Okay, these bars might not actually change your life. But it’s possible. How many people have met the love of their lives in a bar? Or discovered their favorite drink? Or had one too many of said favorite drink and swore off drinking forever?
In an homage to Buzzfeed’s popular (and often overly dramatized) lists, we’ve compiled our directory of Memphis hottest cocktail bars, taprooms, dance halls, and blues joints. So go ahead — pick a bar, plan a visit, and prepare for a life-changing good time.
Note: Because we think all of these bars are awesome, they’re not numbered according to preference but, rather, in alphabetical order.
A-Tan — You’ve never had a drink like the Flaming Volcano (unless, of course, you’ve already been to this University-area Asian joint and ordered one). This kitschy cocktail of rum, brandy, pineapple juice, orange juice, and almond syrup is served in the moat of a volcano-shaped glass, and in the volcano’s crater is a flaming shot of Bacardi 151. Order one to share, and while you’re at it, sample from A-Tan’s dual menus of Chinese and Japanese fare. 3445 Poplar, Suite 17, 452-4477 (Chinese side) or 458-8877 (Japanese side).
Agave Maria — If tequila is your jam, you’ve found nirvana. This Mexican restaurant and bar offers more than 100 varieties of agave spirits, many of which are high-end and hard to come by. The place is fairly new, but owner Jeff Johnson says he plans to add tequila pairing dinners and a tequila loyalty program. 83 Union, 341-2096.
Alchemy — If alchemy were real, it would certainly have life-changing potential. And while it’s doubtful you’ll find the elixir of immortality on the cocktail menu at this swanky Cooper-Young bar, the lovingly hand-crafted drinks there come darn close. Sit back on one of the lounge chairs and order the Memphis Takes Manhattan (your choice of whiskey or rye or bourbon with vermouth, bitters, and brandy-infused cherries). 940 S. Cooper, 726-4444.
Alex’s Tavern — Life-changing moments are more likely to happen when you’re awake. And you can stay up and party until the wee hours of the morning at this north Midtown after-hours dive. The jukebox features some 5,000 songs to choose from, and the kitchen cranks out burgers and fries all night. 1445 Jackson, 278-9086.
B.B. King’s Blues Club — The Blues Boy may have gone on to that great blues hall in the sky, but his spirit lives on at this Beale Street juke joint. The bar features live entertainment — mostly blues and soul acts — every night of the week, and it’s a must-visit for Memphis tourists. Grab a seat on the indoor balcony that overlooks the stage, and order a glass of Lucille Chardonnay (B.B. King’s line of wines named after his guitar). 143 Beale, 524-KING.
Babalu Tacos & Tapas — Give us a spacious patio, a massive bowl of guacamole, a basket of house-made tortilla chips, and an ice-cold margarita, and we’re set for life. Or at least an hour or two. At Babalu in Overton Square, you can kick back and soak up the sun with gourmet tacos, made-to-order guac, and a menu of fancy Mexican-themed cocktails. 2115 Madison, 274-0100.
Bar DKDC — You might never get a chance to travel the globe. But a meal and cocktail from Bar DKDC in Cooper-Young may be the next best thing. This tiny bar offers a rotating menu of global street fare that changes every five weeks and live music that ranges from sweet soul to doo-wop. 964 S. Cooper, 272-0830.
Bar Louie — Located on the hottest corner in Midtown, this Overton Square martini bar is perfect for people-watching. Its patio wraps around the corner of Madison and Cooper, so grab a seat and order a S’mores martini (made with vodka, chocolate liqueur, toasted marshmallow syrup, and a graham cracker-crusted rim). 2125 Madison, 207-1436.
Blind Bear Speakeasy — This downtown Prohibition-themed cocktail bar gives Memphians a chance to step back in time to the days of gangsters and gun molls. Order the Bootlegger’s Mule (moonshine, ginger beer, and simple syrup served in a Mason jar) for the most authentic experience. 119 S. Main, 417-8435.
