All photos by Devon Trevathan except where indicated
Nashville’s bar scene may conjure images of bachelorettes on Broadway and the five-story honky tonks they wander into, but that is just a fraction of what this city has to offer. While those two particular phenomenons do tend to draw a crowd, there are pockets in this town that would impress even the most discerning drinks enthusiast. So, without further ado, I present to you some of Nashville’s quintessential bars and watering holes.
The Green Hour
Starting out with a bang, we have the Green Hour. By day, the storefront is a chocolate shop, but at night (from Thursday through Saturday) it transforms into an absinthe and cocktail bar. If it’s not too busy, asking bar manager Jeremiah Blake to whip you up something special is always a good move. Claustrophobes beware: this diminutive shop can get a bit crowded.
12501 5th Ave. North
615.454.5432Pat Halloran (L) at Henrietta Red
Situated just one block away from the Green Hour, Henrietta Red is the seafood spot that has quickly come to be considered one of Nashville’s best new restaurants. This is in no small part due to the excellent bar program headed up by Pat Halloran, former Bar Manager for The Patterson House (see below). Henrietta Red offers a dynamic drinks menu and takes pride in a specialized form of beverage that’s often overlooked by the regular spirits consumer. “We’ve had over 87 different varieties of Jello shot [since opening], all based on classic cocktails,” says Halloran.
1200 4th Ave North
615.490.8042Negroni jello shot at Henrietta Red
The Patterson House
This one is a bit of a no-brainer; it is, after all, the standard response whenever anyone inquires about the best cocktail bar to visit in Nashville. The Patterson House operates speakeasy-style, which means that you won’t find a sign on the building out front indicating its existence. When you go inside, you’ll be greeted by a host standing in front of a velvet curtain. If they have room, they’ll seat you right away, otherwise, you’ll have to wait.
1711 Division St.
The second iteration of the eponymous New York staple opened by Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy is where eager patrons can find a treasure trove of enjoyable spirits. Their bartenders are knowledgeable and precise, a practice that managing partner Brandon Bramhall says is a purposeful choice. They certainly have an eye for the adventurous when serving up their concoctions, but all eccentricities are rooted in a complete understanding of the cocktail classics. And this one at least has signage out front.
8 McFerrin Ave
no phonephoto by Laura Peek
This is an obvious deviation from the spots listed above, but it deserves mentioning. Santa’s Pub is a cash-only beer bar situated inside a double-wide trailer that is decked out in Christmas finery year-round. A big man with a white beard called “Santa” is the proprietor, and there’s a house band appropriately dubbed Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers that plays every Sunday night. If an expletive-free karaoke bar that’s attracted the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Mumford & Sons doesn’t sound like a good time to you, then stay away. To everyone else who’s got the courage to jump on stage, I wish you good luck! The mic’s warm seven days a week.
2225 Bransford Ave