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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

Drink up and up and up.

Your picks for 2014's best bars


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Thousands voted, and now it's time to unveil the winners. This year, we're posting the best of the best in one daily updating list. Along with your picks, we're also including editors' picks.

Check back regularly as we announce the winners all month. And don't forget to tip your bartenders.

Best New Bar: 42 Lounge
Runner up: Malone's on Brady
Editors' pick: Jackson Blue Ribbon Pub
42 Lounge specializes in "all things geek" including gaming consoles, tournaments, themed cocktails and more. Plus, it's the ideal locale to talk "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "Dr. Who," "The Lord Of The Rings" or what you plan to wear this year to Ren Faire. Geek out, Milwaukee.

Best Bloody Marys: Sobelman's
Runner up: The Wicked Hop
Editors' pick: The Wicked Hop
For the second straight year, Sobelman's took home the title of Milwaukee's best Bloody Mary. The brunch time favorite comes with 13 garnishes: celery, onion, Brussel sprout, lemon, pickle, shrimp, green onion, olive, cheese, mushroom, cherry tomato, asparagus and sausage. Oh, and a bacon cheeseburger slider. Because nothing beats a bonus burger.

Best Day Drinking: Barnacle Bud's
Runner up: Horny Goat
Editors' pick: Barnacle Bud's
This category has not been a part of the OnMilwaukee.com Best of Bars voting since 2009. We brought it back, and you responded in force by naming Barnacle Bud's the best place to imbibe during the day. There are few places in the city that, on a warm, summer, weekend afternoon, beat sitting out on the edge of the river, drinking a beer and listening to music.

Best Craft Cocktails: Bryant's
Runner up: Great Lakes Distillery
Editors' pick: Boone and Crockett
Bryant's has dominated the craft cocktail scene in Milwaukee for decades, and deservedly so. Plus, with their "depression era" cocktails, they've truly made Bryant's into a time machine into the past so good that we don't plan on coming back anytime soon.

Milwaukee's Best Tour, 2014 (beer, wine, liquor): Lakefront Brewery
Runner up: Milwaukee (MKE) Brewing Company
Editors' pick: Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery
Things have changed a little as the Lakefront business has grown. The facility has moved, but the spirit has stayed the same, and that's why you voted Lakefront Brewery as your favorite tour in this year's best of poll on OnMilwaukee.com.But you're not the only ones who love it. The Lakefront Brewery Tour is ranked the fourth best brewery tour in America by TripAdvisor. For $7, you get four 6-ounce pours of beer, and you must be 21 years old, or under adult supervision, to attend.

Best Irish Pub: County Clare
Runner up: Mo's Irish Pub
Editors' pick: Paddy's Pub
When it comes to Irish pubs in Brew City, you really love County Clare. The Lower East Side hotel bar and restaurant has nabbed the title of best Irish bar, as voted by OnMilwaukee.com, for at least the eighth straight year. With a small inn upstairs and a bar and restaurant with a cozy fireplace-equipped nook, County Clare is a welcoming bit of Eire on the lower East Side.

Milwaukee's Best Bar For Games / Trivia: 42 Lounge
Runner up: Landmark Lanes
Editors' pick: Burnhearts
42 Lounge – named for a reference in the book "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" – specializes in "all things geek" and revolves around gaming. Hence, the category win is well deserved. 42 Lounge also won Best New Bar this year.

Best Beer List: Sugar Maple
Runner up: World of Beer
Editors' pick: Burnhearts
For four straight years, one Bay View bar has managed to claim the title of Milwaukee's best beer list. And despite a strong showing from runner up World of Beer, Sugar Maple and its selection of 62 American beers on draft can add a fifth year to its domination.

Best wine list: Balzac
Runner up: Pizza Man
Editors' pick: Pizza Man
People like what they like, and for the fourth straight year you – the people of Milwaukee – have said you believe that the best wine list in the city can be found at Balzac Wine Bar. The bar allows patrons to purchase select wines by the glass, splits, half bottles and of course, full bottles. Selections can be had from Europe, as well as South America and Australia.

Best dance/DJ club: The Mad Planet
Runner up: Victor's
Editors' pick: Rogues' Gallery
For the umpteenth year in a row, The Mad Planet takes the gold in the Milwaukee's best club category. The Riverwest club opened 20 years ago. With its eclectic crowd and funky motif, The Planet is a people watchers' wonderland. Punks, goths, hipsters, bachelorette parties and everyone in between mix it up on a regular basis inside the spacious bar – or outdoors on the tree-canopied patio.

Best atmosphere: Camp Bar
Runner up: Foundation Tiki Bar
Editors' pick: Camp Bar
Camp Bar, 4044 N. Oakland Ave., is only a year old, but it's already a cozy staple on the North Shore. Owners Paul and Natalia Hackbarth modeled the lodge-like bar after their cabin in Star Lake, complete with Native American patterns on "stick chairs," classic Up North signage and taxidermied animals.

Best local product: Lakefront Brewery's Riverwest Stein
Runner up: Milwaukee Brewing Co.'s: Louie's Demise
Editor's pick: Rumchata
Lakefront's flagship beer is named after the Riverwest neighborhood where the brewery was originally founded. It is an amber lager with a hint of sweetness that was made to complement German delicacies including schnitzel and rouladen.

