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Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

22 Essential Charleston Bars

Drink it up

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The subtropical climate in the Lowcountry makes cold drinks a necessity, and while porches seem ideal for sipping, getting out every now and then is ideal. Whether it’s the need for craft beer, Bud Light, vintage wines, cheap hooch, or fancy cocktails, there's a bar in Charleston to suit everyone’s needs.

Find a new favorite or an old standby on this list of top spots to visit in the Holy City for a libation (or three).

This list goes through the standards for the scene. For the hot, new establishments check out the Cocktail Heatmap.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Stems and Skins

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1070 E Montague Ave
North Charleston, SC
(843) 805-4809
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Cozy wine bar Stems & Skins offers esoteric wines and a relaxed atmosphere in Park Circle. The friendly and super-knowledgeable staff helps navigate the hefty list of drink options, from wine to craft beer to vermouth to sherry to cocktails. Definitely take advantage of some of the small plates made on site — choices like grilled octopus and Iberico ham are perfect accompaniments to the quality beverages.

2. Edmund's Oast

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1081 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 727-1145
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Edmund’s Oast is technically a restaurant more than a bar, but the phenomenal cocktail list from bartender Jayce McConnell and the abundance of funky wines and hard-to-find beers on tap makes it worth a visit for patrons who don’t want to sit down for dinner — though, the food pairs perfectly with the alcohol offerings.

edmund’s

3. The Royal American

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970 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC
(843) 817-6925
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The Royal American could have easily opened as the Disney World of dive bars, as many were wary of their declarations of being a dive before day one, but they did a good job of making the place feel worn in and comfortable. The Royal American is now the place to go for giant cups of bourbon punch and exciting music acts.

4. Local 616

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616 Meeting St
Charleston, SC
(843) 414-7850
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Local 616 keeps the atmosphere casual, while also concentrating on specialty drinks and a menu of various mules (think Moscow Mule, but with different liquors). Owner Dwayne Mitchell created a bar where guests could catch a football game and have more selections than just draft beer. It's like visiting a friend's house, who happens to make delicious drinks.

5. Moe's Crosstown Tavern

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714 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC
(843) 722-3287
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Moe's Crosstown Tavern is an institution in Charleston. Most of the staff have worked at the joint for almost if not over a decade, and they always remember a friendly face. Moe’s a great selection of draft beers, amazing burgers, and a stick-to-your-ribs brunch.

Moe’s Crosstown Tavern

6. Faculty Lounge

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391 Huger St
Charleston, SC
(843) 723-1353

One look at the Faculty Lounge's Instagram account and you can probably figure out that this spot is a quirky bar — but in a good way. The hidden space hosts Beyonce nights and rotates DJs, and it experiments with mezcal and brandy cocktails, makes a mean Corpse Reviver #2, and offers discounted top shelf liquors at happy hour. Don't be intimidated by this cool kid on the block.

7. Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

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700b King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 718-3359
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Graft comes from advanced sommelier Femi Oyediran and sommelier and winery vet Miles White. Patrons expect interesting bottles and wines by the glass in a fun, hip hangout — maybe with LL Cool J or Prince on the speakers. It’s one part wine shop and one part chill bar. They took the stuffiness out of wine. Also, there’s always a killer pop-up or DJ party happening.

Graft WIne Bar
Jesse McCann

8. The Commodore

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504 Meeting St
Charleston, SC

Throwback bar The Commodore is like taking a trip back in time. The jazz club interiors remain the same as they were in the ‘80s. Most nights are full of a band on stage, and customers taking over the dance floor. There’s plenty of booths and lounge tables for those not wanting to bust a move.

Meeting Street Music Club Breathes New Life Into Vintage Digs

9. Tin Roof

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1117 Magnolia Rd
Charleston, SC
(843) 571-0775

Tin Roof is a magical kingdom of hipsters, music geeks, and food and beverage aficionados. The bartenders can make a classic cocktail, a frozen libation, or pop the top on a can of beer. Tin Roof brings in some of the best rock/rap/indie shows in the Lowcountry.

Tin Roof

10. Recovery Room

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685 King St
Charleston, SC
(843) 727-0999
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Recovery Room (Rec Room) is the grown-up's dive bar, thanks to its location away from Upper King kiddies and owner Chris "Boston" DiMattia's no nonsense attitude. Rec Room is the largest seller of PBR cans in the country. Go for the cheap beer and stay for the tater tot nachos.

