’re not in the mood to yell across the room at a bartender, though, just get a table, because it’s also a full-service restaurant with a broad American menu.
On the weekends, you’ll probably have to wait in line to get into Lamplighter, a multi-room brewery in Cambridge that sometimes feels like the 20-something yuppie headquarters of Boston. But waiting in line a little bit is worth it for fresh beer and pop-up vendors selling dumplings and poutine. Plus, there’s a coffee counter inside to go along with the beer, which should help you stay awake past 10pm for the first time since New Years Eve.
To get to Night Shift Brewing in Everett, you have to take the Orange Line to Wellington, cross a river, and skirt along the side of a six-lane highway. You’d think a journey that nearly requires a sherpa would keep the crowds away, but you’d be wrong. This place gets packed on the weekends, but since it’s basically a giant warehouse with multiple rooms, it doesn’t get too uncomfortable. Try to get here early enough to grab a picnic table on the patio, so you’ll be closer to the food trucks and cornhole.
Back Bar in Union Square has couches, books, and Star Wars memorabilia in addition to excellent cocktails, so you might be able to convince yourself you’re still in your apartment. But unless your apartment also has bluefish pate and pisco sours made with almond, apricot, and French root liqueur, Back Bar is probably better.
You used to go to Central Square for electropop dance parties at the Middle East, but now you’ve been told by your orthopedist that doing the worm could pose serious risks to your spinal column. Instead, head across the street to Brick and Mortar, a dark, speakeasy cocktail bar above Central Kitchen with a small but good menu of bites you’d crowd around the servers for if they were being passed out at a reception. There will still be crowds of people, but they’re here to down craft cocktails, not E.