When scorching temperatures become a reality, Nashvillians seek out the most refreshing libations. For some, that means finding an air-conditioned oasis with icy craft cocktails. For others, the key to summertime salvation comes in the form of a shady patio with a margarita on the rocks. Nashville’s bar scene has you covered, whether you’re after a frozen cocktail or an ice-cold brewski. Grab a pal or—five—and head to one of these excellent establishments to beat the heat.
Henley, nested in the Kimpton Aertson Hotel, takes the hotel bar game to a new level, attracting locals and out-of-towners for its excellent drinks—and Southern hospitality. The black-and-white tiled floor is paired with striking, large-scale artwork and yellow leather backed bar stools, mixing modern and traditional decor. The extensive craft cocktail menu has a spotlight on small-batch Tennessee bourbons. Sample the rotating seasonal punch or flag down a roving cart for tableside bespoke cocktails. Serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, there is truly never a bad time for a drink at Henley.
Skull’s Rainbow Room (Downtown)
The days of Prohibition may be long gone, but this former speakeasy is still going strong. Opened in 1948, Skull’s is set in historic Printer’s Alley. The subterranean space now boasts a vintage club ambience, with tin ceilings, low lighting, and heavy velvet curtains. The famous black-and-white stage—which has been graced by performers such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline—now hosts nightly live jazz, which shares the stage with lively burlesque shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Expertly mixed craft cocktails are the stars here; for a taste of the past, try the Oh Louisiana, an enticing mix of Cognac, mezcal, absinthe, and grapefruit.
Gertie’s Bar (The Gulch)
Named after Gertrude Cleo Lythgoe—dubbed the “Queen of the Bootleggers,” during Prohibition—this storied hideout is a whiskey lover’s paradise. Located on the first floor of popular Gulch restaurant 404 Kitchen, Gertie’s 30-page whiskey list is packed with limited edition spirits, selected by acclaimed chef and proprietor Matt Bolus; for those less whiskey-inclined, there’s an equally stellar wine and beer selection. The spacious bar, a mix of concrete floors, rustic wood, and leather armchairs, has impressive floor-to-ceiling shelves to show off the goods. The entire 404 Kitchen menu is available at the bar, which is all the more reason to stop in for a drink after work—or start your night out on a high note.
Earnest Bar & Hideaway (Wedgewood Houston)
It’s no secret that author Ernest Hemingway was a legendary cocktail enthusiast. So it’s only fitting that he inspired this lair, located in a brick walled-expanse, dressed with tufted leather couches, vintage typewriters, and of course, stacks and stacks of books. On the menu, creative cocktails are treated to literary flourishes: Try the White Elephant, a refreshing gin drink described as, “A tart semi-sweet handshake.” Located in vibrant Wedgewood-Houston, it’s the perfect stop after an art crawl at the nearby galleries or a soccer game at GEODIS Park, located right around the corner.
Love & Exile Winery and Bar (East Nashville)
When you think of Tennessee, whiskey is more likely to spring to mind than wine—until now. Love & Exile Winery owner Tyler Alkins, a Canadian transplant who created a product he deems “perfectly chuggable,” opened this labor of love in an abandoned car garage; the space now houses a roomy bar with two inviting patios, exuding the feel of a neighborhood pub. Don’t miss a Monday night here, complete with 2-for-1 wine and beer specials plus a popular sushi night.
The Electric Jane (Music Row)
Nashville’s nightlife scene continues to stretch its wings, and the addition of The Electric Jane is another example of that signature versatility. Though the dining and entertainment venue, which offers brunch, dinner, and late-night eats, opened in February, it’s quickly becoming one of Music City’s chicest hangouts. Art Deco-inspired interiors feature sleek velvet upholstery and marble countertops—the vision comes from Los Angeles hospitality veteran Jason Scoppa and Sam Bakhshandehpour; the former ran The Sayers Club, which hosted legendary performers such as Stevie Wonder and Prince. Expect loungey vibes with the opportunity for a globally-inspired dinner and drinks menu—fittingly, there’s a sizable martini list—in what’s become one of Nashville’s decidedly hippest bars.
If you’re feeling glamorous, the swanky bar at Sinema is the ticket–and not just because it occupies a historic movie theater. The grand lobby is decked with a sweeping staircase to the second floor, where an Art Deco-esque bar channels Hollywood’s golden age. Beverage director and sommelier Brett Nelson crafted a cocktail program worthy of any A-lister, along with an excellent wine list and a selection of rare whiskeys. For a refreshing twist on a classic, try the Family Ties, with gin, lemon, and cucumber.
Sonny’s Patio Pub and Refuge (Germantown)
Let your inner child out at this action-packed oasis. The spacious indoor bar opens onto a large outdoor patio with an assortment of games to play while enjoying a cold beverage. Built-in cabanas line the space, perfect for any fun-loving group, including your pup—Sonny’s is dog-friendly, only adding to the fun. The day drinking vibes are strong here: Try a margarita flight, with your choice of three, in flavors such as caramelized pineapple, peach, and pomegranate, or a power-packed frozen cocktail. Keep up your stamina with bites like flatbreads, burgers, and the show-stopping chili and cheese-topped tater tots.
City Tap House – Nashville (Nashville)
As the name suggests, Philadelphia-born City Tap House has a prolific selection of beers—over 50 on draft, plus bottles and cans—wines, and cocktails. The rustic yet modern space, with concrete floors and exposed wooden beams, promises plenty of bar and table seating. Grab a bite while you sample one of the many brews. The menu skews towards classic American pub grub, which means burgers and wings make appearances. But so do poke bowls, steamed buns, and Korean short rib tacos. Don’t miss the lively happy hour, every Wednesday through Friday.
Honky Tonk – The Twelve Thirty Club (Downtown)
The Honky Tonk is a welcome refuge from the madness of Broadway. Though its street-level bar has plenty of live country music, a sophisticated cocktail scene—don’t miss the passion fruit habanero margarita—set it apart from Nashville’s more raucous bar scene. Opened by restaurant industry stalwart Sam Fox, the spot features a large wraparound bar where you can safely observe the hijinks of Broadway with a cold beer in hand. Table seating is available, as is an extensive bar food menu, making it an excellent place for large groups gearing up for a night on the town. To set the stage for an epic Nashville night, order a selection of large-format concoctions, ranging from the signature sangria to a Louisiana rum punch, for the table.
Santa’s Pub (Wedgewood-Houston)
One of Nashville’s worst kept secrets is Santa’s Pub, a karaoke-forward dive in a double-wide trailer, trimmed with holiday decor. But be warned, this is a beer-and-hard-cider-only joint. You’ve got to stand tall, take a deep breath, and give karaoke greatness your best shot. And don’t expect to start a tab—Santa’s is cash only, but there’s an ATM on site.
House of Cards (Downtown)
Hidden beneath the Johnny Cash Museum on Third Avenue South, House of Cards is an entertainment venue that combines magic tricks with a dinner show, guaranteed to knock your socks off. Dark wood paneling and dazzling chandeliers shuttle you to a different era while a strict dress code ensures you’ll only add to the glamor. Order the aptly named Houdini Martini, which skips the vermouth and comes clad with three speciality olives. And don’t leave without checking out the rare magic memorabilia that doubles as decor.
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