Best Of 2015

Hookah Bar

1. The Raven Hookah Lounge
1255 SW Loop 410, Suite 133
(210) 673-3650
ravenhookah.com

2. Naara Café and Hookah
9329 Wurzbach Rd.
(210) 558-9800
naaracafe.com

3. Shisha Cafe
5500 Babcock Rd., Suite 101
(210) 694-4800
shishacafesa.com

1. The Brooklynite
516 Brooklyn Ave.
(210) 444-0707
thebrooklynitesa.com

The craft cocktail scene keeps growing, but The Brooklynite is still keeping patrons boozed-up and happy since its October 2012 opening. Could it be the bumpin' Friday evenings, the music-filled Saturday nights, the tropical Tiki Tuesdays, cheap-ass Mondays or ridiculously priced happy hours? The varied food trucks parked out front probably don't hurt either ... Whatever the case is, The Brooklynite has figured out a winning recipe for being SA's go-to cocktail joint. We're guessing they top it off with house-made bitters.

2. Esquire Tavern
155 E. Commerce
(210) 222-2521
esquiretavern-sa.com

3. Bar 1919
1420 S. Alamo St., Suite 1
(210) 227-1420
facebook.com/1919SA

1. The Friendly Spot
943 S. Alamo St.
(210) 224-2337
thefriendlyspot.com

Half of the equation for a good michelada involves having good Mexican beer on hand, something that The Friendly Spot has en masse at its Southtown patio. For its secret recipe, the icehouse finds that perfect spot between a too-spicy cocktail and one too closely resembling tomato juice with beer poured into it. Served in a dressed plastic cup, The Friendly Spot michelada is a perfect bev for Spurs playoff games shown on the jumbo screen — something to sip on for a long time, without spending too much green or getting rowdy drunk if the black and silver lose.

2. Slackers Arcade & Sports Bar
126 W. Rector St., Suite 136
(210) 233-6263
slackerssa.com

1. Sam's Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson St.
(210) 223-2830
samsburgerjoint.com

It's amazing what clean bathrooms will do for a music venue. Among all the new spots in San Antonio music, the stalwart Sam's Burger Joint cleaned up as the best venue around. Serving blues, rock 'n' roll, Americana and an old-fashioned burger, Sam's is a welcome outpost of live music in the Pearl area. With lush speakers and a certified green room, it's a musicians' favorite too, providing all the amenities and none of the attitude.

2. 502 Bar
502 Embassy Oaks
(210) 257-8125
502bar.com

3. Paper Tiger
2410 N. St. Mary's St.
papertiger.queueapp.com

1. Alamo Ice House
802 N. Alamo St.
(210) 758-5151
alamoicehouse.com

2. The Friendly Spot
943 S. Alamo St.
(210) 224-2337
thefriendlyspot.com

3. Sanchez Ice House
819 San Saba St.
(210) 223-0588
facebook.com/sanchezicehouse

Elisabeth Forsythe
Barbaro
2720 McCullough Ave.
(210) 320-2261
barbarosanantonio.com

Labeling Forsythe a pro is a bit of an understatement. The 14-year service industry veteran took the reins of the Barbaro cocktail program a year ago and thoroughly made it her own. There's something for all levels of cocktail lovers on her menu – The Good made up of lighter styles, The Bad filled with sneakily addicting and boozy potions and The Ugly for when you're not fuckin' around. Though she's amassed a small set of femme fatale apprentices, this culinarian sets the tone for her cocktails by creating infusions, sodas (the vanilla-lemon is pretty tight with gin of choice) and shrubs to her taste. There's nothing like ending the work week with her Slow Grin Fizz, a nod to "simpler times and soda shops," which combines reposado, chocolate syrup, cream, egg white, acid phosphate and soda for a special treat. The other woman behind the bar we're applauding has carved out a niche within a veritable boys club. Hillary Woodhouse of The Brooklynite is adding finesse to the Tiki Tuesday menu, while also earning a second place win during this year's Rivertini with a concoction of vodka, watermelon-infused Cocchi Americano, rosemary syrup, lemon and a yellow bell pepper slice. Meanwhile, David Naylor's gaining many fans with his floral and boozy porthole cocktails.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Hillary Woodhouse
The Brooklynite
516 Brooklyn Ave.
(210) 444-0707
thebrooklynitesa.com

David Naylor
Park Social
218 E. Olmos Dr.
(210) 822-0100
park-social.com

1. Heat Nightclub
1500 N. Main Ave.
(210) 227-2600
heatsa.com

Whether you want to dance, watch a drag show, tip a male dancer or just toss a few back with your friends, Heat Nightclub has you covered. The club is open Wednesdays through Sundays at 9 p.m. It's 18+ and the DJs spin until at least 3 a.m. every night. Get there early to avoid paying cover and lounge in one of five bar areas. Rey Lopez Entertainment brings the stars from RuPaul's Drag Race to perform and on the right night you can rub elbows (at least) with your favorite gay porn star.

