BTT Milwaukee: Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge

A couple Sunday’s ago I found myself walking into Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee around 11:45 on a Sunday night.  Before judging me for walking into a bar at that time on a Sunday, let me clarify that I had just left the local casino.  Makes the bar part sound pretty reasonable now doesn’t it.

I know what you’re thinking:  what does Milwaukee have to do with sports?  Fair question.  To clarify, Milwaukee actually has two professional sports teams:  the Bucks and the Brewers.  Any idea which team was there first?  Me neither.  According to the only credible source I can think of right now, Wikipedia, the Bucks actually beat the Brewers to Milwaukee by two years, 1968 to 1970.  You’re welcome.

Back to Bryant’s.  Remember Bryant’s?  It’s a post about Bryant’s.  I’m not sure whether it was great service, Midwest hospitality, or the fact that the bar was completely empty but Sam and Tom greeted me as soon as I walked through the door.  As Sam would later explain, the current owner wants people to rely on Bryant’s hours of 5 PM to 2 AM Tuesday through Sunday regardless of whether anyone’s there.  Considering going straight to bed after hitting up a casino sounds ridiculous and downright un-American, I wasn’t going to complain.

I walked in, sat down, and Sam came by with a few more details about Bryant’s.  For starters, he explained that they serve around 400 cocktails and asked what he could make.  If 400 cocktails sounds like too many to sort through, well, you’re in luck:  Bryant’s doesn’t have any menus.  Instead, you answer a few questions like what spirit (e.g., whiskey, rum, gin, etc.) and flavors (e.g., fruit, herbal, bitter, etc.) you like and they take it from there.  It turns out it’s not a bad way to order a drink.  Who knew?  More importantly, why have I been wasting my time reading bar menus my entire adult life?

It may have been the booze talking but every drink was better than the last.  A sugary prohibition-era cocktail led to an herbal, whiskey concoction, which led to a brandy old fashioned.  A brandy old fashioned is a Wisconsin thing.  By the way, Milwaukee is in Wisconsin.  They come sour and sweet.  I think.  Whatever the options were, Sam and Tom had a prohibitive favorite and I went with that.  They’re professionals after all.

It turns out, as Sam would explain, Bryant’s has been there for much longer than Sam or I.  Originally opened as a Miller beer hall in 1936, Bryant’s became a cocktail lounge around 1938.  There was a “minor” hiccup in 1971 when a fire destroyed the entire interior of the bar. “While many bar owners would look at such devastation with hopelessness and move on” explains Bryant’s website, their owner “responded to the fire with determination to rebuild Bryant’s better than it was before” and Bryant’s has been going strong, exactly as it was rebuilt in 1971, ever since.

I know what you’re thinking:  they didn’t have flat screens or HD tv back in 1971.  Fair point:  Bryant’s doesn’t have a single tv, never mind HD tv.  Counter point, while most sports bars either suck or try to be something else when live games aren’t on, Bryant’s knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else.  For almost 80 years Bryant’s has been a consistent, comfortable, cocktail lounge and doesn’t plant to change any time soon.  So whether it’s before the tip of a Buck’s game, after the final out of a Brewer’s game, or during your favorite team’s game assuming you don’t want to know what’s happening, you should check out Bryant’s the next time you’re in Milwaukee.  You won’t be disappointed.  This is Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge after all.  You can rely on it.

For more information on Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, check out their website at:

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Other Attractions in Milwaukee:

Milwaukee Bucks:;

Milwaukee Brewers:;

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino:;

Lakefront Brewing Company:;

Great Lakes Distillery:;

Swingin’ Door Exchange:; and

Von Trier: