By Morgan Culhane
After a painfully snowy April, Buffalo deserves a month or few of sunshine. May is here and spring is (hopefully) here to stay. Bars and restaurants are so ready for the new season. The seasonal drink menus popping up left and right are proof.
Buffalo’s crafting game is strong, so choosing a favorite cocktail bar is far too challenging. When you love cocktails, but your friends prefer beer, you get creative. Luckily, there are bars in Buffalo whose mixologists rival their brewmasters. This guide highlights the classics and the unexpected places to grab a cocktail in Buffalo.
110 Pearl St.
photo Morgan Culhane, Sato Brewpub/Sweet Kicks
Sato Brewpub is a truly unique addition to downtown Buffalo. The space is basically underground. Upon entering, you take the stairs down to the bar area. Natural light pours in, a free-handed mural adorns the walls, and the brewery is fully on display aka it’s not your average basement. Think speakeasy vibes.
While known for the beers they brew on site, Sato’s Japanese-inspired cocktails are most definitely worth mentioning. To my fellow tequila drinkers, I recommend Sweet Kicks. This appropriately named cocktail combines the sweetness of strawberries and honey and the hotness of habanero. If you’d rather choose your own spirit, the Sato Mule is for you.
Sato’s drinks and small plates go together. If you’re sitting at the bar after 10 p.m., ordering from the late night menu is the must. An order of okonomiyaki fries, harumaki spring rolls or steamed buns might just cure your hangover before it starts.
220 Lexington Ave.
photo Morgan Culhane, Vera/Earhart
Vera is known for its cocktails: plain and simple. Cocktail dreams come true in this dark candle lit bar. The vibe is just the beginning. Every inch of Vera’s cocktail menu is carefully thought out. In my opinion, the Roho is the most unexpected of the bunch. This drink pairs dry wine with a sprinkle of brown sugar and the result is subtly sweet in all the right ways. The Call Me Later is a great choice if you prefer to taste your liquor, in this case tequila, with a splash of juice. The Earhart is a popular request, and also a fave of mine because the fruity and sour flavors come together perfectly.
Vera’s known for its seasonal cocktails. While you’re there, ordering a pizza is highly recommended by me, and everyone I know.
Pro Tip: Check out the reverse happy hour here. Select drinks drop to $6 on Thursdays from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Thin Man Brewery
492 Elmwood Ave.
photo Jennie Hall, Thin Man Brewery/Mule
The main attraction is obviously the beer, but as someone who prefers a cocktail to a pint, I have to say Thin Man mixes to impress. The Beermosa is worth a try if you find yourself somewhere between a cocktail drinker and a beer drinker. Personally, I recommend trying a Mule here; it’s refreshing, strong and flavorful. No copper mugs here, but you’ll be finished with the glass before you know it anyway.
When the sun’s out, this spot is the place to be. Sipping drinks on the second-floor patio is the summertime dream. But seriously, good vibes only. Grab a bite while you’re here, their menu is perfect for snacking. The Short Rib Flatbread is my personal fave.
Panorama on 7
95 Main St.
photo Morgan Culhane, Panorama on 7/First Pick & Belove
Panorama is no stranger to the cocktail scene, but this season’s cocktails are next level thanks to a creative mixologist on staff. The First Pick is tequila-based (my fave) plus berries, citrus and spice. The Ibisco Bitter Liqueur from Lockhouse Distillery brings it all together to create a cocktail that’s deep, complex and downright delicious.
The Belove is a boozy herbal creation featuring Bourbon, muddled cucumber, lime and green chartreuse. Did you know green chartreuse is the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green color? This is kinda a big deal for someone with a dye allergy, like me. Last but not least, the Buffalo-shaped cutout makes this cocktail Insta gold.
727 Elmwood Ave.
photo Morgan Culhane, Forty Thieves/Five Points
Forty Thieves has recently become one of my favorite spots to grab a drink. While known for its rotating craft beer list, the cocktails have always caught my eye. The Five Points is my pick. Lockhouse gin + lime + cucumber = a springtime cocktail that’s light, fresh and easy to drink.
The food menu is on point too. The spinach artichoke dip, nachos and stuffed peppers are particular bar snacking friendly.
Forty Thieves gets busy, so the news of a back patio opening in a few weeks is major in the best way possible. Another spot to enjoy drinks outside always sounds ideal to me.
Black Button Distilling
149 Swan St.
photo Molly Rutter, Black Button Distilling/Ice Cream Truck
There’s a spirit for everyone at Black Button Distilling. Start with a tasting to get a better idea of what you like before choosing your cocktails. There’s vodka, gin, bourbon cream, whiskey and moonshine.
If/when you fall in love with the bourbon cream, order yourself the Ice Cream Truck cocktail complete with chocolate bitters, vanilla ice cream and rainbow sprinkles. The Root Beer Float, 716 Northtown and 716 Southtown are also good picks if you’re all about the Bourbon Cream. Love the Apple Pie Moonshine? Game Night is the way to go. This cocktail features vodka, moonshine, strawberry juice, cranberry bitters and a rock salt garnish.
929 Elmwood Ave.
photo Morgan Culhane, Nine29/McMule & Manhattan
The new kids on the block have cocktails, too. Nine29 re-opened in March, and put ‘becoming a neighborhood favorite’ on their wish list. The comfy vibe, pub fare menu and happy hour specials may just get them there.
As far as drinks, they are getting creative with The McMule in particular. This cocktail combines Wild Turkey American Honey, muddled lime and Saranac ginger beer. If you prefer a sweeter Mule, this twist is for you! Sangria, manhattans and cosmos are on the menu, too.
Pro Tip: All cocktails are ½ off for ladies all night every Thursday.
Pro Tip #2: Nine29 is a BDC VIP participating restaurant, so our VIP members enjoy 15% off their food!
What’s Your Pick?
Finding cocktails to love in unexpected places is a beautiful discovery. This guide involved a lot of “research” and we’re always looking to learn more. What’s your all-time favorite and/or unexpected favorite spot to grab a cocktail? We’ll add it to our list.