2. TIE: The Bonham Exchange
411 Bonham St.
(210) 224-9219
facebook.com/bonhamexchange

2. TIE: Sparky's Pub
1416 N. Main Ave.
(210) 320-5111
sparkyspub.com

1. Freetail Brewing Company
Multiple locations
freetailbrewing.com

Like a bat out of hell, the beers this brewing company puts out fuel many good nights for nocturnal folks in San Antonio. With 16 beers on tap, including the tasty Bat Outta Helles, local craft brew enthusiasts can now find Freetail Brewing Company's products throughout our area. This puro San Anto business started with a 15-barrel brew house they say was held together by duct tape and determination. Last year, Freetail's Brewery and Tasting Room opened downtown — furthering the Bexar County favorite in its mission to provide awesome beer to this city.

2. Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
4834 Whirlwind Dr.
(210) 775-2099
drinkrangercreek.com

3. Alamo Beer Company
202 Lamar St.
(210) 872-5589
alamobeer.com

1. El Mirador
722 S. St. Mary's St.
210) 225-9444
elmiradorrestaurant.com

Local entrepreneur Chris Hill's purchase of El Mirador has meant change for the venerable spot — glacially, but, we hope, surely. Esquire Bar's manager Houston Eaves, slated to revamp the booze program at El M, took a temporary job with a mezcal producer in Oaxaca, suggesting agave improvements to come — also slowly. In the meantime, there's the Suprema with Cuervo's 1800, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and fresh lime. The standard well model uses Tapatio tequila, dry curacao, fresh lime and agave nectar; you may want to ask the interim 'tender to nix some nectar. Between the two frozens, sin big with the fruity El Diablo.

2. La Gloria
100 E. Grayson St.
(210) 267-9040
lagloria.com

3. La Fogata
2427 Vance Jackson Rd.
(210) 340-1337
lafogata.com

Liberty Bar
1111 S. Alamo St.
(210) 227-1187
liberty-bar.com

Even if the breakfast options can't do much to exorcise your hangover, you've still got God on your side at the Liberty Bar, located in the bright pink former convent on South Alamo. The 9 a.m.–2 p.m. weekend brunch is a spectacular spot to post up, tap into an IV drip of coffee and nurse that resaca back to good health. With light options for an upset stomach, try something from the à la carte menu. For the sweet tooth, there's steel cut oats with choice of nuts, fruit and honey, or stacks of French toast and fresh fruit. For those who believe grease is the cure to any hangover, the Huevos New Braunfels and Chilaquiles Norteños provide enough weight to ground you for the day-after. If the hair of the dog is your thing, the bloody mary, tequila-based bloody maria or michelada are all tasty options to subtly keep the party going. Or, if you'll never touch the stuff again, there's the hungover holy trinity of Topo Chico, grapefruit juice and coffee.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Tucker's Kozy Korner
1338 E. Houston St.
(210) 320-2192
tuckerskozykorner.com

Whataburger
Various locations
whataburger.com

1. Slackers Arcade & Sports Bar
126 W. Rector St., Suite 136
(210) 233-6263
slackerssa.com

Slackers they may be, the staff at this two-year-old arcade bar has established a fierce and loyal following of fellow layabouts who are into whiling away here after work. Happy hour (2 to 9 p.m. daily) is perfect for falling down the rabbit hole of arcade games (from classic Mortal Kombat II to NBA Jam, and Area 51 shooter), Wii Mario Kart, pool, beer pong tournaments, giant Jenga or the frustrating island ring toss. All while tossing back cheap drink specials, cool beers or frosty, boozy favorites. If it's a Sunday Funday you're after, $3.75 you-call-its and a chance to catch any big league game projected on the walls or on one of the 12 giant flatscreens littered throughout the place should be a big enough draw. You'll want to carve a spot alongside across from one of their bartenders, voted "best-looking" bar staff by our readers.

SUNDAY FUNDAY

2. The Friendly Spot
943 S. Alamo St.
(210) 224-2337
thefriendlyspot.com

3. Pegasus Nightclub
1402 N. Main Ave.
(210) 299-4222
pegasussanantonio.com

ARCADE BAR

2. Wurzbach Icehouse
10141 Wurzbach Rd.
(210) 877-2100
wurzbachicehouse.com

3. 4th Quarter Sports Bar
8779 Wurzbach Rd.
(210) 561-4444
twitter.com/4thquarter

BEST LOOKING BAR STAFF

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

3. The Brooklynite
516 Brooklyn Ave.
(210) 444-0707
thebrooklynitesa.com

HAPPY HOUR

2. Lüke San Antonio
125 E. Houston St.
(210) 227-5853
lukesanantonio.com

3. Cured
(210) 314-3929
curedatpearl.com

SPORTS BAR

2. Schooners Sports Bar
1325 N.E. Loop 410
(210) 829-8252
schooners-sa.com

3. Freetail Brewing Company
Multiple locations
freetailbrewing.com