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Best Bars in Downtown Austin

Jane Mesa Last updated on Aug 01, 2023 by

Austin is known for many things, but the bars and nightlife are second to none! This list showcases the 10 best and most unique spots to grab a drink downtown.

Higher Ground
720 Congress Avenue

Have a sinfully good time at Higher Ground.

When I first heard about a “Spiritually Themed” bar downtown, I had my doubts. But one look at this venue and their sinfully delicious menu, I have seen the light! Higher Ground looks like it came straight out of a scary movie, in all the best ways. Ever since opening in 2021, this spot has earned itself a loyal cult following.   

Walking in you see lots of arched stained glass windows, dramatic reclaimed doors, and religious oddities curated from around the globe. The bathroom even has details like the spectral slogan “Wash Your Sins Away” on the napkins. Upstairs there’s a posh floral covered patio, a church organ that’s been converted into a DJ booth, and a dancefloor.

Order up one of their “Seven Deadly Sins” cocktails when you go. I’d recommend Pride (vodka, housemade watermelon & cucumber syrup, lime, and coconut liquet) or Lust (tequila, lime, mezcal, housemade strawberry syrup, blackberries, and absinthe).

Codependent Cocktails & Coffee
301 West Avenue Suite 110

Coffee and cocktails? Yes, please!

Anytime I can combine coffee and cocktails, I’m a very happy person. Codependent Cocktails & Coffee is a sublime combination of both chic and casual with a relaxing ambience. Their drink selection is both delicious and aesthetic.

You could totally spend the whole day at this location. Start the day with one of their coffee drinks. My personal favorite is the Blueberry Flapjack Latte (espresso, blueberry, and maple). It’s the best parts of breakfast in one cup! After you’ve spent a day exploring downtown, head back over for some light snacks, cheese boards, and even more drinks from their Happy Hour menu. All of their fare makes my mouth water, but my go to order is the “Towel Optional” (vodka, Italicus, Giard Creme Fraise De BoisStrawberry, Lemon, Cucumber, Mint, and Prosecco) accompanied by their Prosciutto Flatbread pizza with garlic confit.

Codependent Cocktails & Coffee has a strict no laptop policy, so get ready to unplug and relax while you’re there.

The Roosevelt Room
307 W 5th Street

Historically delicious cocktails at Roosevelt Room

“Swank” is the best word I can use to describe the Roosevelt Room.  From the large leather furniture, to the dark wood that flows throughout the venue, to the absolutely aesthetic cocktails, after visiting this spot I think most would agree. 

The drinks aren’t just pretty, they’re flavorful and inspired by history. Some of their cocktail recipes date back as far as the late 1600s like the Milk Punch from Scotland.  This is a combination of rum, cognac, bourbon, absinthe, pineapple, lemon, and milk whey. I can absolutely picture my ancestors drinking that. If you want to go to one of my favorite time periods, they also offer Prohibition Era (1920-1933) drinks like the Hemingway Daiquiri from 1921. Named after American novelist Ernest Hemingway, this drink combines white rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit, and lime so amazingly you can almost hear “The Old Man and the Sea” in the back of your mind. 

611 Red River Street

Barbarella lets you dance the night away all week!

Named after the 1968 Jane Fonda film, since 2010, Barbarella has consistently won various categories of The Austin Chronicle’s “Best of” Awards. There’s a reason people clamor this spot, which claims to be a dance club for people who hate dance clubs.

No matter what day of the week, when you’re ready to hit the dance floor, Barbarella is there for you. As you dance your way through the days, you’ll want to become a regular at their themed dance nights like TuezGays, featuring a queer influenced & curated music set. Fridays here are exclusively “80zzz Night”. So throw on your favorite vintage clothes and get ready to dance like you’ve time traveled back 40 years ago.

This spot is open until 2:30 am daily so no matter where your evening adventures in Austin begin, they can (and should!) end with dancing away your blues at Barbarella.

503 Colorado Street

A posh spot located in a parking garage!

Quietly tucked into a parking garage off of Colorado Street in downtown Austin is, of course, a stylish speakeasy that serves second to none cocktails. The industrial concrete  juxtaposed with candle light on the tables and the teal tiles decorating the circular bar situated around a support column makes me wonder what other creative spots could magically become bars around town. It’s somehow both low-key and elevated without feeling pretentious. 

You can’t have a quirky bar location without also having some beguiling drinks on the menu and Garage delivers on this concept complete with an “Unleaded” menu section for those who opt for mocktails rather than the hard stuff. One of their most popular items is the Indian Paintbrush made with vodka, grapefruit, lime, and rosemary. My recommendation here: The Penicillin (Earl Grey scotch, ginger, lemon, and honey).         

