The Best Cocktail Bars in Milwaukee

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

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

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been connected with renowned beer names since its inception. Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller were the main hitters, creating beers exactly like in their native Germany. They also opened their own pubs, dubbed “tied houses” since they were linked to these brands, giving the brewery exclusivity. Because of changes in regulations and ownership throughout the years, including Prohibition, the bars are no longer linked with the company. In truth, Pabst and Schlitz no longer make their beers in the city, but their legacies live on through these recognisable structures, many of which were designed by the same architect. Let us look at some of the best cocktail bars in Milwaukee.

Boone & Crockett

Boone & Crockett is a quaint and trendy bar that serves barrel-aged drinks. Boone & Crockett relocated from their little spot in Bay View to a much larger venue along the river. Although it is no longer as intimate, it has kept its comfort and rustic-chic look, replete with shining chandeliers, antique furniture, and taxidermy on the walls. They still serve some exciting drinks, such as their distinctive barrel-aged Old Fashioned and a selection of classics. Step outside Taco Moto, the resident food truck, for a Dr. Pepper-braised pork taco. This hip Old West saloon-meets-Northwoods cabin does respectable work with classics like the Manhattan, Sazerac, and old-fashioned. It’s also the place to sip something different, maybe light and frothy, and partake of the artful Mexican offerings of adjacent food truck Taco Moto.

It is a Hip haunt with a dark, vintage ambiance offering seasonal cocktails, happy hours & a patio. This venue is located at 818 south water street, where nationals meet the water. Boone & Crockett’s bartenders, like the famous American frontiersmen of old, want to explore and exploit the experimental palates of the modern imbiber. From shelf to glass, we allow you to explore your boundaries, one sip at a time. Cheers! Hands down, the best vibes in Milwaukee. Boone is a must at any time of year if you visit one place in Milwaukee. It’s my favorite bar in town. Do you want some sensual fun? Great drinks, both filled with booze and NA? Love old-fashioned? Yummy food? Patio scene? This is the spot. 

The Boone team delivers amazing vibes welcoming to all. They have events throughout the year, and parking is excellent (a reminder not to drink and drive). This is a great spot for larger groups, date night, sitting at the bar and journaling by candlelight, this place screams, ‘you belong here.’ I hope you have a fantastic experience and don’t miss the view of the Hoan bridge from the covered outside the bar in the wintertime. Follow their social media for special events like bingo, concerts, mini-festivals, and so much more. Love you, Boone! It’s a perfect day for a drink. Come out and get your coupon. However, you can have whatever beverage you want. Have a draught beer, an old-school can, or a Coors Banquet. Drink some wine. So, this is one of the best bars Milwaukee has to offer you.

Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge

Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge has classic cocktails in MKE’s first lounge. Bryant’s, the king of beverages, must be included on any Milwaukee bars list. This bar combines history, a corner tavern, and a posh lounge environment into one magnificent drink. You may get whatever drink you desire here, even a few invented right here. Tell the bartender what kind of drink you want, and they’ll make you something to sip while admiring (but never touching) the velvet wallpaper. Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, established in 1938, is the city’s original cocktail bar. The old Miller bar received a James Beard Award nomination for its bar program, which included the creation of popular cocktails such as the Pink Squirrel and the Banshee. 

The softly lighted environment has remained almost unchanged, with snug seats and velvet walls. So, make a reservation to make sure you get to see this historic site. Bryant’s feels like a movie set from the golden era of Hollywood, lit (barely) by string lights and the blue-green glow of a clean aquarium. There isn’t one. Instead, we tell the waitress what we want, and the bartenders select from a library of 450-plus beverages, ranging from alcoholic Depression-era libations to dangerously drinkable “ice-cream cocktails.” Bryant and Edna Sharp opened this historic bar in 1936 as a tie house for Miller Brewery and transformed it into a cocktail lounge in 1938. It’s believed to be one of the first cocktail lounges in Wisconsin and the place where the Pink Squirrel was created, according to Bryant’s website. 

