Beer + Ghosts, Trolleys + Cocktails, King Cobra + Breakfast
When it comes to beautiful Southern cities, Savannah is unparalleled, with its acres of historic cemeteries, sublime public squares, and Southern Gothic architecture that pops with color amid trees dripping with Spanish moss.
INSIDER TIPDon’t touch the moss even if though it’s tempting—it’s laden with chiggers that will burrow under your skin and it allegedly feels worse than a poison ivy rash
Aside from its beauty, hidden bugs, and richly ghoulish history, there’s another draw to this highly walkable cultural hub: lax open container laws. Officially, the policy applies only to the Historic District, where you are free to carry a plastic container with no more than 16 ounces of alcohol at a time. This opens the door for a variety of weird and wonderful drinking experiences in Savannah that’ll heighten otherwise sober activities. There are also plenty of indoor activities where you can enjoy festive and creative drink concoctions (alcoholic and not), especially along the revitalized riverfront, which is home to the brand-new Alida hotel, converted warehouses, shops, breweries, and distilleries.
The Biggest Drink: A 40 oz of King Cobra
WHERE: The Grey Market
The freshly-painted black brick facade of the Grey Market on Jefferson Street in the Historic District and the flowers on its inviting balcony make a stop here irresistible. Just wait, then, until you try the food. It may not be the easiest place to get a seat, but if you can manage to squeeze into the classic lunch counter, or even take your food standing up at a high top, you’ll be in diner heaven. While greasy spoon specialties will call to you, don’t sleep on the Restorative Bowl, with overnight oats that are then baked in their brick oven, and topped with fresh fruit and other cereal toppings. It doubles as a market, so you can do some light shopping for snacks and booze while you’re in town. But don’t think that this place is stuffy: they sell 40 ounces of malt liquor just like the mom and pop shops of your youth. Or rather, my youth. We’re not necessarily saying you should drink 40 ounces of malt liquor with breakfast, but we love that it’s an option (and we’re also not saying you shouldn’t).
The Smallest Drink: A Miller High Life Pony
WHERE: The Original Pinkie Masters
What is a pony? Glad you asked. It’s an adorable, 7-ounce mini beer (awww!), also sometimes called a split, which Miller High Life has been serving since the 1950s, and you can get one at Pinkie’s (as it’s known among locals). This one-of-a-kind dive has all the nostalgic trimmings of a neighborhood bar, with a Pabst sign illuminated in the window and PBR paraphernalia adorning the walls throughout, plus a jukebox and bartenders that are just slightly rough around the edges (read: not amused by your antics).
WHERE: The Grey
Yes, the Grey Restaurant did use to be an actual Greyhound bus station, but today the classy interior is a go-to spot for craft cocktails and charcuterie boards. The drinks are fittingly transportation inspired, with names like Passenger, which contains scotch, Calvados, Ciociaro, and pecan.
Best On-The-Go-Drink: Cocktail + Trolley Tour
WHERE: The Alida Hotel
The unbelievably chic yet humble and design-forward Alida Hotel just popped up on the riverfront in a brick building that looks like a converted warehouse, but was actually just made with a design that blends in with its existing surrounds in the Historic District. The boutique hotel is all about the details, down to the hotel’s signature scent, a mix of sandalwood, coconut, and fig, which is pumped throughout the property, and guest room accent pillows designed by a Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student. You’d be right to assume their cocktail program is up to the same standards, with handcrafted cocktails available adjacent to the lobby in the Trade Room bar, on the roof, aka the Lost Square Bar, and poolside. Try a drink like the Savannah Smash, which contains bourbon, rainwater Madeira, lemon, and peach shrub, and garnished with fresh mint.
You can book a tour with Old Savannah Tours through the hotel, and the bartenders at the Alida can make a or drink of your choice to go. Bring it with you on the trolley while you learn about the city’s history, and be sure to stop in at the house of Alida Harper (the hotel’s namesake), to learn about an incredible female entrepreneur well ahead of her time.
The Spookiest Drink: Beer + Ghost Tour
WHERE: Moonlight Brewery
There are many reasons why Savannah is billed as the most haunted town in America, the predominant theory being that it is constructed over a mass grave of soldiers from the civil war and victims of a yellow fever epidemic. Whether or not you’re a believer in the afterlife, a ghost tour (we recommend the very convincing and spooky tours by Genteel and Bard) offers some great background on the city, whether it’s factual or just a fascinating story. If you’re easily spooked, why not grab a beer at the Moonlight Brewery (thought to be haunted itself) to make the tour more palatable? Plus it’ll be easier to keep to the nightmares at bay if you’ve had a few.
Beer With a Side of Bluegrass
WHERE: Service Brewing
Veteran-owned-and-operated Service Brewing is a short jaunt from the Alida Hotel, and they even make a custom brew for the hotel that’s a must-try for beer lovers. Owned by husband and wife duo Kevin Ryan and Meredith Sutton (a SCAD graduate who designed the breweries tasting room), the brewery hosts trivia nights, beer and yoga classes, and Bluegrass by the Pint. The latter is a weekly event, held every Friday from 5:30 to 8 pm, and features local band City Hotel.
Most Surprisingly Delightful Combo: Coffee Tonic
WHERE: Rhett at the Alida Hotel
Booze not your thing? No problem! Though the combination of espresso, simple syrup, orange zest, and tonic water might not immediately sound like the best idea, it’s actually quite refreshing. Try the fizzy drink for breakfast at the Alida Hotel’s lower-level restaurant, Rhett, and get a jolt of energy before sightseeing. Be sure to return for lunch or dinner at the hotel as well (the macaroni and cheese is to die for).
Most Bang For Your Buck: Cocktail Flight
WHERE: Ghost Coast Distillery
If you can’t make up your mind about a drink, Ghost Coast Distillery says you don’t have to. Go to the open space to play shuffleboard or a tabletop game like Mancala or Connect Four while sipping on a variety of mini-cocktails, like an Oglethorpe’s Mule (their take on a Moscow mule), the Ghost Coast Basil Sour, or the Greyhound, all made with their own spirits. They also offer distillery tours on Saturdays and Sundays, with some Savannah history mixed in. It’s just a stone’s throw from Service Brewing.
Most Under-The-Radar: Drink at a Top-Secret Speakeasy
WHERE: Mata Hari's
I’m sorry for giving it away, but I think that this “secret” lounge has already been discovered by tourists and active Yelpers alike. Luckily the bouncer keeps the crowds to a minimum, so if you can find the doorway make sure to show some grace upon entry (there might even be a secret password that night, so ask a local in the know). Once inside, you can appreciate kitschy speakeasy decor, and strong drinks made with care. A jazz singer will likely grace the stage intermittently with live piano accompaniment, singing classic standards.
Sweetest Drink: Cardamom Coffee Milk
WHERE: Back in the Day Bakery
Located in the Starland District, this food truck turned brick and mortar bakery is home of the best biscuits in Savannah (an undisputed fact). The homey, rustic-industrial artisanal bakery may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s just a short rideshare away from the Historic District (about 6 minutes), and right next to hidden gem and curio shop Graveface Records.
Wash down Back in the Day’s biscuits, cakes, and rich breakfast sandwiches with a sweet (but not overly sugary) cardamom-infused drink with coffee and milk over ice on a humid Savannah afternoon.