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The bar at Smoked.
Smoked

9 Enticing Stops to Sip Cocktails in Columbia, South Carolina

Rooftop bars and bourbon-heavy menus round out the Cola drinking scene

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The bar at Smoked.
| Smoked

Columbia, South Carolina, is a fun place to drink cocktails, and like many capital cities, a mix of government types, visitors, and tourists add to the fabric of who’s in town on any given weekday. A significant number of creative drink menus support an audience thirsty to imbibe, from cocktail bars to independent restaurants.

Happy hour is a great time to be out and about in Cola and a concentration of spots in the Main Street district make it simple to bar hop, but it’s worth venturing away from the shadow of the Capitol’s dome too, specifically to restaurants pairing cocktails with seasonal menus.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The bar at Terra shines under the watchful eye of general manager Matt Catchpole, a cocktail pundit in his own right. Regulars fill the bar at the neighborhood bistro in trendy West Columbia for well-executed classics and seasonal sips constructed with housemade cordials and local ingredients. Dinner fish specials are often caught by chef Mike Davis and the lamb mac has never left the menu.

The War Mouth

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It’s advised to try several cocktails at once at the War Mouth. Bar Manager David Adedokun plans them as a group each season based on what’s inspiring him from Midland farms and far off travels. The barbecue-leaning restaurant is an anchor in historic Earlewood with delicious iterations of hash and rice and deviled eggs. Punchy decor and indoor/outdoor seating make the War Mouth a worthy destination. 

Coa Agaveria y Cocina

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Hundreds of tequilas, including family-farmed mezcal, have found their way to the bar at Coa Agaveria. The margarita list alone makes a stop here fun but additional cocktails, featuring seasonal ingredients, rotate every few months. Interiors are attractively moody and punctuate a menu filled with sopes, pozole, ceviche, dobladitas, and tamales.

Motor Supply Company Bistro

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The bar at Motor Supply Co. Bistro may only have six seats, but it boasts a few hundred bottles packed onto the back wall to match the seasonal fare by chef Wes Fulmer. Motor, as locals call it, carries a long tradition for craft cocktails in the Vista neighborhood, and features drink rotations every few weeks. A running partnership with Russell’s Reserve/Wild Turkey means there’s always a special bourbon cocktail to be ordered.

The newest addition to Main Street is Smoked. Its play on smoked meats and seafood covers a lot of ground with a 30-seat main bar, a back bar that opens onto a stylish patio, a U-shaped oyster bar, and a basement-level speakeasy. An onsite brewery shares space with a cocktail menu that leans a bit towards rum drinks, garnished with house-made items like lava salt dipped in dried citrus.

Hendrix Restaurant

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Hendrix is upstairs, and its rooftop bar is another floor up, but the bourbon selection at the bar (and cocktails on the roof) make the step count worthwhile. Chef Frank Bradley is in the kitchen at Hendrix after years at Bourbon. His plates continue to be centered on what’s produced in the Midlands, from field peas to quail, and pair well cocktails made with hand-squeezed juice and housemade shrubs.

Lula Drake Wine Parlour

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Main Street wine bar Lula Drake, under the direction of sommelier and owner Tim Gardner, has quietly added spirits and fortified sips. He designed the curatives menu to be enjoyed before or after wine, composed of classic cocktails, spritzes, vermouth, and a list of vintage D’Oliveira madeira. Small plates are meant to complement drinking, like a house cacio e pepe made with ricotta gnudi and topped with sliced Iberico.

Bourbon

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Bourbon sits steps away from the capital and is known for its whiskey and bourbon stock, which numbers in the hundreds, collected by proprietor Kristian Niemi. Seasonal cocktails, many created by mixologist Kat Hunter, are boozy and balanced with rounded, melty layers. An annual Tiki Week in July spans 14 days, and the restaurant and its adjoining second bar go all out with decor and a menu that is planned year-round.