Best bar in a restaurant: Milwaukee Ale House
Runner up: Bel Air Cantina
Editors' pick: Odd Duck
Good food. Good drink. Good company. It doesn't get much better than that. And according to the OnMilwaukee.com readers, for the past several years, no restaurant in the city is serving up the combination of the three better than the Milwaukee Ale House thanks to its tasty micro-brews, plethora of live music performances, impressive patio and satisfying menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and other pub fare.

Best bar for a first date: Balzac
Runner up: Bryant's
Editors' pick: Black Sheep
For the third consecutive year Balzac Wine Bar, located at 1716 N Arlington Place (just off Brady St.), has been voted as the best bar in the city to take a first date. The small plate menu and affordable prices all around continue to make this bar an attractive option for those looking for good food, but not something too over the top for that first dalliance at romance.

Best bar snack: AJ Bombers
Runner up: Comet Cafe
Editors' pick: AJ Bombers
This category has been a close one, with Comet Cafe beating out AJ Bombers for the best bar snack in Milwaukeeland the past two years. This year, however, AJ Bombers narrowly is back on top to take back its crown. The flying P-nut bombers may have won best bar snack but they delight all ages, even those who may not be imbibing in a cocktail there.

Best hotel bar: County Clare
Runner up: Blu
Editors' pick: The Pfister Hotel Lobby Bar
You voted County Clare Milwaukee's best Irish bar – again. And now you've named it Milwaukee's best hotel bar – again! Whether or not you've got a room, County Clare's stout and healthy selection of beers and imported whiskeys are a draw, as are the regular performances of traditional Irish music. And, at this frigid time of the year, that fireplace in the Snug is particularly enticing.

Best live music in a bar: Milwaukee Ale House
Runner up: Jazz Estate
Editors' pick: Cactus Club
The Milwaukee Ale House won the category of best live music in a bar with The Jazz Estate nabbing a close second. The Ale House hosts bands every Friday and Saturday night and has done so for more than a decade. Currently, the venue has local favorites on the calendar that include 5 Card Studs and The Barbeez.

Best lounge: Bryant's
Runner up: Hi-Hat Lounge
Editors' pick: Angelo's
OnMilwaukee.com readers named the hot spot the city's best lounge for the fifth straight year. It seems the readers can't get enough of Bryant's retro feel, low-lit atmosphere, classic tunes, quality service and, most importantly, the tasty drinks (which also earned the lounge the title of Milwaukee's best craft cocktails this year).

Best LGBT bar: La Cage
Runner up: Hamburger Mary's
Editors' pick: Hybrid
La Cage is Milwaukee's oldest LGBT dance club, with two dance floors, four bars, mega video screens, drag shows, theme nights and new and retro dance songs cranking all night long. Gay, straight or undefined, this club is a fun place to drink, socialize and burn off steam.

Best margarita: BelAir Cantina
Runner up: Conejitos
Editors' pick: Cempazuchi
In perhaps one of the more surprising results of the year's "Best of Bars" survey, a dynasty came to an end in this category when BelAir Cantina, located at 1935 N. Water St., ended La Fuente's five-year run as home to the Best Margarita in Milwaukee.

Best patio/view: Barnacle Bud's
Runner up: Horny Goat Hideaway
Editors' pick: The Harp
Although we tinkered a bit this year, combining the best patio and best view categories, the results haven't changed all that much. The winner, Barnacle Bud's, was the perennial favorite in the patio category and typically finished in the top two in the view competition, too. With live music, an oyster bar and a killer Bloody Mary, this patio is the perfect venue for an evening of drinks on a warm summer night.

Best non-Irish pub: Cafe Benelux
Runner up: Nomad
Editors' pick: Three Lions

A big part of Benelux's success is due to its beautiful rooftop patio. The second-story open-air dining space offers a great view from atop the former Good Harvest Market space, something diners are more than willing to take advantage of during the warmer summer months.

Best bar for a bachelor party / boys' night out: Silk
Runner up: SPiN Milwaukee
Editors' pick: Safe House
There's no touching the performers in a strip club, and it seems there's also no touching Silk Exotic when it comes Milwaukee's choice for best bar for a boys' night out or bachelor party. Judging from its attempts to open another club downtown in the Ladybug nightclub – officially called 618 Live on Water – it might keep a solid hold on that title for a while too.

Best bar for a bachelorette party / girls' night out: Lucille's
Runner up: Jo-Cats
Editors' pick: Jo-Cats
Lucille's is a "dueling piano" bar that features musicians from all over the country to provide unscripted, entertaining and interactive performances that are popular with many special occasion groups, particularly those with all or many women. And yes, they take requests.

Best bar district: Brady Street
Runner up: Bay View
Editors' pick: Walker's Point

A reigning champion has been unseated! After winning best bar district for five straight years, "the other East Side" – Bay View – has been kicked down a notch ... by Brady Street. With a wide variety of watering holes – from The Nomad and Hi-Hat to Jo-Cat's and The Up and Under to Hybrid and Regano's Roman Coin, among many others – there's something for everyone and all within walking distance.

Best theme bar: The Safe House
Runner up: Camp Bar
Editors' pick: Lucky Joe's Tiki Room

In Milwaukee, people like what they like but they also can respect an establishment's commitment and execution of a look and feel. To wit: for the sixth straight year, you, the readers, have acknowledged the coded and hidden entries lead you into not only a spy's paradise, but the best theme bar in the city.

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