The South's Best Bars 2019
In the South, we sometimes like to say that someone is “the straw that stirs the drink.” It’s generally a person that gets the party going, conversation moving, good times rolling. Our South’s Best bars? That’s where this person likes to hang out. Just like “the straw that stirs the drink,” these Southern watering holes hold that something special that keeps people coming back for more. And when it’s time for a tipple, these spots don’t disappoint.
Not surprising, more than one of your South’s Best bars—you voted, after all—hail from the Sunshine State. Because, you see, an ice-cold cocktail is simply better when enjoyed on the coast. The bells and whistles aren’t needed, with the salty breeze and beach views and whatnot. You’ll find a few of these bars in more posh locale, one of which resides in a famed Southern hotel. And then, more still, you’ll discover a couple dives that hold a hearty dose of history. From gritty to ritzy, these are the South’s Best Bars for 2019. Grab your craft beer, Bushwacker, or Sazerac—it’s time for a drink.
These Southern Watering Holes Reign Supreme
1. Sloppy Joe’s
Key West, Florida
This salty bar opened in 1933, on the very day that Prohibition was repealed. It’s known for having served the lights of the literary world—Ernest Hemingway’s revolving door of friends—alongside bonafide bootleggers. It wouldn’t be a trip to the Keys without one of its notorious Sloppy Rita’s or Sloppy Joe sandwiches. Like a rare Cuban rum, this dive just gets better with age. Read more.
Located on the state line between Florida and Alabama, the Flora-Bama is what beach bar dreams are made of. And its signature drink, the Bushwacker, has been the house specialty practically since it’s been open and serving. Like a boozy adult milkshake, it’ll have you in the coastal state of mind.
3. The Backstreet Pub
Beaufort, North Carolina
This funky bar resides in a century-old converted bakery, and you’ll find the vintage brick building quite cozy. Every patron, from grizzly fisherman to fancy city folk, gets along just fine. As for entertainment, pick your poison: live music, board games, or something off its bookshelf. So grab an IPA (house choice: Abundant Sunshine IPA by Waterman's Brewing), and sink into a seat.
4. The Esso Club
Clemson, South Carolina
Now, every college town boasts a favorite sports bar—but few have a bar so collectively beloved as The Esso Club at Clemson University. Originally housed in a small gas station, the well-known bar now sits in the shadows of Death Valley, serving up its signature “Build Your Own” Bloody Mary bar. You’ll find walls covered by Clemson Tiger memorabilia and alumni saddled up to the bar.
5. The Red Bar
Grayton Beach, Florida
A scarlet-lit, bohemian anomaly on the polished, planned-community-lined Highway 30A, this Grayton Beach mainstay somehow combines a ’70s Parisian beatnik bistro with a beach vagabond vibe. Come for the perfectly blackened grouper, stay for the house margaritas and live music by The Red Bar Jazz Band.
6. The Carousel Bar & Lounge in Hotel Monteleone
New Orleans, Louisiana
Like tasting Café Du Monde’s beignets or Domilise’s po’boy, you’re going to need to try the Carousel Bar’s Vieux Carre for the most authentic New Orleans experience. Take a spin on the functioning, slow-turning carousel (once visited by the likes of authors Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner) while sipping on its original Southern cocktail of whiskey, cognac, and sweet vermouth. Bartender Walter Bergeron first stirred the now-iconic drink in 1933.
7. Pat O'Briens
New Orleans, Louisiana
A walk from the green jacket-guarded entryway through an ancient archway to the courtyard’s flaming fountain for a orange-and-cherry-garnished hurricane (which was invented at Pat O’s in the 1940s) remains an essential French Quarter experience.
8. The Bar at Husk
Charleston, South Carolina
Nothing captures the feel of Charleston, with its historic cobblestone streets and towering steeples, more than The Bar at Husk. Located in the carriage house next door to Sean Brock’s famed Husk restaurant, this two-story bar draws you in with century-old exposed brick walls and a cocktail list from heaven—and you don’t even need a reservation. Try the Charleston Light Dragoon Punch, the longest running cocktail on the menu that boasts a recipe dating back to 1792.
9. Ice Plant Bar
St. Augustine, Florida
This restored 1920s ice factory, near Flagler College in St. Augustine, is serious about having fun. One side is a distillery, the other a bar and restaurant with a focus on farm-to-table food and craft cocktails made with fresh-pressed juices, three different kinds of ice, and other specialty ingredients. Two bars keep your thirst at bay, while a wait staff dressed in overalls, vintage dresses, and Rosie-the-Riveter kerchiefs brings the personality. Read more.
10. Thirsty Monk
Asheville, North Carolina
Originally just a brewery located in downtown Asheville, Thirsty Monk now dabbles in the world of spirits, too. Thanks to its newly opened bar, Monk’s Flask, in Biltmore Park, you can enjoy both concepts while visiting the quirky mountain town. Currently, its favorite cocktail is a pick-me-up version of a Mint Julep, called the Rattle Skull, that’s infused with its coffee-imbued stout beer.