Boscos — If a drink is going to change your life, it has to be homemade. And the beer served at this Overton Square brewpub is made in-house. It’s even used to flavor the crust for their wood-fired pizzas. One sip of Boscos’ award-winning Flaming Stone Beer (a North American steinbier with notes of caramel) and a bite of the Germantown Purist pizza (barbecue chicken with smoked mozzarella) and you’ll never be the same. 2120 Madison, 432-2222.
The Brass Door — If soccer is your thing, you’ll find a home away from home at this lively Irish pub. It’s the official home of the Memphis Gooners, the local Arsenals fan club. Guinness is on tap, and Irish breakfast is served all day, every day. 152 Madison, 572-1813.
Brookhaven Pub & Grill — Everyone needs a home base bar, and that’s what Brookhaven is to so many East Memphians with a taste for sports and pub grub. Catch all the Grizz action on multiple high-definition TVs. Order a BLTC (that’s a BLT with cheese) and a bucket of brews to share with friends. It’s like home away from home. 695 Brookhaven Circle, 680-8118.
The Buccaneer — You may think you’ve stumbled into the belly of a rustic boat, but never fear — you’re just inside The Bucc, as its loyal hipster patrons call it. This tiny bar features nautical décor, cheap PBR, and a roster of local and traveling musical acts that range from fledging punk bands to bluesy singer-songwriters. 1368 Monroe, 278-0909.
Celtic Crossing — You may never get a chance to travel to Ireland and kiss the Blarney Stone, but that’s okay because this Cooper-Young Irish pub is the next best thing. Owner D.J. Naylor hails from Ireland, so he offers an authentic experience with Guinness on tap, a menu of corned beef sliders and bangers and mash, and broadcasts of soccer games. The spacious, covered patio is second-to-none, and it’s heated in the winter. 903 S. Cooper, 274-5151.
Chiwawa — Gourmet Mexican street fare and ice-cold margaritas are on offer at Chiwawa in Overton Square. The two-tiered patio is spacious and can easily host your entire crew on a cool spring day. The signature Margarita Chiwawa — made with tequila, smoky Mezcal, and house-made sweet and sour mix — is a must-try. 2059 Madison, 207-1456.
The Cove — From the safety of Broad Avenue you can pretend to drink your hand-crafted cocktail aboard a pirate ship when you sit at the ship-shaped bar (complete with sails jutting out from the wall) at The Cove. This popular oyster bar caters to the hipster set and is best-known for its massive list of artisan cocktails. Since rum is the official drink of pirates, try the Hot Lips, a Bloody Mary made with rum. 2559 Broad, 730-0719.
Dru’s Place — If the bar on Cheers were a gay bar, this would be it. Everyone knows everyone at Dru’s, and when a new person comes in the door, they’re greeted with open arms. Owner Tami Montgomery remembers every face, so you’ll be a regular in no time. Weekend drag shows and karaoke nights attract standing-room-only crowds. To get the most booze for your dollar, check out the Thursday and Saturday night $5 beer busts. 1474 Madison, 725-8082.
Evelyn & Olive — Order a Dark ’n’ Stormy, some jerk wings, and fish stew and be whisked away to the island of Jamaica at Evelyn & Olive. This casual Caribbean eatery offers authentic cuisine and hand-crafted Jamaican cocktails. The rum punch is strong, and one (or maybe two) is all you need. 630 Madison, 748-5422.
Earnestine & Hazel’s — Get a taste of Memphis history in this dimly lit South Main dive. The building was opened as a pharmacy in the early 1900s. But it eventually became a nightclub/brothel, where musicians who’d performed at the nearby Club Paradise would frequent for hook-ups. The old brothel rooms are still there, so Earnestine & Hazel’s patrons can have a cold one (and a greasy Soul Burger) with the wild ghosts of Memphis’ seedy past. 84 East G.E. Patterson, 523-9754.
Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar — Can’t decide on a glass of wine? No problem. As the name of this upscale downtown eatery implies, you can order a flight of wine by varietal and region. For example, the Wonders of the World flight features a Côtes du Rhône from France, a Chianti from Italy, and a Shiraz from Australia. And yes, it's wonderful. 39 S. Main, 521-8005.
