NSHGuide

The Best Bars In Nashville

Your guide to drinking in Music City, where PBRs and fancy cocktails peacefully coexist.
Your Highness cocktail paired with bottle of Mille High Life at The Fox Bar

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

Nashville is a town that loves a good drink, but it's not all great dives and music bars. You’ll find places centered around robot lore and tiki cocktails, circus-themed establishments, pool halls, and a karaoke bar with year-round Christmas decorations all featured on this guide. And while the city wasn’t always a destination for fancy cocktail bars, it’s come a long way in the last 10 years. So whether you’re looking for a low-key spot that serves fat pours of well-liquor or a speakeasy mixing up vintage martini recipes, Music City has you covered.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Eliza Kennard

Bar

East Nashville

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails

Housed in an inconspicuous concrete-block building in East Nashville, Attaboy isn’t much of a looker from the outside. But once you enter the speakeasy’s dimly lit barroom, the cocktails make it clear that this place isn’t messing around. It’s the sister bar to the Attaboy in NYC, and the same rules apply here: there’s no menu and the bartenders just ask you your preferences—favorite liquors, flavor profiles, and your mood that day. And somehow, they never miss. Even the simplest drinks have depth and complexity thanks to surprising additions (creme de cacao in an Old Fashioned, for example), and lighter cocktails like their take on the East Side Ricky will make a gin-believer out of any vodka devotee.

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

Tiger Bar is your ticket into the wild world of the sideshow circus (with cocktails that feel particularly suited to the environment). There’s velvet, fringe, hand-painted signage, vintage portraits of sideshow greats, and booths that are designed to look like circus caravans. The bar specializes in gin drinks with a heavy emphasis on martinis, but there’s something for everyone here: try the Negroni that comes with cotton candy, or spin the wheel for a Mystery Elixir of the bartender’s choosing. Tiger Bar also does a champagne toast for everybody at midnight, making the place feel like one big, fizzy party. Reservations are critical if you don’t want to deal with a lengthy wait, and cocktail attire is required, but the fuss is worth it. Make sure you check out the trippy bathroom before you leave.

photo credit: Eliza Kennard

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails

Old Glory is one of the most beautiful and unusual bars in Nashville. The actual space is a historic building that was formerly one of Nashville’s biggest industrial steaming facilities, and they’ve kept the imposing boiler perched in the corner and a giant coal hopper suspended overhead. It’s certainly not a place where linens are cleaned anymore: rather, it’s now a moody candlelit bar that functions as a low-key date spot during the week and a high-key dance floor on weekends. And they do drinks as well as they do atmosphere. Their spirit-forward cocktails are the best, and it’s always a good idea to order anything with mezcal or rye—the End of Story, for example, is a bold, clean combination of mezcal, amaro, chartreuse, and celery bitters. Old Glory also hosts a lively series of monthly parties that feature drag performances, circus acts, jazz nights, and more.

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Cocktails
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The neo-Art-Deco The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club is small and chic, and it ticks all the right boxes for a date night out, or just an especially sophisticated night with friends. And they know this: in addition to its lengthy list of delicious individual cocktails (like the complex Twice Baked Old Fashioned with Japanese whiskey, cognac, and chamomile), the Fox has several large-format drinks so the whole table can get in on the fun. Order martini service for two complete with all the garnishes, or a squad of little rum drinks with the “Daiq(uiri) Snacks for Four.” The Fox straddles the reservation/walk-in line well—you can only make a reservation right when they open (5pm) and they save room for walk-ins the whole night.

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light Bite

Rice Vice, the home base of Proper Sake, is a tasting experience worth sharing with anyone even remotely interested in Japanese rice wine. The cheeky menu has scary-accurate flavor profile descriptions to help you choose (“slightly effervescent bubblegum funk”). If it’s your first time, try the Cloud Palace Nigori, a citrusy-but-not-sweet sake, and know they also have earthier options like the Rice Father #2. Don’t bank on it for dinner since they mainly have snacks, although they do occasionally host pop-ups out front from places like Two Ten Jack and the Fox Den Izakaya. But with sake this good, we can forgive the lack of real food. 

Don't expect the usual tiki environment at Chopper—they have a robot-themed aesthetic and a passion for fandoms (Star Wars characters make appearances in the barware). Their “lab tested” concoctions—yes, the bar has its own lore—feature their takes on classics like mai tais and rum runners, but they also have a more creative rotating seasonal menu. Our advice? If you see anything with coffee in it, order it, because they always do interesting fruity/malty combos. And if that “Robo Zombie” drink takes you to the moon, get your feet back on the ground with some tacos from the Maiz de La Vida food truck that's usually out front.

When it comes to late-night Nashville dives, Dino’s reigns supreme. This East Nashville spot has been a beacon for the after-hours hordes since the 1970s, specializing in gooey cheeseburgers designed to keep the hangovers at bay. Settle into one of the diner tables in the dim main room or head out back to the covered patio, which is always nice on summer nights. Both are quintessential to the Dino’s experience, as is a visit to the affirmingly punk rock restroom. The bar has a surprising number of options given the setting: Coors, Shiner Bock, and a proprietary Dino’s ale are on tap, but you can also order drinks with mezcal, Campari, and yes, even, Malort. Just know that Dino’s gets slammed when the bars close, so try to make it before last call.

Patterson House is the OG when it comes to Nashville cocktail bars, and it remains an elite place to have a fancy drink. You’ll find all the ceremonies of traditional speakeasies: it’s first come, first served, which can be challenging on busy nights, and they’ll quite literally pull back the velvet curtain for you to enter the low-lit space. Prices may seem a bit steep, but Patterson House knows how to win you over—every cocktail (that usually has three types of booze) is served with a little carafe for a top off after your first few sips. The food menu features mostly small bites, and they occasionally host pop-ups: Kisser started here as a special menu.