Today Bryant’s still has an old-timey cocktail lounge look with dim lights, carpeting, and leather chairs. It is famous for ice cream drinks like grasshoppers, brandy Alexanders, and more. While those classics are available, there are no menus at Bryant’s. Instead, bartenders talk with customers about what they like and create unique drinks for each patron. “The nice thing about Bryant’s is because we don’t have a drink list. It’s more of a conversation,” owner John Dye said. “People get what they want, and a menu does not limit them. It is a unique experience that gives people what they want, and we have a huge diversity of drinks.” So, this is one of the best bars Milwaukee has to offer you. If you are in the city, go with your family, friends, or loved ones for a memorable and fun time!

Bittercube Bar

Bittercube Bar is an experimental tasting room for gourmet bitters. Bittercube is a great place to go if you want to experience something different. With cozy accents and simple furnishings, it feels more like a modern living room or kitchen than a bar. You’ll also learn much about your cocktails, particularly bitters because that’s what Bittercube makes. They take strained botanicals from bitters, which would otherwise go to waste and convert them into complicated cocktails and non-alcoholic concoctions. And, because this is effectively Bittercube’s tasting room, you may pick up a bottle or two of your favorite flavor as you leave. Bittercube provides some of the most inventive and flavorful libations in town, from classics like the Manhattan to lesser-known traditional recipes to tailor-made highballs and a sleek, industrial-vibe cocktail lab where the tenders are very talented in drink-mixing. 

Located inside Bittercube’s Milwaukee headquarters, Bittercube Bar & Bazaar is a complete cocktail resource. Our staff of professional bartenders can introduce you to new bitters and spirits, teach you how to make balanced cocktails at home, or provide a unique setting for your next night out with friends. Spirit tastings on Wednesdays in the Bazaar, cocktail classes on Saturdays in the Bar, and facility tours once a month or by appointment. Private parties and cocktail classes are also available for groups of 10 – 49. It was established in 2009. Bittercube was founded by Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz in 2009. After successful stints bartending and managing at Town Talk Diner (Nick) in Minneapolis and The Violet Hour (Ira) in Chicago, they began developing Bittercube Bitters. 

The first commercially available batches hit the market in July of 2010. Since then, the business has grown to distribute bitters in nearly 30 states and abroad in Canada, Italy, and Australia. Bittercube has been featured in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, Playboy, Imbibe Magazine, Timeout, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, GO – AirTran Inflight Magazine, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, NPR, and Daily Candy, among other publications. Brandon is the manager. So, Brandon brings a unique creativity to our evolving cocktail menu and is the mastermind behind our innovative and exciting events. Brandon has been working with Bittercube since 2012 in various roles. Currently the Research & Development Coordinator, he shares those duties with managing the Bittercube Bar. In addition, he is a partner for Heirloom Liqueurs and Bittercube founders Nick Kosevich & Ira Koplowitz.

At Random

At Random is a comfortable vintage club noted for its ice cream beverages. On a chilly winter night, few bars are cozier than At Random. It is a Tiki bar serving specialty ice cream drinks & cocktails (no beer or wine) in a dimly lit venue. At Random is Bay View’s Classic Cocktail Lounge, open since 1964. They specialize in ice cream drinks and classic cocktails. Patio Seating is now available on our beautiful Ice Cream Social patio. The Milwaukee institution was just acquired by the same people that own Bryant’s but don’t worry. They haven’t changed anything except for having regular hours. The beverage selection, particularly the ice cream drinks, is extensive and is still served with a cookie wrapped around the straw. The lighting is still black, and the feeling is still tight. 

