Best Of 2014

Best Bar to Drink Alone In

TBA
2801 N St. Mary’s, tbasatx.com

You may start off drinking alone, but by the night’s end, you’ll be sitting amongst a wild cast of regulars and service industry-types just out of work and ready to enjoy one of Jonny Yumol’s latest cocktail concoctions. Perhaps it’s because TBA strikes that perfect balance of neighborhood haunt-meets-cocktail bar that we tend to start the night by our lonesome and end it with new friends.

1. Thirsty Horse Saloon
2335 NW Military Hwy, (210) 348-1513, thirstyhorse.net

Nightly live music keeps the cowboy boots sliding heel-toe-heel-toe on the dance floor at the Thirsty Horse Saloon. There’s pool tables for the dance-averse and enough bars that a cold brew is never more than a two-step away. No cover means the only lines are on the dance floor.

2. Cowboys Dancehall
3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378, cowboysdancehall.com

3. Cooter Browns Saloon
11881 Bandera Rd, (210) 695-5200, cooterbrownssaloon-tx.com

Sanchez Ice House No. 1
819 S San Saba, (210) 223-0588

Yes, there are ice houses with a better beer selection or a nicer atmosphere, but we wanted to strip the ice house culture back down to its essentials: cheap, ice-cold beer (properly dressed with real lime and salt, please), friendly folks, a big-ass patio and a legit jukebox. On all these points, Sanchez delivers. Icy bottled beers come in singles ($2 for domestics, $2.50 for imports) or buckets (ridiculously cheap) and you can enjoy them on the expansive concrete slab. During summer days, try to score one of the picnic tables under the lone tree. Also, pump some of that money you’re saving on stupid-cheap Lone Stars into the Westside oldies-oriented jukebox and shake a tail feather on the dance floor. Located almost directly under I-35, Sanchez ain’t much to look at, but it doesn’t have to be; its appeal is in its unpretentious attitude, a sliver of real San Antonio we hope sticks around forever.

Arcade Midtown Kitchen
303 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 369-9664, arcademk.com

Surely you know this already: The best bar food (no, we’re not talking variations on a theme of pretzels and mixed nuts) isn’t necessarily at the best bar; the best bar food is at a very good bar with an equally good kitchen attached. Or vice-versa. We can all think of several at Pearl alone, but since one must be picked, Arcade is it. Bar manager Christopher Ware is an inventive cocktalian in his own right, but seasonal creations such as the Bamboo with fino sherry, Dolin dry and two bitters seem especially well-calibrated to go with plates like marinated Spanish olives with almonds and feta, and the chili and lime calamari can only be thought of as a perfect last wish before confronting the full-bore Mexican Firing Squad Special, fabricated of blanco tequila with lime, house grenadine, Angostura and soda.

1. TIE: Freetail Brewing Co.
4035 N Loop 1604 W, Ste 105, (210) 395-4974, freetailbrewing.com

The Green Lantern
20626 Stone Oak Pkwy, (210) 497-3722, facebook.com/thegreenlanternsa

2. Big Hops Gastropub
22250 Bulverde, Ste 106, (210) 267-8762, bighops.com

3. The Silver Fox
24802 Ima Ruth Pkwy, (210) 363-2613, silverfoxsa.com

1. Big Hops Growler Station
Multiple locations, bighops.com

2. The Brooklynite
516 Brooklyn, (210) 444-0707, thebrooklynitesa.com

3. Bar 1919
1420 S Alamo, Ste 001, (210) 227-1420, 1919bar.com

1. The Lion & Rose (Alamo Heights)
5148 Broadway, (210) 822-7673, thelionandrose.com

2. Freetail Brewing Company
4035 N 1604 W, Ste 105, (210) 395-4974, freetailbrewing.com

3. Southtown 101
101 Pereida, (210) 263-9880, southtown101sa.com

1. The Lion & Rose (Alamo Heights)
5148 Broadway, (210) 822-7673, thelionandrose.com

Andy Hack, Minnie’s Tavern & Rye House
328 E Josephine, (210) 220-1890, twitter.com/ShakeStirChip

The best bartender is not the one with the sexiest shake, the coolest vest or the baddest tattoos; the best ‘tender is the one who can read your mood, interpret your desires and deliver a drink to match: mixologist meets psychologist. Recently, several unsung youngsters have impressed—among them, Andy Hack. Hack, previously of that cocktail incubator Bohanan’s, has the enviable job of riffing on rye at Andrew Weissman’s latest restaurant (where he’s also required to know the food menu inside out). Tasked with taking off on a Negroni, he also delivered. Expect exotic bitters, such as the El Guapo Chicory Pecan that spikes the Chic-Choc Old Fashioned with Prichard’s Double Chocolate Bourbon. And, as Hack and a partner are also kickstarting an ice company to supply crystalline slabs, spheres, spears and big-ass cubes, expect to see that, too. This is only the beginning—including more inevitably cutsey drink names.

1. Richard Hunter at Oak Hills Tavern
7920 Fredericksburg, (210) 614-8855

When informed that many people had voted him the “best-looking bartender” in San Antonio, Richard Hunter said, “What? Like, as a joke?” We don’t know, hon, but our brief interaction convinced us that Hunter is a ’tender to be recognized, smoldering bedroom eyes or no. This cutie’s unfailingly friendly and helpful to his Tavern patrons and exudes a charisma that has likely caused many a customer to get all twitterpated, whether Hunter knows it or not. So, if you’re looking for mere eye candy to quench your thirst, your quest may be ongoing, but if you want a bartender you can actually see a future with, you’ll wanna hook up with Hunter.

2. Big Hops Growler Station
Multiple locations, bighops.com

3. Blue Box Bar
312 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 227-2583, blueboxbar.com