It’s not just that this 81-year-old bar has no printed drink menu. (The tenders are trained to make, well, everything.) Nor is it only the expert skills these mix masters have. This place simply lives in an era of elegant imbibing, the drinks taking precedence. Every hour is cocktail hour.
1579 S. Ninth St.; bryantscoctaillounge.com
This destination for eclectic, not-too-fussy small plates got the reader nod for its food-enhancing,
by-the-glass offerings (the labels lean American) and never-stagnant, well-curated, book-sized list of bottles.
1716 N. Arlington Pl.; balzacwinebar.com
Craft Brewery & Craft Beer
After 32 years, Lakefront has gotten this craft beer thing figured out: great staples, the employee-driven My Turn series and a robust barrel-aging program, as well as fantastic fried food at its Beer Hall and a legendary tour. And its flagship, Riverwest Stein, fuels Milwaukee’s ample bar culture. This amber lager pays tribute to the neighborhood where Lakefront got its start with sweet caramel malts barely reined in by floral, slightly peppery hops.
1872 N. Commerce St.; lakefrontbrewery.com
Beer Garden & Dog Park
The beer garden at this riverside park is like being in Germany: Hofbrauhaus beer, a sign for the ATM that says “Geldautomat” and picnic tables that make it easy to get acquainted. Plus, the fenced-in dog park is just a tennis ball’s throw away, with a separate area for small dogs.
4600 Estabrook Dr., Whitefish Bay; estabrookbeergarden.com
The 60 draft beers to choose from are great, but even better are the knowledgeable and friendly staff to help you choose your tipple. Shoutout, too, to the tidy outdoor patio next to the building.
441 E. Lincoln Ave.; mysugarmaple.com
The ultimate place to watch a game, this huge venue has 30-plus TVs, including several big screens. Kelly’s offers Brewers-bound shuttles and daily menu specials that deviate from the tailgate norm.
5218 W. Bluemound Rd.; kellysbleachers1.com
Photos Courtesy of: Bryant’s; Lakefront Brewery; Estabrook Beer Garden
Editor’s Pick: Q&A with Best Mixologist
When Tripper Duval talks about now being the “greatest time to be alive” in the world of cocktail drinking, he’s not exaggerating. “There are more options than ever. Say you like a Dark and Stormy? The category of rums alone is insane right now.” And he should know. The co-owner of Bay View’s Lost Whale and mixer of some of this town’s tastiest drinks – his previous gigs include Goodkind and the old Hamilton bar – is an A-lister with all things cocktail. Here are some wisdom and tips from Duval, who also teaches cocktail classes at Milwaukee Public Market.
– Ann Christenson
AC: You see a lot of trends. What would you like to see come here?
TD: I’m waiting for someone to dip into the Italian aperitif happy hour, and I think it’s going to happen very soon. The light, low-ABV cocktails have been trending for a while. This is just an extension of that.
AC: What should be in every home cocktail maker’s stock of tools?
TD: Nobody wants to make complex simple syrups at home, but having a muddler is an easy and really useful tool. So if you want to make a Tom Collins and you’ve got some strawberries or fresh herbs on hand, use the muddler to draw out some interesting, delicious flavors. A muddler is inexpensive, and you can just throw it in a drawer.
AC: How should drinkers approach a complex cocktail menu, especially if they want to try more than drink?
TD: Trust the bartender to help make the transitional move. It’s always good to start light. Let’s say it’s a French 75 [Champagne, gin, lemon, simple syrup and ice]. You stay on that light, effervescent path, then you could go to an old fashioned, which is still light, then eventually to a Manhattan.
Photos courtesy of Lost Whale
Editor’s Picks: Trending
Breweries are looking well outside their hometowns for taprooms these days, and Milwaukee got in on the game twice this year. Door County’s Hacienda Beer opened a stunning taproom in the East Side’s former BBC space, and Minnesota’s Indeed Brewing set up shop in Walker’s Point.
The Seltzer Revolution
Light and refreshing with just the right amount of buzz and a LaCroix-esque range of flavors, hard seltzers are suddenly everywhere in 2019. Milwaukee-based and Wisconsin-made brand Press got in early on the trend, looking to give market leader White Claw a run for its money.
The Rise of Mocktails
One of the hottest bar-program trends of the last few years is crafting inventive drinks that don’t incorporate alcohol – and taste so good, the drinker doesn’t miss it. Locally, Lost Whale, Boone & Crockett and Goodkind lead the pack. Teetotaling it has never been so appealing.
★ At Random
★ Bar Louie
★ Pizza Man
★ Lake Park Bistro
★ Sugar Maple
★ Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar
★ The Brass Tap
★ Lakefront Riverwest Stein
★ Third Space Happy Place
★ Milwaukee Brewing O-Gii
★ Lakefront Brewery
★ Third Space Brewing
★ Milwaukee Brewing
★ Kelly’s Bleachers
★ Nomad World Pub
★ South Shore Terrace
★ The Landing at Hoyt Park
Here it is: The cream of Cream City. You chose the winners in dozens of categories, and we added a few that we couldn’t help but chime in on.