11. Vintage Lounge

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545 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 818-4282
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Vintage Lounge is a golden haven for oenophiles and fondue fanatics. The bar is a sophisticated space where wine drinkers can duck out of the Upper King scene and enjoy a few glasses with snacks.

Vintage Lounge
Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

12. The Belmont

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Owner Mickey Moran set up The Belmont in 2010 and has seen his stretch of King Street change dramatically. Since he opened, Moran's block has been joined by big culinary names and hotels, but that hasn't affected what happens under the petite cocktail bar's pounded tin ceiling. It's still the same tavern that only allows 40 patrons in at a time, plays black and white favorites like Casablanca on mute and stocks some of the finest bottles in Charleston. The bartenders could make customers something different on every visit or remember which classics are their favorite.

13. The Cocktail Club

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479 King St
Charleston, SC
(843) 724-9411
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Find the tucked-away Cocktail Club early in the evening for contemplating beverages while relaxing in a cozy, leather-clad nook. Stop by closer to midnight to jostle between high-heeled ladies sipping Manhattans. This King Street bar can get a little rowdy, but it always keep the cocktails serious.

The Cocktail Club Erin Perkins

14. Proof Bar

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437 King St
Charleston, SC

Candlelit cocktail bar Proof offers interesting concoctions like the Pink Rabbit (Ancho Reyes, Hendrick's gin, house-made strawberry "Quick," and mole biters) and the Knuckle Ball (Old Grand Dad, cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts). Or owner Craig Nelson and the other bartenders are always quick with a suggestion. Proof is a great spot to meet friends or sit in the window solo and watch the parade of late-night patrons on King Street.

bar Provided

15. The Living Room

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334 Meeting St
Charleston, SC

Ultra chic hotel The Dewberry is a must stop for a drink in The Living Room. One of the most stunning settings around, the space replaces the traditional lobby. Expert bar manager Ryan Casey offers classics and his takes on classics, like the Panic Button with bourbon, Campari, Averna, Cherry Herring, and lemon. The cocktails are as stunning as the room.

Henrietta's and The Living Room

16. Cane Rhum Bar

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251 E Bay St
Charleston, SC
(843) 277-2764
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Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen wants guests to chill in an island atmosphere with a few rum drinks and chef Paul Yellin's island fare. Patrons can find boozy cocktails like the Instant Vacation and jumbo garlic prawns at the tropical restaurant.

cane bar Erin Perkins

17. The Gin Joint

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182 E Bay St
Charleston, SC
(843) 513-5264
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The Gin Joint opened as one of the first craft cocktail bars in Charleston, and they revamp their menu every season. This bar banned vodka upon opening in 2010, and if patrons aren't sure what they'd like to order, they can go with the "Bartender's Choice" and chose from a long list of adjectives, like "tart," "strong," and "fizzy," to describe the type of drink they'd like.

the gin joint Emma Humphries

18. Salty Mike's Deck Bar

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Affordable beers and idyllic views of the water? It may not be the hippest bar around, but Salty Mike's has its charms by way of wise-cracking bartenders, neon signs, and plenty of sea paraphernalia. The watering hole welcomes boaters, tourists, and college kids to mingle.

Salty Mike's Erin Perkins

19. The Griffon Pub

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18 Vendue Range
Charleston, SC
(843) 723-1700
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To say The Griffon is a tad grungy might be an understatement, but that doesn't mean the Lowcountry doesn't love it. The little dive bar near Waterfront Park started in 1996, which was also when the practice of stapling dollar bills to the wall began. The Griffon offers one of the best local draft beer selections on East Bay Street.

The Griffon

20. The Bar at Husk

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76 Queen St
Charleston, SC
(843) 577-2500
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With one of the largest selections of bourbon on the peninsula and antebellum punch — the Husk bar is a must visit for anyone wanting a one-of-a-kind Charleston experience. The little house next to the famed restaurant on Queen Street is home to some of the most thoughtful cocktails in the Lowcountry.

21. Bin 152

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152 King St
Charleston, SC
(843) 577-7359
Visit Website

Bin 152 is a wine lovers paradise. Filled with quaint antiques and interesting art, the space is comforting and inviting. The menu has a wide range of choices, from a glass of bubbly under $10, to bank-breaking bottles of rare vintages.

22. Seanachai

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3157 Maybank Hwy
Johns Island, SC

Johns Island bar Seanachai may look like a traditional Irish pub, but the drinks go far beyond pours of whiskey and beer. Owner Gerry Keiran visits the Farmers' Market every weekend (when in season) to draw inspiration for his ever-changing "cocktail of the week." The menu also lists classics next to newer creations for the more adventurous palate.

