Austin Bars & Nightlife

Establishment neighborhood
The White Horse
500 Comal St., East Cesar Chavez
This east-side music venue is a tried-and-true honky tonk—meaning it’s a great, no-frills, super-social show-bar to go for a good time. The drinks are cheap and the pours are generous, with live music that—even if it can be hit-or-miss depending on the night—is pretty much guaranteed to be a weirdly fun, authentically Austin experience. A little rough around the edges and charmingly, endearingly gritty, you’ll want to come dressed for fun and comfort; we’re talking a flannel shirt, tee-and-jeans, and cowboy boots.
1816 E. 6th St., East Cesar Chavez
Speakeasy vibes meet modern street-art at this cocktail bar, where the tall, vaulted ceilings, stone walls, and rustic-chic decor spill out onto the laid-back patio. Here they serve up a great list of signature cocktails (like their Oaxacan Prayer with mezcal, cocchi rosa, and Spanish citrus liqueur; Bossa Nova with gin, genepy, and coconut milk; and Chapado with barrel-aged cachaça, créme de cacao, and blackberry), as well as all the classics (rum and rye are featured heavily), and a respectable wine list. It’s the perfect balance of well-heeled and unpretentious—hence why their happy hour ($7 for a curated list of classic and creative cocktails) is so popular with the locals.
The Blackheart (Closed)
86 Rainey St., Rainey
The Blackheart Bar is in an 1889 Victorian house on Rainey Street. The backyard area, which is decorated in strings of light, is a popular hangout spot—locals perch on the large picnic tables and even bring their dogs along. The bar is dominated by a large selection of whiskey, but the Moscow Mule is also well-loved, as is the near-nightly live music. You can sometimes see two bands in a night—one inside, one outside—which is a lot for a tiny bar, but draws a very fun dancing crowd.
208 W. 4th St., Downtown
This pre-Prohibition-style, New Orleans-inspired craft cocktail bar is a great option for drinks and light dinner. Though it began as Austin’s first absinthe bar (the infamous green liqueur was legalized in the U.S. in 2007), their dinner menu, curated by executive chef John Lichtenberger, is worth a trip, too. The riffs on French standards like duck confit, bouillabaisse, and escargots are beloved, as are their only-in-Texas specialties, like Texas wild boar with polenta, braised short ribs with duck-fat mashed potatoes, and lamb bourguignon sourced from a nearby ranch. As for the cocktails, the go-tos (besides absinthe, of course) are gin, whiskey, vodka, and rum concoctions—some original, like the Fig Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, house cherry vanilla bitters, fig foam), some reinterpretations of tried-and-true favorites, like Sazerac (a New Orleans classic).