Flying Saucer — Choices, choices. You’ll have your share of them at this casual bar that boasts more than 200 beer options. Professional drinkers can have their ability to imbibe immortalized on a plate on the wall if they sample all the Flyer Saucer has to offer. Now that’s something mom can be proud of! 130 Peabody Place, 523-7468; 1400 N. Germantown Pkwy., 755-5530.
Greencork — There’s just something about self-serve that appeals to the American way of life. At Greencork, wine service is DIY — insert your wine card into a machine, position your glass under the spout, and select the type of wine and size of pour (two-, four-, and six-ounce). If you’re hungry, order one of Greencork’s picnic baskets, which come stuffed with meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies, and fresh-baked breads. 2156 Young, 207-5281.
Hi-Tone — This Crosstown live music venue is a Memphis institution, and punk rockers and metal heads flock here by the dozens. Local and touring musical acts — mostly from the aforementioned genres — play here several nights a week. But if death metal (or cigarette smoke) isn’t your thing, you can always sip your tall-boy PBR in the nonsmoking lounge side of the bar. 412-414 N. Cleveland, 278-8663.
High Cotton Brewing Co. — This local craft brewery prides itself on beers that pay homage to our Southern heritage. Stained wood beams gives the Edge District taproom a rustic ambience, and the hand-crafted brews don’t disappoint. Fans of dark beers will love the full-bodied Scottish Ale, while the ESB (extra-special bitter) is a favorite of hop-lovers. 598 Monroe, 543-4444.
Lafayette’s Music Room — Some 38 years after the original Lafayette’s in Overton Square closed its doors, it reopened in the same location in 2014. The bar boasts quite a rich history, having helped launch the careers of musical greats Billy Joel, KISS, and Big Star, among others. In its second incarnation, Lafayette’s has the potential to boost more careers. The music room hosts local and traveling musical acts every night of the week. 2119 Madison, 207-5097.
Local Gastropub — Forget standard bar food. Local’s two locations — one in Overton Square and one in the South Main Arts District — serve gourmet pub grub (think poutine-style bar fries with short-rib gravy and cheese curds) alongside craft beers and unique cocktails. Stop in at brunch for a 96-ounce mimosa! 95 S. Main, 473-9573; 2126 Madison, 725-1845.
Max’s Sports Bar — Ah, high school. The good old days, right? Indulge in a little nostalgia at this South Main sports bar with their school lunch-style pizza. But unlike in school, you can order extra bacon and cheese on your pizza. And you can drink beer and not get in trouble. Bonus: Since there’s one TV per every three seats in this small bar and an eight-foot projector on the deck, sports fans are guaranteed not to miss a minute of the action. 115 East G.E. Patterson, 528-8367.
Memphis Made Brewing — This seasonal craft brewery is known for taking chances, and will try anything once. So head to its Cooper-Young taproom to sample some of the most distinctive craft beers in the city. Don’t be surprised to find coffee stouts brewed with cacao nibs, saisons with notes of candied ginger, and Scottish ales brewed with smoky cherry wood malts. Some beers are only offered on limited release, so try them while you can. 768 S. Cooper, 207-5343.
Midtown Crossing — Residents of the up-and-coming Crosstown neighborhood convene at this friendly neighborhood bar for lovingly prepared pizzas, broadcasts of the big game, spoken word, art shows, and live music. Plus, it’s home to Pink Diva Cupcakery, an all-vegan cupcake bakery. Grab a local brew and try The Artist Pizza (tomato jam, mozzarella and chevre, caramelized onions, and fresh arugula). 394 N. Watkins, 410-9330.
Minglewood Hall — This cavernous music hall is massive, so it tends to attract big-name musical acts from a span of genres — indie artists, rappers, EDM DJs, and ’90s alternative bands. Plus, Minglewood often plays host to nonprofit galas and even the occasional MMA fight. 555 Madison, 312-6058.
Mollie Fontaine Lounge — Tucked into the charming Victorian Village neighborhood, this lounge is a favorite gathering place for the city’s LGBT set, although it’s not officially a gay bar. The bar is located inside a converted Victorian-era home, and its individual bedrooms, decorated with a mix of period antiques and 1960s kitsch furnishing, serve as lounging spaces. There’s live piano music in the parlor room. 679 Adams, 524-1886.