If you haven’t been here in a while, make a point of stopping by for a grasshopper or blue tail fly in a pleather booth. From a vinyl booth drenched in orange light, we appear to be at a soda fountain that hosted a wild Christmas party in 1965. Then he paused the clock for 50 years. A father and son team painstakingly pour liquor into punch bowls, creating the same Singapore Slings they’ve been making for decades. At Random in Bay View has the feel of an old cocktail lounge and is known for its various ice cream drinks. At Random also has a large patio where people can order popular summer drinks like Dole whips and mai tais. At Random has evolved with its new owner, John Dye of Bryant’s and The Jazz Estate fame, and is no longer simply the gloomy (quick face-lift) restaurant offering sweet, nostalgic ice cream beverages. 

He cautiously spruced up the space and introduced a menu of traditional drinks like the Toreador (similar to a margarita) and French martini. Only those who are seated will be served, according to one of the house rules. This is why it’s called a lounge. Since 1964, At Random has been offering Bay View specialty drinks. At Random, located at the intersection of Russell and Delaware, is a time capsule with retro ice cream concoctions, vintage cocktails, Naugahyde, and swag lighting. In 2018, Ron and Shirley Zeller retired, handing up the mantle to John Dye of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge and The Jazz Estate to ensure that At Random continues to exist for future generations.

The Outsider

The Outsider is a trendy rooftop cocktail bar. Rooftop bars are uncommon in this city, most likely due to the weather. It’s a swanky rooftop bar with indoor and outdoor seating that serves inventive cocktails, beer, and light nibbles. The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel altered that by adding a stylish bar on the 9th floor. Because of its million-dollar vista and matching beverage menu, it’s rapidly become the hottest new place to be seen. This is the place to go if you are in the mood for some homemade beef jerky and a gin and cucumber cocktail. Ironically, inside the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, you can find The Outsider. This upscale rooftop bar in Milwaukee has a classy, comfortable feel, perfect for an evening spent with friends. The Outsider is in a great location, situated in Milwaukee’s Third Ward and overlooking a beautiful chunk of the city.

Their wines are delicious and pair well with many of the shared snack plates they offer. Try my favorite Saracco Moscato d’Asti with the Balsamic Onion Dip. Aside from sitting nine stories above the Third Ward with incredible rooftop skyline views, The Outsider has exceptionally great food and drink menus and a sophisticated, big-city vibe. During the Christmas season, the décor will be transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, imitation snow, and forest “creatures.” No rooftop bar was positioned at this height in Milwaukee until The Outsider debuted within the new Journeyman Hotel in 2016. The seventh story may not seem like much, but with two terraces (forming an “L”) and comfy seats outdoors when the weather is excellent, you truly feel like you’re floating over the Third Ward. 

Tre Rivali, located on the hotel’s street level, has limited cuisine. Cocktails are the bar’s specialty, with seasonal variations such as the Snowball Old Fashioned. They are now only accepting online reservations for parties of 8 to 15. Sunday through Thursday, they cannot accept reservations for parties of less than eight persons. Reservations demand a $500 minimum meal and beverage purchase. This minimum will be met by all purchases made during your visit. So, this is one of the best bars Milwaukee has to offer you. If you are in the city, we highly recommend visiting this venue. Go with your friends, family, or loved ones for a memorable and fun experience!

Conclusion

Welcome to PBR’s birthplace and erstwhile Beer Capital of the World. Miller is the only remaining classic lager that “made Milwaukee famous,” as Schlitz’s slogan originally proclaimed. However, the pubs, including many historic “tied houses” originally associated with a certain brewery, have remarkably survived, a tribute to the city’s renowned drinking culture. The bars transport you back to a period when beer was inexpensive, cocktails were reserved for special occasions, and the bartender was an old acquaintance. Pull up a stool: we’ve got stories to tell from a crawl of Milwaukee’s best (and sometimes oddest) drinking establishments. Milwaukee has no lack of bars, from local neighborhood hangouts to sports pubs for viewing the big game. Some, though, stand out, providing a distinct experience that draws customers for anything from hammerschlagen to iconic Wisconsin old fashioneds.

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