1. Stems and Skins

1070 E Montague Ave, North Charleston, SC

Cozy wine bar Stems & Skins offers esoteric wines and a relaxed atmosphere in Park Circle. The friendly and super-knowledgeable staff helps navigate the hefty list of drink options, from wine to craft beer to vermouth to sherry to cocktails. Definitely take advantage of some of the small plates made on site — choices like grilled octopus and Iberico ham are perfect accompaniments to the quality beverages.

1070 E Montague Ave
North Charleston, SC

2. Edmund's Oast

1081 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403
edmund’s

Edmund’s Oast is technically a restaurant more than a bar, but the phenomenal cocktail list from bartender Jayce McConnell and the abundance of funky wines and hard-to-find beers on tap makes it worth a visit for patrons who don’t want to sit down for dinner — though, the food pairs perfectly with the alcohol offerings.

1081 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC 29403

3. The Royal American

970 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC

The Royal American could have easily opened as the Disney World of dive bars, as many were wary of their declarations of being a dive before day one, but they did a good job of making the place feel worn in and comfortable. The Royal American is now the place to go for giant cups of bourbon punch and exciting music acts.

970 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC

4. Local 616

616 Meeting St, Charleston, SC

Local 616 keeps the atmosphere casual, while also concentrating on specialty drinks and a menu of various mules (think Moscow Mule, but with different liquors). Owner Dwayne Mitchell created a bar where guests could catch a football game and have more selections than just draft beer. It's like visiting a friend's house, who happens to make delicious drinks.

616 Meeting St
Charleston, SC

5. Moe's Crosstown Tavern

714 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC
Moe’s Crosstown Tavern

Moe's Crosstown Tavern is an institution in Charleston. Most of the staff have worked at the joint for almost if not over a decade, and they always remember a friendly face. Moe’s a great selection of draft beers, amazing burgers, and a stick-to-your-ribs brunch.

714 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC

6. Faculty Lounge

391 Huger St, Charleston, SC

One look at the Faculty Lounge's Instagram account and you can probably figure out that this spot is a quirky bar — but in a good way. The hidden space hosts Beyonce nights and rotates DJs, and it experiments with mezcal and brandy cocktails, makes a mean Corpse Reviver #2, and offers discounted top shelf liquors at happy hour. Don't be intimidated by this cool kid on the block.

391 Huger St
Charleston, SC

7. Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

700b King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Graft WIne Bar
Jesse McCann

Graft comes from advanced sommelier Femi Oyediran and sommelier and winery vet Miles White. Patrons expect interesting bottles and wines by the glass in a fun, hip hangout — maybe with LL Cool J or Prince on the speakers. It’s one part wine shop and one part chill bar. They took the stuffiness out of wine. Also, there’s always a killer pop-up or DJ party happening.

700b King St
Charleston, SC 29403

8. The Commodore

504 Meeting St, Charleston, SC
Meeting Street Music Club Breathes New Life Into Vintage Digs

Throwback bar The Commodore is like taking a trip back in time. The jazz club interiors remain the same as they were in the ‘80s. Most nights are full of a band on stage, and customers taking over the dance floor. There’s plenty of booths and lounge tables for those not wanting to bust a move.

504 Meeting St
Charleston, SC

9. Tin Roof

1117 Magnolia Rd, Charleston, SC
Tin Roof

Tin Roof is a magical kingdom of hipsters, music geeks, and food and beverage aficionados. The bartenders can make a classic cocktail, a frozen libation, or pop the top on a can of beer. Tin Roof brings in some of the best rock/rap/indie shows in the Lowcountry.

1117 Magnolia Rd
Charleston, SC

10. Recovery Room

685 King St, Charleston, SC

Recovery Room (Rec Room) is the grown-up's dive bar, thanks to its location away from Upper King kiddies and owner Chris "Boston" DiMattia's no nonsense attitude. Rec Room is the largest seller of PBR cans in the country. Go for the cheap beer and stay for the tater tot nachos.

685 King St
Charleston, SC

11. Vintage Lounge

545 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Vintage Lounge
Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

Vintage Lounge is a golden haven for oenophiles and fondue fanatics. The bar is a sophisticated space where wine drinkers can duck out of the Upper King scene and enjoy a few glasses with snacks.

