Drinkston: A Local’s Guide to Bar Hopping in Kingston

Craft beers served at West Kill Supply. (Photo by Zac Shaw)

Are you thirsty? Come to Kingston! Few metropolises have as fun and varied a bar scene as our beautiful city.

With so much choice, it can be difficult for visitors to find the best place to drink. New transplants may miss a great candy bar right under their noses. And the locals will argue endlessly about where to find the best margarita, who has the best wine list, which place has the best nightlife, and so on.

Luckily for them, I’ve been haunting Kingston’s bars for over twenty years to bring you the local’s guide to drinking in Kingston.

Take it with an edge of salt: every local will have a different group of favorites. My criteria: Can you expect to meet people who have lived and done business here for years? What’s the first place an old Kingstoner would think of when he hears the words ‘craft beer’, ‘craft cocktail’, ‘dive bar’ or ‘ambience’? And what would my recommendations be if a tourist stopped me and asked, “What’s a good bar here?”

These are just the suggestions that came from my head and from my heart. I didn’t leave anything out on purpose. To support my opening statement that we’re lucky to be in one of America’s great bar-hopping cities, there are too many great places to drink in Kingston to list them all here. Leave that to Google and Yelp. My goal is to raise a glass to visitors, relative newcomers, and my fellow locals, and say “cheers.” Let’s share a drink and share a community. The bar is where we leave our politics and social status at the door of the commune as one united crowd in revelry, celebration, connection and catharsis. Durable connections are built in bars. Communities are forged.

Kingston, let’s go to the bar.

Craft beer

Local choice: Keegan Ales is the birthplace of the microbrewery scene in Ulster County. Believe it or not, there was a time when Keegan’s (as the locals call it) was the only craft brewery between Brooklyn and Albany. The late owner/brewer Tommy Keegan organized exclusive tastings for locals at the opening. You waited in a single line, grabbed a small plastic cup of beer and then walked around with the other locals. Tommy sadly passed away in 2021, but his legacy is proudly maintained. In addition to a diverse selection of unique and flavorful craft beers, you can still find live music and special events most evenings, there is always cheap tasty food nearby, the outdoor space is expansive, and inside tourists, visitors, and locals all come together an atmosphere where everyone is welcome.

Kingston Standard (Photo by Zac Shaw)

Also recommended: West Kill Supply is not a brewery, but it does offer delicious craft beers made in the hamlet of the same name. The Backyard is a draw for all ages, with a rotating cast of great local food and music popping up around the weekend. The interior is reminiscent of the tavern in an old-fashioned hunting lodge in the Catskills.

Kingston Standard opened in 2019 and is also a popular spot, especially on nice days. You’ll find all ages lazing in the sun or shade at a picnic table, while the adults enjoy their easy-drinking home brews, friendly staff and delicious sourdough pizzas.

Craft cocktails

A tiki cocktail, expertly mixed on Fuschia Tiki Sunday at Lone Wolf. (Photo by Kristen Ciliberti)

Local choice: Opened in 2010, Stockade Tavern was Kingston’s best cocktail bar when it opened and remains so. It’s beloved by locals for its long history as a cornerstone of Kingston’s social scene, as well as for its top-shelf libations. Always guaranteed good company, good vibes, an intimate atmosphere and great cocktails made with love (along with some other great things to drink and eat).

Also recommended: In the humble opinion of this local, the most delicious cocktails are served on Fuschia Tiki Sunday at Lone Wolf. Formerly housed by Asian Fusion in New Paltz, the craft cocktail outfit now calls the new Kingston bar its current headquarters. The inventive recipes and expert execution put the “craft” in “craft cocktail”.

Salt Box is the best late night cocktail bar, often inhabited by a fun and interesting cross-section of locals from all walks of life. Wandering through the various unique indoor rooms and outdoor spaces feels like an adventure; every atmosphere can be found there.

A local favorite among the area’s more adventurous music fans, Tubby’s deserves an honorable mention as the go-to spot for tequila lovers on a budget. There are also some cool Italian-inspired cocktails at A Slice of Italy.

Many Kingstoners are also looking forward to the Unicorn Bar, a gay-friendly space, which will be open in its old Beverly location by the time you read this.

