What makes a great bar?
It isn’t just the booze or the bartenders, although they’re both factors, of course. A bar’s greatness seems to rest mostly on that ineffable joie de boire — it makes you happy to be out drinking; it makes you want to have another, even when you shouldn’t. It is not, I’d hazard, something that can be quantified.
If you move to St. Louis from a more abstemious city, you might find yourself absolutely floored by how many great bars we have here. Within our astonishing variety, each has its own place and time, and in the right mood, each seems more charming than the next. Our bars open at 6 a.m.
and close at 3 a.m. They pour for happy hour, dinner, post-dinner and last call. They offer perfectly calibrated cocktails from some of the nation’s top mixologists and well drinks at shockingly low prices. They keep the booze flowing under disco balls and beneath horror movie masks (more about that in our appreciation of the Haunt, later). No matter what your mood, a bar in St. Louis has you covered.
And that makes our job at the RFT
a difficult one. In past bar guides, we’ve offered various guides to various bar genres: best craft breweries
(2015), best dive bars
(2016), best cocktail bars
(2017) and best neighborhood bars
(2018). That just about covers everything, so for this year’s guide, we decided to get a whole lot more subjective. Rather than choosing this genre or that, we decided simply to present 50 bars we love. They are as varied as the denizens of this metro area, stretching from Jefferson County to Alton, north city to Princeton Heights and running the gamut from high-end cocktail bars to the diviest of dives (we’re looking at you, Kopp’s Korner). But there is surely one you haven’t tried yet, one that might become your new favorite. Why not read up and then plan to try something new?
And if one of these bars isn’t right just yet, why not try again in a few years? The best bar for you right now might not be replaced by a different bar at a different time of your life. Bars have seasons, as I tried to explain in my essay about my current favorite, 33 Wine Shop & Bar. May you find one for where you’re at right now. And may you always be generous with your bartender.
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