First, the standard for all upscale cocktail bars in Memphis, and perhaps the south, is the Peabody Lobby Bar. The grand hotel is the home of the world-famous ducks in the fountain, and it’s our must-do cocktail place every time we are in Memphis. The Manhattan is one of the best we’ve had. (They make it with Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel – accept no substitutes!) The wine selection is excellent. And the people watching is superb! This is our #tipsypick for Memphis without a doubt.
That said, there are lots of other great cocktail options in the Bluff City!
For example, you only have to walk across the street from the Peabody and down the alley to find Belle Tavern. They were closed for most of the pandemic, but thankfully have opened back up again with new owners! Belle has a great laid-back atmosphere and some excellent bourbon drinks, along with an impressive bourbon list. Another #tipsypick for sure.
On Beale Street, most of the establishments are geared toward live music and big beers, as they should be! Especially when you can grab one for take out and stroll along the street with it. But if you’re looking for something a little bit fancy with great cocktails, head #offthetipsypath and up a discreet staircase to Itta Bena! This fine dining restaurant is on the top floor above B.B. King’s Blues Club at the edge of the entertainment district. Their Sazerac is one of the best in the city. The views of Beale from above are worth it too.
If we’re talking about hidden and #offthetipsypath, there are in fact a couple of speakeasy type bars in downtown Memphis. The first is Tailor’s Union. If you’re walking past the storefront here, you’ll see what looks like a typical tailor’s shop complete with mirrors and mannequins. But if you enter and go behind the mirror, you find a swanky bar with seating and excellent cocktails. They even have a private jazz club downstairs (for members only).
The next closest thing to a speakeasy downtown is Blind Bear. It’s an unassuming storefront on Main Street that leads to a bar and restaurant we’d best describe as a tavern with a speakeasy vibe – think lots of dark wood and velvet. Their drinks are solid, including a Manhattan and Old Fashioned, and the food is good too!
Memphis has some pretty great hotel bars (you know we like those) aside from the Peabody. If you just want good cocktails in a historic hip space, then Eight and Sand is the place. This is basically the lobby bar for the Central Station hotel, and it is indeed inside the lobby of the old Grand Central train station. Among the updates is an entire wall of vinyl records, which are played by a live DJ most nights. There’s also a “listening room” off the lobby if you want some private time with your tunes. The cocktails are excellent – including one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails in town. If you like haunted dive bars, go next door and check out Earnestine and Hazel’s!
The best hotel newcomer #tipsypick probably goes to Talk Shop, which is the lobby bar inside the new Caption Hotel by Hyatt. Their specialty cocktail is called “Mix it up” – you pick the booze, the flavor and the mixer. They put it all in a cool glass with a metal straw! Their Manhattan is no slouch either. Next door at the Hyatt Centric, they have a fantastic rooftop bar with a view of the river called Beck & Call. Don’t forget the Clover Club, which is the restaurant and bar at the Hotel Indigo. They have live music in the underground space. And if you head over to Midtown, the Memphian Hotel has a fantastic rooftop bar called the Tiger & Peacock.
Before we leave downtown, have you ever been someplace and felt like you need a reality check to make sure you’re still where you think you are? That’s what it’s like stepping into Loflin Yard. This outdoor oasis on the South Side is unlike anything else in Memphis. They took an old blacksmith shop and stables and turned it into one of the coolest spaces in town. Well, it’s not so “cool” in the Memphis heat, but they do have giant fans running most of the time! They have excellent cocktails, including an Old Fashioned and Sazerac, and great food. The brisket tacos are life changing. For a similar vibe in midtown, check out Railgarten.
We would also be slacking if we didn’t mention a few others on our list. Café Pontotoc is on South Main. They have a cool vibe, great food and excellent cocktails. Barware is on South Front Street. They’re laid back and out of the way, but with great cocktails too. Just down the street is Gray Canary. They’re mainly a restaurant, but all we can say is share a punch bowl for date night. You’ll thank us. And if you’re in midtown, Alchemy is highly rated with solid drinks and food.
And finally, it doesn’t get much more #offthetipsypath than a cool cocktail bar tucked away in the middle of a giant complex that used to be a Sears Catalog warehouse. That’s Art Bar in a nutshell. But it’s absolutely worth seeking out if you’re in midtown. Art Bar is part of the Crosstown Arts section of the Crosstown Concourse complex. You can’t get a much cooler space to kick back in than that. The entire space is full of selfies waiting to happen! Grab a drink and settle into a corner.
Best all around – Peabody Lobby Bar
Best tavern – Belle Tavern
Best outdoor space – Loflin Yard
Best indoor space – Art Bar
Best newcomer – Talk Shop
Best dive bar – Earnestine & Hazel’s