The Best Cocktail Bars in Charleston

Are you on the lookout for the most poppin’ Cocktail Bars in Charleston?

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On this page, you’ll find the official shortlist of the best Cocktail Bars in Charleston. (More in-depth further below)

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People think of Charleston as a little Southern town, but its clubs and nightlife make it feel anything but. “There’s something for everyone” applies here as well as somewhere else. There are nationally known cocktail producers, dives and roofs heavy on local beer, and, of course, plenty of patios to sip Provence rosé and devour oysters on. If you’re looking for a night of live music or drag queen bingo, they’ve got you covered. The Lowcountry’s subtropical temperature necessitates cool beverages, and while porches appear excellent for sipping, going out every now and again is ideal. Whether you’re looking for artisan beer, Bud Light, antique wines, cheap booze, or expensive cocktails, Charleston has a bar for you. No matter your choice, our list has a Cocktail Bar for you. These are the very best Cocktail Bars in Charleston.

The Commodore

The building’s sign says “Touch of Class,” but keep going since you’re at the proper spot. The Commodore’s bar is original to the building, as is the ambiance, a traditional and legendary music club that instantly makes you feel relaxed for having selected this location. A disco ball illuminates the dance floor; there are velvet curtains, mirrors, and many dark nooks; and the night is young. The crowd can be eclectic earlier in the evening but come later in the evening on the weekend, and the dance floor is packed with the Charleston party crowd, eager to dance and drink until the doors close. There are a few specialty drinks, but most customers stick to classics, such as wine, beer, or bourbon on the rocks. 

Glasses are elegant early in the evening, but the cups might become plastic after the bouncer arrives. There is no food menu at the Commodore, so eat before arriving. The bartenders are quick and professional, but they won’t hold your hand while you discuss the benefits of mezcal vs. tequila. Be kind to them and the visitors in line behind you, and everything will be OK. This is a venue for music enthusiasts, non-sitting dancers, and those who wish they could travel back in time while wearing the current styles. 

It’s for many folks who don’t want to spend an evening alone. Throwback bar, the Commodore is like taking a trip back in time. The jazz club interiors remain the same as they were in the ’80s. Most nights are full of a band on stage and customers taking over the dance floor. There are plenty of booths and lounge tables for those not wanting to bust a move. So, this is one of the best, most fun bars and nightlife spots Charleston has to offer! If you are in town, you should visit this place at least once! It is a great spot to stay with your friends and loved ones or follow a quest to meet new, exciting, fun people! So, this is the hub for all those purposes! We highly recommend it.

The Bar at Husk

With The Bar at Husk getting ready for the crowds, the bar here is just as beloved as the restaurant next door. The inside of this dark and sensual pub seems a little like a pirate ship, but not in a theme-park manner. The basement is dominated by a large bar, and the exposed brick wall opposite it has some bar seating as well—but come ready to get intimate because it may be packed wall to wall with thirsty eaters on weekends. Snag a table upstairs or opt to try your luck next door at Husk. You’ve heard about the burger, the bourbon collection, and the balanced-yet-boozy drinks, and now you’re here to try them all. Sure, you’ll run across individuals who read food writing before booking their holidays. 

Still, The Bar at Husk has also begun to attract a constant stream of cocktail-loving locals, particularly those in the Charleston Brown Water Society (a club of whiskey aficionados). This bar is well-known in the cocktail world, and you’ll find some rare (and expensive) bottles on the shelves. There are many options, but if you like a cocktail, try the Charleston Light Dragoon’s Punch, a 1792 recipe unearthed in the records of the Preservation Society of Charleston that combines two types of brandy, rum, black tea, and lemon. 

This bar isn’t a replacement for a table next door, so even if the menus overlap in a lovely Venn diagram, don’t expect to get your complete Husk fix here. Many of your favorites are unavailable at the bar, and the bartenders will not make an exception for you (a request they field daily). If they’re available, go for the Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps and order a burger; it’s big enough to split if you want to preserve room for supper, and it comes with seasoned wedge fries. The bartenders know that they work exceptionally well and the value of excellence—after all, it keeps customers coming in and money going into their bank accounts. They’re well-trained, used to questioning, and have the know-how to maneuver around crowds of people. So, this is one of the best bars in Charleston!

