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Lift Your Spirits: Five Bars That Set the Bar on the Grand Strand

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Band playing on outdoor stage
Kick off your sandals and get festive with the locals at Pawleys Island Tavern.

South Carolina is a hive of lively dives, hip libation hubs and classy cocktail lounges that consistently hit  all the marks: appealing atmosphere, creative cocktails, attentive service, top-notch bar snacks.

Savvy bar managers will attest to the fact that elevating a good bar program to greatness is no small feat and never, ever accidental. Landing in a great bar shouldn’t be accidental either.

When visiting Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand, you’ll find a seemingly endless number of establishments where drinks are served up in fun surroundings. A beachy vibe is a given here with a definitive lean toward a laid-back experience.

Here is a sampling of the best of the best, a coastal mix of options for creative cocktails, icy cold drinks and environments designed to make you feel festive and relaxed.

Bar 19 Twelve

Bar with liquor
The stunning décor at Bar 19 Twelve radiates a relaxing blue glow.

Bar 19 Twelve in North Myrtle Beach operates in a repurposed wedding chapel. With upstairs views of Azalea Sands Golf Club it is the perfect setting for craft cocktails. If you want to put a little swank into your beach stay, head to this bar, named for its street address—1912 Highway 17 South—not the year.

Think sparkly chandeliers, a stunning blue bar and bow-tied mixologists who will wow you with their cocktail wizardry. Drinks here tend to be showy with presentations that sometimes appear to be otherworldly.

Feel sexy with a Charred Raspberry Martini, from which a plume of smoke slithers and writhes. Deepen the mood with something from the tapas menu, featuring an exciting, expertly prepared lineup of small plates like Seafood Limoncello Risotto. An inviting outdoor patio has its own bar set-up.

Weekly live music rounds out this cosmopolitan-esque escape.

Dirty Don's Oyster Bar & Grill

Dirty Don’s is a Key West-style favorite with locations within walking distance of three of the Grand Strand’s most popular areas: Main Street in North Myrtle Beach, a half-block from the ocean at 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach and oceanfront on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk.

Perfect for the flip-flop crowd, Dirty Don’s has a rustic, nautical atmosphere that is usually hopping, particularly in the warm-weather months when live music is in the air. Known for friendly and fast service, you won’t wait long for your frozen cocktails, cold beer, wine or seafood munchies and meals.

Vacationing with friends or family? Bring them along and order a pitcher of something fruity to get a free T-shirt—a Dirty Don’s signature freebie.

For a quintessential Grand Strand experience, order Patrick’s Painkiller, a tasty mix of black rum, light rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine, and chase it with a platter of lobster nachos or steamed oysters.

Pawleys Island Tavern

Psycho Burger at Pawleys Island Tavern
Staple a dollar to the wall, order eats and drinks, and enjoy the live music at Pawleys Island Tavern.

Partake of the nightlife like a Pawleys Island local with a pit stop at  Pawleys Island Tavern, slangily known as "The PIT."

A whole lot of moving and shaking goes down at this dive situated beneath a graceful canopy of live oaks. It is the epitome of the island’s famous tagline: “arrogantly shabby.” Come in your beach duds and snag a table inside amidst the dollar-bill festooned walls where a fireplace blazes in cold temps.

When the weather is fine, sip your libations beneath the live oaks. Grab your drink, mosey over to the porch and challenge someone to a game of foosball or watch football on the big screen. On weekends, experience one of the PIT’s biggest draws: the Tiki Bar where the mood is permanently set to “party” with dancing and live music.

Have a PIT Bull: Stoli vanilla vodka, Kahlua and Coke. Coat your tummy first with some of the house-made pimento cheese.

RipTydz

Cocktail and sandwich on deck overlooking beach
Cold drinks and good eats are served with gorgeous ocean views at RipTydz.

RipTydz rises from the oceanfront of Myrtle Beach. It is a tri-level, 500-seat establishment on the boardwalk that will more than satisfy your fantasies of watching the waves while enjoying libations.

Everything you want in a bar is contained in one place: sports bar, beach bar, bar and grill, live music venue—heck, it’s even a yoga studio with group sessions offered on the rooftop.

What RipTydz is not, however, is dull. The drinks are fun and icy cold, the food is delicious, and the open-air atmosphere makes it possible to imbibe and dine surrounded by the salty ocean breeze but without that pesky sand.

Head up to the roof for sweeping views of the shoreline, settle into a chair on the outdoor deck or sit inside—really, there’s not a bad seat in the house. When the South Carolina sun is biting your back, there’s nothing that breaks the sweat like a fruity frozen drink served up in a pineapple.

If you have room afterward, order an oyster po’ boy or one of their other “Sunburn Sammies.”

Strong Waters Craft Cocktails & Kitchen

Cocktails on bar
Get carried away with a current of farm-to-shaker drinks at Strong Waters.

Farm-to-shaker cocktails are the specialty of the house at Strong Waters, a welcoming space in Myrtle Beach that’s part industrial bar/part speakeasy.

Chuck the swimsuit and flip-flops, grab your sweetie or some friends and come have a night of memorable tippling and tasting.

The drink menu is inspired, but feel free to be adventurous with the Bartender’s Choice. Select from a list of adjectives (herbal, fruity, smoky, etc.) and watch the mixologists execute their skills. The house drink, the Smokin’ Oldie, is a solid bourbon concoction with smoke effects.

Pair it with the Wagyu Sliders topped with goat cheese, arugula, candied bacon and tomato jam.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.