THIS STORY IS PART OF OUR 2022 BAR GUIDE. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THAT FEATURE.
1. Draft & Vessel Wauwatosa
7479 HARWOOD AVE.
Good bars usually feel lived-in, so forgive us if we’re skeptical of the atmosphere of a bar that’s entirely new construction. But damn if Draft & Vessel didn’t clone the warm, cozy feeling of its Shorewood original into its new Tosa location, right down to the two “snug” booths and the historic Milwaukee panorama above the bar. Beer takes center stage here, with a carefully curated range of styles displayed on a menu on screens behind the bar – the only TVs in the place. Eight of the 33 draft lines offer wine and cocktails, and you’ll find a full assortment of nonalcoholic offerings as well.
2. Central Standard Crafthouse & Kitchen Bar
320 E. CLYBOURN ST.
This multilevel space is where spirit lovers bond over barrel-aged bourbon cocktails. Along with Manhattans and old fashioneds is this envelope-pusher: a smoked rosemary old fashioned, made with CS’s North Brandy, rosemary simple syrup and sour infused with rosemary smoke.
3. The Mothership
2301 S. LOGAN AVE.
The Mothership has a quirky edge: mouthy signs, boilermakers, a little smut here and there. But there’s plenty of substance, including friendly bartenders and phenomenal (and strong) tiki drinks. The mai tais are popular, but be sure to sip your way through more bespoke offerings like the Island Toy and Step Papi, too.
VOTE FOR MILWAUKEE’S BEST BEER!
What’s Brew City’s best? We’ve picked 16 of our favorite Milwaukee craft beers for a March Madness-style tournament, but it’s up to you to pick the winner! Will it be bright and hoppy? Dark and malty? A zippy lager? Every one is worthy of the title; who will claim the sudsy crown?
4. Vendetta Coffee Bar
524 S. SECOND ST.
An Italian theme threads through this Walker’s Point storefront where, by day, patrons at marble tables hunch over their laptops and lattes. By night, it’s like some hip spot in Milan, not Milwaukee, where everybody’s nursing a negroni (five kinds) or festive spritz (another four!) and the night feels a little less dark.
Italy’s Liquid Masterpiece
THE TALE OF the negroni – the Italian aperitif that uses equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari liqueur – did not begin with actor Stanley Tucci’s viral cocktail-making video in 2020. That just upped the cool factor for this potent, alluringly bitter drink whose roots anchor it in early 20th century Florence. Known as an aperitivo meant to be enjoyed before a meal, this star earns its spot in the canon of classic cocktails. Vendetta Coffee Bar in Walker’s Point serves five versions including the tried-and-true classic.
311 N. PLANKINTON AVE.
This diamond inside the historic Pritzlaff Building serves a delicious food menu with its sazeracs, sparkling wines and amber ales. The high-beamed ceiling, bar top made of salvaged pine, exposed brick and framed old Pritzlaff ads underscore the space’s Milwaukee-ness, pairing nicely with Aperitivo’s easygoing atmosphere.
6. Riley’s Social House
411 E. MENOMONEE ST.
The Third Ward bar/sandwich shop welcomes pooches to hang out while their humans enjoy one of 24 draft beers, a glass of vino or a cocktail. The bar is small and cozy, great if you want to make new friends. There’s also Riley’s terrific (and huge!) sandwiches and the sous-vide chicken wings they’re becoming known for.
7. The Drunken Cobra
6818 W. NORTH AVE.
There’s a mission statement in the name of this bright, raucous East Tosa haunt. If you come to watch a game, play trivia or catch an oddball live show, you may find yourself sucked in by the DC’s delightfully weird combination of vibes: house party, neighborhood meeting place and eclectic club. The food is pretty good, too.
8. 3rd Street Market Hall
275 W. WISCONSIN AVE.
The Bar at the busy center of this food hall serves a respectable selection of local taps – with City Lights, Central Waters and Third Space all represented– an international wine list and a mix of fruity and botanical cocktails and mocktails. A super spot to drink a bloody mary and soak up the crowd.
9. Tropic MKE
518 N. WATER ST.
With bright murals and a subdued atmosphere, this Jamaican lounge is the spot to check out on a laid-back night. Drinks like Pineapple Paradise, Lava Flow (a frozen piña colada with a strawberry eruption) and a Marley Margarita will put you on island time. And if you’re a hookah connoisseur, there’s a cozy lounge upstairs.
10. Daq Shack
4191 N. GREEN BAY AVE.
This energetic daiquiri bar in the Rufus King neighborhood offers twists on the rum-based drink like King Cake, peach Bellini, strawberry, mango and more – the combinations are endless and delicious. The peach Bellini is a sweet and simple favorite, and if you pair King Cake with strawberry, you’ll thank us later.