I do declare, this *is* the definitive list.
The charming, coastal city of Charleston oozes with personality. In addition to memorable meals, Charleston also has a bevy of bartenders serving up inventive craft cocktails Charleston-style. Check out these ten bars for a happy hour full of Southern charm.
Spectator Hotel Bar
Housed in the swanky, contemporary Spectator Hotel in the heart of Charleston’s French Quarter, this bar’s vibe will transport you to the 1920s with its curated libations. Enter into the hotel and step immediately to your left to lounge in comfy couches or high-top bar stools while browsing the cocktail menu. For a punch of gin with a slight citrus taste, opt for the Ginseng Gin Sling featuring limoncello and orange blossom honey. For a fanciful whim, try the Parch & Famished, composed of tequila, lime juice, and a splash of fruity yet refreshing watermelon.
INSIDER TIPThe bar is only open in the evenings, during which a complimentary spread of crackers, meat, cheese, and even pickled okra make a fine accompaniment.
The Bar at HUSK
A taste of Southern flavors and influences highlight all items on the menu at renowned HUSK restaurant’s bar. Choose from beverages like Charleston Light Dragoon’s Punch, following a heirloom recipe from the Preservation Society of Charleston. Hungry? You’re in the right place. Chomp on any of the appetizers, such as the fried chicken skins or the prawns atop grilled bok choy while you sip your cocktail.
This cozy restaurant is known for their artfully executed entrees and great cocktails. Dazzle your tastebuds by sampling the Nine Men’s Morris, comprised of rye whiskey, bitters, and avena. Nosh on pâté with toasted brioche to complete the feast.
INSIDER TIPPlan well if you want to make a stop here for a cocktail or two. Reservations typically fill up for FIG for months in advance and it’s no easy feat to get a table here.
Charleston Distilling, Co.
Charleston’s home-grown and home-milled spirits find their home at this distillery in the King Street neighborhood. Visitors can take any of the tours offered Monday through Saturday (except on Wednesdays) through making a reservation in advance. After a tour, try the rye whiskey, vodka, gin, and whiskey liqueur in either tasting flights or cocktails served up in their exclusive tasting room.
The Cocktail Club is as much a gathering place as it is a bar, with a rooftop terrace to boot. The aesthetic, with dim lighting and a sultry ambience, is a nod to the roaring ‘20s. Must-try drinks include At a Thyme Like This with Tito’s vodka, grapefruit juice, thyme, and prosecco or After the Disco, a fusion mezcal and rum drink.
INSIDER TIPEach day of the week, different specials are featured. Tuesday is when spirit cocktails are touted, while Wednesday is $5 Bourbon Night and Thursday is the day for 6 various cocktails for $6 each.
The Gin Joint
The shining star of this moody, ’20s era-themed bar is the gin (hence the name), but craft cocktail fans will still rejoice at the other offerings. Drinks are organized in five different categories including tiki-inspired, boozy heavy cocktails, top shelf renditions, nautical-themed sips, and large-format drinks intended for sharing with groups. A highlight is the choose-your-own-adventure style drinks where patrons can choose two adjectives for a drink surprise. As far as bar snacks, be sure to order the Pad Thai popcorn and strawberry cobbler.
INSIDER TIPHappy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
An intimate, wood-paneled bar space in the Radcliffeborough area of Charleston, Proof has subdued lighting and carefully-crafted drinks. Notable hits include the Charleston Buck, with bourbon, Tuaca, egg white, ginger beer, and citrus; and Pink Rabbit, with strawberry “quik”, bitters, gin, and Ancho reyes.
INSIDER TIPGo early for drinks as this cozy space tends to get crowded as the night tapers on.
In an unsuspecting location within the former Cigar Factory building, Bar Mash can be found amidst a wine shop, a butcher, a coffee bar, and a chef’s counter with ever-changing selections. The focus of Bar Mash is American whiskey and beer, as well as cocktails. Drink the Lucky Side Down, for a rum-inspired taste of summer with pineapple, Jagermeister, bitters, and lime or the Arboretum, with vodka, sage, rosemary, lemon, and ginger.
INSIDER TIPGo to Bar Mash during the week for live music, cocktail specials, and bar bites.
Hip furnishings in this minimalist bar with high ceilings define The Belmont, where black and white classic films are projected on one wall. Drink selections run the gamut from The Hemingway Daiquiri, composed of rum, maraschino, grapefruit, and lime, to The Mint Gimlet, either vodka or gin with lime juice, jalapeno honey, cucumber, and mint. Pair any of the cocktails with charcuterie, paninis, or a homemade biscoff or nutella poptart.
The Darling Oyster Bar
The Darling Oyster Bar is not only known for just great oysters, but for cocktails as well. Choose from a classic Paloma or a more adventurous Smoke On The Harbor, with rum, lime, and sugar finished with a scotch rinse. Of course, since it’s an oyster bar, there’s always a classic oyster shooter, too.