The days of throwing back PBRs on Broadway are over. As Nashville’s star continues to shine, its cocktail scene only gets brighter with the passing years. Whether known for their innovative approach, use of unique ingredients or simply a compelling backstory, these five local cocktail bars continue to up the ante and challenge others with their astute attention to detail.
For years, Printers Alley and its surrounding streets were peppered exclusively with dives and honky-tonks, but as Downtown evolves, new spots like Black Rabbit have taken up residence and given the area a much-needed boost of swank and sophistication.
The team behind The Farm House restaurant brings its cocktail game to this historic neighborhood, serving up an extensive assortment of spirits and a tome of cocktails that would take you weeks to sip your way through. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to pick a dark, velvety corner and settle in for a while as you journey through the seemingly endless offerings. The regular live music is an added bonus.
What you’re ordering: Peach Sazerac — Sazerac Rye, Herbsaint, absinthe, peach and Peychaud’s bitters
As if a pair of women opening a baller lounge among Nashville’s male-dominated bar scene weren’t enough cause for celebration, Walden came out swinging — not only with its carefully planned, community-driven space (with a floral mural by local artist Tara Aversa that spans the exterior side wall and also wraps around the interior, as well as a pair of indoor swings that were made for Instagramming), but also with a smartly crafted batch-cocktail menu (including both rose sangria and margaritas) designed to be affordable.
Don’t pass on ordering from the accompanying menu of shared bites with fan favorites like a fig grilled cheese and barbacoa tacos.
What you’re ordering: Honeysuckle Lemonade — Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda
Germantown has quickly morphed into the destination neighborhood, and Geist capitalized on the buzz by adding a casual-chic restaurant and bar to the scene, just blocks from the Nashville Sounds baseball stadium.
Head bartender Freddy Schwenk brings a dose of pizazz to the bar, which is set in an old, circa-1900 blacksmith shop, by using seasonal ingredients with classic spirits and adding his own spin on things.
In the balmier summer months, there’s nowhere better to chill out after work than the Champagne Garden, with its wide array of bubbles served outside in a full outdoor garden and courtyard, complete with an outdoor cooking stove.
What you’re ordering: the Lolita — mezcal, lime, cucumber, matcha and black pepper.
In true speakeasy fashion, there’s no set menu at Attaboy, a New York staple that opened a Nashville outpost in 2017; you simply tell the bartender your likes — and, more importantly, your dislikes — and he/she will whip up something according to your personal tastes.
Attaboy is what modern-day speakeasies should be: low-key, quiet and accessible — and without any trace of attitude. While, true to form, you have to knock on the door of the back alley and wait to be seated, Attaboy is lacking in pretense and brimming with style.
Tip: Arrive as soon as the bar opens at 5 p.m. daily to avoid a wait, as the lounge area is small, intimate and only seats a couple-dozen patrons.
What you’re ordering: whatever the bartender recommends — there’s no menu.
Nashville’s new kid on the block, Billy Dec, took his Chicago concept of Sunda and brought it to Music City, filling a hole in the international dining scene. Part Filipino, part Japanese, the rest Asian fusion, Sunda is a glitzy, welcome newcomer with plenty of attitude and surprises up its sleeve, and its cocktail program follows suit.
Mixologist Nahm Kim sits at the helm of the bar, which spans premium sakes, Asian beers, sparkling wines, wine and adventurous craft cocktails that perfectly complement the pan-Asian cuisine. Sunda also offers happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, a novelty in the trendy Gulch neighborhood in which it’s located.
What you’re ordering: Grass Tiger — jalapeño-infused Old Tom gin, ginger beer, lemongrass syrup and lime juice
Experience these best bars and explore all that Nashville has to offer when you book a stay in Music City with Marriott International’s Sip and Savor Package, which includes overnight accommodations and two cocktails per night at participating properties.