Chef Javier Uriarte opened his restaurant Ratio after turns in the kitchen of Motor Supply Co. and Hendrix. Ratio may be outside of downtown, but his Peruvian fare and pisco-leaning cocktail menu attracts diners nonetheless. Grant McCloskey is behind the bar and produces striking cocktails to pair with Uriarte’s shareable plates. Look for cocktail dinners and pisco tastings here.

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Terra

The bar at Terra shines under the watchful eye of general manager Matt Catchpole, a cocktail pundit in his own right. Regulars fill the bar at the neighborhood bistro in trendy West Columbia for well-executed classics and seasonal sips constructed with housemade cordials and local ingredients. Dinner fish specials are often caught by chef Mike Davis and the lamb mac has never left the menu.

The War Mouth

It’s advised to try several cocktails at once at the War Mouth. Bar Manager David Adedokun plans them as a group each season based on what’s inspiring him from Midland farms and far off travels. The barbecue-leaning restaurant is an anchor in historic Earlewood with delicious iterations of hash and rice and deviled eggs. Punchy decor and indoor/outdoor seating make the War Mouth a worthy destination. 

Coa Agaveria y Cocina

Hundreds of tequilas, including family-farmed mezcal, have found their way to the bar at Coa Agaveria. The margarita list alone makes a stop here fun but additional cocktails, featuring seasonal ingredients, rotate every few months. Interiors are attractively moody and punctuate a menu filled with sopes, pozole, ceviche, dobladitas, and tamales.

Motor Supply Company Bistro

The bar at Motor Supply Co. Bistro may only have six seats, but it boasts a few hundred bottles packed onto the back wall to match the seasonal fare by chef Wes Fulmer. Motor, as locals call it, carries a long tradition for craft cocktails in the Vista neighborhood, and features drink rotations every few weeks. A running partnership with Russell’s Reserve/Wild Turkey means there’s always a special bourbon cocktail to be ordered.

Smoked

The newest addition to Main Street is Smoked. Its play on smoked meats and seafood covers a lot of ground with a 30-seat main bar, a back bar that opens onto a stylish patio, a U-shaped oyster bar, and a basement-level speakeasy. An onsite brewery shares space with a cocktail menu that leans a bit towards rum drinks, garnished with house-made items like lava salt dipped in dried citrus.

Hendrix Restaurant

Hendrix is upstairs, and its rooftop bar is another floor up, but the bourbon selection at the bar (and cocktails on the roof) make the step count worthwhile. Chef Frank Bradley is in the kitchen at Hendrix after years at Bourbon. His plates continue to be centered on what’s produced in the Midlands, from field peas to quail, and pair well cocktails made with hand-squeezed juice and housemade shrubs.

Lula Drake Wine Parlour

Main Street wine bar Lula Drake, under the direction of sommelier and owner Tim Gardner, has quietly added spirits and fortified sips. He designed the curatives menu to be enjoyed before or after wine, composed of classic cocktails, spritzes, vermouth, and a list of vintage D’Oliveira madeira. Small plates are meant to complement drinking, like a house cacio e pepe made with ricotta gnudi and topped with sliced Iberico.

Bourbon

Bourbon sits steps away from the capital and is known for its whiskey and bourbon stock, which numbers in the hundreds, collected by proprietor Kristian Niemi. Seasonal cocktails, many created by mixologist Kat Hunter, are boozy and balanced with rounded, melty layers. An annual Tiki Week in July spans 14 days, and the restaurant and its adjoining second bar go all out with decor and a menu that is planned year-round.

Ratio

Chef Javier Uriarte opened his restaurant Ratio after turns in the kitchen of Motor Supply Co. and Hendrix. Ratio may be outside of downtown, but his Peruvian fare and pisco-leaning cocktail menu attracts diners nonetheless. Grant McCloskey is behind the bar and produces striking cocktails to pair with Uriarte’s shareable plates. Look for cocktail dinners and pisco tastings here.

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