Where to drink in Madison
Most cities have a guide to their best watering holes. Madison didn’t. So, after much research, I’ve listed a few places that might get you started.
One thing to bear in mind though: first and foremost, Madison is a college town. It was voted the number one party town, or something to that effect. Expect lots of inane yelling late at night if you live within a mile of a bar. Particularly at 2 in the morning, otherwise known as “bar time”, when the bars shut. It doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, there will be someone drunk in the middle of your street.
The most common bar in Madison is the college-type bar: pitchers, sometimes fishbowls full of cocktails concocted with haste (and, sadly, little taste), and cheap dollar beers. Don’t expect a lot.
Nonetheless, there are places in Madison where you can go to avoid the dudes in the baseball caps high-fiving and pouring cheap nasty beer down their gullets. Here’s my list:
It’s a restaurant that has recently opened up but with space for ten people at the bar, and by far offers the most current, considered drink list in Madison. The guy who runs the drink program, Chad, has spent a lot of time in kitchens previously and skilled up behind the stick in Chicago. They’ve got a short cocktail list, but the house creations are premised on classic cocktail formulas, and use all the craft ingredients seen in the cocktail bars of the bigger cities: house-made bitters and syrups sit amid bottles of amari, rye and gins. You won’t go wrong, either, in throwing open your choice of drink to the bartender. The food is great too.
If you don’t like cigar smoke, you won’t like this place. It is a cigar bar in the proper sense of the term – you can’t smoke cigarettes inside, but you can drink one of many whiskies and bourbons all the while puffing on a stogie from their humidor. The place doesn’t kick off til 10pm most nights, but if you like a quiet drink it’s best to go early because it can get loud. You’ll also see a few of the city’s bartenders there after their shifts. That’s a good sign.