The Cocktail Club

The Cocktail Club is a combination of craft cocktail bars and clubs. It is located above The Macintosh, but with its entrance on King Street, the steps leading to the second story create a sense of anticipation that pays off when you reach the top. With ancient room walls surrounding various spaces, crumbling brick fireplaces anchoring those rooms, broad leather seats, and a dim-lit bar so tall that bartenders must use ladders, its Charleston architecture is reduced to its bare bones. Servers in tiny black gowns weave their way through the crowd, and you haven’t yet arrived at the rooftop bar. This is the see-and-be-seen crowd, with ties and heels as the norm, followed by the college-aged well-dressed cocktail group later in the evening. 

They are interested in what they are drinking, but who they are drinking it with is more important. The list at one of Charleston’s first solid craft cocktail places is still fantastic, with their house favorite, a Double Standard, made with house-infused serrano gin, cilantro, and lime juice, remaining on the menu. Their Punch bowls and a well-crafted Pimm’s Cup are other standouts on a seasonal, rotating menu. Of course, beer and wine are offered, but the tavern’s name says it all. The meal consists of a five-ounce burger and a brie-grilled cheese, but for a $3 snack, go no farther than the bacon-spiced popcorn. 

Meats and cheeses are also available for people who want to snack while drinking their punch (bowls, that is). Because the bartenders may become overworked, especially on weekends, try ordering from a punch bowl. Do this if you have a group that can agree and a table to sit at. The expertise level of individuals working the floor varies widely. Still, it’s challenging to wear a cocktail dress and carry a tray among a crowd that is typically dried after standing in a queue on a Saturday night. The Double Standard drink is a citywide staple, so order that, but on weekends, the Cocktail Club blurs the boundary between craft bar and club, so plan accordingly. A velvet rope and a large crowd are waiting to interact.

Doar Bros.

Doar Bros. perfects the on-trend cocktail menu. Doar Bros., tucked inside a block that looked to be dedicated entirely to visitors, invites craft cocktail enthusiasts with its opulent aesthetic, suggestive of a velvet-lined jewelry box. The bar, which has a cut crystal punch bowl among its many shining bottles, sits at one end of the room, and plush banquettes in dark green contrast marble-topped tables and deep blue walls. Doar Bros. is passionate about its drinks, and it’s clear that its customers are as well. There is a good mix of walk-ins and residents that come here mainly to sip. This isn’t a vodka-and-soda bunch; they’re debating whether the evening calls for a Boulevardier or a Negroni. 

They are closely linked to the current methods of the cocktail culture in certain aspects, but what makes them so unique is the execution and editing. With the expertise behind the bar, the menu is smaller than it might be, but it’s confined to a slim selection of both classics and new choices, with the unspoken rule that you may always audibly communicate with the person making your drink. Bar meals forego wings and fries in favor of brown butter popcorn, Caviar service, and prosciutto, but there isn’t much light on the menu, which doesn’t appear to concern most since they need something stick-to-the-ribs to balance the alcoholic choices. 

Be prepared to hear how to order the truffle mac and cheese if you sit next to someone who just had it. Local Charleston bar star Megan Deschaine leads the staff at Doar Bros. It is anchored by two genuine brothers, Charleston residents who are frequently seen welcoming visitors and cleaning glasses. The crew is modest but talented, good at swizzling and assessing the crowd, and they have helped make this bar one of the most incredible things to launch on Meeting Street in years. Doar Bros. has the door open for you if you want to win hearts, talk to clients, catch up with friends, or fly alone for a drink. So, this is one of the best bars in Charleston if you want an exceptional cocktail experience!

