Best of Milwaukee 2019: Imbibing

We do enjoy a drink now and then, don’t we?



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.;

Wine List

Balzac Wine Bar

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.;

Craft Brewery & Craft Beer

Lakefront Brewery & Riverwest Stein

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.;

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;

Visitors to the Estabrook Beer Garden's grand opening on June 20 enjoyed free beer after the opening ceremonies. The beer garden will open at noon each day this summer, weather permitting. Last call is 9 p.m.

Beer-Focused Bar

Sugar Maple

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.;

Sports Bar

Kelly’s  Bleachers

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.;

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

Brewery Taprooms

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.

Readers’ Choice Winners & Runners-up


At Random
Bar Louie

Wine List

Pizza Man
Lake Park Bistro

Beer-Focused Bar

Sugar Maple
Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar
The Brass Tap

Craft Beer

Lakefront Riverwest Stein
Third Space Happy Place
Milwaukee Brewing O-Gii

Craft Brewery

Lakefront Brewery
Third Space Brewing
Milwaukee Brewing

Sports Bar

Kelly’s Bleachers
Nomad World Pub

Beer Garden

South Shore Terrace
The Landing at Hoyt Park

More Best of Milwaukee 2019

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.

“Best of Milwaukee 2019” appears in the September 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning September 2, or buy a copy online.

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