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A man holding a tray of fancy cocktails.
Cocktails at the Living Room at the Dewberry.
Andrew Cebulka

15 Essential Charleston Bars for Cocktails, Beer, Wine

Drink it up

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Cocktails at the Living Room at the Dewberry.
| Andrew Cebulka

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. For more grungy establishments check out the top 10 dive bars in Charleston.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Stems and Skins

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Cozy wine bar Stems & Skins offers incredible bottles 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.

table and chairs.
The room at Stems & Skins.
Erin Perkins

Edmund's Oast

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Edmund’s Oast is technically a restaurant more than a bar, but the phenomenal cocktail list from former beverage director 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.

The Royal American

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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 the team 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.

red couches and chairs.
Seating area at the Royal American.
The Royal American

Faculty Lounge

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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.

Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

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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

The Commodore

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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.

Babas on Cannon

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Step off the crowded sidewalks of King Street and find quaint spot Babas on Cannon. It’s like a European cafe with coffee and sandwiches during the day and cocktails and nibbles during the evening. All the boozy drinks, like the highly recommended gin and tonic, come with a side of potato chips and olives, which usually leads to order a second round.

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.

Proof Bar

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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

The Living Room

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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. The menu offers classics and unique takes on classics, like the Panic Button with bourbon, Campari, Averna, Cherry Herring, and lemon. The cocktails are as stunning as the room. For some rooftop action, head upstairs the hotel’s second bar the Citrus Club.

Doar Bros.

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Meeting Street bar Doar Bros. is a cozy cocktail lounge in a sea of tourist-y spots. The menu offers most of the classics, but take a look at the modern side for drinks like the Burnt District with mezcal, spiced pineapple shrub, lime, and black walnut bitters. The brown butter popcorn with truffle makes for a good companion to any of the drinks.

The Gin Joint

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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

The Griffon Pub

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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

Bar George

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It’s always a party at Bar George. The Peruvian chicken and oyster are fun, but don’t overlook the cocktail menu. There’s a spicy margarita with togarashi, a pumpkin spice pain killer, and a dirty martini with yuzu and jalapeno. The unexpected combos are what sells this bar.

pinball machines and a bar
Ba George
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Seanachai

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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.

Stems and Skins

table and chairs.
The room at Stems & Skins.
Erin Perkins

Cozy wine bar Stems & Skins offers incredible bottles 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.

table and chairs.
The room at Stems & Skins.
Erin Perkins

Edmund's Oast

Edmund’s Oast is technically a restaurant more than a bar, but the phenomenal cocktail list from former beverage director 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.

The Royal American

red couches and chairs.
Seating area at the Royal American.
The Royal American

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 the team 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.

red couches and chairs.
Seating area at the Royal American.
The Royal American

Faculty Lounge

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.

Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

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.

Graft WIne Bar
Jesse McCann

The Commodore

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.

Babas on Cannon

Step off the crowded sidewalks of King Street and find quaint spot Babas on Cannon. It’s like a European cafe with coffee and sandwiches during the day and cocktails and nibbles during the evening. All the boozy drinks, like the highly recommended gin and tonic, come with a side of potato chips and olives, which usually leads to order a second round.

The Belmont

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.

Proof Bar

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.

bar Provided

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. The menu offers classics and unique takes on classics, like the Panic Button with bourbon, Campari, Averna, Cherry Herring, and lemon. The cocktails are as stunning as the room. For some rooftop action, head upstairs the hotel’s second bar the Citrus Club.

Doar Bros.

Meeting Street bar Doar Bros. is a cozy cocktail lounge in a sea of tourist-y spots. The menu offers most of the classics, but take a look at the modern side for drinks like the Burnt District with mezcal, spiced pineapple shrub, lime, and black walnut bitters. The brown butter popcorn with truffle makes for a good companion to any of the drinks.

The Gin Joint

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.

the gin joint Emma Humphries

The Griffon Pub

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.

The Griffon

Bar George

pinball machines and a bar
Ba George
Leslie Ryann McKellar

It’s always a party at Bar George. The Peruvian chicken and oyster are fun, but don’t overlook the cocktail menu. There’s a spicy margarita with togarashi, a pumpkin spice pain killer, and a dirty martini with yuzu and jalapeno. The unexpected combos are what sells this bar.

pinball machines and a bar
Ba George
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Seanachai

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.

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