Rating a bar is no easy task. People choose their favorite watering holes for a wide variety of reasons—from atmosphere, drink strength and entertainment to location, hook-up potential and food prices. Cleveland is a diverse drinking town, with a proud history of legendary booze and burger joints flanking a new wave of both classic and hipster wine and cocktail bars. Here’s a look at some of the best of the latter—establishments where calling your bartender a mixologist won’t risk your well-being.
Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
Timeless style and character, with more than just a touch of cool, Velvet Tango Room has been slinging drinks to Clevelanders since its days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Featuring live jazz inside and a beautiful garden outdoors, VTR offers everything from classic cocktails to designer specials like the sampler cocktail flights—that let patrons try three different drinks at a bargain price. Wonderful appetizers and desserts make the libations flow that much more smoothly.
Clifton Martini And Wine Bar
10427 Clifton Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44102
A great martini at a good price – that’s the draw of Clifton. Located in the historic Wilsher building, the bar is the former home of the Wilsher Grill and number of other well-known Cleveland haunts of the past. A neighborhood tavern with an upscale feel, Clifton features a comfy patio atmosphere outside, real drinking bar panache inside and a great food menu. Try to make it to happy hour—those martinis are even smoother at $3 off.
La Cave du Vin
2785 Euclid Heights Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
With an atmosphere that feels like a cross between a super villain’s lair and a fraternity house basement, La Cave du Vin offers a truly unique place to drink and socialize. Artisanal drinks are available and plentiful, but it’s the wine selection and beer fridge—where you can walk in and choose your brew from a massive selection—that make the Cave a special underground treat. One dollar tasters are available to make your choices easier—and more fun.
Porco Tiki Lounge
2527 W 25th St.
Cleveland, OH 44113
Variety is the spice of life, and no bar in Cleveland offers a more extensive and unique drink menu than Porco. Double-shot cocktails are the norm and specialty tiki drinks like Painkiller and Zombie make the decor and atmosphere seem that much more inviting and intriguing. The appetizer menu also features a great variety of interesting choices, including their famous pork sliders. A throwback bar that still manages to maintain a modern feel.
Fairmount Martini And Wine Bar
2448 Fairmount Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
One of the most laid-back modern cocktail bars you will ever enter, The Fairmont mixes hipster style with the calming charm of a local pub. Featuring artwork from local talents and food items made with local produce, this breath of fresh air has something for everyone—including great drinks and food at more than reasonable prices. The fireplace makes a good drink on a cold Cleveland winter day that much more relaxing.
The Blonde – Martini And Wine Establishment
6901 Rockside Road
Independence, OH 44131
Martinis are the specialty of The Blonde—and they mix a mean one—but an extensive wine list and moderate prices make this strip-mall tavern much better than its location. The eclectic light appetizer menu is also a very pleasant surprise. The Blonde features some of the best classic drink mixes and mixers in town and those great martinis can be had for just five bucks at happy hour.
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Scott Cavanagh is a freelance journalist based in Columbus, Ohio whose talents have been utilized by over 200 publications and clients in a wide variety of media platforms—from news & feature reporting, commentary, and web content to speechwriting and commercial copy.