Answers from Our Experts (3)
I love ordering a martini at the Oak Bar [at The Hermitage Hotel]. There are people that live here and people that are traveling, too. It’s a great place to people watch, and it’s not pretentious. It looks like the people have worked there forever; they have a little maturity, and it kind of makes me feel like I’m not in Nashville. And I do like the new Rumours wine bar downtown — sitting outside with a big glass of red wine at night is great.
I love The Patterson House on Sunday nights because it’s slow and they make great cocktails. I know many of the bartenders at The Patterson House and tend to trust their judgment on choosing my libation. There is one drink, The Clapless Belle, created by our friend Matt Tocco (former Rolf and Daughters bar manager) that is an amazing go-to. It’s not on the menu, but it can be made upon request.
And I also really like the bar at Merchants Restaurant because I think the room is incredible. It’s a great space and there aren’t a whole lot of places you’d want to hang out downtown. Restaurant folks tend to end up at No. 308 because you can get everything from an ice cold Miller High Life to a well-crafted cocktail. And they are open late, which means a lot of us who don’t get off work until well after midnight, have a place to go.
I also like Dino’s Bar & Grill because you can get a burger, and it can either be low-key or you can see an instrumental hip-hop show there. And I like The Gold Rush for wings on Saturday night. Nashville is really good at the dive bar thing. And it’s also really good at a more cocktail-oriented bar.
In recent years, Nashville has certainly upped the ante when it comes to places to get a good drink. If you're not looking for the "honky tonk" experience, that's probably for the best. Though there are plenty of great bars to choose from, here are my five favorites (and where you'll find the locals):
1. Bar No. 308. This East Nashville establishment is owned by husband and wife duo Ben Clemons and Alexis Soler, a pair of longtime bar professionals who fell in love at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in 2009. Though they'd tended bars separately in Miami and New York City, Ben and Alexis quickly found a home in Nashville, where they felt committed to opening a utilitarian bar that employs quality ingredients and a whole lot of cozy atmosphere. If you're looking for a little fun, ask for the "Big Woo."
2. 12 South Taproom. On any given weeknight, crowds of Nashville locals post up at the Taproom for happy hour, where 2-for-1 specials make this beer garden a regular stop. If you're interested in craft brews, the Taproom has all the local flavors, as well as a long list of imports on draft and bottled. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and isn't offended to offer descriptions and suggestions to beer novices. Go early if you're looking for a table—it's first come first served, and people like to stick around.
3. Patterson House. This bar has probably garnered most national attention—and rightly so. A speakeasy with highly-trained bar tenders who stir and shake and serve up boozy delights, Patterson House is a must-see on any trip to Nashville. Prepare to pay a pretty penny for each drink, but here, it's all about the experience. The small lounge is separated from the outside world with large velvety curtains and seats only a few dozen people at a time under large crystal chandeliers surrounded by shelves of vintage books. You'll feel like you stepped into the 1920s... and the drinks are good, too.
4. Rumours East or Rumours Wine Bar. These two spots are owned by different people but share the same name, and since they both keep a long list of delicious wines and craft cocktails—I just couldn't decide. On the East side, enjoy the outdoor patio complete with porch swings and twinkle lights while you sip on your choice vintage—or, if you're closer downtown, stop into the newly opened Rumours for a pour. Either way, you'll enjoy impeccable service, and if you're hungry, the menu is pretty stellar, too.
5. Oak Bar. Located downstairs from renowned Nashville restuarant The Capital Grille, Oak Bar offers unparalleled expertise on the spirits of the south: bourbon, rye, and whiskey. Here, you'll want to stick to the basics: Old fashioneds, Manhattans, or a classic mint julep. The old Hermitage Hotel bar has a rich history and is so dark and intimate, you may never want to leave. But then again, if you're staying at the hotel, you may not have to.