Usually with our monthly Where to Drink series, we focus on what’s inside a glass, highlighting everything from exquisite wine lists to tropical cocktails, but booze isn’t all that makes San Antonio nightlife great. At these Alamo City scene venues and clubs, music is the main thing. From thumping nightclubs to indie venues, there's something for every mood.
Bonham Exchange — For dancing all night
Need a little more oonce oonce in your life? This long-running club has been keeping the Alamo City thumping for almost four decades. The weekly themed parties offer a little something for everyone. Belt out a power ballad during karaoke Wednesdays or work all three levels during The TakeOver on Saturday nights. The drinks are fairly basic — think domestic beer, margaritas, and shots — but no one wants to juggle a martini glass on the dance floor.
Carmens de la Calle — For global music and tapas
Live la bohème at this artsy downtown haunt decked out with mismatched chairs, gorgeous rugs, and tons of mood lighting. Sip on a glass of the fruity sangria, order a few traditional tapas like tortilla española or patatas bravas, and relax while enjoying an evening of entertainment. The diverse lineup includes flamenco performances, poetry readings, and open mic nights.
Jazz, TX — For a sophisticated evening out
A little more buttoned up than most San Antonio bars, this subterranean hideaway at the Pearl provides is the perfect excuse to pull out a sharkskin suit or little black dress. The sophisticated atmosphere is enhanced by the music on stage — an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, salsa, and conjunto — and elegant cocktails like the sage-scented Aromas of Calabria. That’s not to say that all this jazz is stuffy. A dribble of queso on a starched collar is part of the fun.
Lonesome Rose — For an old-school honky-tonk
Let the other honky-tonks have their bro-country; this relative newcomer to the St. Mary’s Strip harkens back to when the airwaves were ruled by outlaws and cosmic cowboys. With plywood panelling, neon beer signs, and a roaring taxidermy bobcat, the scene is right out of the ‘70s, but the drink menu is set to today’s tastes. Waylon and Merle probably never mixed guava with tequila, but no doubt they would have felt right at home.
The Mix — For local rock and shots
With its collage of stickers and flyers and shaggy stage, this dive, also on the St. Mary’s Strip, feels like a throwback to the glory days of grunge. But some things have changed since it first opened in 1997. For one, The Mix now has a killer craft beer list. Still, the laid back spirit and commitment to local booking remain. Catch the teen spirit during the 4-8 pm daily happy hour, when a beer and a shot is only $5.
Paper Tiger — For catching buzzy acts
If a band has no vowels in its name or could get a side gig modeling for Urban Outfitters, chances are it has played at San Antonio’s indie mecca. The intimate, all-ages venue has hosted everyone from legends like Melvins, Black Flag, and Stereolab to buzz acts like Brothertiger and Stolen Jars. Though cocktail fans shouldn’t expect to be able to order an elaborate tiki drink, Paper Tiger does take it beverage program seriously, stocking the bar with top-shelf liquors and Texas ciders along with the usual assortment of crushable beers.