Wine bars

Local choice: Chleo is one of the newest wine bars in our city, so it might be surprising how quickly it has been adopted by local wine lovers as the most popular place to clink long-stemmed glasses. But Chleo was strong from the start – obviously the wine selection is fantastic and the food is high quality – but they also don’t take reservations, invite people to linger as long as they want, and do everything they can to keep the atmosphere to promote a welcoming atmosphere. That’s the kind of attitude that quickly endears a restaurant to locals. For those of us who are longtime locals and remember the magical days of Elephant, Chleo is the wine bar that brings Uptown together today in much the same spirit.

Also recommended: Le Canard Enchaine is a beloved Kingston institution, and the atmosphere of their small bar is second to none. The wine list offers everything you would expect from a French gastronomic dinner.

Mirador is a newcomer to the neighborhood, more popular with recent transplants than locals. Mirador’s popularity is undeniable, as is the quality of their wine and food curation and their intimate, luxurious atmosphere.

Don’t sleep on Sonder, located just down Broadway. It’s about the most intimate wine bar you can get, the drinks menu is full of showstoppers and the food is delicious.

Brunette is also worth a trip to the Rondout, especially if you can get an outdoor table on a nice day. A minimalist, unpretentious aesthetic, carefully curated wine list and expertly crafted dinner plates have made Brunette popular with locals for years.

Dive bars

Local choice: Snapper Magee’s is the undisputed king of local dive bars. Unpretentious atmosphere? I mean, the urinals are cut open beer kegs and the decor is definitely punk rock. Is it affordable? No question. When was the last time you saw a $1 beer happy hour? An eclectic clientele is guaranteed. The last time I was at Snapper’s, there was a live band playing in a mosh pit that included several formally dressed wedding guests, a few gutter punks, a few hippies, and a guy in a big, fluffy bear costume. Their jukebox hasn’t changed much in the many decades it’s been around. Snapper’s (as the locals call it) can always be trusted as a place to let loose and not care what anyone else thinks.

Also recommended: While Snapper’s attracts the occasional curious tourist, Chic’s Sports Bar is pretty much a locals-only bar. It’s often friendly and festive, but can also be a bit rough and tumultuous, which keeps things interesting. Their karaoke nights are legendary. It’s for sale, so enjoy it before this part of local lore disappears.

If you’re a morning drinker, Kelly’s Shamrock Tavern opens impressively early. It’s as no-nonsense as it gets, and people are only here to do two things: drink and socialize. Full of characters and drunken cheer, it’s the most giddy dive bar in Kingston and a local institution.


Local choice: Front Street Tavern has an incredible rooftop terrace. It is such a draw that the restaurant gives the rooftop bar its own brand name: Strega. On a warm summer evening as the sun sets, there is no better place in Kingston to enjoy a drink and good food at the tavern.

Also recommended: If waterfront dining is more your style, head to Ole Savannah and Mariner’s Harbor on the Rondout. During the sailing season they become vibrant hotspots where locals and tourists celebrate together. Ship to Shore is another great option in Rondout for more upscale drinkers looking for top-notch food, and the little bar at Savona’s Trattoria is a hidden gem (as are their garlic twists).

Back to Uptown: Stella’s Restaurant has been serving locals for decades. Their food is incredible and the bar scene at lunch is as local as it gets. Go for a stylish food and drink experience later. Hotel Kinsley’s couch-inspired bar feels so cool to sit at. The drinks are hearty too. Seating is very limited and exclusive, so it’s not exactly a local haunt, but it’s definitely worth going there at least once for its unique atmosphere.

Rough Draft Bar and Books is an Uptown fixture. Drinking in a bookstore – what’s not to like? Their coffee inspires so many Uptown workers and residents that it’s easy to forget that “bar” is right there in the name.

If you’re craving a margarita, let’s not forget the many Latino restaurants in our area. Armadillo is known for its exquisitely balanced take on the drink. If you’re looking for heavier portions and fishbowl-sized portions, try Casa Vallarta’s namesake margarita. For something more authentic and fresh, Sky View Mexican Restaurant knows what they are doing with their tequila and fruit juices. Santa Fe Uptown is another fantastic choice, and sitting at the bar right in the middle gives the place an electric vibe. The Tortilla Taco Bar at the Rondout also makes a killer cocktail, and the food makes you feel like you’re on the streets of Mexico City.

(Photo by Zac Shaw)