Some people vacation to experience a new culture. Others like to visit historic landmarks. And some of us just want to party. Here’s a tour that can satisfy all three – but mainly that last group.
Pensacola’s most historic bars mark decades of drink, dance and debauchery from the Alabama-Florida border to Pensacola Beach. If you want to drink with the locals in the same spots where their grandparents – and in some cases great-grandparents – drank before them, these are Pensacola’s top five celebrated and well-worn watering holes!
Seville Quarter has been downtown Pensacola’s bar central since 1967. But it’s not just one bar; it’s seven different bars under one roof. It’s a mall of bars. So whether you want to dance in Phineas Phogg’s, catch the dueling pianos in Rosie O’Grady’s, play pool, see live local bands in Apple Annie’s or get a quiet drink next to the fountain in the back courtyard, Seville Quarter is your one-stop shop. If you’re whipsawed by indecision, or you’re with a group that can’t agree on anything, head to Seville Quarter and try the buffet of bars until you find one that’s just right.
Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar
Straddling the Florida/Alabama state line on the Gulf of Mexico, the Flora-Bama has been one of the area’s best-known beach bars since it opened in 1964. From its annual spring Interstate Mullet Toss to the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival in the fall to Santa’s beach arrival by parachute each year — the well-known music venue hosts a wide range of events throughout the year, most of them focused on the beautiful, white-sand beach that stretches for miles just outside their back door. A little tropical Florida, a little sweet home Alabama, a whole lot of southern-style drinking, — plus oysters, music and a non-stop beach party.
f you want to drink with locals, it’s hard to do better than the Wisteria Tavern. Tucked away in Pensacola’s East Hill neighborhood in the landmark “Tree Tunnel,” you’d think the non-descript, gray-sided bar was someone’s home were it not for the neon beer signs glowing in the windows. The Wisteria was established as a grocery store in the 1920s and officially became Wisteria Tavern way back in 1935. While its fame has grown as one of the country’s top dive bars, the bar itself has remained, well, teeny. That’s part of its charm. It’s even too small for bathrooms – you’ll find renovated restrooms out back. The Wisteria is wine and beer only, so pull up a stool and enjoy one of 22 tap beer offerings and more than 100 bottled selections.
Home of Pensacola Beach’s signature drink — the famous ice cream-based cocktail known as a Bushwacker, the Sandshaker has been a local favorite since they opened their doors in the mid-1970s. The “Shaker,” as its many devoted patrons know it, has been named one Florida’s top ten beach bars three times in the last five years. It’s not a bar for sipping fancy cocktails and enjoying quiet conversation; it’s where locals go to party . Par. Tay. PARTY! Live music, a must-have bar food menu and gallons of southern hospitality keep the Shaker shaking night after night, year after year.
McGuire’s Irish Pub
Famous for “feasting, imbibery and debauchery,” the landmark bar in Pensacola has achieved international recognition for its bizarre traditions, which include inviting guests to staple autographed dollar bills to the walls and ceiling and demanding that first-time patrons kiss a mounted moose head. The now legendary Pensacola pub on Gregory Street first opened in 1977, by McGuire Martin and his wife, Molly. Molly was the first person to sign her name to a dollar bill and tack it to the wall for good luck. Soon, others followed. Today, there are more than $1 million dollar bills on the walls of the Pensacola location. The pub also features a wide selection of award-winning, house-brewed beers and one of the largest wine cellars in the world. Its signature cocktail, the Irish Wake, is a triple punch of Bacardi light, gold and 151 rums, plus Blue Curacao liquor and fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice. It’s served in a mason jar and is so lethal the pub maintains a strict three-drink limit for patrons.
Jahna Jacobson has spent nearly every waking hour of the last quarter century writing about Pensacola as both a journalist and a public relations professional. If you need to know where to go, what to eat, what to do, who will be there, she can tell you. She enjoys posting pictures of the Pensacola Beach all winter to annoy and recruit friends and family in her home state of Wisconsin.