545 King St
Charleston, SC 29403

12. The Belmont

Charleston, SC

Owner Mickey Moran set up The Belmont in 2010 and has seen his stretch of King Street change dramatically. Since he opened, Moran's block has been joined by big culinary names and hotels, but that hasn't affected what happens under the petite cocktail bar's pounded tin ceiling. It's still the same tavern that only allows 40 patrons in at a time, plays black and white favorites like Casablanca on mute and stocks some of the finest bottles in Charleston. The bartenders could make customers something different on every visit or remember which classics are their favorite.

13. The Cocktail Club

479 King St, Charleston, SC
The Cocktail Club Erin Perkins

Find the tucked-away Cocktail Club early in the evening for contemplating beverages while relaxing in a cozy, leather-clad nook. Stop by closer to midnight to jostle between high-heeled ladies sipping Manhattans. This King Street bar can get a little rowdy, but it always keep the cocktails serious.

479 King St
Charleston, SC

14. Proof Bar

437 King St, Charleston, SC
bar Provided

Candlelit cocktail bar Proof offers interesting concoctions like the Pink Rabbit (Ancho Reyes, Hendrick's gin, house-made strawberry "Quick," and mole biters) and the Knuckle Ball (Old Grand Dad, cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts). Or owner Craig Nelson and the other bartenders are always quick with a suggestion. Proof is a great spot to meet friends or sit in the window solo and watch the parade of late-night patrons on King Street.

437 King St
Charleston, SC

15. The Living Room

334 Meeting St, Charleston, SC
Henrietta's and The Living Room

Ultra chic hotel The Dewberry is a must stop for a drink in The Living Room. One of the most stunning settings around, the space replaces the traditional lobby. Expert bar manager Ryan Casey offers classics and his takes on classics, like the Panic Button with bourbon, Campari, Averna, Cherry Herring, and lemon. The cocktails are as stunning as the room.

334 Meeting St
Charleston, SC

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16. Cane Rhum Bar

251 E Bay St, Charleston, SC
cane bar Erin Perkins

Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen wants guests to chill in an island atmosphere with a few rum drinks and chef Paul Yellin's island fare. Patrons can find boozy cocktails like the Instant Vacation and jumbo garlic prawns at the tropical restaurant.

251 E Bay St
Charleston, SC

17. The Gin Joint

182 E Bay St, Charleston, SC
the gin joint Emma Humphries

The Gin Joint opened as one of the first craft cocktail bars in Charleston, and they revamp their menu every season. This bar banned vodka upon opening in 2010, and if patrons aren't sure what they'd like to order, they can go with the "Bartender's Choice" and chose from a long list of adjectives, like "tart," "strong," and "fizzy," to describe the type of drink they'd like.

182 E Bay St
Charleston, SC

18. Salty Mike's Deck Bar

Charleston, SC
Salty Mike's Erin Perkins

Affordable beers and idyllic views of the water? It may not be the hippest bar around, but Salty Mike's has its charms by way of wise-cracking bartenders, neon signs, and plenty of sea paraphernalia. The watering hole welcomes boaters, tourists, and college kids to mingle.

19. The Griffon Pub

18 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC
The Griffon

To say The Griffon is a tad grungy might be an understatement, but that doesn't mean the Lowcountry doesn't love it. The little dive bar near Waterfront Park started in 1996, which was also when the practice of stapling dollar bills to the wall began. The Griffon offers one of the best local draft beer selections on East Bay Street.

18 Vendue Range
Charleston, SC

20. The Bar at Husk

76 Queen St, Charleston, SC

With one of the largest selections of bourbon on the peninsula and antebellum punch — the Husk bar is a must visit for anyone wanting a one-of-a-kind Charleston experience. The little house next to the famed restaurant on Queen Street is home to some of the most thoughtful cocktails in the Lowcountry.

76 Queen St
Charleston, SC

21. Bin 152

152 King St, Charleston, SC

Bin 152 is a wine lovers paradise. Filled with quaint antiques and interesting art, the space is comforting and inviting. The menu has a wide range of choices, from a glass of bubbly under $10, to bank-breaking bottles of rare vintages.

152 King St
Charleston, SC

22. Seanachai

3157 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC

Johns Island bar Seanachai may look like a traditional Irish pub, but the drinks go far beyond pours of whiskey and beer. Owner Gerry Keiran visits the Farmers' Market every weekend (when in season) to draw inspiration for his ever-changing "cocktail of the week." The menu also lists classics next to newer creations for the more adventurous palate.

3157 Maybank Hwy
Johns Island, SC

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