Charleston Bars & Nightlife
10 Conroy St., North Eastside
Sure, Revelry produces some of Charleston’s most notable brewers of craft beer (head brewer Ryan Coker is a bit of a local celebrity), but what makes it special is that it's such a gathering place for locals. Don’t be surprised if you see a group of local activists sharing ideas, a recreational kickball team celebrating a win, or friendly dogs out on the porch when you arrive. The space itself is open and industrial, with twinkle lights strung up around the kegs and kettles, and an open bar with taps shaped like red trumpets. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, they host local bands for a few hours of live music.
152 King St., French Quarter
Opened by a husband and wife duo, this intimate wine bar was made for lingering over long conversations and a few glasses. Bonus: The cheese selection is nearly as great as the wine list.
511 King St., Upper King Street
Upper King Street is known for its bars, but The Belmont is one of the more sophisticated ones. A somewhat long, narrow space, there isn't a bad seat in the house, although the two-person high-top tables that run along the glass front make for entertaining people watching. There's also a cozy couch, intimate booths, and a bar—which is the real reason you come here: The cocktails are expertly done.
The Rooftop at the Vendue
19 Vendue Range St., French Quarter
Of all the rooftop bars in Charleston, Vendue probably has the best view. Like the others, it's part of a hotel, but the scene here is more casual. It's a large space, split into a few levels—walk up to the very top for an unobstructed, 360-degree view of Charleston, which is well worth the steps. In addition to patio seating, Vendue has a few nooks outfitted with wicker couches that are perfect for groups. They also serve lunch and dinner, and have live music every Sunday from 4 to 7pm.
55 Wentworth St., Ansonborough
The Grand Bohemian Hotel has a combined rooftop bar and restaurant with a great surrounding view. The decor is a combination of rustic and sleek touches that just works. The glass interior of Élevé is spacious and even if you're posted at a bar stool, you feel like you're sitting outside. (And if you actually want to sit outside, Élevé has a small terrace.) In addition to being a nice drinks spot, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
The Gin Joint
182 E. Bay St., French Quarter
Despite the name, The Gin Joint doesn't really play favorites—the bartenders at this curved back corner bar serve up a range of clever cocktails, and the bartender's choice is never a bad idea (the menu encourages picking two words—i.e. spicy and unusual—to describe the flavor you're after). The bar food here is a bit more sophisticated than your average drink spot: pickled shrimp, clams and chorizo, ricotta-stuffed meatballs, pork buns with mustard green kimchi, and a smattering of cheeses and dessert plates.
The Cocktail Club
479 King St., Upper King Street
NYC's West Village meets the South in this upstairs bar-lounge perched above The Macintosh restaurant on King Street. The 1881 building has been cooly reimagined—you can see the original beams and salvaged doors through the Cocktail Club's exposed walls; and the sole, long bar is made from reclaimed wood. The layout design reads more home than bar, split into three different lounge areas, each with a slightly different vibe, a mix of high wood tables and low leather couches, fireplaces, and fun lighting accents. When the weather's nice, there is also the rooftop terrace and garden (which is where the Cocktail Club's fresh garnishes come from). The ambience here is matched by the quality handcrafted cocktails, house-made infusions, and expert spirits list.
225 E. Bay St., French Quarter
For a small city, Charleston has a really solid collection of rooftop bars. This one sits at the top of Market Pavilion Hotel, and overlooks Market Street and historic Charleston with a view stretching to Cooper River. The pool here adds a slightly trendy vibe, and there's actually a pretty extensive food menu (apps, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches), making it a particularly nice spot for an afternoon drink (and bite, if you're hungry). It's also a great sunset place, and you could come here for cocktails before dinner at 5Church, which is conveniently located across the street.