Types of Bars: A Guide to Different Bar Styles

Types of Bars: A Guide to Different Bar Styles

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When we think of bars, often a singular image comes to mind: a cozy nook with a friendly bartender, shelves lined with bottles, and the familiar clink of glasses. But there are many types of bars that differ from this classic scene. From the classic, dimly lit taverns, to the sleek and modern cocktail lounges, the world of bars is as diverse as it is fascinating. In this blog, we will explore the different types of bars, including examples of each different type.

14 Different Types of Bars

Sports Bars

Sports bars are vibrant, energetic establishments where sports enthusiasts gather to watch live sports events. They're equipped with multiple large-screen TVs and often feature sports memorabilia as part of their decor. These bars may offer special promotions or events aligned with major sports events like the Super Bowl or World Cup.

Example: Buffalo Wild Wings is a popular example, known for its lively atmosphere and walls lined with TVs broadcasting various sports.

sports bar

Cocktail Bars

Cocktail bars specialize in a wide range of cocktails, from classic martinis to innovative, custom creations. The ambiance is usually sophisticated, and the bartenders, often referred to as mixologists, are skilled in the art of making cocktails. These bars often have a chic décor and a more upscale feel.

Example: The Aviary in Chicago is renowned for its creative cocktails and high-end experience.

cocktail being made at a cocktail bar

Wine Bars

Wine bars focus on offering an extensive selection of wines from around the world. They cater to wine enthusiasts, from beginners to connoisseurs, and often have staff knowledgeable about wine pairings. The setting is usually intimate and refined, making it ideal for a relaxed evening.

Example: Bar Boulud in New York City is known for its impressive wine list and elegant setting.

closeup of wine glasses and bottles at a wine bar

Beer Bars / Brewpubs

Beer bars or brewpubs are all about beer, especially focusing on craft and locally brewed options. Brewpubs also brew their own beer on-site, offering unique flavors and styles. These bars often have a casual and friendly atmosphere.

Example: The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in California offers a variety of craft beers brewed on-site, along with tours of their brewery.

beer being poured at a brewpub

Dive Bars

Dive bars are known for their no-frills, casual atmosphere. They're typically more affordable and have a loyal local customer base. The decor is often basic, and the focus is on cheap drinks and a laid-back vibe.

Example: The Ear Inn in New York City, one of the oldest bars in the city, is a classic example of a dive bar with its unpretentious atmosphere and historic charm.

people gathered at a dive bar

Speakeasy Bars

Speakeasy bars are inspired by the secretive drinking spots of the Prohibition era. They often have a hidden or inconspicuous entrance and a vintage or retro ambiance. The focus is on exclusivity and often features classic and craft cocktails.

Example: PDT (Please Don't Tell) in New York City requires guests to enter through a phone booth in a hot dog shop, embodying the secretive nature of a speakeasy.

bar shelving at a speakeasy bar

Piano Bars

Piano bars are characterized by live piano music, ranging from classical to contemporary hits. They offer a more refined and relaxed atmosphere where guests can enjoy music while sipping on drinks. Some piano bars also encourage sing-alongs or feature dueling piano shows.

Example: Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans is famous for its lively dueling piano shows.

piano bar

Karaoke Bars

Karaoke bars are entertainment-focused venues where guests can sing along to their favorite songs. They range from private booth-style settings, where small groups can sing privately, to open stages where individuals can perform in front of a larger audience.

Example: KBOX Karaoke House in Melbourne offers a mix of private rooms and a public stage for karaoke enthusiasts.

person singing at karaoke bar

Rooftop Bars

Rooftop bars are situated on the top of buildings, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. They range from casual to upscale and often have an open-air or partially enclosed setting. These bars are popular for their scenic views and are often sought after for social gatherings, especially in urban areas.

Example: Perch Sky Lounge in Downtown Kelowna is a popular spot known for its stunning views.

rooftop bar

Pub (Public House)

Pubs, especially prevalent in Britain and Ireland, are more than just bars; they are social gathering places often steeped in local culture. They serve a variety of beers, ales, and ciders, and many offer traditional pub food. The atmosphere is generally casual and friendly, with a focus on community and conversation.

