With a slanderous nickname of “The Mistake on the Lake,” Cleveland is so often viewed by uninformed outsiders as, well, a dive bar of an American city. But that’s an outdated line of thinking. Cleveland is red hot nowadays, and not just because Cheap Trick recently got inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. LeBron James calls the town home after a brief affair in Miami, having just brought C-Town its first title since 1964. The city has a revived culinary scene too, helmed by celebrity chefs like Michael Symon and Jonathon Sawyer. Later this summer, the Republican National Convention will visit Cleveland—and regardless of party affiliation, every local is going to want a stiff drink to get through that crazy week.
Luckily, Cleveland drinking is all of the sudden very cool. Once a Rust Belt town of cheap tallboys and longnecks, the “Sixth City” now boasts famed breweries like Great Lakes and top cocktail joints like the Velvet Tango Room. Sure, prices are more expensive than they used to be when Cleveland was a working-class, “drinking man’s” town, but all good things must come to end. And new good things must arise too.
We asked 10 of Cleveland’s top bartenders where they drink when they want cold pints of Coors and warm shots of Old Overholt. You’ll probably find them bellying up to these watering holes when they’re off the clock, still celebrating the Cavaliers’ remarkable NBA title.