Though you won’t catch a local calling this city “Hotlanta,” there’s a good reason it earned that nickname—and it’s not just because of the muggy weather. Atlanta is a hotbed of exciting bars, consisting of laidback dens and sceney haunts. From lounges with award-winning cocktail programs and wine lists to taprooms with beers brewed on the premises, here are some of the bars most beloved by Atlantans.
The Select (Sandy Springs)
For all things chic and sophisticated, it’s hard to beat this Art Deco-style restaurant. Inspired by the brasserie Le Select in Paris, this Sandy Springs staple is a surefire scene. The best seat in the house is in the conservatory-esque bar, where lush seasonal decor hangs from the ceiling so spectacularly that it makes local news every time it changes. To complete the photo op, order the signature Dragon Bird, a heady blend of lemongrass vodka, dragonfruit, elderflower, and rose cordial served in a bird-shaped glass.
Battle and Brew (Sandy Springs)
Meet the first-ever gamer dining, drinking, and entertainment venue in Atlanta. Choose from a comfortable living room setup to share with friends, single-player pods, a table for board games, or belly up to the oversized bar for imaginative drinks. Try cocktails such as the Phoenix, which is served aflame, the delicious and boozy Thai Tiger Tea, or a flight of “potions,” which shimmer with glitter. Pitchers of local fruited beer are also on tap—perfect for Battle and Brew’s frequent trivia nights, best paired with one of its award-winning burgers.
Terra Terroir (Brookhaven)
One of Atlanta’s greatest treasures is nested in an oversized Brookhaven shopping center. A covered, plant-strewn and temperature-controlled back patio or plush leather seats at the stately bar provide the perfect setting to sip wines from around the world: sommelier Chris Driollet and executive chef Charles Zeran, who together have won more than 20 Wine Spectator awards, urge you to pick between each of their curated by-the-glass lists (which change weekly).
The Consulate (Midtown)
Named one of the sexiest restaurants and bars in Atlanta by Zagat when it opened in 2016, this swanky spot—and its cobalt blue bar, accented by sleek seating and glittering curios—continues to hold that title with cosmopolitan flair. A truly global influence has a lot to do with it: the “Visa” section of the menu is determined by a spin of the restaurant’s globe by a lucky guest, challenging chef Mei Lin and crew to take taste buds on a thoughtful journey. Like the food menu, the craft cocktail selection changes with the cuisine every 90 days.
Sprig Restaurant (Decatur)
Industrial and minimalist best describe the look of this farm-to-table restaurant in Decatur. The pastoral vibes are strong, thanks to touches of reclaimed barn wood. For more warmth, sample one of the over 550 bourbons they pour at the large zinc bar. In fact, this is the largest selection in all of Atlanta, perfect for slow sipping for when you need a change of pace from the many local beers Sprig offers on tap. Either option is designed to go well with their seasonal menu (the majority of which is readily available gluten-free for a nominal charge).
Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this Midtown dive has been around since 1992. Open until 1 am, it’s known for live music on the weekends. Plus satisfying bar snacks such as pasta-wrapped mozzarella sticks and tater tots—by the pitcher—and cheap brewskis by the can, bottle, or from the tap. Fortunately, there are various settings to imbibe: grab a picnic table on the big patio or a spot in the game room amidst the billiards tables and pinball machines.
Ray’s on the River (Sandy Springs)
When you start with an expertly crafted specialty cocktail menu then add charming river views and gorgeous patio spaces, the result is an indisputable classic. It’s a combo that has fueled this Sandy Springs spot since 1984. Sip on drinks with Southern accents, laced with peachy flavors and shots of bourbon. There are also walls lined with wine bottles—an acclaimed selection that has made this fine-dining institution a sought-after choice for oenophiles.
Bar Margot (Midtown)
One wouldn’t expect anything less than elegance from a venue at the Four Seasons Hotel, but Bar Margot raises even that bar. French-inspired, sophisticated, and gorgeous, its cozy velvet-trimmed banquettes and tufted leather armchairs were made for lounging. You’ll want to take your time with the cocktails, developed by Greg Best and Paul Calvert, two leading barmen in the city. The signature Gin Margot is a favorite, with lime cordial and Thai basil, while the Private Eyes Report, an espresso drink with bourbon and maple vanilla, has become a favorite pick-me-up for late nights.
The Southern Gentleman (Buckhead)
While this airy and spacious bar was designed by New York-based architects, The Southern Gentleman has no identity crisis. Devoted to the artistry and history of classic Southern cuisine and cocktails, it prides itself on offering the perfect mint julep to go with such favorites as deviled eggs and buttermilk fried chicken. Cocktails on tap, wines, and craft beers are also on the menu, best savored from the top-floor patio that overlooks Buckhead Village.
The Lawrence (Midtown)
This Midtown bastion has a menu that’s as expansive as its bar. The Lawrence boasts a progressive wine list and award-winning cocktail program, both of which stretch late into the night. It’s worth stopping in at least quarterly for seasonal cocktails, especially as the bar embraces the flavors of Spain. Sherry-centric drinks such as the Oloroso Rebujito with house-made cardamom tincture and riffs of gin and tonics—practically the national cocktail of Spain—are headlining this summer. However, house classics, like the Lady Lawrence with lavender mint tea vodka, ginger, and cassis make worthy companions to the contemporary Southern plates here.
SweetWater Brewery (Armour Yards)
Named for the tributary and park just a few miles from the brewery, this taproom certainly takes its river-inspired motto, “Don’t float the mainstream,” to heart. Its open, green-turfed space is filled with communal tables, colorful Adirondack chairs, and dogs. Order any of the famous year-round selections and hard seltzers, spiked with electrolytes and vitamin C. Seasonals and limited releases are also reasons to come straight to the source. But so is the bar menu, featuring fried pretzel nuggets with beer cheese and garlic butter, smoked wings, and even light bites such as an heirloom salad with watermelon and strawberries.
RED SKY Tapas & Bar (Marietta)
Nothing pairs better with great drinks than music, and this East Cobb establishment mixes the two expertly. Not only does the group-friendly tapas bar host live music multiple times a week, but the pianos are permanent fixtures in the crimson space. Cocktails in dessert-like flavors—think pineapple upside-down cake and double chocolate—go well with the sweet tunes. If you’re eating, consider the diverse small plates menu, where decadent highlights include fries with cheddar duck gravy and lobster, roasted corn dip, and scallop goat cheese risotto.
Su–Jit Lin is an Atlanta-based writer specializing in travel, food—including groceries, cooking, and reference guides—and their impact on bringing people together in shared joy and experience.
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