Ask a Southerner to name their favorite bar, and you might get more than you bargained for. If we could be so bold, we may understand the nuances of bars better than our fellow Americans. You see, there’s no such thing as a “bar” in the South; we have dives, cocktail labs, historic lobby lounges, juke joints, globally ranked wine rooms, zydecos, bourbon-exclusive bistros, taverns as old as this country, drive-through daiquiri spots, rowdy saloons, legion halls, and mixology destinations. Our friend Julia Reed even has a more genre-specific list of her favorite carpeted bars (Southern Nights in Greenville, Mississippi, if you were wondering).
It’s also the reason why our best bars competition was so contentious, but in the end it illustrates what we love about Southern bars so much: they’re full of the character and traditions that you won’t find anywhere else. Just think about it, from the green jacketed servers at New Orleans’ Pat O’Brien’s where they popularized the Hurricane into a cocktail phenomenon to the Bar at Husk, a carriage house hideaway where you can sample some of the best bourbons, and quite possibly the best burger, from the South. There’s the Crunkleton, where college students and cocktail enthusiasts flock to see Gary Crunkleton’s bartending prowess, and Johnny’s Hideaway in Atlanta where regulars have been coming to drink and dance on their disco ball awned floor for decades. Then there’s the Hotel Monteleone, where you can sit on an actual moving carousel with your sazerac, a spot frequented by writers like William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams.
But our winner, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, Alabama illustrates and excels at what Southern hospitality is all about. Whether you live across the street or you’re a tourist from Italy, you feel at home, comfortable, and welcomed. Regular or not, these bars all have that in common.