10. Las Vegas, Nevada
You know that old saying that’s not actually very old (or cool), “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” Well, it’s bullshit. Because your hangover’s coming with you. This is a city where people literally bring you free drinks just for mindlessly pumping pennies into a machine, a psychedelic dreamscape/nightmare where you can drink all day and night at casinos, fake circuses, pools, wedding chapels, rooftops, cocktail bars, down-and-dirty dives, old-school Rat Pack haunts, strangers’ hotel rooms, buffet restaurants, diners, elaborate theatrical performances, theme bars, “da club,” and strip clubs… all while being tempted to empty your entire bank account. It’s like this 24/7, 365 days a year, and has been for decades. Some say it’s heaven. Some say it’s an endless amateur hour. Either way, it’s one of the most ridiculous places on Earth. Embrace it. And make sure to take a couple days off after.
9. Austin, Texas
Austin has been keeping shit weird since Portland was still trying to escape its reputation as Seattle’s hippie little brother. It’s the BBQ capital of the world. It’s one of the best places to cram into big concert halls or tiny dive bars to hear live music (often by the same acts), and we’re not just talking during SXSW. It’s hot as Hades. All those things make people very, very thirsty, and Austin increasingly does its part to sate dehydration (or, more likely contribute to it) with its collection of outstanding breweries and beer bars — Jester King and Craft Pride are best in show, respectively — booming distillery scene (Tito’s, Treaty Oak), and a massive number of bars both fancy and, more abundantly, charmingly divey. And while Rainey Street has become to go-to for out-of-town lushes thanks to its classics (like beer garden Banger’s and cocktail oasis Half Step), the city’s reputation as a drinking town has expanded, with areas like Cesar Chavez drawing crowd thanks to bars like the dives Stay Gold and Drinks Lounge rubbing elbows with classier joints like Craftsman. You will drink. You will hear live music and eat BBQ. Then you’ll drink some more. And likely end up meeting a horse. Austin’s good like that.
8. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
You might think the Steel City is an exemplary drinking city because it’s cold as shit, everyone is miserable, and there’s nothing to do. Well, you’re right, it is cold as shit (and depending on how the Steelers played on Sunday, they also might be miserable, too). Pittsburgh is a recently thriving city (that used to be thriving, too), full of college students, filmmakers, young professionals, blue collar workers, and tech bros — for the uninformed, that’s pretty much a roll call of “people who like to heavily drink.” And Pittsburgh is their paradise. If you want to embrace your inner Greek life enthusiast, you can swing by the Southside for a bar crawl worthy of Bourbon Street. If you want to order craft cocktails, close your eyes, and pretend you’re in Brooklyn, go to Shadyside or Lawrenceville (try Butterjoin or Spirit, specifically). You can post up on one of the many great rooftop bars like Sienna Mercato and watch revelry in the streets from on high. Or, if you just want to go somewhere free of pretension — sans BS and full of people who love to drink, eat, and be merry (usually in that order) — you can stop in nearly any dive bar on every bank of the three rivers, to grab an Iron City Light and embrace your inner yinzer. As long as you like to keep drinking — and hate Cleveland — you’ll fit right in. Go to Gooski’s, and try it out yourself.
7. Portland, Oregon
It’s not just the beer that makes Portland one of America’s best drinking cities, though Portland is arguably the best beer city in America thanks to its wealth of must-visit breweries — Breakside, Cascade, Great Notion — and some of America’s best beer bars, period. Hell, most of the city’s iconic strip clubs have beer selections that would give other cities’ best beer bars a run for their money. And it’s not just that the cocktail bars are low-key among the nation’s best, with innovative spots like Clyde Common and the Multnomah Whiskey Library elevating a scene where a good cocktail is easier to find than a bad one. This is a city where the best restaurants are often bars, where you can wander into a dive bar and find the best fried chicken you’ve ever had, then venture to an urban winery down the street. And it’s that quality — the extreme walkability of one of America’s loveliest cities — that makes Portland really shine, even when it’s dumping rain. You can experience every kind of drinking without setting foot in a car, or taking a cab more than 15 minutes to hit up one of the best bars you’ve ever been to, which is right next door to the second best.
6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
It’s easy to think of Milwaukee as the place you go to down cheap beer in corner taverns and at tailgates and then follow up said cheap beers with a brat that’s been simmering in cheap beer. And to be sure, those simple pleasures are most certainly a part of Milwaukee’s overall drinking prowess, particularly the fact that you are never more than seven steps from a bar. But the breadth of drinking pleasures available here is constantly undersold. Milwaukee’s always been a city with a deep appreciation for the art of the cocktail. Bryant’s was an elite craft cocktail bar way before anyone started using that phrase, and places like Boone & Crockett and Dock18 have carried that boozy torch into present day, which is appropriate for a state that has its own personal take on the Old Fashioned. Of course, beer remains Milwaukee’s greatest love — in fact, if you’re in a public park in Milwaukee and you haven’t found the beer garden yet, try harder. Throw in the unfettered access you’ll have to all that New Glarus that Wisconsin keeps hoarding (not to mention Milwaukee’s many other fine local breweries) and it’s easy to see why this paragraph didn’t even have room for a lame cheese joke. Whoops.