Proof

Proof is a cocktail throwdown. It’s a low-key entry on King Street into a tiny space with dark wood and sunlight slanting in the front windows until the light fades and the night begins. Small votives are placed on the bar and adjacent tables, while the primary light source comes from the bottom-lit bar itself. A large absinthe fountain stands between diners and bartenders while bottles pack narrow shelves on the bar wall. On a chalkboard, there’s a daily quotation and some daily deals, accentuated by the sound of bartenders hand-cracking ice. Although the days of this location being mostly occupied by regulars are long gone, regulars frequently rub shoulders with the occasional bachelorette party or another cocktail aficionado that visits. 

And indeed, everyone appears to consider the list of combinations, even if they merely choose a beer or wine. Craig Nelson, one of the Charleston cocktail scene’s founding fathers, has been running this serious cocktail business since 2012, and it’s been ground zero for many an official or unofficial Charleston event after-party. Aside from the ambiance, the drink menu is arguably the right balance of innovative and classic. A Sazerac or Scotch-based Penicillin sits next to a Siddhartha Spritz with Mango Shrub; they produce a great Manhattan and something resembling Strawberry Quik. It’s an ancient saying that you must know the rules before breaking them, and the Proof team is an A+ student of the cocktail canon. 

Snacks are provided, but be aware that a few crackers won’t be enough to counteract the spirit-forward flavor of the drinks. Hence, nibbling alongside other supper plans is advisable unless the bar has a pop-up chef on hand serving ramen or tacos. Small foods menu staples include boiled peanuts and pimento cheese, which combine well with Charleston cocktails. The bartenders also work the tables, so you benefit from their spirit and taste knowledge no matter who you chat with. Ticket times can be longer than at a beer and shot bar, which is expected at artisan cocktail places, but it’s clear that the bartenders are working hard to produce lethal concoctions quickly. Because the staff is tiny, most regulars know everyone by name. This is a post-party stop, a date night diversion, a late-night let’s-get-lit happy hour, or an I’m-feeling-like-a-French-75 stop.

The Belmont

The Belmont would be like a bar if Spencer Tracy opened an after-hours cocktail pop-up. This is a Fernet-foggy dream come true for artisan cocktail fans. There are black and white movies on the rear wall, a 1950s clock hanging from the tin ceiling, dark corners and comfortable seats, and not too many people permitted in at once. Excellent beverages are served on cloth drinking napkins, fresh pop tarts and charcuterie are served from the kitchen, and the ambiance exudes cinematic noir. There are usually tourists on King Street, but an excellent regular clientele is pleased to greet any guest who likes creative drinks. 

People congregate at the front tables to catch up with friends, and others opt to make Belmont’s snacks “dinner” so the crowd isn’t a one-and-done affair. Drinking the classics here is like seeing your favorite band perform a cover, sometimes with a twist, sometimes not, but consistently excellent. The Corpse Reviver may be the best in town, the Spicy Cucumber Gimlet a new favorite, and the rest of the menu is extensive. There’s a Fernet menu, an outstanding assortment of Amari, and a knack for mezcal cocktails. The emphasis is on build-your-own charcuterie and cheese platters, with several panini options and a range of homemade pop tarts. 

The amounts are a little tiny for the price, but if you’re having fun and don’t want to leave your bar seat, they’re lovely. While the bartenders are professional and attentive, they are not often exuberant, which may put off specific customers. They are more concerned with the technique of preparing drinks than with talking with newcomers. They are used to lag times before decisions because there is a vast list of drinks and liquor alternatives. If you want a more in-depth discussion, come before 9 p.m. on a weeknight. It’s more of a hangout and party location after those hours. So, this is one of the best bars and most fun places that Charleston has to offer! We highly recommend you to visit this bar at least once if you are in town. It becomes an exciting party spot as well.