Half Step
75 1/2 Rainey Street

Like the sign says: "You earned it"

Just like many of the bars along Rainey Street, Half Step resides in a Craftsman style house that was saved in 1985 thanks to historic preservation. Walking into the house part of this venue, you’ll notice the vintage wood and reclaimed wallpaper running throughout which gives an old school vibe that makes you feel right at home. The backyard area has a stage, lots of seating, and enough space for vendors to show up during music shows.

Half Step’s award winning mixologists have curated quite the selection of libations. My favorite specialty drink is the Floradora (Gin, raspberry, ginger, lime, seltzer).  However, a close second is the Ginger Paloma (Tequila, grapefruit, ginger, lime, and Jarritos Toronja) that’s always on tap!  There’s also a delightful curation of draft and canned beers.

Floppy Disk Repair Co.
119 E 5th Street

Find the door code and see what all the hype is about.

Quick history lesson for those who’s birth year begins with a 2 rather than a 1: In the ancient days of computers, we used plastic bound magnetic disks to store everything from 8-bit versions of Oregon Trail to our homework. Think of it as an unwieldy USB flash drive from a bygone era.

Floppy Disk Repair Co. has one of the coolest and most ironic speakeasy facades I can think of: Antiquated computer repair services in a city known for its thriving tech industry, not to mention Austin’s own sordid history with Prohibition era speakeasy locales hiding in plain sight. Since opening in the summer of 2016, two things have been known about this venue: You must have a code to get in and the capacity is 45. How do you find the code? Go look for it! Seriously. It’s not my place to ruin that fun for you.

Once you find the code, you’ll notice the inside is just as alluring as the journey to gain access to this place.  Red lighting, beaded doorways, swings instead of barstools, and floors painted to look like The Stanley Hotel from The Shining. The delightfully dark aesthetic doesn’t end there. A framed chainsaw to memorialize the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, cocktails with cheeky names like “Ball Gag” and “I’ll Never Call You Dad, Brian!”, to the oh so creepy neon sign stating “Mmmm…Your hair smells pretty”.

This is the perfect spot for those of us that love all things spooky with a little hint of adventure.   

Small Victory
108 E 7th Street

Small Victory is a big hit!

What was once a dive bar in a parking garage, is now an upmarket speakeasy you find after climbing a winding, concrete staircase. Small Victory might be little inside, but the escape it offers from the hustle and bustle of Dirty 6th feels like a big win.

After pushing past the large wooden door, the narrow rooms lined with sumptuous banquette seating, perfect for a date or small gathering with friends. There’s also a large round table in the back for bigger groups. 

The menu places special emphasis on classic American cocktails with a splash of tiki sprinkled throughout. The Mai Tai (rum, lime, petite shrubb, and orgeat) is a classic tiki cocktail that you’ll want more of at Small Victory. My recommendation is the Medicina Latina which combines tequila, lime, ginger, honey, and mezcal in a way that soothes my soul.

Firehouse Lounge
605 Brazos Street

Enter through the bookcase...

Firehouse Lounge is hidden behind a bookshelf in the lobby of a hostel that also happens to be Austin’s oldest standing fire station. If you think it doesn’t get more iconic, this spot is located across from the historic Driskill Hotel in the heart of 6th Street. It’s somehow off the beaten path while still being in the heart of everything.

If you’re going to pack all that history into one location dating back to 1885, you’ve got to have an excellent selection of strong, classic cocktails. The menu here features classic cocktails the Aperol Spritz and the Old Fashioned, as well as an inspired rotating seasonal menu. If you can’t decide on a libation, the bartenders have an extensive knowledge of local breweries, distilleries, and ingredients. 

The welcoming and friendly environment here is made even better by the live music that features some of Austin’s best up and coming artists playing everything from blues to rock.

Cheer Up Charlies
900 Red River St

Cheer Up Charlies invites you to dance around the chaos!

Cheer Up Charlies has long been known as one of Austin’s go-to bar for all things LGBTQIA.  This venue brings the best local and national acts to its stage. They host music acts, drag shows, DJs, and everything else you’d want in nightlife entertainment. Speaking of their live events, the outdoor stage backs up to a magnificent rock wall that is perfect for the out this world light displays they’re known for there.

Inside, the signs above the bar say it all: “No Lines” and “Chaos Reigns”. There’s also a smaller stage inside that makes you feel like you’re at a house party hearing your favorite band play. Cheer Up Charlie’s signature cocktails are just as inspired as everything else about this venue. I always order the Kale Lime Gingerita, which is a fun twist on the classic margarita that includes all the ingredients the name suggests. Another crowd pleaser is their Golden Ticket (whiskey, kombucha, lavender bitters, and candied ginger). 

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