As one of America’s oldest cities, Richmond, Virginia, has a rich drinking history dating back more than two centuries. The past few years, however, have seen an explosion of new cocktail bars, speakeasies, bold-named mixologists, and top-quality watering holes that have skyrocketed the city to the top of the ranks of the best drinking destinations in the country. From gin fizzes to Manhattans and craft beers to biodynamic wines, these are the essential spots you need to hit on your next trip to Richmond.
The gem of the city’s vibrant Carytown neighborhood, a group of Richmond’s best-known mixologists—Mattias Hägglund, Thomas Leggett, Brandon Peck and Kevin Liu—launched this speakeasy-style cocktail bar to great acclaim in 2018. A spot for seriously discerning drinkers and newbie cocktail lovers alike, the bar’s menu features signature cocktails like the Hailstorm Julep, made with Laird’s apple brandy, Smith & Cross rum, port and mint, as well as custom cocktails, beer and wine, and a food menu featuring bread freshly baked at Carytown Cupcakes next door.
This Marshall Street gastropub is where the American South meets South America, featuring a cocktail menu peppered with Latin American twists on classic cocktails and a young crowd with refined taste in drinks. You can’t go wrong with a Mezcal Mule; a Negroni Libre with white rum, amaro ciocario, sweet vermouth, vanilla, and lime bitters; or one of the many variations of the classic Peruvian Pisco Sour. The bar’s food menu reflects the same marriage of the Americas with plates like pollo a la brasa listed alongside a classic fried chicken sandwich.
One of the hottest dinner tickets in the city is also home to one of Richmond’s most inventive and unique cocktail lists, including gems like The Sea of Cortez, comprising rye, Dolin Dry, creme de banana, and coconut vinegar; and a delightful Pink Tequila Tonic made with tequila, Cocchi Rosa, grapefruit, tonic, rose water, and lime oil. The chances that you’ll have to wait for a table here are high, but trust us, you’ll be more than happy to bide your time at the bar.
Legendary heavy metal band GWAR may not be the first people you think of to get into the hospitality business, but the Richmond natives, whose iconic ‘90s concerts incorporated fake blood, human meat grinders (stuffed with Jello), and mutant costumes, proved naysayers wrong when they opened this locals favorite vegetarian and vegan-friendly bar and restaurant in 2015. The cocktail menu here commits, with grotesquely intriguing “GWARtinis”, tiki drinks, cocktails and shots, as well as clever bar snacks like a vegan sandwich named “Hail Seitan.” Go after dark for the full GWAR experience.
If you’re looking for a dive bar that knows how to have fun, Fuzzy Cactus is the place to go. This self-described “rock 'n' roll bar” is like if your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant married a punk rock venue. Cocktails are approachable, affordable, and take a fun spin on watering hole classics, like a Oaxacan Old Fashioned made with mezcal and a flamed twist and a vegan White Russian. Dive favorites like PBR are on the menu, but your less rockabilly friends can also opt for the large selection of hard to find craft beers and natural wines.
The Lobby Bar
This bright and airy space inside the Art District’s Instagrammable Quirk Hotel is pretty in pink—literally. Housed in a converted luxury department store from 1916, the elegant lobby restaurant and bar decked in hues of rose is a destination for those who want to see and be seen. The hotel's mod rooftop bar is the place to be on weekends, but there are few places in the city where old school glamour truly comes to life than this ground floor bar formerly known as Maple & Pine, where chic Richmonders can be spotted ordering swanky cocktails like High Tea, made with lavender-Earl Grey infused Belle Isle Moonshine, lemon, and bitters, and the Modern Day Hemingway, comprised of blanco tequila, lime, Luxardo Maraschino, and absinthe.
Bingo Beer Company
A perfect fit for the brewery nirvana that is Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood, Bingo Beer Company is a great option for arcade lovers, new craft beer drinkers, and knowledgeable beer snobs. Heavily focused on lagers, this brewery-restaurant-arcade hybrid combines on-site brewing with old-school arcade classics like skeeball, pinball, and ping pong. In addition to beer, there's also wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic house-made ginger beer available.
Secco Wine Bar
A sleek and stylish gem in Richmond’s The Fan neighborhood, Secco is the highlight of the city’s wine scene. Opened in 2010 by owner and wine director Julia Battaglini, small production European wines are the highlight here, and it’s easy to spend an evening under the space’s warm centerpiece lighting perusing the sophisticated wine list. Order cheese and charcuterie, and don’t miss out on Meditteranean small plates like fried chickpeas and Gorgonzola-stuffed olives. For non-wine drinkers, the bar also boasts an impressive cocktail menu that was expanded after it moved from its original location in Carytown in 2016.
A Mediterranean tapas bar in Richmond’s vibrant Arts District, Bar Solita’s cocktail menu features inventive drinks with influences from Italy, Greece, and North Africa. Sip on the Holiday in Cantania, crafted with vodka, pomegranate liqueur, honey, and lemon, or the Boomslang, featuring rum, madeira, curacao, and cinnamon. Those looking to truly transport themselves to a Greek island will have no shortage of Mediterranean favorites to select from the bar’s food menu, including a wood-fired capocollo and arugula pizza with olive oil and crumbled feta.
An evening at Brenner Pass will make you feel like you just stepped off a ski lift and into a warm and inviting cocktail hour. Apres gems like Campfire Stories, made with bourbon, maraschino, mezcal, angostura, and orange bitters, and Bern Bear, made with singani, quince, cochi rosa, grapefruit, lemon, and galliano are front and center at the bar, which also includes a wine list heavy on Alpine grapes. Lean all the way in and pair your cocktails with decadent fondue.