Santa’s is a Wedgewood-Houston beer-only karaoke bar in a double-wide trailer that’s permanently decorated for Christmas. Frankly, enough said, but we’re not done telling you why we love this old-Nashville institution. It’s named after the owner, who is a bonafide Santa look-alike, and the whole place is built on a culture of respect: no cigarettes, drinking, or cussing when you’ve got the karaoke mic, people. The camaraderie in this little place is pretty unmatched—pick a hit and you’ll soon have the whole trailer singing their hearts out along with you, and maybe even the occasional celebrity (Ed Sheeran and Kacey Musgraves have both been spotted here). Drinks-wise, expect the basics: PBR, Miller Lite, Budweiser, plus a seltzer and cider option. The bar is cash only but there’s an ATM outside, and there’s a modest cover on the weekends, but that’s a small price to pay to be a part of Nashville nightlife history.

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good Wine
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With its Mucha paintings, embossed wallpaper, ceiling tiles, and a bar lined with wine bottles, The Authentique is the kind of art-nouveau space Francophiles dream about. And the wine is damn good, too. The list features mostly French varieties, and if you have trouble choosing, Authentique does several flights that are a good place to start. They include pinot noirs from Bourgogne that would appeal to any red wine drinker on a budget, or zingy picpoul blancs that are equally as accessible. Also, all their Châteauneuf-du-Papes will sear themselves in your brain upon first sip and stay there forever. Authentique has the usual charcuterie and cheese, but it’s the savory crepes we’re still thinking about. The smoked salmon option is the only thing we want to pair wine with now—it’s a great balance of smoky fish, creme fraiche, and tart capers.

Love & Exile is one of Nashville’s few urban wineries, and it’s definitely the one with the most personality. There’s shimmery fringe draped across the ceiling, light fixtures masquerading as multicolored clouds, and funky murals and neon signs sprawled across the walls. The wines themselves are smooth-drinking pours that taste even better on long, sunny afternoons on their spacious patio. Red wine fans will probably enjoy the “best red blend ever,” as well as the cabernet sauvignon, while white wine folks should go for the refreshing sorriso prosecco. All the food is perfectly suited to match your wine buzz cravings—think stuff like delicious skillet beer cheese with pillowy pretzel bites.

photo credit: Jordan Powers

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Every time we walk through the beaded curtain at Four Walls, a cocktail bar in The Joseph Nashville hotel, we feel like we’ve stepped into an ‘80s movie where CEOs in shoulder pads mastermind their next move while sipping expensive liquor. It’s a feeling that’s reinforced by Whitney Houston on the speakers, fur-covered walls, and the bar’s minimalist gray color palette. And you’ll feel like a high roller when you take a seat at the marble bar to order a classic cocktail or a simple pour of the bar’s numerous top-shelf options. The best drinks are luxurious twists on old favorites, like the Moth to a Flame, which successfully riffs on a ramos fizz, or one of the many variations of the Negroni. No matter what you drink, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve closed the deal of the century.

PH Cocktails in Wedgewood-Houston is one of the better cocktail spots in town that still feels like a truly accessible neighborhood bar. The bartenders recognize you after your first visit, and the bright, modern space feels open and communal. The drink menu is all about unexpected combinations, like their version of a Tequila Mockingbird that's less sweet, but still refreshing and herbaceous with Aperol and chartreuse. The food menu is a bit pricey for the portion sizes, but it includes tasty things like fried shrimp and okra alongside bar staples like wings and sliders. That said, the bar runs good Happy Hour specials, and it hosts a music Happy Hour every Friday where a DJ spins R&B, afrobeats, and hip-hop.

A warm southern breeze, skyline views, your favorite drink in hand, all while music rises up from the bars and shops below—this is why people mob Nashville’s rooftop bars in the warmer months. And L.A. Jackson, located at the top of the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch, is the quintessential rooftop of them all. Take a seat under the sprawling tree on the outdoor patio and sip on one of the cocktails with sorrel and sassafras, tangy shrubs, and other bright botanicals. They have burgers and the like, but the drinks are definitely the star of the show. Come in the afternoon and early evenings for a more relaxed experience, or get dressed up and hit the scene on weekend nights for DJ-fueled rooftop parties.

Bar Continental recently dropped the “The” from its name, and thus, transformed from a fine dining restaurant to a fancy bar that just happens to be in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. Like your friend who recently learned about Japanese listening bar culture, they make a big deal about their sound system and all the vinyl they have on hand. Justifiably so, since the ‘80s R&B to ‘70s classic rock genuinely sound like you’re seeing a show at the Ryman. The room is pretty enormous, which is nice if you’re coming with a group, but to best experience this place, hang out at the bar and order the burger that comes on a glossy, sesame-seeded bun.

photo credit: Soundtrack My Drink

$$$$Perfect For:Classic Establishment

Melrose Billiards stands out among Nashville dives thanks to the sheer amount of activities they offer: multiple pool, ping pong, and foosball tables, dartboards, and a shuffleboard setup all available for those bored of small talk. Originally established in 1944, they’ve been through it: flooding, no-holds-barred indoor smoking, and a temporary closing in 2016. But the “Dirty Melrose” persists, thanks to current owners who reopened the neighborhood’s favorite basement bar with a little spitshine, but plenty of the old character. The bar has standard local beers and liquor mixed drinks, plus all the free popcorn your little heart desires.

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