Stems & Skins

Stems & Skins is a perfect wine place whether you’re wine enthusiastic or just wine curious. Overhead, wooden beams give way to a lower tin ceiling in this galley-style space, which revolves around a bar and an army of soft blue chairs urging a belly-up. You’re given a clipboard with menus ranging from cheeses to canned seafood to Coravin poured by the glass. The music may be jazz, Frank Zappa, or Willie Nelson, and your company could be locals who know their bartenders by name, know their Chenin from their Chardonnay and are eager to try natural wines by the glass. To be sure, there’s a significant group of regulars, but since Stems (as it’s known) has made many a national list, all the fancy food editors have found their way to this Park Circle establishment at some time. 

Cocktails, beer, wine, and snacks are on purpose here, and those eating and drinking are eager to go on a journey with these pet nat pied pipers. This is the place to go if you want to learn about wine. It feels like you’re at a friend’s house who also happens to be a somme. Because you’re precisely where you’re supposed to be—they couldn’t fit you all in their living room, so they constructed this facility. The tagline is “fresh and funky ferments,” The menu meanders across geographies, styles, and plenty of items that most astute eaters would consider strange. Yet, it all feels relatively simple because the service is so excellent. 

They get to know you (or ask questions if they don’t), and it’s all about getting a sample drink of anything by the glass before you wager on the whole thing. S&S was at the fore of the European canned seafood game in Charleston, and it’s still one of the most incredible things to order here, but the kitchen has added additional menu items to entice tastes over the years. A luscious grilled cheese (try it with champagne, believe us) and the dessert of the day by local favorite Mirabelle Bakery, appealing from its footed cakestand behind the bar, are always standouts. Still, there’s no food shortage if you want to spend the evening here. 

The Gin Joint

At The Gin Joint, serious drinks are made in the neighborhood that can be a vortex of tourists. Tucked down on a fairly touristy and commercial stretch of East Bay Street, it’s tempting to presume that this establishment, with its dripping magnolia flair and bourbon tipples, is touristic. That assumption would be incorrect. If you take a moment to gather your bearings in this little room, you’ll see that serious cocktailing. In reality, The Gin Joint is a godfather of the local cocktail culture, and kissing the ring is still proper. The finest seats in the house are in the little bar at the rear, where you can watch the magic unfold. Sure, there are visitors, but plenty of locals are also in the mix. 

Because it’s small, it’s more of a couple or small group venue, which is ideal if you want to avoid those big Charleston fixtures: bachelorette parties wondering, “What is fernet?” The Gin Joint is serious about cocktails, with seasonal changes on the most recent menu iteration and working knowledge of a slew of classics. The adventurous may choose for the “bartender’s pick,” selecting a couple of adjectives from a list that includes “refreshing,” “tart,” or “licorice.” Still, the true adventure is typically sipping something already created and on the menu. Just because you don’t recognize an ingredient or can’t picture mustard seed in a cocktail with hog fat-washed whiskey (My Hickory Honey Ham) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. 

Allow yourself to be surprised by the bartender’s creativity. There are nibbles available, ranging from pretzels to charcuterie to robust pimento cheese, but remember that these are snacks, not meals, so plan your drink orders appropriately. A round of soft pretzels is always an excellent choice. It can be a little inconsistent here, but that’s because the room can fill up quickly as people pour in. Because there is only room for one behind the bar, expect your beverage to take some time. Be patient; the flavor will reward you. So, this is one of the best bars Charleston has to offer! If you are in the city, you must give this bar a chance.

Conclusion

There are plenty of wonderful cocktail bars in the Holy City to whet your appetite. Charleston has something for everyone’s palette, from specialty cocktails to locally made beers to meticulously chosen wine selections. Fortunately for you, we’ve tried beverages from all throughout town, from dive pubs to posh clubs and everything in between, to bring you this comprehensive list of Charleston cocktail drinkeries, great for satisfying your thirst. These are the spots you’ll want to visit on your next night out on the town, from the brand new to the tried-and-true. Charleston is a bustling city with various demographics, and the city’s bar culture reflects this fact. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful night with a handful of top shelf cocktails or a wild dive pub full of college-age young people, Charleston offers it all. 

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