Example: The Eagle and Child in Oxford, England, is famous for its literary associations, notably with authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

closeup of beer pouring from tap at pub

Club Bars / Nightclubs

Nightclubs are focused on nightlife and dancing, featuring DJs or live music, and a dance floor. They often have a more energetic and party-like atmosphere and may cater to a younger crowd. These bars can range from mainstream to niche, offering different music genres and themes.

Example: Ministry of Sound in London is a renowned nightclub known for its electronic dance music and large-scale events.

beam lights and people nightclub

Hotel Bars

Hotel bars are located within hotels and cater to both hotel guests and the general public. They range from casual lounges to luxurious bars and often offer a wide range of drinks, including classic cocktails and premium spirits. The ambiance can vary greatly depending on the hotel's style and target clientele.

Example: The American Bar at The Savoy in London is an iconic hotel bar, famous for its classic cocktails and elegant setting.

bartenders serving drinks at hotel bar

Whiskey Bars

Whiskey bars specialize in a wide selection of whiskeys, from well-known brands to rare and artisanal expressions. These bars often have knowledgeable staff who can guide patrons through tastings and pairings. The atmosphere tends to be more subdued and sophisticated, appealing to connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.

Example: Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C., boasts a vast collection of whiskeys, attracting aficionados from around the world.

shelves of whiskey at whiskey bar

Theme Bars

Theme bars are centered around a specific concept or theme, which can range from a historical era or a literary work to a pop culture phenomenon. The decor, menu, and even staff costumes often reflect the chosen theme, offering a unique and immersive experience.

Example: The Lockhart in Toronto is a Harry Potter-themed bar, complete with Potter-inspired cocktails and decor.

neon sign at themed bar

In summing up our exploration of the various types of bars, it's evident that each style offers a unique experience, tailored to different tastes and occasions. From the bustling energy of sports bars to the quiet, sophisticated ambiance of wine bars, and from the creative flair of cocktail bars, the array of options is as diverse as the customers they attract.

Whether you’re drawn to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of a local pub, the electric vibe of a nightclub, or the intimate setting of a piano bar, there’s a place for every mood and gathering. Understanding these various types of bars connects us with different cultures and communities. Each type of bar serves as a window into a unique world, whether it's through a specific drink selection, a particular style of music, or a distinct social setting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Types of Bars

What are the Different Types of Bars?

There are many types of bars, including sports bars, cocktail bars, wine bars, beer bars/brewpubs, dive bars, speakeasy bars, piano bars, karaoke bars, rooftop bars, pubs, club bars/nightclubs, hotel bars, whiskey bars, and theme bars, each offering unique experiences.

What is a Pub?

A pub, short for public house, is a type of bar that is deeply rooted in British and Irish culture. Pubs are typically more than just a place to drink; they are social gathering spots where people come together for conversation, community events, and often, live music. While pubs primarily serve a variety of beers, ales, and ciders, many also offer traditional pub food. The atmosphere in a pub is generally casual and friendly, with a focus on creating a warm and welcoming environment for regulars and newcomers alike.

Why is a Bar Called a Bar?

The term "bar" refers to the physical counter where drinks are served and originally signified the barrier or 'bar' separating customers from the staff and alcohol storage. Over time, the term evolved to represent the entire establishment, not just the counter, becoming synonymous with places dedicated to the serving of alcoholic beverages.

What is the Difference Between a Pub and a Bar?

The key difference between a pub and other types of bars lies in the atmosphere and focus. Pubs, especially in British and Irish cultures, are community hubs known for their relaxed, friendly environments. They emphasize social interaction, often serve traditional food, and focus on beer and ale. Bars, in general, can vary widely – from the sophisticated cocktail bars to lively sports bars – and may prioritize a wider range of beverages, themes, and entertainment options.

How Has the Concept of Bars Evolved Over Time?

The concept of different bar types has evolved significantly over time, adapting to cultural trends, consumer preferences, and legal regulations. From historic pubs to modern themed bars, the evolution reflects changes in social habits, design trends, and beverage preferences.

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