Molly’s La Casita — Adobe-style décor and rustic charm transport patrons of this beloved Overton Square Tex-Mex joint to the border. The locally famous margaritas are made with a secret recipe, and they’ve attracted a legion of loyal regulars over the years. Menu items range from standard burritos and tacos to cheeseburgers and spicy chicken sandwiches. 2006 Madison, 726-1873.
P&H Café — While we’re certain the P&H has offered a life-altering experience to many, we can say for sure that filmmaker Craig Brewer’s life was changed at this Midtown watering hole. It’s there that he penned his first screenplay. The P&H’s beloved owner Wanda Wilson, who passed away in January 2015, was always a patron of the arts, so her laidback dive bar has naturally attracted artists, actors, playwrights, and various eccentrics over the years. 1532 Madison, 726-0906.
The Pumping Station — Once known as a hangout for gay men into the leather scene, this Crosstown-area bar now caters to the city’s entire LGBT community. The crowd still tends to be mostly male, but ladies are welcome. A treehouse built into the patio offers a unique hangout, and the new smoker’s lounge gives patrons a place to puff without annoying other customers. 1382 Poplar, 272-7600.
Red Zone Sports & Cigar Bar — You can feel like a kid again at Red Zone, thanks to playground-style swings installed at the bar. Just be careful not to spill your cocktail! The two-story Broad Avenue Arts District bar also features a mechanical bull for the daring at heart. But if you’re more inclined to hang with the grown folk, check out the bar’s closed-off cigar room. 2583 Broad, 324-3102.
Riverfront Bar & Grill — Have a drink on the banks of the Mississippi River at this bar tucked inside Beale Street Landing. A spacious, covered patio offers stunning river views, so be sure to stop by just before sunset. The food menu features dressed-up Southern fare, and the bar serves local beers on tap and a nice selection of wines. 251 Riverside, 528-3135.
Slider Inn — As the name implies, tiny burgers are the specialty at this motorcycle-themed bar, and they come in all varieties — buffalo chicken, blue cheese and onion, falafel, fried egg, even PB&J. Slider offers a nice selection of local and craft brews, which are best enjoyed on the large, covered patio. 2117 Peabody, 725-1155.
Tin Roof — Located in the heart of the Beale Street Entertainment District, this hip nightspot offers Southern hospitality, downhome eats (think shrimp and grits or country fried steak), country cocktails (try the Tea Is for Tennessee, a sweet tea moonshine cocktail with lemon and soda). Bonus: Tell the bartender to “bump your beer,” and they’ll trade out your pint for a 32-ounce draft for just $2 extra. 315 Beale, 527-9911.
Wild Bill’s — This off-the-beaten-path juke joint, tucked away in a shopping strip in north Midtown, is the stuff of legends. The dance floor is always kickin’ to the sweet sounds of Wild Bill’s house band, and the big beers (they only come in 40-ounce bottles) are dirt cheap at $5 a pop. 1580 Vollintine, 726-5473.
Wiseacre Brewing Co. — Deep in the heart of the Broad Avenue Arts District, the Bartosch brothers — Davin and Kellan — are always busy pumping out creative, inventive brews at Wiseacre. Visit their ultra-modern taproom for a taste of seasonal Belgian dubbels, barrel-aged imperial stouts, or fruity saisons. Or go with a classic Wiseacre standard — Tiny Bomb American pilsner or Ananda IPA. The taproom is open for tours on Saturdays. 2783 Broad, 888-7000.
Young Avenue Deli — Nothing goes better with a cold, craft brew than hot, greasy fries. And this Cooper-Young watering hole has the best fries in town (they've won awards!). The joint also has plenty of pool tables, occasional live music, and a fine selection of beers on draft. 2119 Young, 278-0034.
Zebra Lounge — Have it your way at this Overton Square lounge, where patrons can request covers to be performed by the bar’s rotating cast of local pianists. The classy joint is only the second such location in the country. The original Zebra Lounge opened in Chicago way back in 1929, making it that city’s second-oldest bar. 2114 Trimble Place, 249-8147.