Oh, St. Patrick’s Day, yet another holiday widely revered and respectfully celebrated in its native country only to be co-opted by Americans in the name of getting shitfaced.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Boston at least makes sense: Even if Southie isn’t Southie anymore, and has been almost fully gentrified into South Boston, Massachusetts is definitely the most Irish-American state in the union: 20 percent of residents claimed Irish heritage in the 2015 census.
But we all know it’s not just that 20 percent that hits the streets on March 17 for Jameson and Guinness. Oh, no, it’s fucking everyone, and it’s not only Southie that gets hit with 22-year-olds vomiting in gutters. These days, half the city gets mobbed.
As someone who has worked their fair share of St. Patrick’s days, I could tell you war stories from past shifts, but I think the most helpful thing for people looking to go out and have a few drinks on the 17th—which falls on a Sunday this year—is to tell you where I’d go for a drink that day.
In other words, here’s a list of bars and locales to consider—and those to avoid—if all you really want to do when it comes to drinking on Sunday is sit down, have a cocktail, and not be surrounded by people in green hats who look like they’re ready to puke on your shoes.
Moonshine 152, Capo, Croke Park—I love you, I really do. But you couldn’t pay me to battle the crowds and the Red Line delays to swing through on St. Patrick’s Day.
And Davis Square
Again: Sligo, the Burren, Foundry, and Saloon—y’all know I care and that, honestly, all I want is a glass of super basic white wine. Which is why I won’t be joining the throngs of Tufts students bouncing down Elm Street. The one exception to this might be Saloon, since this basement cocktail haven doesn’t open until most of the revelers will already be unconscious for hours.
And the South End
I made the mistake of visiting a friend at work in the early evening hours on St. Patrick’s Day last year. Even if you don’t, like I do, get horribly stressed out being in a bar as shit’s about to get insanely busy, the usual coziness of South End watering holes will make you claustrophobic.
With Irish bars across the city opening as early as 8 am, if you want to miss the craziness don’t go out before nightfall. If you want to drink all day, you truly do have to start in the morning, but even the best intentioned Guinness-guzzlers won’t make it past three or four. This makes 5 o’clock your time to shine with a relatively grown-up drinking crowd.
Dozens of bars across the city don’t even open before 5: Saloon, the Hawthorne, Yvonne’s (okay, 4, but close enough), Drink, Franklin Cafe, and Brick and Mortar are stellar examples, and that’s only a wee tiny portion of evening-hours-only establishments.
Lastly on this point, because March 17 is a Sunday this year, some generally-only-open-at-night spots may be open for brunch, like Park and Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square, as well as Tiger Mama near Fenway, so check the hours before you head out.
Think South of the Border
I never need an excuse to seek out an agave-oriented bar: Give me a spirits list heavy on mezcal and tequila, and I’ll be entertained for hours (or at least until I max out my credit card). If you, too, don’t feel like you need whisk(e)y to commemorate St. Patrick, then consider heading somewhere that focuses on South American cuisine and cocktails. Lonestar (Allston and East Cambridge) has a great agave selection and is likely to be less than packed, same with Tres Gatos in JP.
Basically, think like hipster Ariel
My motto for Big Drinking Days—St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, Halloween, Saturday—comes from the Little Mermaid’s slightly misanthropic cousin: I want to be where the people are not.
Go ahead and try getting into the Burren or Moonshine on Sunday and see for yourself.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.