Enter the Best Drinking Cities in America, where cocktails flow like poetry and each sip tells a tale. This trip examines the diverse fabric of American drinking culture, from the trendy cocktail clubs of New York City to the craft beer havens of Portland. Discover the modern mixology that characterizes San Francisco’s vibrant scene and the soulful jazz notes that reverberate through New Orleans’ historic establishments. These destinations entice beer lovers, wine connoisseurs, and cocktail enthusiasts alike with the promise of great toasts and companionship. Come toast with us to the locations where the spirit of celebration and the art of excess collide. Let’s toast to the Best Drinking Cities, where each sip serves as a ticket to an exciting culinary journey!
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is known for drinking, and it’s home to some of the oldest bars in the nation. From the annual Mardis Gras celebration to the Las Vegas-esque open container law, the party town is a great place to go bar hopping. It’s a city that never sleeps, with many 24/7 bars to help you keep the party going at all hours of the night (or morning). When you wake up with the inevitable hangover, at whatever time of day, you can find great hangover food all over town – soak up the booze with some beignets and coffee in the morning or greasy po’ boys if you’re looking for something more savory.
If you’re looking for a good craft beer in a bustling downtown, Portland’s got you covered. The city boasts a wide array of nightlife options, from open mic nights to karaoke to speakeasies to rooftop bars. They have happy hour options 7 days a week, so you can enjoy the grungy downtown at a discounted price no matter when you make your trip. Each of the city’s five neighborhoods—Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and North Portland—has its own vibe, so there’s a spot in town for everyone to feel at home and have a good time. Whether you’re looking for a classy champagne toast or a hipster local brewery, you’ll find what you like in Portland.
Asheville, North Carolina
When you think of North Carolina, you probably think of beautiful nature scenery, serene waterfront views, and Nicholas Sparks novels. What many people don’t realize is that you can find surprisingly vibrant nightlife in towns like Asheville. The historic downtown is full of beautiful brick buildings and lush green trees, and the city has been dubbed “Beer City USA” by Examiner.com multiple times. You can find local taprooms and wine bars, live music venues, and late-night hot spots throughout downtown Asheville. The city also offers rooftop bar tours if you’re looking for a little bit of a more organized bar hop, or you can find your way around by yourself to get a taste of the local culture.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and drinking is no exception. Austin, which is notoriously “weird,” has been named one of America’s booziest cities and the drunkest city in Texas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Austin had a 22.3 percent excessive drinking rate in 2017. If you’re looking to get drunk in Austin, Sixth Street is the best place to highlight the city’s lively drinking culture. You can find breweries and beer gardens with dog-friendly patios, smoky dive bars with jukeboxes and classic drinks, upscale rooftop bars with champagne and overpriced cocktails, and everything in between.
The high-rise skyline along the Chicago river is a beautiful backdrop for a drink or two, whether you’re in town for vacation or just looking to grab a drink after work. Back in 2013, GQ named Chicago the Greatest Drinking City in America and it’s also on the list of America’s drunkest cities. You can even get cocktails to-go, at least for another couple of years. If you’re looking to go out drinking in Chicago, look for some rooftop bars. The tall buildings and the waterfront views are to die for.
New York, New York
New York City is one of the most famous cities in the world. It’s famous for a lot of things: Broadway musicals, tightly-packed skyscrapers, trash on the streets, rats in the subway. More importantly, thanks to beloved New Yorker Frank Sinatra, it’s known as The City That Never Sleeps. That’s the kind of nickname you can only earn with a second-to-none nightlife scene. When you go to New York, you can find something for everyone. The best way to do it is to break it down by neighborhoods – find the neighborhood with the vibe you’re looking for, and start there. Then break out of your comfort zone and venture into some others if you’re feeling up for it. Thanks to the city’s subway system and yellow cabs, you won’t even need a DD.
Cleveland is a true midwestern gem, with a beautiful skyline right along Lake Erie. It provides a fun environment for families during the day and offers exciting nightlife activities as well. Cleveland has multiple neighborhoods, but Ohio City is the best for drinking. The walkable, transit-connected area is full of great restaurants and bars that are great for bar-hopping. There are tons of breweries for anyone looking to hang out on the patio and drink some local beer, or some high-end eateries for anyone looking for a date night or just a classy night out.
Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers got their name for a reason – this midwestern town is known for its breweries. The Milwaukee brewing industry began with Schlitz Lager in the early 1840s and has continued since. Some of the most iconic American beer brands started in Milwaukee, including Pabst Brewing Company (Pabst Blue Ribbon), Miller Brewing Company (Miller High Life, Miller Lite), and Molson Coors (Coors, Coors Lite). So if you’re a beer drinker, Milwaukee is a great place to explore a variety of breweries, for the big-name beers and smaller local brews as well.
The Founding Fathers used to get drunk in Philadelphia, and now you can follow in their footsteps. If you want the Founding Fathers’ experience, check out City Tavern. Built in 1770, City Tavern is where George Washington met John Adams. It also hosted Ben Franklin as a regular customer. If you’re looking for a more modern scene, Philadelphia has tons of newer bars, nightclubs, dance clubs, ice bars, dive bars, and more. You can find something to do all night long, and you won’t have to stop for the British.
Pittsburgh is a great spot for drinking. The South Side is great for bar hopping and Shadyside and Lawrenceville have great craft cocktails. The city also has a collection of enviable rooftop bars and dive bars, depending on what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for. Pittsburgh is located in Allegheny County, which was ranked No. 1 for highest alcohol sales in the state in 2021, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
San Francisco, California
Drunk people across the country utilize Uber to get home safely after a night out, but did you know the popular rideshare company started in San Francisco? Founder Garrett Camp started the company as a solution for anyone who needed a ride after the public transit stopped running and cabs were hard to find. The Online Betting Guide in the United Kingdom ranked San Francisco as the second most heavily-drinking city in America, second only to Denver. There are plenty of spots to get a drink, and you can even walk home if you don’t want to splurge on an Uber. But be careful—those famously steep hills can be tricky to navigate if you’ve had a few too many.
Like many of the other cities on this list, Washington D.C. has found itself on the list of the drunkest cities in the country. And it isn’t too hard to believe – politics can drive just about anyone to drink, at least once in a while. The fun thing about drinking in D.C. is the city’s rich history and the irony of enjoying a drink where monumental historical events took place. For example, the house where John Wilkes Booth plotted Abraham Lincoln’s murder is now part of the city’s Chinatown. The location is now a karaoke bar and Chinese-Japanese restaurant called Wok n’ Roll. You just can’t find an experience like that anywhere else.
This music-rich southern town has a nightlife that rivals some of its bigger city competitors. Downtown Atlanta has plenty of breweries and beer gardens, upscale date night spots, whiskey bars, live music venues, and more. The Atlanta visitor’s guide breaks the city into neighborhoods, with different nightlife offerings at each. Downtown After Dark, Bar-Hoppin’ in Buckhead, Trendy in Midtown, Westside Bars & Breweries, and Game On in Eastside are all fantastic bars with a wide variety of menu offerings. There’s something for everyone in Atlanta.