From hand-sculpted ice spheres to baroque cocktails made with everything from olive oil–washed gin to clarified milk, there’s no limit to what the mixology wizards in a high-end bar can do. These are not those kinds of bars.
These are the kind of establishments where you go to make friends with the bartender or buy a beer for the grizzled man sitting in the corner. The drinks at these spots may be good—great, even—but everyone knows that booze is only half the fun of a dive bar. Whether the staff are slinging mai tais, absinthe, or dirt-cheap whiskey, you’re here for the history, the tall tales, and the quirky charm. From a former Klondike Gold Rush brothel to a 200-year-old Swiss tavern where customers drink while literally swinging from the rafters, if the walls in these joints could talk, they’d have serious stories to tell.